Now is the time of year when everyone comes out with their version of predictions for marketing in 2012. I recently read Gini Dietrich‘s “8 Social Media Trends for 2012” and while it was a great piece (and I love Gini), I did raise an eyebrow at her third choice: Integration of all disciplines.

“Today we talk about mobile, social, marketing, public relations, advertising, direct mail, email, customer service, and sales as if they’re working in silos. But 2012 is the year it needs to integrate. Customer service can’t do its job without talking to sales. Sales needs the help of public relations. And mobile can’t live without marketing. You’ll see these disciplines all work together, as if they’re in a circle, and not in silos.”

Marketing in 2012

I agree wholeheartedly that these marketing pieces need to work together (it’s the exact reason I started Allée five years ago), but I’m not convinced integration across all disciplines will be a trend in the truest sense of the word in 2012. Successful organizations have already figured out that sales, marketing, advertising, PR and social media should all be talking together. And for those that are still working in silos, I think it’ll take more than a trend prediction to move them in the right direction.

To me, there are three types of companies:

  • Company 1 already understands the importance of integrating across marketing disciplines and has the resources to do so
  • Company 2 also understands the importance of integration but hasn’t figured out the best way to implement the pieces (or is lacking resources)
  • Company 3 isn’t interested in integration and likes doing things “the way we’ve always done it” (or leadership likes the way it’s been done)

So how do we help Company 2 and 3? For the sake of time, I’ll concentrate on Company 2 (and my suggestions go for Company 3 as well). Company 2 gets it but struggles to make integration work when it comes to sales, marketing PR and all that jazz. Whether it’s due to a lack of resources or quite possibly, the enormity of the organization, Company 2 is still missing the pieces that will move them forward. It starts with three core components: a plan, communication and support.

A plan

You can’t sell without a plan and you can’t market your brand without understanding your goals. Your strategic plan should focus on what you want to accomplish, how you’re going to accomplish it, and what success will look like in the end. A strategic plan should also identify ways that each department or key area/discipline will be involved. And you probably have one. But do you make it accessible? A strategic plan should be shared–with everyone.

I once worked for an organization that drilled its strategic plan into its staff on a quarterly basis. It was reviewed at every all-staff meeting. They were big on integration and wanted everyone held accountable (and knowledgeable) for the goals they were trying to accomplish as an organization. And it worked.

Don’t keep your plans in drawers for your C-Suite; share your plans and goals with your entire organization so they have something to work toward and understand how they can collaborate with others.

Communication

Are there set roles for the people in your departments? If someone needed a direct mail piece sent out next month, would they know who to ask about it? Integration across disciplines can be hard enough, so it’s imperative that you have good communication systems in place first. Incorporate a variety of ways for departments to cross-function and communicate. Company email and newsletters are great, but think about taking those a step further by allowing for all-staff meetings, open discussions via a closed social network or Skype chats. Another example: Open up your sales meetings once a month to include your marketing team. They’ll have a new outlook on what your sales team is accountable for and what they are looking for in ways of support. It’s also a great way to have conversations around what your customers want.

Support

Don’t waste your time playing the blame game. Sales can be mad at marketing, marketing can be angry at sales and management can be blaming them both. Support one another and understand that everyone plays an important role in the company’s success.

Integration across all disciplines is cost effective and smart. You shouldn’t be running a social media campaign without knowing your sales goals, your strategic plan or what direct mail pieces are going to drop next week. Your sales team should know what marketing channels you use and likewise, your marketing team should take a note from sales to understand what customers want. It all works together.

So rather than talk about integration across disciplines as a trend, let’s push forward and skip the trend–let’s make it the new norm.

Think about your own organization. What do you think the key to success is when integrating across disciplines?

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