What is Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC)?

“The coordination of all internal and external communication efforts with an emphasis on the quality.”

For nearly two decades I’ve focused my career on the integration of marketing, design, and technology. Having seen first hand the evolving marketing landscape, I firmly believe the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Just as a human body wouldn’t function as separate and independent organs, having a holistic approach to all internal and external communications empowers small, medium, and large organizations to engage with audiences like never before.

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) is the coordination and synchronization of all internal and external communication efforts, with an emphasis on the verbal/visual quality. From the organization’s brand identity, its website, social media profiles, and all print and digital collateral, each and every touchpoint reinforces the brand experience.

In essence, IMC is the ability to strategically deliver a consistent message to specific audiences, via the appropriate channel, at the right time. An IMC strategy is rooted in specific business objectives, and most importantly answers the audience question “what’s in it for me?”

The Evolving Marketing Landscape

It’s incredible how in just a few years technology has enabled small businesses to reach, interact, and sell products and services to clients in their neighborhood or across the globe. As new communication channels emerge, they bring opportunity to target specific messages to their preferred media.

Once the customer has engaged with the brand, he or she establishes almost a personal relationship and in some cases becomes a brand evangelist. It’s a known fact that brand loyal consumers require less advertising effort than attracting new customers, and can also help spread the word. Especially with today’s instant communication channels (i.e., online chats, social media, forums, etc.)  your customers provide the insights to discuss ideas, suggest improvements, spread word of mouth, and so on.

An IMC strategy tackles specific objectives with measurable tactics. With a consistent tone of voice and aesthetics throughout tactics, audiences receive a clear and consistent brand experience. Although consistency can be overrated, it can reinforce the emotional connection with the brand. Now more than ever with the power of one tap or click you can reach thousands if not millions. The instant connection sets the stage for an interactive or two-way relationship.

Video screen shot from an IMC campaign.

Video screenshot from an IMC campaign.

IMC in Small vs. Large Organizations

Organizations with various departments such as business development or fundraising, IT, HR, marketing, public relations, etc., where each of them communicates internally and externally, and differences in communication styles can negatively affect the organization’s message. Having an IMC strategy can help streamline efforts across departments and align tactics towards specific objectives: increase sales, improve customer service, grow social media audiences, website visits and purchases, etc.

One way or another, IMC is more about knowing and understanding the wants and needs of specific audiences rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. The more individual and more personal the message the more universal it becomes. Developing audience profiles is one way small and larger organizations can benefit from implementing an IMC strategy.

In small businesses, IMC can help overcome their challenges such as size, limited financial resources, brand equity, lack of knowledge and understanding of marketing tools, and increased advertising clutter, etc. by focusing their efforts (and limited marketing budget) on the most effective tactics to reach specific audiences.

Primary IMC Components

It’s essential for a product or service to have a USP (Unique Selling Proposition), something that differentiates it from the crowded marketing place. From the slogan, which usually embodies the vision or mission, to the tagline relevant to specific campaigns, all touchpoints reinforce the organization’s mantra. Each of the following components should strengthen the core message and lead audiences to a specific action:

  • Advertising (Print/Online)
  • Marketing Collateral (Print/Online)
  • Public Relations
  • Email Marketing
  • Social Media
  • Landing Pages
  • Organic and Paid Search Engine Marketing
  • Direct Mail Marketing
  • Events

There are many ways in which businesses of all sizes can leverage creativity and technology to implement an IMC strategy. It’s the proper balance of research, analysis, and trial and error, which guides where to focus efforts, and measure results in real-time for feedback and enhancements on tactics.

Marketing is not a one-time thing, it’s an ongoing process that evolves and grows stronger with regular use. As with any muscle in the body, your marketing efforts will build stronger with time. You’ll be able to reach more people with the same input, and you’ll be able to see the results in the bottom line.

Feel free to contact me with any questions.