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Putting the Pieces Together: Integrated Marketing Communications 101

Today more than ever before, institutions that want to successfully manage complex communication and marketing strategies need a comprehensive and coordinated plan. Integrated marketing communications (or IMC) incorporates all the advertising tools used within a marketing campaign to make sure they’re working together to maximize success. IMC recognizes the variety and value of different communication disciplines and combines the power of each to reinforce messaging, improve messaging consistency, and increase the reach and impact of your marketing dollars.

At root, integrated marketing communications is extremely customer-centric. It’s designed around three fundamental truths that many organizations fail to fully grasp, but that any marketing team worth its salt should instinctively understand:

1. Markets are fragmented. Your potential customers aren’t found in a single large market. Rather, they’re spread across a landscape of splintered and disorganized smaller markets. A smart integrated marketing communications plan meets those customers where are they are — at different times, through different means, and with different tools and styles.

2. Media is constantly changing. New types of media require new approaches. Mobile, email, and social media are evolving at lightning speed. Audiences use different forms of media, access it in unique ways, and respond to content differently. Solid marketing plans understand the dynamic nature of new media and tailor campaign messaging without compromising clarity or consistency.

3. Customers are savvier than ever before. Consumers, particularly young adult consumers, are more sophisticated about marketing than any preceding generation. Regardless of how concise the copy is or how compelling the creative, campaigns that rely on a single channel to echo a one-size-fits-all message will likely be short-lived.

How IMC Can Help Your Institution

With the above facts in mind, there’s a clear need for schools to use a range of communication tools to effectively deliver tailored messages to their distinct audiences. Leveraging personal and non-personal, online and offline, multi-channel and multi-stage campaigns deliver better message consistency, stronger brand equity, and can offer higher marketing ROI.

When properly executed, an integrated marketing communication plan helps ensure that all your communications are working together and linked to a common business goal. It provides your institution with a competitive advantage by offering a much more robust interaction with your current and potential customers — nurturing and reinforcing their decision-making at each stage of the recruitment and enrollment process.

Toward Better IMC: 4 Quick Tips

Effective integrated marketing communication plans are built around a clear enrollment goal and an actionable plan. Here are four tips to help focus your efforts as you get started:

1. Know (all) of your potential customers. With prospects spread across markets it’s tempting to begin to generalize their wants, needs, motivations, and aspirations. Fight the impulse to homogenize your audience; instead create a targeted messaging strategy based on accurate segmentation information.

2. Focus on message content and clarity. Simplicity, directness, and clarity are the watchwords of successful messaging. With the channel and media always in mind, write for your audience.

3. Embrace guidelines. Brand books and style guidesanchor your institution’s identity standards across multiple campaigns and in various marketing channels. Work to establish and enforce brand consistency in all messaging.

4. Hire a team of trusted professionals. If integrated marketing communications is unfamiliar territory, let professionals help you navigate. Look for a collaborative team of experienced marketing pros who will take time to understand your school’s mission, goals, and challenges. Focus on businesses that are guided by research and take a data-driven approach to market segmentation and messaging strategy.

Remember, helping clients build and improve their integrated marketing communications is what Enrollment Builders is all about. If you’d like to find out more about how our team of consultants can assist your school’s marketing efforts, call us at 513-518-7824, or request information here.