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Integrated marketing communications is the buzz in today's business world. Unfortunately, it usually ends there-a buzz lacking a bite.

A survey of business marketers conducted by Tucker Chicago, Schaumburg, Ill.; Elrick & Lavidge, a Westchester market research company; and Ad Age's Business Marketing reveals that implementation remains low despite high interest in the concept of integrated marketing communications.

Less than one-third (26%) of the 263 responding companies developed an annual marketing communications plan and only 15% took database marketing to a level of sophistication higher than developing a mailing list, which about 70% of respondents do on a regular basis.

"[Integrated marketing communications] requires more intensive planning, intensive customer analysis and careful measurement of results," said Bob Tucker, president of Tucker Chicago, a marketing communications agency.

"The customer-prospect database is the foundation of IMC, driving targeted communications, customer-specific programs and relationship marketing programs," he said.

Although the idea makes sense to most marketers, the actual transformation process is usually painstaking at best.

"The biggest problem companies face is their organizational structure is most likely set up for either product or brand management," said Don Schultz, a professor with Northwestern University's Integrated Marketing Communications program and president of Agora, an Evanston consultancy for such companies as Texas Instruments, IBM Corp. and 3M. "Companies are usually structured vertically, which prevents employees from working with each other horizontally."

In explaining why they hadn't implemented an integrated marketing communications program, 58% of those surveyed cited a lack of expertise, 48% a lack of budget and 19% a lack of management approval. (They could choose more than one response.)

Experts agree, however, there are two principal barriers to approving and implementing integrated marketing efforts.

"They're the two big Cs: compensation and culture," said Mr. Schultz. "People do what they get paid to do and people don't like to change. If you change the compensation system, you can change the culture."

Despite the fact most marketers know it takes about six times as much money to attract a new customer as retain a current one, only 34% of respondents use customer loyalty programs-another aspect of integrated marketing communications.

"An integrated marketing approach makes even more sense for the business marketer, since the lifetime value of a customer relationship is typically worth a great deal more than a consumer relationship, perhaps millions in revenue," said Neil Brown, Tucker marketing director.

The survey, mailed late last year to 2,000 random Business Marketing subscribers, drew a 13% response rate and has a margin of error of 6%.

Thirty-six percent of those responding represented companies with less than 100 employees; 36% were employed by companies with 100 to 999 employees; and the remaining 27% came from companies with more than 1,000 employees.

Additionally, about one-third of respondents' marketing communications budgets were less than $100,000 per year; 30% had budgets of $100,000 to $500,000 per year; and 37% had annual budgets exceeding $500,000.

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