How to Develop an Integrated Marketing Communications Plan

A marketing professional presents an integrated marketing plan in a boardroom.

When weighing various marketing approaches, integrated marketing communications — in which organizations integrate their messaging across multiple channels, such as advertising, sales promotions, social media and public relations — has some appealing advantages.

According to online advertising firm AdRoll, integrated marketing communications:

  • Improves the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and can strengthen brand loyalty
  • Builds brand awareness by increasing the number of times consumers are made aware of a message
  • Can save money through the use of a single consistent message across an array of communications channels

The key to rolling out an effective campaign across multiple platforms is an integrated strategy. If you’ve been considering improving your marketing communications expertise by enrolling in a graduate program, such as an online Master of Communication Management (MCM) degree program, it can be helpful to be familiar with how to build an integrated marketing communications strategy to keep your efforts on track and drive results.

1. Identify Your Customer

The first step in developing an integrated marketing communications strategy is to determine your audience. Consider demographic factors, such as education level, gender, income, age, race and geographic location. Then, think about behavioral and psychological traits, including things like interests, hobbies and values. Take the time to hone a highly targeted customer profile.

In some cases, you may have more than one customer profile for a given campaign. In those cases, be sure to complete each of the following steps for each profile, as every customer profile requires a tailored strategy in the communications plan.

2. Set Clear Objectives

In addition to knowing your customer, understanding your objectives is key to a successful integrated marketing communications strategy. Are you looking to drive revenue, build brand awareness, develop customer affinity or expand your reach? Once you’ve identified a general objective, flesh it out into SMART marketing goals.

According to digital marketing firm Smart Insights, the SMART mnemonic stands for:

  • S Make goals detailed enough to enable identification of issues or opportunities.
  • M Ensure that goals can have an applicable quantitative or qualitative metric.
  • A Lay out goals in ways that can realistically lead to action.
  • R Make sure that goals are applicable to the issues a marketing strategy is addressing.
  • Time-bound. Set time periods for goals so that you can review achievement.

Examples of SMART marketing goals are as follows:

  • Generate 1,000 customer inquiries for a firm’s services within 10 months.
  • Boost sales calls by 15% each quarter.
  • Increase customer subscriptions by 50,000 within one year.
  • Issue three press releases every month.

3. Craft the Campaign

Now that you’ve identified your target audience and set effective goals for the campaign, you’re ready to make strategic communications decisions. Marketing Insider Group recommends that you think seriously about which channels to focus on, and it emphasizes the importance of factors such as:

  • Knowing the channels where your target audience consumes content
  • Establishing a marketing budget and considering the potential return on investment of different channels
  • Becoming knowledgeable about the channels that competitors use

One of the key functions of an integrated marketing communications strategy is to enable you and your team to tailor content for each of your selected channels, while maintaining a consistent message. By using the same content in different ways across multiple channels, you create cohesion and may be able to save money by minimizing the need for multiple creative assets.

4. Measure Your Success

Before launching the campaign, decide which key performance indicators (KPIs) you plan to use to measure results. Analytics firm Kissmetrics recommends using A/B testing to determine which web pages, emails or other marketing vehicles drive the best performance.

For example, an organization can implement tracking to measure how well coupons and promo codes convert across different platforms and partners. Maintaining open lines of communication within your team is also important because that makes it easier for everyone to stay nimble and adjust the campaign as analytical data becomes available.

Thanks to the rapid evolution of content technology, marketers have more platforms to choose from than ever before. Having an integrated marketing communications strategy makes it possible to manage a coordinated campaign across the specific platforms where your customers spend time.

5. Refine and Repeat

After executing an integrated marketing communications strategy, it’s critical to assess and revise the strategy and continue to improve it. Marketing firm Paradox Marketing notes the importance of keeping strategies flexible and using strategies that can be modified or optimized.

A 2021 report in WebProNews suggests regularly reviewing marketing plans to gather information that could lead to strategy refinement. For example, review of an integrated marketing communications strategy could include the following:

  • Conducting research to remain up to date on current customer characteristics and become knowledgeable about potential new customers
  • Analyzing individual marketing channels to ensure that each is still effective
  • Recognizing new trends to incorporate into a revised plan

Your Future in Marketing Communications

As digital technology continues to expand the potential avenues for communication, having the ability to formulate integrated marketing communications strategies will be invaluable to all types of organizations. Working on integrated strategies could also be a rewarding way to apply your communications and marketing skills in a meaningful career. If you have an interest in enhancing your communications expertise, explore the USC online masters in communication management. Positioning students to become communications leaders, the program could help you achieve your career ambitions. Take the first step toward career advancement today.

Recommended Readings

Digital Marketing Communication Trends

The Future of Digital Marketing in a Millennial World

Using Audience Analysis for Better Marketing Communication


AdRoll, “Integrated Marketing: What It Is and Why It Matters”

Kissmetrics, Why You Need to Do A/B Testing

Marketing Insider Group, “How to Identify the Right Digital Marketing Channels for Your Business”

Paradox Marketing, “7 Steps to a Better Integrated Marketing Communication”

Smart Insights, “How to Define SMART Marketing Objectives”

WebProNews, 5-Step Guide to Successfully Reviewing Your Marketing Plans