In the consideration of integrated marketing communications (IMC) there are myriad components, including the company’s mission and vision statements, traditional marketing philosophies, advertising, direct and digital marketing, sales and customer support, PR, trade shows, and the overall approach to corporate social responsibility (Wikipedia, 2015). It is best to reflect on the adage which states, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link,” when giving weight to which is most important, however. All components of IMC should be optimized throughout the implementation process in an effort to facilitate maximized desirable outcomes (Yeshin, 1999).
Nevertheless, discussion of some of the highlights of IMC is warranted. This post will examine the process of online marketing, since it represents the most recent innovation in IMC.
A prime consideration of any marketing plan is the focus on and understanding of the consumer, particularly what they may expect and desire when making purchases. Feedback is essential for an understanding of what factors may motivate individual customers during the purchasing process (Yeshin, 1999). Social media offers an unprecedented opportunity for consumers to voice their opinions in a simplified manner. Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have become destinations for both companies and buyers in this respect, since each offer easily facilitated conversation. Data mining is another benefit to participants, since so much information is readily available to both parties from within the portals.
However, there is a downside to social media, that being unless it is used as intended, i.e. an interactive forum, it tends to do more harm than good. Responsibility must be taken by any company embracing use of the technology; this means responding to fan posts, and doing so in a timely manner.
‘Interactive’ indicates a two-way communication. As an example, during real world conversation a second party reacts to the initial statements made by the first, typically by making a statement or even asking a question. If the initiator is silent and says nothing, that person may then be perceived as ignoring the comments or questions, and considered acting rudely by doing so.
The same is true in social media. If there is no company response to comments or questions posted within the forum, fans might feel ignored, and the resultant ill will that may be generated can be most damaging, causing more harm than good. A commitment to social media usage must be total and complete, including funding the resources necessary to provide professional staffing to monitor and respond on a consistent basis. Secondary to budget considerations, this apparently is greatly ignored by much of industry, and becomes problematic (Karr, 2014).
Websites have additionally become a mainstay of online marketing. Visitors can discover products and services, gain a wide range of intelligence about general and specific information about the company, and make purchases directly from the site without need for traveling to traditional bricks and mortar stores. Companies know immediately how many potential and actual shoppers call upon the site, as well as attaining a wide range of customer demographic data (Schneider, 2011). This is a particular advancement over traditional methods of intelligence gathering, such as customer response surveys, since the understanding acquired is of a greater detail, as well as being more accurate.
Disadvantages to online business must also be contemplated. Security and copyright issues give rise for concern. Since the Web is ubiquitous, the possibility of intellectual property theft is global. Hackers from around the world may find the business’s online presence to be an inviting target, and if so may reduce or even eliminate access by customers to the virtual storefront.
Yet of critical concern is the targeted audience. Potential buyers may be flooded with advertisements which may decrease sensitivity to brands and their associated products and services. Optimized SEO is necessary to provide customers an easy way to find an online presence through search engines. While ready-made Websites are abundant, these may not correctly provide an appropriate brand image (O’Farrell, 2015).
Blogs also offer furtherance in IMC by virtue of their interactivity. Companies can disseminate news about new and planned product offerings, social responsibility efforts, and so forth. Readers can leave comments which allow for the opportunity of conversation between both seller and buyer, giving consumers the opportunity to learn more about the company and the company insight into customer desires. This information may be shared across the social media, thus offering benefit again for all concerned (Schneider, 2011).
Problems with blogs must also be recognized. They are often seen as substandard and effortless publicity maneuvers, demand relentless upkeep, distribute private information, and must be deemed credible. Content marketing endeavors must be managed routinely and can need resource funding to do so effectively (Corporate Blogging, 2010).
Information dissemination is the raison d’etre of IMC. Online marketing efforts allow this procedure to be enabled as never before in the history of product and service promotion.
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