The term "multi-channel" can be really confusing at times. Because most of us don't think in terms of channels -- we think about how the marketing is being done. So we strategize and plan from that perspective, not necessarily worrying about how those strategies will be executed on multiple channels. It can get a little tricky from there.
Most often, it's a matter of scale and execution. When multi-channel marketing is simple to execute -- whether that means using existing channels or building new ones -- then it becomes less important from a strategy perspective. It's only when trying to manage large volumes and complex behaviors across multiple channels that the challenge truly arises. That's when the question of "how" takes on greater significance, and it's where most companies struggle.
At a high level, the benefits of executing multi-channel marketing initiatives include - effective delivery of your message, businesses can target their most receptive markets and optimize their return on investment.
What channels can we leverage in multi channel marketing?
You need to identify your target market and the channels they prefer. Here are some of the best channels for multi channel marketing, thoughtfully selected by experts.
Traditional or Mainstream Media: Newspapers, Magazines, Television
Internet Newsgroup Marketing: Internet newsgroups, review sites, blogs.
Direct Mail: Through brochures, pamphlets and catalogs.
Telephone Marketing: Live telemarketing calls to potential customers as well as interactive voice response (IVR).
Affiliate Programs: With SEO experts in the affiliate programs you can leverage on their content marketing and brand building to get leads and conversions.
Network Marketing: A referral based system of business development that rewards both the person who refers to a prospect as well as the person they refer.
Blogging: Write articles on various blogs or your own blog to reach out to the masses by sharing experiences, knowledge and information.
In the context of the Channel Integration Model below, this strategy maximizes revenue by strategically applying different marketing tactics within each channel and balancing the amount spent in a channel with its potential for profit.
Channel Integration Model
Channel Integration is the process of optimizing channel-specific tactics such as Advertising, Direct Marketing, Sales through social media channels. Conducting a combination of these actions within each channel allows businesses to better understand their customers—where they are and how they engage with their brands. This information can then be used to deliver customized content and advertising within the channel. Brands that engage in Channel Integration employ a multi-channel approach, sharing both cross-channel and intra-channel messages across multiple media channels, including websites, social media platforms, mobile applications, physical locations and more.
Selecting a marketing platform or medium depends on who you are trying to reach, what you are trying to sell, where your target audience is and how they like to engage with brands.
Strategic planning is the first step in developing a channel integration strategy. The goal of strategic planning is to understand customer group preferences for social media channels and websites; identify key performance indicators (KPI); analyze budget allocation over each platform; and then finally evaluate the performance of each channel. The Channel Planning process below illustrates how to develop a plan that may be customized for your industry or business:
Channel Plan worksheet is composed of 3 sections including:
1) Customer Behavior- What are changes in customer behavior? How do they consume content today vs. six months ago? This section is used to determine how and if your customers are shifting their preferences towards digital channels. How are they engaging with brands? What techniques do you need to employ to reach them?
2) Business Goals- What objectives are we trying to achieve in this marketing campaign? This section determines what type of metrics the brand should be measuring, like page views, downloads or engagement levels on a specific content piece, and how to measure these indicators.
3) Potential Channels- What channels are best suited for reaching this audience? This section is used to plan each channel from an editorial standpoint—planning out what types of content should be offered on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other networks, and how to deploy these efforts across different platforms.
The key to developing an effective channel integration strategy is to match the right message with the right medium or platform. This process requires a clear understanding of how people are currently engaging with your brand on social media channels, and what your business goals are. It also involves taking into account who you are trying to reach, what your business is attempting to sell, where customers are interested in receiving information and how they like to engage with brands.
It's difficult for businesses to create content that appeals to every customer segment; therefore, it's important for brands to create content and adjust their messaging based on customer targeting. This way, messages can be tailored to the interests of specific target audiences within each channel.
Content Consistency — Cross-channel content development is a lot easier if your company has created an editorial calendar that outlines when and what type of content should be published on each channel.
2) Resource Optimization– Producing high quality social media content requires a significant amount of time and resources. By distributing posts across different channels, you optimize your resource allocation by spreading out the workload, and increasing exposure through multiple outlets.
