Will You Like Us? The New Integrated Marketing for Professional Services

This article was first published in the Marketer – Journal of the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS).

Long ago, when the closest thing we had to iPhone’s Siri was Arthur C. Clarke’s HAL, we marketers had something better:


We decided when, where, and how to introduce our customers to our brand and what they’d do next. We laid out our advertising breadcrumbs, and our customers followed the trail. Even the Internet didn’t change marketing much. Ads began to include URLs, but we still had control.

Then, we lost it.

Today, one-way marketing is behind us, and most brands have fully entered this brave new online world. We know it’s imperative to use many channels to engage our audiences, because we see our audiences engaged across many channels. We’re tweeting, posting, connecting, composing, linking, liking, sharing, following, and pinning our way to… where?

Hence, the problem. Even though we understand we no longer control when, where, and how, many of us simply don’t know what to do with the vast opportunities the new online channels afford—or how to connect them to traditional marketing.

Nowhere is this more evident than in B2B, where many companies feel shackled by traditional category conventions: We must be professional and in full control of our entire brand environment. We cling to control, because we don’t know what should take its place.

With very few exceptions, B2B companies are, at the least, not fully capitalizing on the profit-producing potential of the new environment. At worst, they’re frozen, staring blankly into HAL’s red eye.

So how do B2B marketers compete and conquer?

From Controlled to Compelling

Everything in marketing starts with the brand, and stronger brands get results. But what constitutes a strong brand?

  • Differentiating position
  • Fully realized personality
  • Compelling story
  • Relevant and resonant message

Most importantly, strong brands are consistent and engaging. Without consistency, you simply can’t have any of the other attributes; and without engagement, you can’t have the two-way conversation that online media enables.

Let’s look at consistency first: Weak brands become inconsistent easily because there’s nothing tethering the company to its core. In the past, brands became inconsistent over time. Today, there are so many marketing channels that without that tether, your brand can deteriorate overnight.

Now, let’s bring in engagement: Marketers were once able to communicate virtually the exact same message (e.g., an ad campaign theme) in every medium. The two-way, multicontingency conversation that is happening today didn’t exist, so it was almost impossible to misinterpret the message. Brands committed to consistency stayed consistent.

Today, each channel is different, operating under varying “social” rules. This, in combination with the fact that the conversation is two-way, inclusive of everyone, and happening around the clock, means strong brands must not only speak differently within each channel but also have more to say.

These last two points—speaking the language of the specific channel and having more to say—are the raw ingredients of engagement. Without them, your brand won’t have impact, and it definitely won’t convert connections, friends, and followers into customers.

The New Integrated Marketing Model

Integrated marketing campaigns are not new, but the meaning of “integrated” has shifted. Previously, it was defined as communicating the same message over multiple media (e.g., ad, brochure, website). Now, the message and voice (personality) must also meet each channel on that channel’s terms—which means “integrated” also connotes multifaceted.

This is where even super strong B2B brands get super stuck. How do you remain on-brand when each channel necessitates a different message, personality, and format?

Marketing’s Tower of Babel

There are countless articles instructing you to adjust your brand’s message and voice to the marketing channel for the purpose of achieving real engagement, specifically within social media, e-mail marketing, and blogs. The advice, however, seems to stop short of telling you how to do that.

Here’s a three-point primer on speaking the language of these new lands while remaining true to your brand:

Treat Every Tool as a Touchpoint: Part of social media’s value is in creating multiple audience touchpoints at a relatively low cost. If you create a different brand experience with each tool, you can add extra dimensions to your brand.

Metaphor the Medium: Finding the right brand voice for each channel is easier if you create a metaphor that clues you in on how to behave:

  • LinkedIn is a live business networking event. Speak and act appropriately, and really get to know people. Don’t pass out your cards and run.
  • Facebook is a happy hour attended by a group of professionals. Talk about both business and personal interests—and have fun. Just remember, you’re with your associates, so don’t go too far.
  • Twitter is an NPR and The Daily Show sandwich. It’s great for news flashes and real-time reporting, and witty and clever are welcome. The meat of the sandwich is content you’ve created or found, or relevant commentary.
  • YouTube is a TED talk with a Sundance Short Film Festival after-party. You can be educational, but you also must entertain.
  • Pinterest is your firm’s whiteboard. You’re allowing your audiences to get inside your brand’s head, as if you were sharing your mind maps and vision boards in the real world.
  • Email marketing is workshops or lectures hosted by your firm and financed by your audiences. Pretending you’re being paid is critical, as it will push you to deliver great value with perfect polish.
  • Blogs are a consortium or summit designed to provoke debate. You’re the protagonist, antagonist, and moderator. While you’re always gracious, it’s okay to have a strong opinion. In fact, it’s essential.

Secure Success Through Story: There are three cornerstones common to all channels and essential for your effectiveness within the multifaceted world of modern integrated marketing:

  1. Compelling, relevant, and resonant content that you create and curate
  2. The level of engagement you inspire (relies on #1)
  3. The consistency of your brand — Even though your brand will show up differently in each medium, everything still must connect to your firm’s core

Bringing the New Integrated Marketing Home

With the new digital channels, where does traditional media fit in and how has it been influenced by today’s marketing environment? In many ways, it’s the same. It’s just taken a backseat with regard to how your audiences first encounter your brand.

Of course, one goal of both online and traditional media is driving traffic to your firm’s website. This means two things: First, your website can’t afford to create a disconnect once your audiences arrive; and second, your website needs to evolve into a touchpoint that’s dynamic, interactive, and content rich. Offers, videos, visuals, social media integration, calls to action, and your blog RSS feed all play a critical role in your website’s success in today’s marketing environment.

Monoliths and Monkeys

Just like the final scene in Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, online media has been quite baffling to many of the planet’s inhabitants. But if we, as marketers, remain as curious about the infinite opportunities that have landed right in front of us as those monkeys were about the monolith, we’ll remain engaged enough to learn how to leverage them.