A few weeks ago I wrote a post for iCIMS that discussed how to streamline internal employee communication programs. While working on that post, I found myself thinking about a related topic: the various methods staffing companies use to market their services—and how each company could benefit by tying all of those methods together into a well-defined integrated marketing communications (IMC) program.
Advertising and branding expert Brian Bennett defines IMC as
the development of marketing strategies and creative campaigns that weave together multiple marketing disciplines (paid advertising, earned media/PR, promotion, owned assets, and social media) that are executed across a variety of media and selected to suit the particular goals of the brand.
Rather than employ multiple strategies that operate independently in their efforts to achieve the same goal, businesses that use IMC combine their strategies into a unified effort. IMC is no longer the new kid on the block: first introduced in 1989, it has since grown into a key element of many successful marketing strategies, in large part because of recent technological advances (such as social media and SEO, among others) that facilitate such integration.
In other words, if your business doesn’t have an IMC program in place, it’s behind the curve—and falling farther behind by the minute.
Before you can even begin to implement an IMC program, however, you must first clearly define the goal of your brand. Do you want clients and prospects to regard your company as the go-to low-cost provider with quick turnaround, for example? Or do you want your business to build long-term, mutually beneficial relationships that include staffing and recruiting bundled with some free HR consulting?
Once you’ve identified how you want your business to be positioned in your market, make a list of the various marketing strategies your company already uses. You may find some surprises here—say, a neglected front (“We don’t have a social media presence?”), outdated methods (faxes, anyone?), or unexpected successes.
Next, evaluate each item on this list. If a strategy works, keep it. If it doesn’t work, either change it or dump it. And if you find that you need something you don’t already have, get it.
Throughout this stage, carefully consider whether to include each item that comes to mind. Just as a great soup depends on a careful balance of ingredients that work well together to create a delicious meal, so too a great IMC program depends on a careful balance of strategies that are appropriate for your business messaging and goals. Not everything can go into the cooking pot (chocolate, broccoli, and ketchup soup is one unpalatable combination that comes to mind!), and not all marketing strategies are right for your company.
Note which of your current strategies are effective (and, of course, which ones aren’t!). This isn’t a matter of calculating simple ROI. Sure, you want to know if investing in X strategy yields Y dollars. But don’t underestimate the value of results whose financial benefits aren’t always readily (or immediately) apparent, such as name recognition and reputation.
Finally, put all of those strategies together. When you do this, you’re bound to see areas that need some attention—when you do, patch those holes! Is your IMC program missing the mark in the mobile market, for example? Or do some of your marketing strategies lack eye-catching design or text that invites targets to engage with your messaging? Are the elements of your IMC program working together as a whole?
Obviously, implementing a comprehensive IMC program takes a fair amount of investment of money and effort—and time. In fact, it’s an ongoing process that ends only when you decide to shutter your windows and close up your business. You’ll need to go through some trial and error to identify the elements that work for you (and those that don’t). By pulling your marketing strategies together, however, not only do you make sure you’re covering as much terrain as possible, but you also strengthen your efforts by presenting a unified message.