What is multi-channel marketing?

Peter Sharkey in Marketing automation on 11th of Jan 2018
What is multi-channel marketing

What is multi-channel marketing?

Every marketer and business owner knows there is an incredible amount of work that goes into defining your ideal customer, understanding their challenges, crafting a message that leads to sales, and connecting at just-the-right moments in the customer journey. Not to mention the nuts and bolts of reaching people online, offline, and on mobile, widely known as multi-channel marketing.

The best marketing efforts reach the right audience with the right message in the right place at the right time. Sounds easy, right?

Multi-channel marketing is all about connecting with customers in the right place. This means utilizing a variety of marketing channels to connect with people at different points in their buying process. Specific examples of marketing channels you could use in a multi-channel strategy are email, text messaging, direct mail, Facebook, Twitter, phone calls, and in-app messaging to name a few. The key is context. Are they in the office or at home? Are they on their iPhone or their laptop? Different context requires different channels.

The 30,000-foot view of multi-channel marketing is this: we are on our computers, scrolling through our phones and opening up our tablets all the time. There are endless possibilities of how we live within those devices. Additionally, we live in the real world. We have mailing addresses, we walk down the street to buy coffee, and we drive in our cars to see our parents. That is how we engage with the world—moving from touch point to touch point for any number of reasons.

Multi-channel marketing is building a customer experience that reflects our human experience of engaging with information across various channels and platforms with a unified and cohesive message. Complicated lives lived across multiple channels; this is marketing that reflects the reality of how people live and experience the world. In this post, you’ll learn the challenges marketers face in implementing multi-channel marketing along with best practice tips we’ve learned from tackling these problems head-on.

Why is multi-channel marketing important?

Multi-channel marketing is an essential part of any digital marketing strategy because it reflects how customers are interacting with brands and businesses. Imagine: I see an ad on Instagram for some dope chukka boots. I’m intrigued. I go to the company’s website and learn that my suspicions were correct, and chukka boots are in fact, very dope. I add it to my wishlist. I forget. I see another ad on my Facebook feed, and I’m reminded that maybe I want those awesome boots, but I don’t click through.

Multi-channel Marketing

I walk down the street and see a billboard. A famous actor I admire is wearing the SAME chukka boots I just saw online. I look down at my tattered tennis shoes and feel sad. I go back to the website and sign up for their email list. After three emails, I finally click through to make the purchase. All of these various channels and touches played a part in me deciding to buy those dope chukka boots. This is how purchases get made. It is a series of interactions, across multiple touch points that lead to a final decision to buy. Why is multi-channel marketing important? Because customers have more control in the buying process than ever before. It’s essential that companies know how to create a compelling multi-channel approach that reflects how customers are actually engaging with businesses and brands. Period.

When we think about multi-channel marketing in the context of the customer journey, there are other factors that highlight its importance. A multi-channel strategy strengthens a company’s message on their audience’s preferred channels. If the only way that we ask someone to book a call or sign up for more info is through a one-off email message, that could work. But if I create a Facebook ad set + an email + an in-app message next time they log in that’s not only a more powerful message, it’s unified. Repetition across multiple channels strengthens the message and enhances the customer journey.

Why marketers don’t do multi-channel marketing

Multi-channel marketing sounds great in theory, but there are real challenges keeping marketers and business owners from using it, including:

  • A single channel solution is attractive. This is a classic example of good being the enemy of great. If all you have to worry about is email communication, your life is a lot easier. Most companies collect an email address to kickstart their marketing, and nearly every automation tool is primarily email-based. For these reasons, jumping to an email-centric practice of communicating with customers can be tempting. The downside here is that it’s just not as effective.
  • The customer identity is scattered. Customer data, metrics on how people are engaging with your product and website, and email engagement are silo’d in different systems, causing a knowledge gap of “Who are we marketing to again?”
  • The temptation to hound contacts. Excited about the endless possibilities, early adopter marketers embracing multi-channel marketing are overwhelming contacts with message after message, giving off the creepy guy spammer vibe.
  • Technically hard. By and large, multi-channel marketing is still hard to do, complicated to configure, and so out of reach for most companies. Enterprises and “the tech elite” spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year on technical, consulting, and content teams wiring up multi-channel campaigns.