3) Customer Experience — Customers expect brands to provide a seamless experience regardless of how they engage with a company online. This means that an individual's social media engagement needs to be consistent across each channel.
4) Virality — Inbound Marketing is designed to create a positive experience for both customers and the brand; therefore, it's easier to make content go viral by publishing on multiple channels simultaneously.
5) Improved Brand Engagement — Social media users are more receptive to brands that publish valuable content across all social platforms because they feel like they are receiving a personal experience from the brand.
6) Better Search Engine Optimization– Branded content that ranks well in search results can help attract new customers to your business. When you develop an Inbound Marketing strategy for social media, it's important to publish great content on each platform so that it shows up in search engine results.
7) Lead Generation — Content that's published on social media channels can be used as a lead generation tool by offering downloads, coupons and other valuable resources to interested audiences.
8) Brand Awareness & Credibility- If you publish great content that is relevant and consistent across multiple platforms, you increase the awareness and credibility of your brand across the web.
Utilize a Consistent Content Publishing Schedule
One of the best things you can do for social media marketing is to establish a regular publishing schedule. Consistency in your approach encourages audience engagement and allows you to build an audience of loyal followers who will be eager for more updates about your business. To develop a good content publishing schedule, it's essential that you consider the following factors:
1) Content Topic — If someone has subscribed to your content across social media channels, it's important to provide him with information that is relevant to his needs. If you constantly publish updates on topics that your audience doesn't care about, you will lose their trust and they will stop following your content.
2) Content Format — While some social media platforms are better suited for text posts, others work best for images, videos or other types of content. When you publish a new piece of content on your social media channels, it's important to match the format with the platform. For example, if you're publishing a blog post on Facebook and Twitter, you will want to ensure that both versions contain an image so that they look great across all platforms.
3) Post Frequency – You should establish a posting schedule based on how often your audience is likely to engage with content. For example, if you're tracking social media engagement metrics and see that users are more likely to comment about blog posts published once per week than they are for updates published twice per day, it's smart to publish less often to get the most engagement possible from each piece of content.
4) Content Length – How long should you make your social media posts? It's important that you create a style guide for this information so that your employees can always publish unique, relevant content without spending too much time trying to come up with new ideas. The length of each piece of content will vary depending on the channel, but your audience may be more engaged with short messages that they can read or watch quickly.
5) Site Layout – The layout of your home page should match the overall feel of your social media pages. For example, if you use a lot of high-quality images and video clips on Facebook, you should make sure that the same types of content appear prominently on your website.
6) Content Publishing Schedule – If you want to create a positive user experience, you need to maintain a consistent social media publishing schedule so that your audience can expect new content from you every day, week or month. It's also important to remember that posting times can have a big impact on your reach. For example, if you publish content during the morning and evening hours on Monday through Friday, most of your audience will be asleep in between these times. If you would like to reach more people, consider publishing blog posts and Facebook updates at different times throughout the day so that each piece of content gets a chance to be seen by more people.
7) Brand Personality – Your brand personality is a key factor that will determine which social media networks you should join and how you should use them. For example, if your business is well-known for making funny videos, it wouldn't make sense to start tweeting about industry news on Twitter. While these updates might be interesting to your audience, you won't build a strong connection with viewers who are only interested in short video clips.
Once you've considered these factors, it's time to develop a social media publishing schedule that matches the needs of your business and optimizes how users access content on each platform. For example, if most of your users are accessing content on mobile devices, you should publish short messages so that people can read them more quickly. If your audience is mostly interested in images, you may want to share a few short updates per week with photos or graphics embedded in the message instead of long text posts.
Also, you may want to consider posting related content on the same day of the week or month depending on how often your audience is likely to engage with new material. For example, if you're running a promotion for one of your products and would like users to be aware of it as early as possible, posting regular messages about the sale might be more effective than simply uploading sales messages on the last day of each month.
The Bottom Line:
When you use consistent branding, a publishing schedule and engaging content across all social media platforms, your user experience will improve dramatically – which means that people will enjoy connecting with your brand every time they log into their favorite networks. This also means that your brand will look more credible to new users, which is why consistency can be an effective marketing strategy for drawing in new customers.