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Putting Spiral Integration Into Play

About 10 years ago I wrote my first article in Dealer Magazine on the concept of 'Spiral Integration', where the objective is to utilize each advertising medium's greatest strengths to complement and enhance the effectiveness of other mediums and promotional components of a marketing campaign, with the ultimate goal of of a one-on-one relationship with the potential customer. Some readers got it 'out of the chute'. Others really struggled with the practicality of such an idea. After all, we ad folks have been stressing continuity of message across all platforms for eons.

Recently, I had the personal experience of successful 'spiral integration' marketing with a service I became interested in. Let me share the marketing concept step-by-step to illustrate exactly how this strategy works.

Step 1-Mass medium. In this instance it was radio. For some weeks I had been intrigued by an advertisement on the radio about ways to cut my effective income tax rate. The advertisement, by a successful tax lawyer, invited listeners to call a toll free number for a free report. I must have heard this ad at least 5 or 6 times until, one day while driving the ad came on and this time I would capture the telephone number on my cell phone. The radio ad didn't sell anything other than a hook to move into the 'marketing circle' and I was hooked. So I called. A recorded announcement asked me to leave my information, name, address, E-mail and phone, and a report would be sent out to me within several days.

Step 2 and 3- E-mail and mail. Within several days I received an E-mail thanking me for my interest and letting me know information was on the way. A few days later I received a package containing the 'free report'. A few days after that, I received another E-mail inviting me to participate in an online seminar with a group of 10-12 other individuals. The cost was $199. I would need to guarantee that payment with a credit card at time of reservation with the caveat that my card would NOT be charged until after the seminar was over and I had agreed that the information imparted was worth the price of admission. Hooked again. I registered. Another E-mail arrived to confirm my online-seminar appointment along with worksheets that I was to print out in preparation for the conference, along with a general outline of the seminar and suggestions on how to make it most effective.

Step 4-Telephone call. Just a few days before the seminar was scheduled, the phone rang and a coordinator reminded me of the seminar time, call-in number, password, etc. On the evening before the seminar, I received one more call just as a reminder.

Step 5-Online seminar. These actually work very well with various programs out in the market today such as I could envision a car dealer conducting a 'by invitation' presentation of a newly released model, or perhaps a service seminar for customers who recently purchased a vehicle. In these seminars, participants log onto websites with pre-arranged user names and passwords, then call a telephone number to listen in on the meeting, ask questions or offer advice. The facilitator of the meeting retains control over who may speak and when. In the tax seminar I participated in, I was in agreement that the information imparted was worth the price so my credit card charge was authorized. As the seminar wrapped up, the host made another offer to participants. A generous discount on a more involved and personal consultation on taxes, one-on-one. I wasn't sure if I wanted to pursue that avenue so I did not commit.

Step 6-Telephone call. The coordinator who originally contacted me re-contacted by phone to review information and re-visit the more in-depth presentation. I informed him I would like to meet with my accountant, review the information and make a decision.

I was fairly impressed with the tax saving implications, but even more impressed with the smooth, natural transition of true 'spiral integration' of the various marketing channels, each one clearly defined for specific purposes. Radio, the mass medium used to go fishing. The direct contact of traditional mail as well as the efficiency of electronic E-mail. The personal one-on-one of the telephone contact. The efficient, effective use of the Internet, followed by more one-on-one by phone and E-mail. Every medium used to it's highest potential value, spirally integrated to reach me, the customer, in the most convenient manner to meet my needs.

How can you harness 'spiral integration' in your marketing campaign? The idea is not to sell every product and service in the same way in every medium, but rather to provide a 'circle' of information, spirally wound to end up at the closest point of comfortable communication with your potential customer. A television or radio ad or direct mail piece that creates enough interest to bring visitors to your 24-7 communication center…your website. Information on your website that further stimulates your potential customer to drill deeper, via E-mail, texting or phone. And finally a human being who manages the process in the most effective, customer convenient manner possible.

Remember, 'spiral integration' is the concept that every media dollar you spend has a freestanding purpose, while supporting the overall marketing effort to gain the customer's attention, provide information, build brand recall and develop an ongoing, interactive, positive relationship with the customer.

Spiral integration of your advertising will help you surround your potential customers with messages that make sense, build trust and foster long-term relationships, while helping you spend your advertising dollars in the most effective, efficient manner possible. What's wrong with that?

11/17/09 Copyright© Jim Boldebook (for the January 2010 Issue of Dealer Magazine)

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