Different Tools of Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC)

Integrated Marketing Communication is defined as the coordination and integration of all marketing communication tool, avenues and sources within a company into seamless program that maximize the impact on customer and other end users at a minimal cost. This integration affects all firm business-to-business, marketing channel, customer-focused, and internally directed communications. Integrated Marketing Communications is a management concept that is designed to make all aspects of marketing communication such as advertising, sales promotion, public relations, personal selling and direct marketing work together as a unified force, rather than permitting each to work in isolation. Besides, it acts as an aggressive marketing plan because it sets and tracks marketing strategy that captures and uses extensive amount of customer information. It also ensures that all forms of communications and messages are carefully linked together to achieve specific objective.

The important tools of Integrated Marketing Communications are:

1. Advertising

Advertising has four characteristics: it is persuasive in nature; it is non-personal; it is paid for by an identified sponsor; and it is disseminated through mass channels of communication. Advertising messages may promote the adoption of goods, services, persons, or ideas. Because the sales message is disseminated through the mass media—as opposed to personal selling—it is viewed as a much cheaper way of reaching consumers. However, its non-personal nature means it lacks the ability to tailor the sales message to the message recipient and, more importantly, actually get the sale. Therefore, advertising effects are best measured in terms of increasing awareness and changing attitudes and opinions, not creating sales. Advertising’s contribution to sales is difficult to isolate because many factors influence sales. The contribution advertising makes to sales are best viewed over the long run. The exception to this thinking is within the internet arena. While banner ads, pop-ups and interstitials should still be viewed as brand promoting and not necessarily sales drivers, technology provides the ability to track how many of a website’s visitors click the banner, investigate a product, request more information, and ultimately make a purchase.

Through the use of symbols and images advertising can help differentiate products and services that are otherwise similar. Advertising also helps create and maintain brand equity. Brand equity is an intangible asset that results from a favorable image, impressions of differentiation, or consumer attachment to the company, brand, or trademark. This equity translates into greater sales volume, and/or higher margins, thus greater competitive advantage. Brand equity is established and maintained through advertising that focuses on image, product attributes, service, or other features of the company and its products or services.

Cost is the greatest disadvantage of advertising. The average cost for a 30-second spot on network television increased fivefold between 1980 and 2005. Plus, the average cost of producing a 30-second ad for network television is quite expensive. It is not uncommon for a national advertiser to spend in the millions of dollars for one 30-second commercial to be produced. Add more millions on top of that if celebrity talent is utilized.

Credibility and clutter are other disadvantages. Consumers have become increasingly skeptical about advertising messages and tend to resent advertisers’ attempt to persuade. Advertising is everywhere, from network television, to daily newspapers, to roadside billboards, to golf course signs, to stickers on fruit in grocery stores. Clutter encourages consumers to ignore many advertising messages. New media are emerging, such as DVRs (digital video recorders) which allow consumers to record programs and then skip commercials, and satellite radio which provides a majority of its channels advertising free.

2. Public Relations (PR)

Public relations is defined as a management function which identifies, establishes, and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the public upon which its success or failure depends. Whereas advertising is a one-way communication from sender (the marketer) to the receiver (the consumer or the retail trade), public relations considers multiple audiences (consumers, employees, suppliers, vendors, etc.) and uses two-way communication to monitor feedback and adjust both its message and the organization’s actions for maximum benefit. A primary tool used by public relations practitioners is publicity. Publicity capitalizes on the news value of a product, service, idea, person or event so that the information can be disseminated through the news media. This third party “endorsement” by the news media provides a vital boost to the marketing communication message: credibility. Articles in the media are perceived as being more objective than advertisements, and their messages are more likely to be absorbed and believed. For example, after the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes reported in the early 1990s that drinking moderate amounts of red wine could prevent heart attacks by lowering cholesterol, red wine sales in the United States increased 50 percent. Another benefit publicity offers is that it is free, not considering the great amount of effort it can require to get out-bound publicity noticed and picked up by media sources.

Public relations’ role in the promotional mix is becoming more important because of what Philip Kotler describes as an “over communicated society.” Consumers develop “communication-avoidance routines” where they are likely to tune out commercial messages. As advertising loses some of its cost-effectiveness, marketers are turning to news coverage, events, and community programs to help disseminate their product and company messages. Some consumers may also base their purchase decisions on the image of the company, for example, how environmentally responsible the company is. In this regard, public relations plays an important role in presenting, through news reports, sponsorships, “advertorials” (a form of advertising that instead of selling a product or service promotes the company’s views regarding current issues), and other forms of communication, what the company stands for.

