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Business-to-Business Marketing: Integrated Marketing Communications

Back in 1984, when I had just left my sales job with a large computer systems company and struck out on my own as a freelance writer and marketing consultant, I made a habit of making telephone calls in my search for new business. "Dialing for dollars," I used to call it.

After more than a few conversations with various executives and their secretaries, someone asked me exactly what it was that I was selling.

"I'm a practitioner of integrated marketing communications," I said. There was a pause at the other end of the line, one I have heard many times since.

Whenever I announce, as I have been doing for twenty years now, that I am a "practitioner of integrated marketing communications," I can count on that pause, and a question I have heard many times since, as well.

"Sort of like advertising?" came the slightly puzzled voice from the other end of the line over two decades ago, and still does to this day.

"Yes, sort of," I responded. And I might as well have added "sort of like public relations and Web strategies, direct mail, special events and a host of other marketing specialties, too."

The order of the day

Don't mistake me, I'm not one to embroider or try to make simple things complicated. If you think a great ad, a feature article about your organization or a new Web site are the order of the day, I'm your guy. Need a killer appeal letter or a knockout party to show your sales staff, dealers or donors how much you care? I'll be glad to supply the "smoke and mirrors," including a fireworks display (one of my clients is a world leader) that will leave your staff or supporters speechless with wonder.

But after 20+ years in the marketing business, I still tell people I practice integrated marketing communications, and not because I'm stubborn or needlessly provocative. My reasons are straightforward: Simply put, I know of no other way for a chief executive officer in any business or not-for-profit organization to carry his or her message to the marketplace, build a brand, and sustain it. Period!

The key to marketing

Some will say such a position is indefensible, and that integrated marketing communications is in itself a misperception. That the key to all marketing - and Peter Drucker has said that marketing and operational refinements are about all that's left in building an enterprise - is branding. But I will have to politely disagree.

Whether this is a chicken or egg question I do not know, but separating the type, character and application of communications from its tangible result is a task I will leave to others. At the end of the day I believe the integration of multiple messages via diverse media across a defined span of time is vital to brand building, so much so that the brand itself and the message that carries its attributes become virtually indistinguishable.

Or to refer back to Peter Drucker's friend Marshall McLuhan, the media really is the message.

A logical sequence

In any case, you'll need to add marketing strategy and program development to my integration list, too, because whether a marketing program relies on just two or three elements, it will need to be organized, staged and placed in a logical sequence consistent with your overall sales and revenue goals.

Less they be forgotten, please allow me to add research and analysts' input to the process, especially in the technology sector, where the pace of innovation and competitive environment are epochal in their force and volume. Blink once in any number of technology marketplaces and you will be passed, blink twice and you're flanked.

In reading these comments, I have no doubt you are wondering about your own circumstances, specifically what it will take to move your own organization to the "next level," or at the very least meet your immediate goals, whether they be short-, near- or long-term.

Over 40 years in business

Whether I am a hopeless dreamer or a glutton for detail I do not know, but I am always pleased to hear about your plans and ambitions. In over 40 years in business and education, as a theatrical producer, editor, teacher, writer and marketing consultant, my greatest pleasure still lies in meeting with inspired leaders, people like yourself who see things as they are and wonder how they can be made better.

Peter Golden comments on public affairs and business for the MetroWest Daily News and is the principal of the Golden Group, a marketing communications firm. Contact him at <pg@goldenpr.com>.

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The Golden Group is a marketing, creative and Web services firm located in the Metrowest area of Greater Boston, Massachusetts.

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