I struggled with where to put this chapter, at the beginning or the end, it could have belonged in either place but I choose to put it at the end because so much about becoming integrated has everything to do with understanding the other elements of the research results. Being partners, leaders, evangelists, students, researchers, strategists, analysts and influencers are all necessary to becoming integrated.
As digital marketers we have some very big problems to solve. How do we merge traditional marketing and brand expertise with digital? What is the right mix of digital marketing strategies for my company? How do we stay on top of emerging trends and balance testing that innovation with long-term projects and business goals? How invested is your talent in helping solve those problems? How empowered are your partners to help solve those problems?
"The integration you speak of is not possible unless the person at the very top (the person running the company and/or marketing) understands how all of the above (Paid/SEO/Social etc.) works together and is directly involved in it," shares Larry Kim, Founder and CTO of WordStream. "The expert practitioners across various silos need to become experts beyond their silo, then become CMOs or founders of an organization so that their knowledge and experience is in the DNA of the company. That's how Wordstream and other companies like Moz do it. The founder (or someone at a very high level) is essentially a marketer. I have never seen as much success where you try to infuse this kind of integration from the bottom-up in an organization."
When asked about the biggest pain points of creating long-term agency/consultant and brand engagement, Daina Middleton, Senior Director B2B at Twitter and past CEO of Performics shared, "The biggest pain point is procurement. Procurement has instituted regular partner reviews that include agencies, and sometimes as often as yearly review cycles. Clients often don't realize the time and energy that goes into agency reviews -- client development and retention are a top order of business for any agency. If an agency has a yearly review, the amount of time the team actually spends focusing on delivering results for that client versus retaining the business becomes incredibly imbalanced.
Investment in integration from a partnership perspective needs to include investment and fair pricing model on both sides. Starting at the beginning 'Discovery' and focusing on the result of 'integration' agency and brand are tempted to call these expenses 'built in' and 'COB-Cost of Business'. Calling these activities out as very real and very important business deliverables gives them the heft, time and importance they are due," shared Middleton.
Referring back to the pitch process, coming to the table with either an integrated approach that involves other vendors or your internal integrated media plan can illustrate what that might look like. Investment in an integrated project plan can often happen before there's ever a contract. Many interviewees shared they don't participated in the RFP process for that reason. Whether or not you choose as a brand to insist on an RFP process or as an agency to participate in that process, there's no doubt that a full time and resources commitment to the process helps establish the tone of the engagement even before there is an engagement.
Joe Pulizzi's research at Content Marketing Institute indicates that integration is at about 40%, still a long ways to go. At his Content Marketing World conference, the largest and most respected conference of it's kind in the world, big brands talk about integration as being an enormous pain point. In CMI's seven step content methodology of Plan, Audience, Story, Channel, Conversation, Process and Measurement, he outlines in the initial planning phase the importance of a Content Council. This is a group including content developers, strategists, executive leadership, anyone who participates with content to come to the table once a quarter to review successes and failures and get on the same page. It's a powerful process for alignment and understanding.
John Shehata, Director of Search & Social at ABC is the poster child for integration. His title, a combination of search and social, was fairly new when it was bestowed on him. John has a unique combination of data analysis and language analysis skills. John helps train journalists to adopt the digital realities and skills necessary to increase their contents' discoverability and drive more readership. Once they experience the higher level of engagement that comes from their content assets being properly optimized they become more engaged in the process. One of the things that makes John so good at his job is that he recognizes how important it is to take the time to patiently, with data, educate not just journalists but upper management. Too often digital marketers expect management to understand their desire to implement a strategy without arming them with the right information and education that helps executive leadership make sound digital marketing decisions. He uses data and business impact analysis to show missed opportunity. John has been successful in this role for so long because his willingness to take the time to educate also helps him get the thing that is so difficult for search and social and that's management willingness to look at the longer term success of a project, not just what numbers their efforts are driving tomorrow. That earmark of sustainability driven by, "good content, well-optimized and well-promoted pays off in the short and long-term," says Shehata.
The fragmentation we experience as digital marketers is unavoidable considering the myriad of changes in the revolution that is the internet. Our place as marketers in that ecosystem is likely to continue to present fragmentation and challenges. Our best opportunity to face and overcome those challenges lies in our ability to collaborate and learn from each other. In some small way, it's my hope that this book plays a part in our mutual desire to work towards respect, empathy and shared knowledge. It's my hope that our conversations seeded and nurtured here helps us get to that wonderfully fabled and necessary place, "when everybody clicks".