An Integrated Marketing Cloud (IMC) is a set of digital marketing services that work as one synchronised service.
Related Article: A Non-Integrated Marketing Technology Stack Creates Problems
If you haven’t implemented an IMC yet, then you should at least be thinking about it. An IMC is an instrumental platform in modern marketing, because it can bring together and synchronize the four core marketing automation functions.
Graphic 1: Four core functions of an Integrated Marketing Cloud
When you are planning to implement your own IMC, make sure it addresses these four main areas (source Gartner 2017):
STORING Marketing Data: One of the most important tasks of an Integrated Marketing Cloud is obviously to store marketing data. But this data should include not only master data like persona, contact and company-related data along with life-cycle stage but also transactional data about the digital behaviour of customers and leads (see Point 2). Your CRM is the natural place for firmographic and demographic master data, but your IMC needs to have that data also and in real time. This is why your CRM and IMC must be integrated along with your CMS and ERP. A single database also simplifies privacy management and makes it easier to fulfil GDPR requirements.
Graphic 2: Marketing Automation Ecosystem (Martech view)
COLLECTING Transactional Data: Being able to track your interaction with prospects from the first contact all the way to a purchase transaction provides you with powerful information for data analytics. You can do the reporting and visualisation within your IMC or you can use state-of-the-art visual analytics platforms like Tableau, Qlik or Google Data Studio. However you choose to do your analytics, the important thing is that the data is collected in a systematic and synchronised way within one system, the Integrated Marketing Cloud.
While Point 2 (collecting transactional data) might seem redundant when compared to Point 1 (storing transactional data), I feel it’s an important distinction to draw. Here’s why: systematically collecting high-quality transactional data from multiple sources (like the IMC itself plus CRM and ERP) and storing it in one place is difficult but crucial in order to make this information useful and trustworthy.
SYNCHRONIZING Multi-Channel Customer Engagement: Customers engage on their own terms, freely switching among channels and devices. Customer chooses the channel, not you. To provide a consistently excellent customer experience you need to be able to synchronize multi-channel communication activities. This requires a central point of orchestration: your IMC.
WORKING Efficiently - Collaboration and Workflows: Collaboration and workflows are keys to breaking down operational silos and focusing efforts on what is most important: a consistent and above-par customer experience. To achieve this, your IMC needs uniform user-interface conventions and the ability for multiple people from different teams and different locations to collaborate on marketing projects.
“These solutions [marketing clouds] must share common resources and data. This makes them natural candidates to source from a single vendor, even if other providers and partners contribute valuable specialised capabilities, both creative and technical.” Gartner 2017.
To add functionalities like social media engagement and display ad networks, you can supplement your Integrated Marketing Cloud with best-of-breed marketing applications: most IMCs have a well-productized API to enable this. More about this in the next blog post.