Piecing Together an Integrated Marketing Plan

All marketers, regardless of industry, are being forced to stretch their budgets while at the same time create a more highly-visible brand image.

Many still use old fashioned marketing efforts and continue to just look at print ads or online buttons and banners, and, as a result, aren’t fully leveraging what is available to them. Marketing is more than having a website, a local advertising plan and trade show presence. Marketing needs to be fully integrated and include brand awareness, thought leadership and lead generation. They are all connected.

Taking out ads, both online and in print, and sending direct emails touting your products and services is not an integrated marketing program. This is brand awareness. And while brand awareness is important, it is only one-third of a comprehensive strategy.

Thought leadership is also sorely needed. That means aligning your brand awareness advertising with specific messaging around industry trends, research or analysis. Thought leadership efforts put your company in a more favorable light because you are educated your audience and not just trying to sell to them all the time.

This mainly can be accomplished through custom content creation such as fielding a research study that you then share with prospective customers or commissioning a white paper pointing out a market need that your services ultimately provide. A thought leadership campaign gives your brand more credibility in the marketplace. It also means aligning your company with editorial content that matches your business objectives.

Investing in highly targeted “Smart Sites” is an area where you have single voice of ownership of all the content being developed around a specific topic area for a targeted audience. While the custom content also resides on the same page as the editorial content, the affiliation creates brand awareness as well as thought leadership.

The final piece to any integrated marketing strategy needs to include a lead generation component. Here is where a thought leadership effort really pays off. Organizations should be utilizing the thought leadership content assets for lead generation purposes.

There are various degrees of lead generation and all are useful, especially when combined. Using white papers and making them available for download upon registration is a simple and easy way to get new names in your database. This may be a wide net, but a net nonetheless.

Moving up the ladder are digital events, webcasts, web seminars—whatever name you call it. Again, utilizing a thought-leadership theme and leading with education will draw a more engaged and interested attendee than any advertising or sales message. Digital events are a highly effective way to generate leads and be able to evaluate how interested these potential customers are in the subject. They not only capture basic contact information, but also track engagement, such as how long attendees stayed at the event, what questions they may have asked and even how they answered any polling questions. These metrics help disseminate between highly interested individuals vs. peripherally interested, all based on their own behavior.

Finally, the ultimate lead generation vehicle—but also the most expensive—is live, face-to-face events. These are not necessarily large, 100-plus person conference but rather more intimate boardroom-style gatherings where 25-50 potential customers attend a panel session or an education presentation in a local hotel or meeting space.

Marketing has evolved into a sophisticated science. However, with the way individuals currently receive information, reaching them has become easier and quicker—but reach them you must. Any marketing plan should be comprehensive and combine brand awareness, thought leadership and lead generation in order to be effective.