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February 03, 2017

Bonnie Harris of Wax Marketing on Integrated Marketing Communications

Bonnie Harris is the founder of Wax Marketing, an integrated marketing communications firm.

We recently asked Bonnie for her insight on integrated marketing for small business owners. Here's what she had to say:

Can you talk about your background in marketing? How has marketing communications evolved since you started your career?

I have worked in marketing, management and sales for the past 25 years. For the past 15 years I have been the President of Wax Marketing, an integrated marketing communications firm that works with mid-sized companies. My work has been focused heavily on the technology, finance and social services industry sectors.

Marketing communications has evolved dramatically over the past two decades, and the past 10 years in particular. The number of marketing channels has exploded, causing a massive shift in the way consumers and businesses create, curate and share information. In addition marketing and technology continue to merge, creating more and more opportunity to uncover and influence the customer behavior directly. We no longer need to rely on demographics to predict that behavior.

What is integrated marketing communications?

Integrated marketing communications is often confused with multichannel marketing, but they are not the same. Integrated marketing communications involves a planned, consistent use of different promotional methods that reinforce each other. The idea that the strategies and tactics within IMC "boost" each other's results is key to understanding its power.

How should brands approach their integrated marketing communications strategy today?

Brands should define their audiences as narrowly as possible, and craft strategies to reach those audiences. Keep in mind that the customer experience is growing more and more self-directed. Brands need to focus on influencing their customers or buyers from one stage of the buying cycle to the next; not merely selling to them.

What are the most common challenges or frustrations your clients face in marketing communications? How do you help them overcome these challenges?

The most common challenge for my clients, being smaller in size, is budget. They simply don't have the massive advertising budgets of the larger brands they may be competing with. This is where IMC is so powerful. Large company organizations are often much too siloed in nature to effectively use integration. Mid-sized companies can often adopt an integrated mindset much more easily. And the results of truly integrated campaigns are typically 100 to 200 percent greater than traditional campaigns, no matter the ad budget. That helps close the gap in terms of mindshare and performance against larger companies.

What should brands be doing today to prepare for the future of how they handle marketing communications?

The best thing they can do is eliminate the silos between marketing, sales, communications and technology. To do that, they need to also eliminate siloed goals among organizations. Adopting a project methodology like Agile for marketing can also be very helpful.

What role should SMS play in marketing strategies today?

SMS is another messaging channel that should be considered if the brand's target audience is a user of that channel.

What best practices would you recommend your clients follow with their SMS strategy? What are the dos and don'ts?

Once again, SMS is another messaging channel. It's important to consider it not just because "everyone says you should" but because your target audience uses it as a way to gather, curate or share information. If you're targeting non-digital natives it may be less important, for example. There are many "do's and don'ts" but the main thing is to make sure you're using SMS because it's an important tool for your customers.

What trends or headlines are you following in the world of digital marketing today? Why do they interest you?

I'm following marketing automation most closely. I think that there are far too many martech tools out there today, and there needs to be some consolidation in order to gain effectiveness within this space. I'm also following virtual reality trends, as I feel this is a huge gamechanger for marketing. I also watch neuromarketing techniques, a quieter sector that's getting better and better at influencing behavior.

What brands do you believe have done an especially outstanding job with their integrated communications strategy? What can we learn from them?

Amazon is a powerhouse, and I've written about them many times on my own blog. They use email marketing as the foundation for an amazingly coordinated marketing engine that is among the most integrated I've seen. The Red Cross has some excellent integration going on, particularly between their communications and development programs. I also like to follow some of the eCommerce smaller companies working in B2B, like Insite Software. Those companies are really integrating field sales into some cool marketing programs that incorporate Account Based Marketing, again to reinforce other promotional methods. You can't forget about sales. It always belongs in the integrated marketing mix if there is a direct sales component to the business!

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