Your small business guide to developing an integrated marketing campaign

6 minute read

If you own or run a small business, you have a lot on your plate. Marketing may often be an afterthought. But investing time in your marketing approach will do more than just drive sales from new and current customers. Even lapsed customers can become a source of revenue (again) if you approach them in the right way.

There are more communication channels than ever to reach and engage your target audience. One of the best ways to communicate in today’s fragmented multichannel world is taking an “integrated marketing” approach. Among other benefits, integrated marketing communications can help you speak to your target audience through the channels they prefer.

Integrated marketing communications: What it is

Integrated marketing communications is a strategy that leverages different channels to communicate with customers using a single, unified message.

If you’ve ever distributed flyers to specific neighbourhoods surrounding a retail location and posted updates on your Facebook or Twitter accounts at the same time, you’ve practiced a form of integrated marketing communications.

Your channel options include social media, direct mail, digital advertising (like banner ads), emails, your website and even non-traditional communications vehicles such as sponsorships, events and partnerships with complementary businesses. For those with larger marketing budgets, local television and radio commercials may be options as well.

Regardless, the goal is always the same: to deliver a single message to customers and prospects where they are most likely to see it.

Integrated marketing communications: Why it works

Think of all the different channels you use before making a purchase. A direct mail piece in your mailbox may have prompted you to consider a product. From there, you checked out review sites for expert and user ratings and consulted social media.

Like you, your customers don’t limit themselves to one channel to get information – and they don’t always rely on social and digital media alone for their information.

This is why an integrated marketing campaign can ensure your message is delivered in the most effective way to both potential and existing customers. There’s also research that suggests campaigns of this kind can produce better results than communicating with a single channel.

Create an integrated marketing campaign in 4 steps

It’s easy to be reactive in marketing. There’s always the temptation to create campaigns and promotions quickly: “I need more foot traffic to my store, so I’m going to create a flyer that features a BOGO free offer”. That will likely work in the short term but may not set you up for future success. To achieve your long-term business goals, you need to be more strategic about your campaigns. Follow these 4 steps to develop the best marketing approach for your small business:

Step 1: Determine your business goals

Think about your business objectives and how you hope marketing will help you achieve them. Make sure you prioritize them, as this will help you understand what success looks like and maximize future opportunities and learnings. Some common objectives for small businesses include:

  • boosting awareness,
  • increasing sales,
  • generating traffic to a physical location,
  • incentivizing visits to a website,
  • encouraging repeat purchases,
  • reconnecting with lapsed customers,
  • enhancing brand image.

For example, let’s say you have a local HVAC business. Over the years, you’ve accumulated the names of hundreds of customers who came to you for annual furnace and air conditioner tune-ups. Despite being satisfied with your work, they’re not booking next year’s appointments in the numbers you would like. Your main objective may be to reach out to these customers and encourage them to contact you. Your second goal may be to build awareness and increase website visits from homeowners outside of your traditional service area. Keep those goals in mind as you craft your campaign.

Which marketing channels are right for your small business? Learn how to select your ideal channels.

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Step 2: Target your ideal audience

Knowing your target audience is a crucial element in delivering messages and content that will resonate with them. Ask yourself:

  • How old are they? Where do they live? Are they typically married or single? Are kids a factor?
  • What do they care about? What are their activities, interests and lifestyles? What personality characteristics can you identify?
  • How can you reach them? What channels do they use to find information? Where are they located?
  • What products and services are competing for their attention?

Step 3: Tailor your message to make an impact

Once you know your marketing objectives, and who you’re targeting, you’ll need to consider what you’re going to say and where and when you’ll say it.

Plan what you’re going to say

Consider your competition – is there an attribute that makes your business unique in comparison? Can it be leveraged in your communications?

Competitive pricing, location and product selection are obvious strengths to emphasize. But go beyond these elements – share your personal story, or what your business stands for. Consumers want to know who they’re buying from.

While you’re thinking about your audience and the right message, don’t lose sight of current customers. This group can represent unique opportunities to cross-sell and upsell. For instance, part of your marketing strategy may be to keep loyal customers up to date on the latest changes to your business – such as COVID-19 safety protocols, curbside pickup options and special perks. These customers have already bought from you – they’re likely to do it again!

Plan where you’ll say it

Not all marketing channels are equally effective. You’ll want to choose channels that your ideal customer uses regularly. It’s all about being relevant to them.

Plan when you’ll say it

Timing is important – try to have all of the different channels ‘on’ at the same time. You want to ensure your message is out there on various channels during roughly the same period of time, as a sequence. That way, there’s a better chance your audience will see – and retain – your message.

Get inspired by integrated marketing in action

Say you own a local pizzeria. Through the pandemic and various lockdowns, you’ve had to increase the delivery portion of your business because in-store sales have declined. Your objective is to increase orders by phone and online. An integrated marketing campaign could look like this:

  • weekly distribution of direct mail or flyers to homes around your physical location;
  • social media (Facebook, Instagram) posts for your current customers (since loyal customers are most likely to become followers) featuring daily specials and new pizza combos;
  • website updates featuring daily specials, plus profiles of employees and the history of your business (showcasing the love and care you put into every slice);
  • “thank you” notes included with pizza deliveries that encourage social media likes, a coupon for their next purchase and incentives to rate your pizza on your website.

Step 4: Test, measure and learn

Even if your first attempt at integrated marketing is wildly successful, you should continue testing various elements. Learning what works and what doesn’t will give you the right insights to inform your decision making, including where to concentrate your efforts in the future and where to invest your marketing dollars.

You can test everything from channels to messaging and design. Going back to our pizzeria example, your tests could include:

  • introducing direct mail or flyer distribution into new neighbourhoods – and tracking which neighbourhoods respond best;
  • tweaking design and photographs – instead of featuring a standard pizza photograph, like every competitor, design a new piece to feature your employees;
  • changing up the offer – if you’re featuring “$5 off any large pizza”, try “free bread sticks with any pizza” as testing offers is often the simplest form of testing;
  • featuring a social media tie-in – “follow us and get two free toppings”.

It’s natural to want to invest your marketing dollars into reaching new customers. Why spend money on a group that’s no longer doing business with you? But limiting your spend to customer acquisition is ill advised as it costs less to keep a customer than to find a new one. It’s also important to note that lapsed customers may not necessarily have said no to doing business with you; they just might have said ‘yes’ to a competitor. That’s a big difference. Perhaps all they need is a compelling message delivered at the right time.

Choose the right channels to reach them

There are only a handful of channels that you can use to effectively and directly communicate with lapsed customers: telephone, email and direct mail. While they are all useful in their own way, direct mail’s unique combination of physicality and relevancy makes it ideal to reach today’s consumers. Canadians of all ages are embracing the channel more these days. Check out the latest consumer research.

Craft your message carefully

When you draft your message, use a friendly and familiar tone. Remember that you are re-introducing your business to them. Highlight the changes you’ve made since the last time they transacted with you. Mention a new product or service line. Remind these customers that you and your staff have missed them. Depending on your business, consider an exclusive ‘welcome-back’ themed offer as extra incentive.

Make an impact with your small business marketing

With the recent explosion of digital and social channels, thinking in terms of integrated marketing communications has become even more important. It’s near-impossible to reach all of your customers with a single marketing channel. Integrated marketing campaigns can help small businesses connect with the right audience by sharing a consistent message through their preferred channels.

And there’s one more benefit. Following the steps outlined above will focus your thinking. Your marketing plan will make sense to your customers and work for your business.

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