What's your recipe for integration?

[Posted by Mary Beth Kemp]

Mary Beth Kemp

Our panel of marketing leaders told us they work with, on average, 16 different agencies - ranging from traditional advertising and media shops, direct marketing and database specialists, digital, PR and events agencies and so on. 

Now, my mom used to say “too many cooks spoil the soup” (no doubt because it was quieter in the kitchen without us all there).  So, I’d translate that into marketing speak by: it sure is challenging to end up with a consistent, coherent and compelling experience for consumers from all these different players.  We’ve all heard the stories of missed opportunities - the search campaign that wasn’t when the TV flight sent millions running to the web for more information; the customers who pan a company’s service during a ‘customer-first’ messaged acquisition campaign…

My mom’s right - Integrated marketing often is a feat, much like coordinating a dinner in a well-staffed, four-star restaurant.   And it no doubt takes specialists and professional ways of working, just like in that restaurant.  But do we, as an industry, really acknowledge that?

I’m currently working on a report about working well with multiple agencies to deliver integrated marketing.  I’m collecting insights and best practices from both clients and agencies. Worse practices are great too! 

If you’d like to sound off on the subject, drop me an email, or comment here. 

Which marketers seem to get integration and which ones have proven themselves lacking?  Why?  And what should agencies and marketers do to make integration more possible among all those cooks? 


re: What's your recipe for integration?

I think integration will happen only if clients play match maker and bring all the many partners to the table on a consistent and regular basis.Out here in India, there is a lot of mistrust amongst agencies of different kinds about collaborating and working together in truly integrated way.While there is consensus among large clients that while each constituent in the marketing orchestra need to operate in sync, they are still not making active efforts to bring these members together again and again and insisting that every time a new idea or a campaign is being presented, it is being imagined and created in a synergistic way.Traditional agencies too agree that they need to be able to understand and offer true integration by collaborating with partners. But double digit growth rates over the years have ensured that they have not had to make any serious efforts to make it happen.

re: What's your recipe for integration?

Thanks Nishad. Do agree that clients have a very important role to play in getting all to the table. But there's certainly a critical effort required on the agency side as well. Sitting down with a sullen group of agency executives who misunderstand, mistrust, or even disrespect each other is probably not on the top ten list of any marketer. Integration is a team effort.

re: What's your recipe for integration?

Your comment about sullen agency executives misunderstanding or mistrusting each other made me laugh (and remember some painful experiences from my days at Apple). That was 20 years ago. This kind of behavior has to stop, particularly at a time when the marketing profession is increasingly under fire to prove ROI on marketing investments!It strikes me that there are several key success factors to effective collaboration across the virtual marketing services network:* Agreement to a shared strategy, and clear understanding of what that strategy is, its underlying rationale, and how success will be measured* Agreement on who is responsible for setting the strategy (and its various elements), and on the protocol for questioning underlying assumptions or recommending changes -- Instead of contention across agencies on whose strategists are smarter (or whose decks are better)* Shared access to common briefing documents, market/customer research, and other resources that provide insights into the market environment or the client's underlying assumptions* Shared access to persona work: user personas, buyer personas, design personas; and how these relate to, or differ from, the client's segmentation model (if any)* Shared access to brand assets and other content assets, in digital form, that will be used to shape the tonality and look and feel of the campaign -- if the client seeks some common visual language and messaging across the campaign tactics, even if execution is being done by multiple players* Some mechanism for collaboration of ideas and work products, balancing face to face interactions with shared online meeting spaces, real-time and archived meetings, etc.* An easy way for everyone on the team to know how to contact others contributing to the campaign, even when they work for different companies. This can be challenging for work that is essentially project based, as team members can be quite fluid.* If the campaign has real-time elements that are being tracked on a frequent basis (daily, every few days, whatever), anyone who has a stake in optimizing its effectiveness ought to have access to the performance metrics so they are well informed when the time comes to take remedial action on creative or media strategy, keywords, etc.And of course, a culture and mindset that reinforce collaboration and discourage (or punish) bad behavior that leads to distrust. The client has to enforce the cultural expectations, and has to take action to discourage potential end-runs.Because marketing organizations (client side) tend to be among the last to get the kind of IT support they need for collaboration and marketing infrastructure, it can be difficult to set up the systems that make cross-company, project-based collaboration productive.The actual platform for cross-company sharing may need to be provided by one of the agency partners, but open to all participants for the duration of the project. At some future date maybe clients will have such platforms, but for now, IT worries and firewall policies may be impractical for internal hosting of the collaboration network. As a practical matter the clients may not be able to use their corporate email for sending or receiving large media files or PowerPoint decks.An enduring cultural challenge, especially for traditional agencies that feel they must have complete account control, is to know how to behave collaboratively when the marketing services ecosystem for a project includes large agencies, boutique firms, and specialty independents. We're all working for the benefit of a shared client -- but not everyone in this network understands what it means to share, and to put the client's best interests at the forefront. Big agencies have to get over these old-fashioned attitudes.

re: What's your recipe for integration?

Thanks Mary Beth for your post!Yes, integration or integrated marketing is difficult -- but certainly doable -- given a number of factors including: the need for people and teams to collaborate [work better together] across disciplines and organizations; leadership to apply appropriate change management and keep projects, processes and people on track; and the technology choices we make to improve operations and outcomes.On the topic of technology choices, I think clients and agencies can certainly improve their integrated marketing results if they simply choose to use fewer point solutions and apply an integrated marketing suite approach. All cards on the table, I work for a company that provides an integrated marketing suite (SaaS) and believe technology is key to automating business processes and workflows across teams. But I also believe that only people choose to change or evolve their culture to embrace what integrated technology solutions and strategies can deliver in terms of operational efficiencies, business ROI, and customer satisfaction and loyalty.We would be happy to provide more input on this topic. In fact, we are developing some agency curriculum now that addresses integration and how to evolve the agency business model for 21st century marketing demands.

re: What's your recipe for integration?

@Christine - yes! And thanks. Culture and process, right. I was lamenting with a former colleague about how hard it was to integrate within one's agency network. Funny that, the rules are never clear and certainly we all think we can wing it because we are all part of the same group.I love your observation about the presentation decks - of course the deck with the most pages wins ;-). Sounds like you've a wealth of experience - are you open to a chat?@ Erik I take your point about tools/technology, and do agree, but am wondering, unkindly, if we're still not in the garbage in, garbage out stage. We all know from the trials of CRM deployments that great tools can't force process. I'd argue that we haven't quite cracked how to work well together yet, and that automating that isn't helpful. I'd be interested to see what you've uncovered and what you're working towards.

re: What's your recipe for integration?

I think many marketers view agencies as executers as opposed to strategic partners. B-School educated clients are much more willing to pay for management consulting, then turn "execution" over to specialist agencies who tend to do what the clients tells them to do.