The 411 on Multi-Channel Marketing: What It Is & How to Do It Right

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multichannel.marketing_2.20.14In this post, we’ll define what we mean by multi-channel marketing, the pitfalls some businesses fall into, and how to do it right.

Simply put, what is multi-channel marketing?
Multi-channel marketing means that you use various methods to reach potential customers during the sales cycle. So, for example, the first channel might be your website. The next channel might be a piece of downloadable content, like an e-book. The channel after that might be a series of lead nurturing emails based on the content the person downloaded. And the final channel might be an old-fashioned phone call from your sales person.

The channels you choose will depend on your customers and how they want to interact with you. This last point is important: it’s about your customers first. You match the marketing channels to their needs. If your customers make most of their purchases on their smartphones, the way you market to them—and the channels you use—will be different from customers who prefer face time, demos, and phone discussions before making their purchases.

Why does multi-channel marketing matter?
It’s no secret that people will respond differently to your advertising messages, depending on how the messages are delivered. Some people respond to—and easily remember—printed text. Others remember jingles they hear in radio ads. Others might like a combination of text and audio as well as the ability to interact with it directly.

The same is true when it comes to making actual purchases: some people prefer doing it online. Others prefer retail storefronts. Still others might like shopping from catalogues. Multi-channel marketing is all about “mixing it up” by providing a variety of channels at which people can engage with your brand and ultimately buy from you. But, again, it comes down to your customers first and how they want the information delivered.

Sounds good. So I should just, like, send an email, then make a call, and maybe provide a form for people to download something, right?
Not so fast. While multi-channel marketing might sound like a hodgepodge of methods that are thrown together without any forethought, that couldn’t be further from the truth…at least, not for effective multi-channel marketing.

See, there needs to be a method to your multi-channel marketing “madness,” if you will. Think about the different paths your prospects might take as they journey down your sales funnel (hint: this is where having strong buyer personas will help). So, for example, if your products are geared towards Millennials, you might not include a sales call at all, but perhaps you might consider doing a series of text messages, since Millennials are not big into talking on the phone. In other words, there’s no one set multi-channel marketing formula. It depends on your audience and your objectives, and how you marry the two.

OK. So what steps do I need to take in creating a multi-channel marketing plan?
You know what? You’re likely already using multiple marketing channels to reach prospects and customers. For example, if you have a website, an email newsletter, and a Facebook page, then you’re already engaging in basic multi-channel marketing.

The key, as we mentioned above, is creating a formal path for people to go from one point to the next…and a reason for having them go down this path. If someone comes to your website and downloads some sort of educational content, like a white paper, that person might still be in the research stage and is further away from making a buying decision. Your goal with this person might be to continue to provide educational help—help that moves them further down the sales funnel, but at a less aggressive pace. This might involve sending a series of lead nurturing emails, each one with another educational offer attached. So this multi-channel path might look like:

Website visit >>> Educational download >>> 3 lead nurturing emails with educational offers

You might decide that if someone downloads all three of these offers, then she should be kicked into another multi-channel marketing path, one that, again, guides the person deeper into the sales funnel. This path might involve sending the person an email where she can watch a video and is encouraged to request a demo. If she requests the demo, then a sales-qualifying call will be placed.

Notice how there are many “if/or” statements. This is why it’s important to define your personas, the paths you want them to take, and your objectives before you sit down to map out the multiple marketing channels you plan to use.

Uh oh. This is starting to sound really complicated. I’m not sure I’m up for it. What advice do you have?
Here’s the dirty truth: it can get complicated. The more personas you have, the more paths someone can take, and the more ways people can buy from you, the more complicated it can be in setting up effective multi-channel marketing.

So what advice can we offer that will save your sanity?

  • Map it out on paper. Yes, you might actually want to take a blank sheet of paper and get crazy with some arrows, boxes, and words. It’s OK if this is messy. The goal is to help you understand what needs to be done so that you can articulate it.
  • Transfer the plan to something more formal, like an Excel spreadsheet or multi-channel marketing software. Once you’ve mapped out everything and you understand what needs to happen and when, then you can create a corresponding Excel spreadsheet that will help you keep track of everything and that you’ll be able to share with others in your organization. Or you can invest in multi-channel marketing software (just search on Google—many options come up).
  • Seek outside help. A marketing consultant can help you in the planning and/or execution stages. If you’re more of a big picture person, then it might make sense to delegate to an outside consultant or someone on your team to manage the day-to-day aspects of your multi-channel marketing efforts.
  • Don’t forget to review your marketing regularly. Once everything is set up and running, it’s tempting to just forget about it, but that defeats the purpose. Not every multi-channel marketing path is going to produce the results you want, so you’re going to need to review things like conversions and sales and tweak your efforts accordingly. Again, if this isn’t something that interests you, a skilled marketing consultant can help you with it. Want to learn more? Here’s a great video from Google on a Walkthrough of Multi-Channel Funnels in Google Analytics.

Do you use multi-channel marketing efforts as part of your overall marketing plan? How do you keep track of your efforts (e.g. do you use special software)? What tips can you provide readers? We want to hear your insights. Share in the comments!

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