3. Sales Promotions (SP)

Sales promotions are direct inducements that offer extra incentives to enhance or accelerate the product’s movement from producer to consumer. Sales promotions may be directed at the consumer or the trade. Consumer promotions such as coupons, sampling, premiums, sweepstakes, price packs (packs that offer greater quantity or lower cost than normal), low-cost financing deals, and rebates are purchase incentives in that they induce product trial and encourage repurchase. Consumer promotions may also include incentives to visit a retail establishment or request additional information. Trade promotions include slotting allowances (“buying” shelf space in retail stores), allowances for featuring the brand in retail advertising, display and merchandising allowances, buying allowances (volume discounts and other volume-oriented incentives), bill back allowances (pay-for-performance incentives), incentives to salespeople, and other tactics to encourage retailers to carry the item and to push the brand.

Two perspectives may be found among marketers regarding sales promotion. First, sales promotion is supplemental to advertising in that it binds the role of advertising with personal selling. This view regards sales promotion as a minor player in the marketing communication program. A second view regards sales promotion and advertising as distinct functions with objectives and strategies very different from each other. Sales promotion in this sense is equal to or even more important than advertising. Some companies allocate as much as 75 percent of their advertising/promotion dollars to sales promotion and just 25 percent to advertising. Finding the right balance is often a difficult task. The main purpose of sales promotion is to spur action. Advertising sets up the deal by developing a brand reputation and building market value. Sales promotion helps close the deal by providing incentives that build market volume.

Sales promotions can motivate customers to select a particular brand, especially when brands appear to be equal, and they can produce more immediate and measurable results than advertising. However, too heavy a reliance on sales promotions results in “deal-prone” consumers with little brand loyalty and too much price sensitivity. Sales promotions can also force competitors to offer similar inducements, with sales and profits suffering for everyone.

4. Personal Selling (PS)

Personal selling includes all person-to-person contact with customers with the purpose of introducing the product to the customer, convincing him or her of the product’s value, and closing the sale. The role of personal selling varies from organization to organization, depending on the nature and size of the company, the industry, and the products or services it is marketing. Many marketing executives realize that both sales and non-sales employees act as salespeople for their organization in one way or another. One study that perhaps supports this contention found that marketing executives predicted greater emphasis being placed on sales management and personal selling in their organization than on any other promotional mix element. These organizations have launched training sessions that show employees how they act as salespeople for the organization and how they can improve their interpersonal skills with clients, customers, and prospects. Employee reward programs now reward employees for their efforts in this regard.

Personal selling is the most effective way to make a sale because of the interpersonal communication between the salesperson and the prospect. Messages can be tailored to particular situations, immediate feedback can be processed, and message strategies can be changed to accommodate the feedback. However, personal selling is the most expensive way to make a sale, with the average cost per sales call ranging from $235 to $332 and the average number of sales calls needed to close a deal being between three and six personal calls.

Sales and marketing management classifies salespersons into one of three groups: creative selling, order taking, and missionary sales reps. Creative selling jobs require the most skills and preparation. They are the “point person” for the sales function. They prospect for customers, analyze situations, determine how their company can satisfy wants and needs of prospects, and, most importantly, get an order. Order takers take over after the initial order is received. They handle repeat purchases (straight rebuys) and modified rebuys. Missionary sales reps service accounts by introducing new products, promotions, and other programs. Orders are taken by order takers or by distributors.

5. Direct Marketing (DM)

Direct marketing, the oldest form of marketing, is the process of communicating directly with target customers to encourage response by telephone, mail, electronic means, or personal visit. Users of direct marketing include retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers, and service providers, and they use a variety of methods including direct mail, telemarketing, direct-response advertising, online computer shopping services, cable shopping networks, and infomercials. Traditionally not viewed as an element in the promotional mix, direct marketing represents one of the most profound changes in marketing and promotion in the last 25 years. Aspects of direct marketing, which includes direct response advertising and direct mail advertising as well as the various research and support activities necessary for their implementation, have been adopted by virtually all companies engaged in marketing products, services, ideas, or persons.

Direct marketing has become an important part of many marketing communication programs for three reasons. First, the number of two-income households has increased dramatically. About six in every ten women in the United States work outside the home. This has reduced the amount of time families have for shopping trips. Secondly, more shoppers than ever before rely on credit cards for payment of goods and services. These cashless transactions make products easier and faster to purchase. Finally, technological advances in telecommunications and computers allow consumers to make purchases from their homes via telephone, television, or computer with ease and safety. These three factors have dramatically altered the purchasing habits of American consumers and made direct marketing a growing field worldwide.

