The path to marketing nirvana is paved by integration

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Fast-growing marketing channels are creating chaos for those trying to expand and improve their online communications efforts. Dozens of point tools exist but these, at best, only solve a fraction of marketers' problems — and, at worst, exacerbate them.

The marketing teams at small to midsize businesses need easy, affordable, integrated Web-based marketing solutions — that combine e-mail marketing, Web analysis and optimization and PPC marketing, among others — to help them regain control of their campaigns.

Not long ago, the most effective organizations ran marketing departments broken into specialized functional silos. Each of these knew the best tools and had the tightest relationships to reach their particular audience. That worked well because the audience typically could be identified, found and contained in one place.

Today, the digital revolution has created nomadic audiences that are interacting with media and company messages in new and different ways. They could be reading e-mail one minute and browsing a Web page the next. An old school, siloed approach risks missing key members of the audience as they graze from one media type to another.

The first response by marketers has been to mash together point tools — their own or their partners' — into a solution intended to best reach this nomadic audience. These loosely integrated mash-up solutions do not deliver on the simplicity, convenience and cost-effectiveness that the SMB online marketer requires. Each generally has a different interface, often doesn't tie together in a back-end reporting database and usually has completely different support systems.

Marketers themselves are also changing. The volume of data is exploding, and marketers are increasingly being asked to serve more functions and manage more communications channels. There is also more pressure to provide ROI and metrics, but true ROI still remains a mystery for most. Solutions that disrupt the status quo and address these changing dynamics are needed, especially for smaller marketing teams, to better target new and existing customers.

In the early days of the personal computer, software solutions were sold as point products — word processing for writers, spreadsheets for accountants, for example — until companies realized the integrated nature of daily workflows. People weren't just writing documents or crunching numbers; often, they were doing both things at once. As the concept of integrated online marketing starts to filter down to the SMB space, this value of tight integration becomes critical.

Reaching today's wandering audience requires a holistic approach that gives everyday marketers a more integrated online marketing platform to send, analyze, target and resend their messages wherever and whenever the nomads roam.

Making integration a reality is easier said than done, but there are some simple, key steps all marketers can take. Break down silos and get everyone in the same room. Look for solutions that can be individually tailored, but also scale as the needs of marketing teams change and grow and implement a right-sized integrated marketing solution.

Blaine Mathieu is CMO of Lyris Inc.

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