It has been a long time since I have added a new blog post, but I have been busy, honest! In fact, this is a presentation that I gave at Affiliate Summit West 2013, also known as ASW13.

Sixty-five years ago, James Culliton described the role of the marketing manager as a “mixer of ingredients”; one who sometimes follows recipes prepared by others, sometimes prepares his own recipe as he goes along, sometimes adapts a recipe from immediately available ingredients, and at other times invents new ingredients no one else has tried.

Part of mixing your marketing ingredients is knowing which channels to focus on and which to avoid, kind of like the Food Network TV show Chopped where chefs take a mystery basket of ingredients and turn it into something amazing…or else they get chopped. For example, in one of the first episodes of Chopped, the chefs were given ground beef, wonton wrappers, cream of mushroom soup, bananas in the appetizer round. One chef refused to use the bananas in his appetizer and was eliminated. With help from Google’s Zero Moment of Truth and Chris Penn’s New Media Trinity, I’ll try to give you some tips that will help you to mix all the right ingredients to keep you from being eliminated.

In that episode, bananas were definitely the causes of concern or conflict. In today’s presentation we’ll also talk about marketing channel conflict and how to minimize conflicting channels by mixing all the ingredients properly.

And finally, we’ll take a look at the integrated marketing pyramid. Like the food pyramid, there is a hierarchy to integrated marketing and I’ll tell you what needs to be the base and the top of your marketing priorities. While mixing ingredients was great in 1948, in 2013 we’re not about mixing, we’re all about marketing integration, in fact Search Engine Watch declared 2013 as the year of integrated marketing.

According to Search Engine Watch, 2013 is the year of Marketing Integration and there are 3 levels of integrations you need to check out in 2013 in order to hit the marketing jackpot.

Marketing basics haven’t changed in 2013 (and probably never will). New channels, new tools, new platforms and new ideas, they are all new ways to achieve the same old goal – generate demand for your products and services.

–       Channels: More channels will start to integrate and consolidate as offline and online begins to work in concert together and the integrations of channels become more possible through new tools and solutions. For example, Social Media will become measurable and accountable. If you’re not on social media, you’re not doing your job. You don’t have to be on every social media channel, but you need to be measuring the activity (whether it’s visits, leads, sales or something else) coming from your social media and acting based on those results.

–       Campaigns: Integrated campaigns will become the everyday for marketers who are trying to leverage content across multiple channels and make the most out of their media spend. Ann Handley and CC Chapman wrote a book called Content Rules which outlines how to reimagine a single piece of content, like a blog post, into white papers, ebooks, podcasts, webinars and even videos. One thing to remember is that even the coolest, most engaging content in the world will fail if you don’t use manners and smart business skills to share it with others. The same way you wouldn’t go up to everyone at a conference and immediately try to start selling them on your product, the same rules apply to your content. People like to be approached in different ways and your marketing campaigns need to be integrated enough to help everyone without being too pushy.

–       Tools: Tools like Google Analytics become more important as marketers look to streamline their process, cut operational costs (time and money) and leverage the effect of seeing all their campaigns, channels and data in one place. You’ve heard talk about Big Data – using tools and gathering insights from the tons of the measurable information about your business and using that business intelligence to create actionable goals is becoming a priority.

Integrated marketing is a way to take different marketing methods such as mass marketing, one-to-one marketing, and direct marketing and create a seamless experience for the customer. A content marketing plan that combines paid media like PPC, earned media like your social following, and owned media like your blog, is a simple strategy that leads to success. By presenting a similar tone and style across all of your marketing methods, it reinforces your brand’s core message. The goal is to make all aspects of marketing communication such as online and offline advertising, public relations, direct marketing and social media work together as a unified force, which maximizes their market impact and cost effectiveness. The “Big Data” generated by all of these channels can be used to influence product development, pricing, distribution, etc. so you use the banana in the Chopped basket to enhance the marketing strategy rather than throw a monkey wrench into it.

So now that you understand what integrated marketing is, how do you take that strategy and use it to manage multiple channels?

First, collect all of the information about your company, your product, your competition and your target market. Going back to our Chopped example, think about the different ways you know how to cook your core ingredients and what tastes best to the judges who are your website’s audience.

Take all of that information to outline your integrated marketing communications plan from beginning to end – is the dish you’re going to make sweet, savory or have elements of both and how does that compare to your competition? This is one of the most important pieces of your marketing plan as it lets you see exactly what media and messaging they use in their own marketing campaigns, as well as how they reach their market and generate business. Create a SWOT analysis and capitalize on the things your competition isn’t doing well, or isn’t doing at all.

Review your integrated marketing communications plan. Take the extra minute to make sure your dish is complete and exactly what you think the audience will like best based on the info you collected. Unlike Chopped, if there’s anything you feel needs more research or additional information, you have time to do the extra work. Make sure promotional garnishes like coupons, rebates and discounts are considered, but don’t make them a main ingredient.

Periodically review the results of your plan, and adapt any aspects you need to in order to achieve better results. Take the feedback that you get from analytics and eliminate what isn’t working, concentrate on fixing what has promise and expand what is working. Stay on top of the activities and tools that your major competitors are using so you don’t get blindsided.

