For well over a decade, “integration” has been the holy grail of marketing. Integration means many things. It means coordinating multiple channels. It means cooperating as teams, agencies, and disciplines. It means coherent communications around holistic ideas. Ultimately, it means a unified customer experience.
Marketers have tried long and hard to deliver on integration within their organizations. They have revised processes, workflow, organizational charts, and floor plans. They have created positions dedicated to facilitating internal and external integration. They invest time, energy, and money into the quest. Too often it results in thoroughly produced and documented, yet ineffective integration processes.
Integration is one of the chief concerns marketers bring to business transformation consultants. They are struggling to achieve smart, efficient, and effective integration. Many are overwhelmed and fear they are doing too little. In fact, it’s just as likely that they are doing too much.
Yes, there is such a thing as over-integration. Here is what it looks like:
A common pitfall is trying to employ a unified, well-structured, thoroughly documented process that looks great on paper, but never works in practice. It is not the manner in which the work gets done that needs to be super-structured. It is how people work together. A framework defining how independent processes come together can be simple yet profound.
One team in name only
Some marketers create a new organization by collapsing many different groups with a new name, but the same old ways of doing things. Consolidation is not integration. Teams that share space on the organizational chart do not always work well together. Teams that share principles and priorities do.
Technology as panacea
Implementing a software solution that forces everyone to share one system is not a fix for poor collaboration. Automation may help drive structure and standardization. You most need agility and adaptability to integrate well.
Integration for its own sake
Integration is not an end in itself. Too much focus on how marketers do work can be a fatal distraction from how marketing actually works. Internal alignment is important. Yet fixating on the logistics of how a team functions should not take precedence over marketing and enhancing the customer experience.
Effective integration will remain the goal for marketers. Those who achieve it will leave their competition behind. The companies that are most successful at integration have a philosophy and checklist. They don’t focus on designing time-consuming, exhaustive processes with multiple steps. Effective marketers and innovators work against a framework rather than an automated process. For example, Apple has a laser focus on humanity-driven and intuitive design. GE strives to make life easier. These mantras color everything they do, from the way they work to the output they produce. And it works.
The key is to integrate what matters, and only what matters — the defining ideas and the experience of the customer.