Direct marketing allows a company to target more precisely a segment of customers and prospects with a sales message tailored to their specific needs and characteristics. Unlike advertising and public relations, whose connections to actual sales are tenuous or nebulous at best, direct marketing offers accountability by providing tangible results. The economics of direct marketing have also improved over the years as more information is gathered about customers and prospects. By identifying those consumers they can serve more effectively and profitably, companies may be more efficient in their marketing efforts. Whereas network television in the past offered opportunities to reach huge groups of consumers at a low cost per thousand, direct marketing can reach individual consumers and develop a relationship with each of them.

Research indicates that brands with strong brand equity are more successful in direct marketing efforts than little-known brands. Direct marketing, then, works best when other marketing communication such as traditional media advertising supports the direct marketing effort.

Direct marketing has its drawbacks also. Just as consumers built resistance to the persuasive nature of advertising, so have they with direct marketing efforts. Direct marketers have responded by being less sales oriented and more relationship oriented. Also, just as consumers grew weary of advertising clutter, so have they with the direct marketing efforts. Consumers are bombarded with mail, infomercials, and telemarketing pitches daily. Some direct marketers have responded by regarding privacy as a customer service benefit. Direct marketers must also overcome consumer mistrust of direct marketing efforts due to incidents of illegal behavior by companies and individuals using direct marketing. The U.S. Postal Service, the Federal Trade Commission, and other federal and state agencies may prosecute criminal acts. The industry then risks legislation regulating the behavior of direct marketers if it is not successful in self-regulation. The Direct Marketing Association, the leading trade organization for direct marketing, works with companies and government agencies to initiate self-regulation. In March of 2003 the National Do Not Call Registry went into affect whereby consumers added their names to a list that telemarketers had to eliminate from their out-bound call database.

Emerging Tools of Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC)

Sponsorships (Event Marketing)

Sponsorships, or event marketing, combine advertising and sales promotions with public relations. Sponsorships increase awareness of a company or product, build loyalty with a specific target audience, help differentiate a product from its competitors, provide merchandising opportunities, demonstrate commitment to a community or ethnic group, or impact the bottom line. Like advertising, sponsorships are initiated to build long-term associations. Organizations sometimes compare sponsorships with advertising by using gross impressions or cost-per-thousand measurements. However, the value of sponsorships can be very difficult to measure. Companies considering sponsorships should consider the short-term public relations value of sponsorships and the long-term goals of the organization. Sports sponsorships make up about two-thirds of all sponsorships.

Social Media Marketing

The concept of social media marketing basically refers to the process of promoting business or websites through social media channels. It is a powerful marketing medium that is defining the way people are communicating. It is one of the significantly low-cost promotional methods that provide businesses large numbers of links and huge amount of traffic. Companies manage to get massive attention and that really works in favour of the business. Social media marketing is a potent method applied by progressive companies for selling their products/services or for just publishing content for advertisement revenue.

Social media is an extremely useful tool using which companies can get their information, product descriptions, promotions all ingrained in the chain of networking world. Considering the newness of this marketing method, organizations are coming up with innovative ways to develop their marketing plans. New platforms are being created to approach potential clients. A large number of business organizations are allocating budget for online business development using social media marketing. It is a booming sector which is going to redefine the way marketing strategies are being formed and promoted.

Internet Marketing

Internet marketing also referred to as i-marketing, web-marketing, online-marketing or e-Marketing, is the marketing of products or services over the Internet. The Internet has brought media to a global audience. The interactive nature of Internet marketing in terms of providing instant responses and eliciting responses are the unique qualities of the medium. Internet marketing is sometimes considered to be broad in scope because it not only refers to marketing on the Internet, but also includes marketing done via e-mail and wireless media. Management of digital customer data and electronic customer relationship management (ECRM) systems are also often grouped together under internet marketing.

Internet marketing ties together creative and technical aspects of the Internet, including: design, development, advertising, and sales.

Internet marketing also refers to the placement of media along many different stages of the customer engagement cycle through search engine marketing (SEM), search engine optimization (SEO), banner ads on specific websites, e-mail marketing, and Web 2.0 strategies.

Mobile Marketing

Mobile Marketing involves communicating with the consumer via cellular (or mobile) device, either to send a simple marketing message, to introduce them to a new audience participation-based campaign or to allow them to visit a mobile website.

Mobile connectivity not only enables people to connect to the Internet via a cellular telephone, PDA or other gadget, but also consolidates the different communication channels in a simple, yet effective medium.

Cheaper than traditional means for both the consumer and the marketer – and easy enough for almost any age group to understand and engage with – Mobile Marketing really is a streamlined version of traditional eMarketing.

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