Hubspot has an ebook comparing SEO and Social Media in order to determine which is best for getting the most traffic to your site – and the answer is “it depends” – but it’s always better to do 1 thing well than 2 things not well. So you need to know which channels to focus on and which channels won’t deliver the results you need and should be avoided until you have the available resources.

Where the consumer spends time is where the advertiser must follow. A user may end up interacting with a website after being exposed to various online advertising vehicles. Considering that today consumers are using channels most convenient to where they are and what they are doing, all of this makes it tough for marketers to understand the actual impact of their campaigns.

Slingshot SEO analyzed more than 23 million conversions and found that paid advertising, referrals and SEO were most often undervalued with Organic Search undervalued by as much as 77% percent! On the other end of the spectrum, Direct Visits were overvalued by as much as 82% percent – which makes sense if your brand message is strong enough in paid, earned and owned media during the consideration process, then it’s understandable that people will remember your site and come back directly when they are ready to convert. Just because it is the last touch before purchase doesn’t mean there weren’t other factors in their decision-making process.

Google calls the online decision-making moment the Zero Moment of Truth – or ZMOT. They’re found that 84% of Americans perform some sort of ZMOT activities prior to purchase. The average shopper used 10.4 sources of information before buying. That’s a lot of shopping around! You have to be there when people are looking for things about your company, product or service.

Three really great ways of being there when people are starting the buying process are described by Chris Penn, VP at Shift Communications, as the New Media Trinity.

–       Content on your website and blog – since it is static, it’s always there for people to find you.

–       Conversation via social media – at the Zero Moment of Truth, people want to be part of the conversation or community.

–       Distribution via email – push media to inform or remind people where to find the information they need to make your product or service their decision.

When these three work hand-in-hand you have a well-balanced dish or in Vegas terms, Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner!

So what happens when your marketing channels don’t work together? There are 4 main causes of channel conflict that could happen when your marketing channels aren’t aligned.

–       Goal incompatibility – this is especially tough when you’re mixing online and offline goals. For example, getting a consumer to purchase in-store vs. online. Each sales channel wants to make the sale and this could be problematic without some method of looking at the big picture to acknowledge that overall sales goals were reached.

–       Territory disagreement – when something is available on one channel but not others, for example discounts on coupon sites that aren’t available to customers who found your site through search, that could cause channel conflict and artificially inflate the results for a certain channel. This needs to be taken into consideration when you determine your best-performing channels.

–       Inadequate communication – this sometimes causes a difference in perception. It’s important that all of your marketing channels communicate the same message, whether it’s online, offline in paid, owned or earned media.

–       Competition for resources – sometimes in the dessert round of Chopped, both competitors want to make ice cream but there is only one ice cream machine. Sales exclusivity is a perfect example of how competition for scarce resources can cause channel conflict.

Channel conflict WILL happen, both in your marketing and sales channels. So what do you do about it? There are 4 ways to minimize channel conflict:

–       Pricing approach – Many retailers price everything the same whether it’s online or offline, but sometimes pricing your products differently based on what channel they came in on makes sense in minimizing channel conflict, for example if online sales have shipping and handling it could offset the costs associated with your online marketing efforts or the lack of sales tax in states not impacted by the affiliate or Amazon tax could make the price differences negligible for the consumer. Mattel toys has in the past charged as much as 15% more for their products online in order to avoid channel conflicts with their retail merchants. Auction pricing offers companies an opportunity to sell products cheaper online without causing channel conflict.

–       Product approach – By offering a unique product or product or product bundle that is not available through all the company’s marketing channels, to minimize channel conflict. Ducati sold accessories and apparel online only, which gave people the opportunity to purchase their brick-and-mortar locations to buy motorcycles yet visit their website for other items to make their buying process complete. The product approach also allows the merchant to test pricing and product variables, without upsetting the consumer.

–       Brand approach – The decision of whether or not to use different brands in different marketing channels often comes down to a choice between flexibility and trust. Scandinavian Airlines launched a brand called Snowflake to compete in the low-cost carrier marketplace. Snowflake quickly became a well-known and reputable brand for travelers who were looking to travel without any extras that they might find on Scandinavian Airline’s flights.

–       Promotions approach – Estee Lauder is an example of using the promotions approach to minimize channel conflict. Although they sell directly to consumers online, they encourage brick-and-mortar purchases through high-volume retailers like Macy’s by the use of free products given away when a customer purchase price exceeds a certain sales threshold.

All of these approaches have their pros and cons, so it’s important to consider what will work best in your specific circumstance.

Like the food pyramid that Chopped contestants need to be aware of, marketers need to be aware of the integrated marketing pyramid:

–       Start by creating an effective, well-integrated plan, set goals for content, distribution and communication blending offline and online methods

–       Strategically link and leverage all elements in the communication mix across channels to be at the right place and the right time with the right message

–       Evaluate the contribution, not just the last click, of each element —including advertising, direct marketing, Facebook, Twitter and blogs—to maximize communication impact

–       Develop an effective content strategy, and build an editorial calendar, to make sure your messages are consistent and reach customers across all marketing channels

–       Use your editorial calendar topics to create engaging content to reach, impact and engage customers

–       Differentiate your brand – remember to use the power of the employee voice to humanize your brand – people buy from people, not brands.

What have I left off my integrated marketing shopping list? Please leave a comment below to let me know.