Multichannel marketing should be more than marketing using multiple channels at the same time. It should be a holistic approach to using several channels cohesively and in tandem to communicate with customers where and when they prefer, with relevance and in context.
“One thing that we’re starting to see is a mind shift to start thinking about the customer in the center” of the marketing effort, says Trip Kucera, senior research analyst of marketing effectiveness and strategy at research firm Aberdeen Group. “We’re starting to understand the buyer at a more granular level. In the current context of real-time channels, a segment of one is starting to get some legs.”
The customer segment of one, or even a highly select group for businesses that don’t have the sophisticated analytics to drill down to microsegments, increasingly provides the basis for many multichannel marketing efforts today. Companies need to collect information from an ever-growing number of touchpoints, including social media, contact center feedback, surveys, and the like to develop a comprehensive, multichannel marketing campaign, according to Kucera.
The multichannel marketing campaigns of today are much more fluid and fast paced than campaigns of just a few years ago, adds Kucera, who likens the nearly on-demand multichannel marketing efforts today to the just-in-time concepts popularized in production environments.
“Marketers are getting rid of having an inventory of marketing materials and are assembling more on the fly. They’re getting rid of batch campaigns and are responding in a more agile fashion,” Kucera says. On average, leading companies refresh their predictive models 36 times a year, compared to only 10 times per year for companies that Aberdeen classifies as followers.
The only way to produce those campaigns in a more comprehensive manner is to ensure that company leadership fosters cooperation among marketers inside and outside of the company, and there’s technology in place to support that collaboration. According to Kucera, 80% of marketing efforts are typically handled by parties outside of the company. So, to be effective, companies need to centralize their marketing collateral and messaging, while organization leaders need to ensure that marketers follow company directives regarding collaboration and unified marketing efforts.
Now more than ever a holistic customer strategy should take into account the different channels that customers prefer to use for different interactions. Some will respond to social media messages, while others will respond more to Internet or even direct mail marketing efforts.
However, Kucera cautions that some of the measurement models used to determine the most effective channel, or the channel that should be credited with a sale, should be reevaluated. Some models provide most or all of the credit for the sale to the last channel of contact. But that doesn’t take into account other marketing messages that may have also influenced the decision. For example, a prospect may respond to an email after becoming predisposed to buy from information he saw on the company’s website, in social media reviews, or via a direct mail piece.
In response to customers’ expectations for relevant communications in their preferred channels, marketers need to create, execute, and continually improve their own holistic, multichannel approach to marketing. Here are four elements that will help them to do so:
1. Integrated customer data
To be effective, multichannel marketing has to consolidate different identities for the same person, while recognizing the separate identities of people who share the same or similar names.
“A person might use one identity on Twitter, another on Facebook, and another in another channel,” says Deb Woods, VP of product marketing for customer interaction management at analytic data solutions provider Teradata. “You have to have the tools in place to be able to compare the names, addresses, and phone numbers to see if you’re dealing with the same person.”
To ensure that a company is collecting and fully integrating customer data efficiently:
- Collect data from all touchpoints, including social media, help desk interactions, whitepaper downloads, and surveys, as well as from nonmarketing sources such as payments, sales, and legal information.
- Use a data warehouse and data mining tools to store customer data so that it’s accessible for marketers and other business units in the organization.
- Use tools that can combine structured data like surveys and customer transactions, along with unstructured data like comments from social media and contact center interactions.
- Ensure that all of the data for individual prospects and customers is correct. Use data cleansing to eliminate incorrect prospect and customer information.
- Deploy consistent branding across different channels. While the smaller form factor of a mobile device doesn’t allow for the same details that might be delivered in a print ad or on the radio, the message should be similar in tone and feel.
2. Collaboration and coordination among marketing teams
Just as the information has to work together, so too do the people using that information. While one person or team might have extensive expertise in social media, and another may have worked closely with print, they can’t operate in silos if the multichannel marketing campaign is going to be effective.
“You need to have people who drive the strategy and people who drive the intelligence,” says Bryan Pearson, president and CEO of loyalty and marketing programs provider LoyaltyOne. “You need to make sure that you have tools that encourage the sharing of information that helps the different parts of the organization to align.”
Company leadership also needs to develop a strategy that encourages different areas of marketing and other departments within the organization to work together.
Other top recommendations to foster collaboration and coordination among various marketing teams include:
1. Centrally manage the workflow of the marketing team. Share marketing collateral, assets, and messaging details.
2. Use integrated tools to track customers’ channel usage, spending habits, preferences, and related information to provide a holistic customer view. It’s also important to ensure that the tools are accessible to all the appropriate departments.
3. Use preapproved elements for marketing messages, allowing changes for items like location, but not in the overall tone and feel of the message itself.
4. Communicate the effectiveness of a multichannel marketing program to all involved marketing staff using internal performance and external benchmark data.
3. Holistic customer strategy
A holistic customer strategy should include elements of traditional marketing, public relations, loyalty programs, and customer service to support both customer acquisition and retention.
“Focus on the lifetime value of the customer,” says Pelin Thorogood, CEO and a board of director at business intelligence and analytics provider Anametrix Inc. “Understand their patterns and interactions with the brand. You want to turn the prospect into a buyer and then into a repeat buyer.”
The customer strategy needs to incorporate different elements while avoiding potential pitfalls:
Don’t limit customer data to the marketing department. Sales, product developers, and others within the company can glean valuable information from this data, as well. Similarly, departments outside of marketing might have information that will help in formulating a holistic multichannel marketing plan.
Do make the right offer in the right channel, based on customer preferences. Some marketing messages will be more effective in one channel than another. But different channels can add incrementally to the decision to buy, so the marketing should use a mix of prioritized channels.
Do use microsegmentation. Two customers with similar backgrounds can have very different channel preferences. Some prospects respond more favorably to mobile ads. Other prospects are better candidates for online marketing or direct mail. Create a multichannel mix that informs via some channels and is response focused in others, based on those customer preferences.
Don’t forget direct mail as part of the mix. With so much of marketing moving to digital and mobile channels, direct mail is regaining its status among customers and prospects as a welcome communication channel that stands out.
Do develop a long-term strategy that seeks to turn prospects into customers and customers into repeat customers.
4. Optimized marketing mix
Marketing channels must work together, cohesively, in a way that moves customers through the sales funnel from awareness to interest to purchase. In auto sales, for example, a customer who clicks through an online auto ad or is using a car pricing calculator is likely in buying mode. So Web or email outreach needs to be prompt and should focus on getting customers to the key channel, such as a test drive at a local auto dealer.
“Ninety percent of auto buyers start their search on the Internet,” says Dan Smith, VP of product for digital marketing software company Outsell LLC. So, he says, auto dealers need to correlate their multichannel marketing efforts accordingly. Similarly, Smith notes, marketers in other industries should align their marketing mix with their primary source of sales.
To determine how each channel contributes to the performance of a holistic customer multichannel marketing effort:
- Find out which channel a customer prefers and for what purpose. For instance, some customers prefer to research online, but make purchases in a brick-and-mortar store. Others prefer to research in person (showrooming) and then shop online.
- Use a cross-channel management system to provide “a single source of the truth” for all marketing messages that various marketing teams can use. When appropriate, permit the change of different elements (e.g., store location), but not the essential branding and marketing messages.
- Use tools that enable the company to track a customer’s digital footprint. The tools should track items, such as whether the customer received or redeemed any digital coupons or downloaded specific content.
- Use a test-and-learn strategy for ongoing improvements. The multichannel marketing mix may need to be adjusted after its launch if results don’t meet expectations. Test areas such as channel mix, messaging, and email and website design.