There is no question about it, marketing has changed. When I started in the industry 12 years ago, I only had a few channels to consider when creating a communications strategy.
However, in today’s digital age, a modern marketer needs to be aware of a plethora of channels available so that each campaign has a truly multichannel approach.
Although most major brands understand the importance of using multiple communications channels to reach their audience, many brands still struggle to meet this challenge.
According to an IBM survey reported by The Marketer, nearly 4 in every 10 marketers are failing to adopt an integrated multichannel approach that incorporates traditional and digital.
The same report also suggests that poor and inconsistent customer experiences, marked largely by a lack of cross-channel integration can result in around $83bn in lost sales every year.
Part of the problem is that many marketers still consider the traditional channels such as print, broadcast and outdoor as separate and distinct from the newer digital ones.
However, when creating a communications strategy you don’t need to have a ‘traditional’ strategy and ‘digital’ strategy as many consumers float seamlessly between offline (traditional) and online (digital).
The secret of a successful campaign is to look at the importance of each channel individually and see if it fits with your overall communications strategy.
Not every campaign requires all online and in the same vein not every campaign requires all offline. The role of the marketer is to mix and match whichever channel best suits a campaign to achieve the overall marketing goals.
Here’s some advice on identifying the channels and making them work for your brand.
1. Understand your audience
Before undertaking a campaign you need to work out what platform your customers are using and how they prefer to interact with brands.
As Vine, Instagram, or Snapchat are new to the market, many brands think it is something they need to be on, but there is no point putting time and effort managing it if your customers are middle aged men that won’t engage with you on there.
Do not use a channel just for the sake of it — be strategic in your thinking.
2. Choose the right channel
Most business owners are time poor so will need to adopt marketing activity that will generate cost effective results for limited resources.
Although TV and outdoor are cash intensive and require monitoring, they can be used for creating instant awareness and on a larger scale. They are also responsible for driving traffic to the owned and earned media such as websites and social media — which are great for creating customer engagement.
Print ads are also great for longevity, credibility and targeting industry specific publications, but a kneejerk reaction based on costs is unlikely to lead to the best results.
The reality is that some channels may initially seem to be too cost-prohibitive to enter, but ultimately deliver the right message to the right audience and drive the desired results. This will pay back much stronger than something you bought at a much lower cost per thousand.
Whichever channel you opt for, your choice should ultimately contribute to the overall goal of the campaign, by being most influencing in driving conversion and also working in tandem with the other channels to provide a consistent and unified message in the minds of the consumer.
3. Think ‘brand engagement’
Digital marketing has shifted its focus from brand awareness to brand engagement. There is no point shouting AT your customers; to sell your brand and create real longevity you will need them to interact with you.
This is often referred to as ‘conversational marketing’ and it works well for the modern consumer that doesn’t really have brand loyalty and doesn’t usually spend time investing in them unless the company gives them something to invest in.
4. Tailor the campaign
Although the message needs to be consistent, a truly successful multichannel strategy needs content specifically tailored to suit each channel.
All too often brands expect the same approach to work across both traditional and digital mediums, but unfortunately the same strategy won’t work across both print and mobile platforms as each approach needs to be customised to a specific medium.
Remember to make the content different, but the message consistent — especially if the marketing is spread across different teams or different external agencies.
In conclusion, the importance of a multichannel approach in a communication strategy is that it allows the marketer to develop a brand more thoroughly. A print ad in a magazine can start the customer on the journey, but once they come to your site or social media audio or a video can bring it to life.
This is why digital communities have emerged as important tools in a multichannel strategy. The challenge for marketers is to ensure the brand message remains consistent when delivering different content across channels. If not, it will cause confusion in the mind of the end consumer and the marketing efforts will have been wasted.
Note: The original version of this article was published in July, 2015.