Multichannel Marketing Helps Draw Traffic

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"Build it, and they will come."


These words paraphrased from the Kevin Costner film "Field of Dreams" seem to echo the attitude that many companies have had toward their Web sites. All too often, business professionals may become too enamored with the look, animations, streaming elements or functionality of their Web sites.


Indeed, the images and entertainment that companies can provide to online visitors are cool. Amid the excitement, don't forget that the "cool" Web site will add value only if customers actually visit the site and stay to take advantage of the fancy features.


Kimberley Jones, founder and president of Verite Inc., Draper, UT, a multimedia production company that has done work for Novell, Symantec and Pennzoil, summarized the idea: "It is not enough to have a great Web site. You've got to drive traffic to your site through other channels."


Driving traffic. How do marketers get customers to their Web sites? Marketing professionals use a variety of traditional and creative strategies. Direct mail, television, radio and print advertising are among the tried-and-true methods. Bulk e-mail, opt-in e-mail and online affiliate marketing programs have taken the lead in the online arena.


Research and industry experts recommend a combination of these approaches, a strategy called multichannel marketing. In a recent report posted on eMarketer, a Web site resource for business online, Jupiter Communications, New York, emphasized the importance of thorough cross-channel integration of marketing efforts for successful online strategies.


Likewise, a study conducted by Ohio State University found that consumers prefer using both the telephone and e-mail to communicate rather than just one channel. The telephone was better for communication with emotional connections and e-mail was a convenient channel for communicating around schedules.


Additionally, a study by Spikes Cavell & Co., Newbury, Berkshire, England, shows that several companies operate the various marketing channels independently to communicate with their customers. The commentary on the study suggested that companies must coordinate all the channels of communication to make their customer relationship management efforts truly effective.


Get results. Multichannel marketing is already showing impressive results. Consultant Tom Rauh, from Deloitte & Touche, New York, told attendees at the Direct Marketing Association's Net Marketing 2000 conference in Seattle in February that multichannel consumers are the best retail customers. He said his experience shows a linear relationship between the number of channels through which consumers receive messages and the amount they purchase.


For example, consumers who receive complementary marketing through two channels buy twice as much as other consumers. Those who receive marketing messages through three channels buy three times as much.


Optimize marketing efforts. Multichannel marketing optimizes the effectiveness of marketing efforts by coordinating the various channels to complement and reinforce each other. A common example is a department store that advertises a sale on the radio, in a newspaper and places sale signs on racks of sale merchandise. That's using three channels to reinforce awareness and encourage purchases.


With the advances in communication and personalization technologies, retailers can do so much more with multichannel marketing. Not only drive traffic to your Web site, but also improve quantity and quality of customer service. Market one-to-one with spiral branding and promotional efforts. Improve customer service with multichannel communication by proactively notifying customers when items are on back order. Give them access to more information about your company and services. Send them promotional messages over their preferred communication channel to increase likelihood of response.


Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? Before you embark on your next multichannel marketing plan, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Here are 10 tips to guide your next marketing strategy:


• Establish relationships with your customers. People do business with people they know and trust. Be careful not to violate individual private communication space by using e-mail or telephone too soon.


• Know your customers. Learn as much as you can about them. Know the products they like, the items they purchase frequently, the communication channels they access most, etc.


• Know customer preferences. Knowing customer product and channel preferences guides your personalization and marketing channel strategies.


• Plan a coordinated marketing strategy. Devise a plan that builds the strength of your message with each contact and each channel.


• Take advantage of technology. Use multichannel messaging and customer relationship management technologies to guide personalized campaigns to each customer.


• Design strong messages. Make your message clear and concise. Be sure customers know what is in it for them.


• Include a call-to-action. Give them your Web address or phone number so they know where and how to access you. Make it easy for them to reach you.


• Choose appropriate marketing channels. Judging from your message's content, length, urgency and personalization, select a marketing channel that fits your message. Remember, there is a reason people don't like spam.


• Harness your creativity. Ask yourself what really bothers you about your job. Is there some way that multichannel marketing or messaging could address that issue?


• Be prepared to handle response volumes. Design your multichannel marketing campaign so that responses will not overwhelm your staff or your Web server and cause customer service to slip.


In practice. Several companies are implementing multichannel marketing programs and are not only increasing value but also increasing revenues without requiring additional human resources. In many cases, they are also significantly reducing costs by replacing some of their manual tasks with business and messaging automation technologies.


For example, a large music club is extending promotional offers through multichannel messaging. In addition to direct mail, opt-in e-mail, an interactive Web site and a call center, this company is adding automated, outbound telephone calls to select customers. These customers receive a message inviting them to take advantage of a special offer and it gives them a toll-free number to call or will connect them with a sales representative immediately. Of course, the message can guide them to order online as well. Using automated telephony technology this way costs a mere fraction of making the calls manually and inexpensively replaces a portion of the costly direct mail.


Technology, especially the Internet, is making competition fierce for retailers; therefore, acquiring and keeping good customers is more challenging than ever. Multichannel marketing provides a way to do both efficiently. By combining tried-and-true marketing tactics with the newest technology, retailers have the tools to optimize the effectiveness of their marketing strategies.
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