The current state of marketing is overwhelming:
Challenge 1: Customers have equal standing with marketers. Knowledge is power. Customers have a lot of power because they can access answers, solutions and information at their fingertips using their computers or smart phones. Occasionally, they may know more about our products than we do.
Challenge 2: Marketers have more ground to cover. With countless and fragmented on-line paid/owned/earned channels and various formats of online advertising (e.g. banner ads, native advertising, embedded links, paid keyword buy etc.), marketers have difficulty pinpointing effective channels and formats to reach target audiences.
Challenge 3: Marketers' challenge is to break through the clutter. We not only have to compete with other corporate brands, but also with the rise of niche brands (e.g. Top celebrities on YouTube, Vine, Instagram and other social media platforms.)
Challenge 4: Marketers are asked to do more with less. Life is not getting easier for marketers! We have to make our budget stretch more than ever.
With these challenges, we need to think of marketing in a more integrated manner.
Here are my suggestions for tackling the challenges above:
For challenge 1: Through search and word-of-mouth conversations, customers may know more than we do. Don't fight it. Embrace it!
It's perfectly OK to pick our customers' brain and let them share their expertise and knowledge with us. If you have a community on your own website, invite them to join and share their expertise. Learn from them.
For challenge 2: Marketers, indeed, have more ground to cover. This is where you truly need to understand your audiences' media consumption habits.
Nobody has funds to cover all possible channels. The trick is prioritization and optimization.
Prioritize where your content and marketing budget should go, establish metrics to track and then optimize distribution of content based on the data. First and foremost, focus on your website. The web design from desktop, tablet to phone should not be the same, yet it needs to provides a consistent user experience.
For challenge 3: It's much harder to break through the clutter. In addition to awesome products, the elements of differentiation can come from a creative concept (Old Spice), a catchy phrase (77 creative catchy and creative slogan), awesome customer service (Zappo 10 hour customer service sets record) or even technology-driven gamification. Check out how MeatPack, a trendy shoe store in Guatemala, used mobile device, GPS and their app to hijack their fans from competitors' stores.
For challenge 4: The reality is that we need to do more with even less budget. Don't take the budget as is. Think big and think small.
Big initiatives take time to get buy-in from management. The trick is to tie big initiatives with sales and business goals so that management easily understands what they will get with the investment. Check out the Home Plus example from South Korea. If you have smaller scale programs that you know your stakeholders will benefit from greatly, shop your ideas around for funding internally.
Marketing integration is situational, depending on your challenges and circumstances. Establish your objectives, target audience and success metrics first.