Email + Social = Success! Sound familiar? Research we conducted earlier this year showed that customers using our both our email and social products experienced an uptick of up to 28% in their open rates. More than a marketing hook though, it has become quasi imperative for businesses, big and small, to incorporate cross-channel marketing tactics into their marketing strategy. What does cross-channel marketing entail? Let’s take a look.
Multicross, Integrated Touch…Huh, What?
Before we dive into the intricacies of cross-channel marketing strategies, let’s review some basic terminology, to avoid any confusion. You’ll often hear the terms multi-touch, multichannel, cross-channel or integrated marketing bandied around to refer to the concept of hitting the same customer segment through multiple channels at the same time, but there are some subtle differences to note:
- Multitouch or multichannel marketing: Back in the day, traditional marketing campaigns involved one-and-done touch campaigns. You’d reach out to your target audience once, via a newspaper ad or TV spot, and move on. These methods would be highly ineffective today, with the advent of digital marketing. Since we all have limited attention spans and time available, businesses now focus on creating a marketing mix combining different “channels” (i.e., email, social, direct mail…) that allows them to “touch” their prospects/customers multiple times, thus repeating their message and reinforcing its impact in their audience’s minds. This allows them to maximize the effectiveness and extend the reach of their campaigns, since no single communication channel can be 100% effective. In an article for Target Marketing, PointClear president and CEO Dan McDade even recommends you touch your audience a minimum of 12 times, based on his program’s results. If this seems excessive and repetitive, you may want to try…
- Cross-channel or integrated marketing: la crème de la crème, cross-channel marketing is the same as multichannel, but with an added twist: instead of hitting your target with the same message across multiple channels, you use different messages that are strung together throughout your different channels. Say you send out an email; it would include a link or code that connects to your other channels, such as your Facebook page or website. You can then track your targets as they engage in one channel and move to another. This requires a more holistic approach to your marketing, and means you need to engage your audience in the right channel at the right time.
The Keys to Effective Cross-Channel Marketing
Now that the basics are out of the way, let’s take a look at how to implement an effective integrated marketing plan. First, let’s do a quick inventory of the different methods at your disposal:
- Search marketing/display ads
- Direct mail
- Mobile (text messaging, apps…)
- Content marketing (webinars, blog, guides, whitepapers…)
- Traditional (TV, radio, press, billboard…)
How do you balance all of these? That’s the tricky part, and a number of companies still struggle with it. A study conducted by Forrester, and cited by Fast Company, showed that “while most (78%) companies believe [cross-channel marketing is] important or very important, more than half (51%) still believe their current marketing efforts fall short due to a lack of analytics that provide cross-channel data.” Indeed, there is still not a perfect integrated solution out there that allows you to manage all your channels in a streamlined manner. It’s a matter of experimenting with the different ingredients, and seeing what sticks best in the end. But fret not, there are actually a few simple ways to remedy this, including this step-by-step approach:
- Set goals: With any marketing effort, before embarking on your new venture write down what it is exactly you are trying to accomplish (generate awareness, leads, revenue?), along with target numbers not just for the overall campaign, but for each channel that you plan on using.
- Get buy-in: Building an integrated marketing plan requires a decent amount of work and patience before seeing results, so make sure anyone that has a say in the matter is aware of your plan, the opportunities and risks involved, and gives you the thumbs-up to move forward.
- Bridge silos: You might not be the owner of all the channels that will be going into your cross-channel marketing plan (for instance, Sales might own the telemarketing aspect, while PPC ads belong to demand generation). So coordinate with each team leader so everyone knows which part they have to play. Also, determine how credit will be given to each team if the campaign proves successful.
- Keep everything consistent: Note that this strategy is called cross-channel, not cross-message. Keep your communications consistent across all channels to avoid confusing your audience, as well as faithful to your brand guidelines, so that your intended recipient knows all these touches are coming from the same company (preferably yours).
- Set up sound tracking processes: There isn’t one absolutely foolproof way of measuring the success of such campaigns (yet), as the Forrester report pointed out. So use the tools proper to each channel, and check for any increase in clicks or conversions. Google Analytics is actually a good starting point to serve as hub for your integrated reporting, as you can create dashboards based on lead source as well as perform some basic funnel analysis.
