What is Integrated Marketing, and How to Use it to Influence The Buying Cycle

integrated marketing and buying cycle

With each passing moment consumers have more opportunities, features, products, and mediums to consume, engage, and communicate. For marketers  this increase in options has lead to countless different experiences for users and customers. 

The rapid development of new platforms and mediums for communication can dilute the potency of a well developed marketing strategy. This can also water down the effectiveness of even the most seasoned sales team.

Luckily there is a way to keep the tone of your campaigns cohesive and consistent through integrated marketing. Applying this method of brand messaging can bring consistency to your marketing and create synergistic positive outcomes for your sales team by making the buying process easier for the customer.

Fragmentation Creates the Need for Integration

There is a name for the increased options and different ways in which customers can interact with you. It’s called fragmentation. This is in reference to the user experience (not diving and scattering pieces of a file onto a disk).

 Web sites used to be designed to work on all browsers. Then they had to be optimized for mobile. Now mobile optimization requires all mobile browsers and all devices, even if they’re outdated.

As fragmentation creates more unique experiences. Marketers must curate to the consumer and their chosen medium. This creates more variables and more work for the already over-worked marketer. Conversely, this also creates more opportunity!

The key to seizing this increased opportunity is consistency through integrated marketing, also known as integrated marketing communications (IMC). 

Sales and marketing are teams with the same goal in mind: persuade the customer your product is worth purchasing. Each have very different ways of achieving this goal and work on different timelines.

Friction Between Sales and Marketing is Misdirected Energy

Marketing efforts are measured on a longer time line because they are intended to have more long term impact. Sales teams usually work towards monthly or quarterly sales goals or (shudder) quotas.

If these two teams were gardeners Markers are more concerned with planting and nurturing seedlings into harvestable plants. Sales is concerned with how much they harvest each season and the revenue this can generate. Both are integral to success, but require approaching goals and problems differently.

Unsurprisingly, the difference between Sales and Marketing can cause some friction. 

Any point of friction is an opportunity to take that energy and channel it forward instead of inward. When that back and forth is positive the two can propel each other forward, instead of pushing against eachother.

This is possible with a strategic implementation of integrated marketing.

So What Is Integrated Marketing?

According to the Journal of Integrated Marketing Communications, integrated marketing is “IMC is a strategic marketing process specifically designed to ensure that all messaging and communications strategies are unified across all channels and are centered around the customer.”

Using my corporate speak translator this means using multiple marketing outlets to communicate with a consistent and complementary voice. 

Seems simple enough right? To save some time, let’s go over what does not count as  integrated marketing:

 All of these actions may be part of your integrated marketing strategy. However they are steps in the long journey of curating an integrated marketing campaign.

Integrated Marketing is the Concept Album of the Marketing World

Take the idea of a concept album. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of a concept album (facepalm), it’s an entire album centered around a central idea, theme, and/or story.

Some classic examples are Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” or The Who’s “Tommy.” More recent examples are “The Suburbs” by The Arcade Fire and (arguably) Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” 

Now imagine if “The Wall pt. 2” was on side 2 of Dark Side of the Moon or “Slow Jamz” was included on “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” It would feel forced, out of place, and out of context (not to mention just…wrong).

This same dissonance can be detected in misaligned and unintegrated marketing efforts. It’s not just product features and branding that need to be cohesively highlighted. It’s the overall tone and voice that requires uniformity, even though messages will vary.

Concept albums also tend to be longer than normal albums. Similarly integrated marketing efforts tend to last longer, make more an impression, and make more money.

Many organizations struggle with integrated marketing because the idea is easy, but the implementation is hard. The same is true for any valuable idea.

While the concept is relatively straightforward, the implementation is muddied by the complexities that come with nuanced endeavors enacted by complex and ultimately flawed human beings.

Use All Social Media Outlets with One Voice, But Different Content

Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus, Instagram…the list goes on and will need change over time. Each popular social media channel is unique in the tone users anticipate when using it.

LinkedIn will have a more professional tone, while Facebook will be more casual and friendly. Twitter can run the gamut, but will be transmitted in no more than 140 characters at a  time, hashtags included. Google + requires…people to use it?

With some many channels and different expectations it can almost seem like a marketer needs a different persona for each outlet. This poses many challenges when trying to speak with a unified voice. As mentioned previously, integrated marketing isn’t easy!

This fragmentation of ‘personas’ can be circumvented by approaching each social media outlet with the same voice, altering the style of interaction and content to fit the site in question.

When content is consistent and complementary it can turn the friction and dissonance of different channels into forward momentum, furthering the consistency in customer experience impressions.

Also, how does this relate to the sales and the buying cycle? I’m so glad you asked!

