Marketing needs to be very strategic and integrated. Having a social media strategy, an advertising strategy, an online strategy, etc. doesn’t serve the company’s best interests. All these strategies need to start with an integrated marketing strategy, which combines tactics from various communication media, with product strategies, pricing strategies, and distribution strategies.
Advertising recently underwent a transformation to become Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) based on a realization that the communication function (1 of the 4 P’s of Marketing) was more than just paid, impersonal messages and that there was value in integrating all the firm’s communication efforts (including both explicit messages – such as PR and advertising — and implicit messages — store environment, etc). IMC includes both online and offline communications (websites, newsletters, social networks, TV, radio, newspaper …) and communications with various stakeholders (customers, employees, shareholders, vendors …). This has been a very good things for firms as their messages became more consistent and their brands stronger.
Marketing; however, had the opposite happen. Traditionally, marketing strategy was developed under a single umbrella. Marketing strategy included everything from the 4 P’s — Product, Price, Promotion, and Place (distribution). As such, formulating marketing strategy involved understanding the internal and external environment in which the firm operated, then making plans for what products (and services) to market (including branding existing products and new products), to whom products would be marketed, what price to charge, how to communicate with various stakeholders, and where to market products. Developing marketing strategy also involves establishing feedback and control mechanisms involving marketing analytics — which are becoming much more sophisticated — and contingency plans — refer to yesterday’s post on reputation management to see why these are important.
Rather than remaining integrated, as marketing has always been, today I see a shift toward disintegration (I purposely didn’t use the hyphen here). You still have advertising agencies, and market research companies that have always operated outside the marketing strategy umbrella, but now you also have web designers, social network firms, email (outbound marketing firms), inbound marketing firms, 3PL firms (third party logistics), sales firms … who may or may not take a big picture approach that encompasses all aspects of marketing.
Some of these are not even trained in marketing or may have had only the Marketing 101 course offered as part of a business degree. Some actually operate in a different field, such as accountants offering business development advice. You also have IT professionals setting up online marketing tools without the slightest notion of marketing. I’m not sure this is a good thing for the firm. Don’t get me wrong, these firms are great at programming websites (I couldn’t be getting the traffic I do without my IT person to set all this up) and maintaining books, but they just don’t know marketing.
Without a clear strategy, firms are risking current business plus incurring opportunity costs for missed business opportunities. Also, it recreates the problem of mixed messages that is the antithesis of good marketing strategy. Once the company has developed a coherent strategy internally, I think its fine to contract with outside vendors if the firm doesn’t have expertise in-house. Don’t expect these outside firm to develop your strategy for you unless you hire an integrated firm who has the expertise to do this.
Marketing strategy in large companies, especially those who have a CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) or similar marketing professional, is already well developed. Mid-sized firms, however, might be languishing in terms of an overarching marketing strategy, instead putting tactics together on an ad hoc basis. That’s especially true in today’s economy when everyone is trying to make do with fewer employees.
As markets begin to recover, this is a perfect time for firms to think strategically about market growth.