- Rinse, repeat: Whether your campaign is ongoing or has come to an end, make sure to keep an eye on your results by channel and tweak as needed.
These Guys Did it, You Should Too!
The team at VerticalResponse uses cross-channel marketing. By leveraging our email and social tools, along with the content we create, we’re able to generate higher engagement for our marketing campaigns. For instance, not only are we able to significantly increase the number of guides downloaded from our Resources page, but also our number of signups. We use various channels to inform both our leads and current customers of the availability of a new guide. By linking to the Resources section in both our emails and social media posts, we offer recipients different ways to access this new guide, as well as build awareness. Once prospects are on a web page to download a guide (which includes a call-to-action button to sign up as well), they’re greeted with a form asking to fill out additional information before retrieving the guide. We then use this information to follow up, with the ultimate goal of getting readers to sign up for our service.
Walgreens, the 112-year old pharmacy giant, has also recently found success implementing their own integrated marketing plan. With over 7,700 stores throughout the country, (seriously, is it possible to walk 2 blocks without finding one?), they keep adapting to an ever-evolving market, including having sound digital and cross-channel marketing strategies in place. “Consumers are growing more comfortable with technology, and they have a great desire to do research on their own before they buy — in any channel,” says David Lonczak, Walgreens’ VP of e-commerce in Chief Marketer’s article by Brian Quinton. “That makes it imperative that potential customers can access Walgreens in any form, when and where they want to.” Whether it be mobile (optimized site, text alerts, mobile apps), online (acquisition of Drugstore.com to expand their line of products, launching web pick-up, having pharmacists available for chat) or in-store experience (offering coupons for customers that check in with Foursquare), Walgreens stepped up their game and were met with tremendous success along the way. “We’ve found that 50% of the 1 million visitors to our e-commerce sites say their next action will be to go to a Walgreens store,” says Lonczak, “and 82% of customers who have used our live pharmacist chat report that they’re likely to fill prescriptions with us.” Read more of Chief Marketer’s article, “Walgreens Powers Multi-Touch Strategy with Mobile, Social and ECommerce,” here.
PacSun was one of the first retailers to launch a mobile site back in 2009, which allowed customers to interact with them as well as purchase their products. Earlier this year, they launched their iPhone app, which not only makes their entire inventory available for purchase from within the app, it allows them to deepen customer engagement through a variety of features, for example an outfit builder to mix and match wardrobes, or a built-in QR scanner to take advantage of offers in stores or print ads. And, given the importance of data in the business world today, all app activity can be tracked within PacSun’s pre-existing analytics tools, separately from their other digital channels. They also deployed computer terminals in their physical stores, allowing customers to check for inventory, and if the item isn’t available in that particular store, order it online. All orders are accounted for and streamlined towards PacSun’s centralized back-end system. The Next Web has a few more examples of brands that launched high-performing integrated marketing campaigns, to help you find inspiration.
There you have it, a few tactics and examples to help get your cross-channel marketing plans off the ground. Here are a few last things to keep in mind as you get started:
- The whole is often greater than the sum of its parts: Nobody likes having too many cooks in the kitchen, but what if you could channel all those energies into delivering something great? Don’t hesitate to throw regular brainstorm meetings with your channel owners to try and come up with creative, out-of-the-box messaging and strategies.
- Test, test, test: As mentioned earlier, this will require some patience and a lot of tweaking before finding the winning formula, but even when you think you’ve found one, keep testing t to see if you can concoct something even better.
- It all comes down to customer experience: Remember, at the end of the day, what’s going to determine the success or failure of your marketing campaign, integrated or not, will be how your target audience perceives it, and if they decide to buy into it. Keep an eye on those success metrics, and try to gauge whether you are hitting them with the right channel, at the right time and as often as optimal, then adjust accordingly.
Have you tried your hand at cross-channel marketing yet, or do you feel ready to take the leap? Share away in the comments!
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