How to build an effective multichannel marketing strategy for your business.
Multichannel marketing is the latest buzzword in the marketing industry. If you’ve spent any time searching for new marketing ideas to help your business succeed, it’s more than likely you’ve heard of this term. But, while the term may seem new to many business owners, the concept behind it is not. If you’re wondering what multichannel marketing is, and what it could mean for your business, read on.
What is Multichannel Marketing?
Multichannel marketing is an integrated marketing strategy that seamlessly combines print, digital, and in-store customer experiences. It places the customer first by allowing them to control when, where, and how they purchase goods from the company doing the marketing.
The obvious multichannel marketing example for most of us would be Amazon. But you don’t need to be the world’s largest online retailer to make it work. In fact, multichannel marketing has hit retail in a big way in the past few years, providing a new way for them to integrate their online brands with in-store purchases.
Recently, I experienced a great multichannel marketing example while looking for summer sandals. I saw an ad that had some promising pictures, and clicked through for a closer look. I ended up ordering a pair through the website, but when they arrived, they were the wrong size. Instead of returning them to the website, I found a nearby outlet and drove there to drop them off.
At the outlet, I was able to try on a similar pair of shoes in a smaller size to see if that size would fit me better. After confirming that they did, I returned the shoes I had bought online at the store, then placed an exchange order at the customer service desk which was then shipped to my home.
At each stage of this experience, I never had any friction between the online store where I originally purchased my sandals and the retail location where I exchanged them. Oh, and I still see remarketing ads for the brand in my Facebook feed and across other sites.
Does multichannel marketing apply only to retail businesses?
Almost every business already uses multichannel marketing in some way, even if they don’t all use it in the same way (or very effectively). In fact, one of the great benefits of multichannel marketing is its versatility: you can adapt a strategy to a business of any size or in any industry, and you can do it using whichever marketing channels make sense for you.
Do you primarily sell high-end products to large corporations? Then you probably need a marketing website to bolster your credibility as well as well-designed print pieces for trade shows and industry conventions. Are you a local home service industry? Then you need local SEO, a custom scheduling tool on your website, and a print campaign that can target homes in your service area.
Again, you may already do much of this yourself. If so, congratulations: you’re well on your way to moving forward a successful, long-term, multichannel marketing strategy. But only if you can successfully integrate each element and make sure they’re working harmoniously together. And for that to happen, you probably need to take a step back and assess where your marketing efforts currently stand.
Make an audit of your current marketing channels.
Let’s start with the obvious. Do you have a website, and if yes, is it fit to be seen in 2019? If you haven’t given your website an update in a few years, it’s unlikely that it is still able to keep up with modern technological demands. So if you want your multichannel marketing strategy to pay generous dividends, make sure it’s supported by your website.
Next, look to your other digital marketing resources—social media channels, digital ad campaigns, and any email marketing lists you may have built over the years. Where are you established, which channels are you underusing, and which are dead weight that need to be gotten rid of?
Finally, review your physical assets. This is a broad category, ranging from in-store signage, to print collateral pieces, to billboards. If you have a print mailer that goes out each week with coupon deals, you will want to review how you’re currently using that marketing channel and what kind of ROI you see from it. If you have a customer loyalty program, you will want to keep track of that. And if you have a banner and booth display you set up at every conferencing event, that, too, will need to be taken into account.
The point of multichannel marketing is that all these sources of customer interaction need to be operating together. Gone are the days when in-store retail and ecommerce operated independently of each other. Your in-store customers are likely searching your website for clothes they want to try on or items they want to purchase before they walk in the door, and they’re doing this expecting your website to be a reflection of their in-store experience.
Determine your audience (for each channel).
That said, each channel is likely to have a slightly different demographic. Insofar as you can engage these demographics in a way designed to be more effective while still maintaining your brand, you should do so. In other words, you can change how you present yourself—what value propositions you offer, what services and products you promote, and what cultural references you draw upon, but you don’t want to change the underlying availability or accessibility of your organization.
It’s common for Instagram ads to be more youth-oriented. You might run different email newsletters that different readers opt into based on their interests. And you may have a conference display that focuses on your business clients while your store locations target home users. Speaking to these different audiences in different context is what persona marketing is all about. It’s ultimately what makes multichannel strategies successful: your ability to connect with a wide range of audiences while retaining an authentic core to your business that keeps the customer experience uniform.
Coordinate with your team at every level.
Finally, coordination and communication are integral to an effective marketing campaign. Unifying your various marketing channels helps each of them work more effectively together. But it also means that customers and clients will feel friction more at any spots where your various offerings aren’t working smoothly together.
This means strong communication is required from every aspect of your team, from the head of your company to the employees staffing the shop floor and every customer service agent responding to questions online.
And don’t forget your contractors or service providers. We work closely with many of our clients to help their sales initiatives run smoothly. But that doesn’t mean we don’t often hear about a big promotion only a few days before it’s meant to go live. The closer we work with our clients, the more fully we can execute the complete vision of their marketing strategy. We can’t deliver what we don’t know about.
Test the logistics behind your multichannel marketing strategy before you launch.
The biggest risk with any multichannel marketing strategy is that a company will go too big too fast and instead of taking off will crash and burn. So, as obvious as it may seem, before you roll out a big marketing strategy make sure you have the infrastructure in place. If you’re offering a big sale, make sure each store branch knows, and that your online advertising is updated to match. If you’re rolling out a new service, have a page on your website dedicated to talking about it, run ads that target service-related keywords, and make sure your sales team has the right information to answer questions when the emails start rolling in.
Multichannel marketing has tremendous promise in its ability to combine next generation and old-school approaches to marketing, and to capitalize off the benefits each has to offer. All it takes is the right strategy.