With so many ways to connect with prospects and customers, marketing has necessarily become integrated. That is: Companies and their agencies have become adept at managing their messaging across multiple platforms.
In the context of the traditional marketing and sales funnel, this represents a vertical integration. It starts way up at the awareness level, turns into engagement of some kind, and concludes with (hopefully) sales support. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Of course, you can leverage multiple channels at each of those stages, and you probably want to. Except for relatively small or niche market segments, prospective customers are likely to be turning to a variety of sources for their industry information. They may come at it from a problem-solving perspective, or they may be interested in career advancement. In every case, the right message delivered to the right prospect at the right time is a job well done.
But there is another kind of integrated marketing. This is horizontal marketing. It may start with a blue-sky vision of a new product, or a deliberate crunching of market data to identify an unfilled need. It travels through product development, packaging, pricing, positioning, and ultimately promotion.
These, too, are a form of communication. The finish of a phone’s case or the UI of an application says a lot about the product… and the people who respond to it. The price is a cue about its value. And positioning and promotion are pure communications assignments.
But why stop there?
In a world of componentized products, bespoke versioning, and SaaS software, products are no longer ever “done.” By watching (with great intention) how products get used, which versions sell the most, or which components get activated more frequently, the astute marketer might find better ways to talk about their current offerings. They can inform the next wave of releases. And they might even inspire another blue-sky moment (or trigger another round of data-crunching).
But why stop there?
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from Google and Amazon, it’s that data is any company’s most precious asset. All the information generated by your horizontal integrations might have value for your vertical, customer acquisition activities.
A prime example of this is how some SaaS companies aggregate and anonymize usage data to provide benchmarking for their customers. Companies as diverse as Workday, Mailchimp, and ServiceNow all give their clients visibility into how the results of their use compares to their peers and, presumably, their competitors. This adds value to the product and engenders customer loyalty. That same benchmarking can also be offered as a resource to non-customers in the form of published reports. This can bring new prospects into your sphere and position your company as a domain expert.
The patterns revealed by studying product consumption and usage can fuel thought-leadership pieces to power important awareness activities—be they bylines, speaking opportunities, or even custom publications. Note: These are all communications programs, and they are all—ultimately—about customer acquisition.
By connecting horizontal, product development integration back to the vertical marketing and sales, you have truly integrated your marketing activities.
Now, you’re selling in every direction.