Changes in the Buying Process Empower the Customer

The steps to the buying process remain the same. However the balance of power within the steps has changed in the age of the internet, or the age of the consumer, or the age of social marketing corporate marketing ‘Office Space’ speak, or whatever you want to call it. 

The 5 stages of the consumer buying process are now and forever:

  1. Identification of Need or Pain Point
  1. Info Search
  1. Alternative Evaluation
  1. Purchase Decision
  1. Post-Purchase Decision

The most dramatic changes have occurred in the steps 2 & 3. Consumers used to rely on word of mouth and Consumer Reports for product testing and reviews.OTherwise they just had to take the word of a salesperson. Now a google search on the computer in your pocket will return countless customer reviews.

Review sites often include reviews and mentions of competing products, making step 3 one click away. Then there are sites like LifeHacker that can guide you in replacing the entire purchasing process in favor of  elbow grease and commonly found objects.

The power of the purchasing process is now in the hands of the consumer more than ever before. Meanwhile there are cute cats and baby photos that are fighting with your marketing for the ever decreasing attention span of the consumer.

Here is a chart from Marketo to help illustrate the changes in the buying process


With more outlets for communication and less power, what is a sales person to do?

The answer is to harness the power of integrated marketing!

More Effective Sales Teams Through Better Lead Qualification

Notice the dramatic decrease in the number of stages sales can influence? I’m sure your sales team does too. Please don’t take this to mean that Sales teams are no longer necessary.

Jeffrey Gitomer, author and sales guru, loves to say “People don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy.” He’s right. The increased availability of information to consumers means they will spend more time deciding for themselves to buy, and less time ‘being sold’ by sales people. 

While the consumer can do more on their own, they will need some additional assistance and service during the final and most important stages of the buying process.

This could actually make the work for Sales teams more effective. Their efforts are more impactful in closing a sale since they will fill in the gaps consumers can’t fill themselves.

If the Marketing team is doing more heavy lifting in the early stages of the buying process this reduces the number of bad leads the Sales team has to work with.

Integrated marketing makes for fewer bad leads and more qualified leads closer to the end of the purchasing cycle. Didn’t the characters in Glengarry Glen Ross commit crimes for leads like this?



If integrated marketing works well for both sales and marketing then why don’t more teams do this? The answer is it is difficult!

What does Integrated Marketing Look Like?

 As mentioned previously, these two teams work on different timelines to achieve different goals that work towards the same objectives: generating revenue.

No two marketing or sales teams work the same way there is no one size fits all checklist of getting Sales and Marketing into alignment.

Another oversimplified concept can get these two teams aligned: work together to develop strategy and goals.

There is no absolute algorithm or formula for achieving integrated marketing. If someone says otherwise they are probably in sales.

Working directly together is the starting point where each team determines where each team can complement the other.

Think of this teamwork as an alley oop between marketing and sales:



Marketing moves the ball down the court. Sales and marketing might pass the ball back and forth to move the ball even further. When marketing tosses the ball up the Sales team is there to dunk it in.

To get a sports-free idea of what integrated marketing looks like here are some example scenarios:

If the Sales team are constantly answering the same questions repeatedly the Marketing team can generate content that allows the customer to find these answer before they are in contact with the sales team.

If the Marketing team is getting lots of social media activity and website traffic based on certain content or marketing efforts they can make sure the Sales team reinforces these ideas when they work with their leads.

 This is a process that can take lots of experimentation to dial in. That’s ok! If it were easy everyone would do it. Find out how these teams can complement each other.

Creating Value for the Customer through Consistency

 Integrated marketing works well for Sales and Marketing teams. Great! But what does it do for the customer?

 This provides consistency for the customer. With more choices available than ever before, customers have more stake and more work to do in the buy process. The risk of analysis paralysis is real.

This where the value of integrated marketing shines through. A consistent voice from the Marketing and Sales teams through the entire buying process will makes the decision to purchase much easier. 

How powerful is consistency? Dr. Robert Caldidni included it as one of the 6 universal principles of persuasion. He can tell you better than I can that consistency will persuade people to purchase. In short, the power of consistency is limitless.

If you’re wondering what the other principles are they are reciprocity, authority, liking, scarcity and consensus.

Go Forth and Integrate!

There are lots of consultant agencies and products to guide you in this process. They aren’t cheap. Before dragging yourself through the buying process for one of these services or products try things out between your Sales and Marketing teams.

Get them talking to each other. Figure out the source of friction between teams. Redirect that energy to create forward momentum. Start small. This process is not easy and there are no universal formulas for success. Measure your efforts on short and longer term timelines. Take what works and iterate. Keep it agile and keep it integrated!

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Griffin Kay
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