But there is an easier way. Simple, visual tools like Autopilot are enabling smaller, more nimble companies to unbundle their tech stack to automate and do multi-channel marketing. And they are extending marketing beyond email to multiple channels, where it should’ve been all along.

Three steps to getting started with multi-channel marketing

How do you create a successful multi-channel marketing program? Here are three steps to get started on the right foot.

1. Centralize and organize your customer record

The first step to implementing a multi-channel marketing strategy is to centralize and organize your customer record in a single location that incorporates actions, events, and behaviors across multiple services.

Think of the silo’d storehouses of contact data living in your website, product, CRM, marketing automation tool, landing page app, and customer service software about Tanya from DogToday, George from bigdatasocial.io, or Michael from Initech.

Multichannel marketing

By collecting all of their data points in one place, you can personalize your messages on a more granular level for better customer engagement. Imagine the kind of marketing you could do with services like Zapier and Segment, integrated with Autopilot, to trigger the right messages on the right channel or to limit communications from being sent at the wrong time, things like…

  • Sending an encouraging email to SaaS trial users who just added their tracking code
  • Reaching out with a text-based, personalized email to a person who hasn’t opened your last three email newsletters
  • Automating a special offer to a lead who’s clicked like crazy on your past three lead nurturing emails

It all starts with centralizing and organizing your customer record in one spot.

2. Identify the key events in the customer journey

The customer journey is the whole experience a person has with your business, from stranger to lead to customer to repeat customer to promoter. Whether you’re a tech startup with a freemium model, an e-commerce site selling clothes, or a consulting firm selling services, your customer is on a journey that you need to guide.

The key events in the customer journey are like a fork in the road where customers can fall off the map or go one step further in their relationship with your company. These key events will look different for every business.

  • For a mobile app Task Manager, this could be right after a user signs up for a free trial, creates zero tasks, or becomes a paying customer
  • For Resound, a boutique marketing agency, the key touchpoints could be the second a lead inquires about their services, signs up for an email newsletter, or downloads a whitepaper
  • For an e-commerce company, the interesting moments could be when a potential buyer abandons a shopping cart or after a customer makes a repeat purchase

These are the crucial moments to engage your contacts with a relevant, personalized message on the right channel, whether text, email, social media, or even direct mail.

3. Converse naturally using email, text, direct mail, and…

Let’s say that Marie is planning to buy a new pair of earrings for her gala next month through an e-commerce site she’s previously bought from. She researches options on her website from her laptop at work on Monday, sees the latest earrings pics on Twitter from her iPhone on Thursday, gets a 10% off coupon for earrings in the mail next Wednesday, and gets a text Thursday morning about a special 24-hour sale, then finally buys.

That’s the power of personalized multi-channel marketing—and you could easily create this journey with the simple Autopilot + Segment automation stack.

The three main channels to consider when crafting your strategy are email, direct mail, and SMS (texting) which cover online, offline, and mobile. Other channels to consider include retargeting ads and social media sponsored posts.

multi-channel marketing automation

Importantly, don’t go overboard and spam your customers with irrelevant messages in inappropriate contexts. That’s a recipe for mass unsubscribes, unhappy customers, and/or an online riot. Instead, target your messaging as if you were speaking to someone near and dear to your heart, like your husband, mother, or a highly valued client. It’s about being in the right place during those key events in their customer journey.

How marketing automation fits into the picture

Manually executing a multi-channel marketing strategy is near impossible. You’d be poring over data minute-by-minute and frantically sending text messages, emails, and letters 247. Moreover, marketing automation software is scalable, consistent, and now personal—your secret weapon. Personalize the customer record, identify the key events in the customer journey, and message your customer in the right place. That’s the recipe for multi-channel marketing success.

How are you using multi-channel marketing efforts in your business? What strategies have you seen drive results? Let us know in the comments.

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