Channel Crossing

Most cross-channel efforts actually are expensive and involved, so the goal can’t be “engagement.” The end game should be about sales and revenue.

Dan Goldstein sees it every day. Today’s marketing managers are faced with numerous marketing channels, which can be both helpful and challenging. With so many options at your disposal to build your brand and craft your message, how do you know which ones to employ, and when?

As Goldstein, owner and president of marketing agency Page 1 Solutions, will tell you, marketing channels are plentiful, but several options inevitably will rise to the top. Among them is Search Engine Optimization (SEO), a highly effective approach for your content that targets people who already are looking for your product or service. But if you stop there, you are missing the boat, says Goldstein, who also is author of “Win with Multi-Channel Digital Marketing.”

“An effective online marketing campaign first needs to make your potential customers aware of your product or service, and the fact that your company provides that product or service,” Goldstein says. “It needs to build brand awareness and credibility. And, it needs to ensure that a prospective customer chooses your business and your product or service when he or she is ready to buy.”

So which channels complement each other best?

Put simply, it depends. Jason Falls, director of digital strategy for Cornett, a Kentucky-based advertising agency, says that, in general, in today’s always-on, too-many-choices media landscape, mass marketing channels like television and outdoor are effective at establishing brand and awareness while moving people to a point of curiosity.

“Mobile marketing, sponsorships, radio and audio streaming, and online media can nurture that curiosity to drive people to click or search,” Falls says. “Search marketing and SEO can help lead people to a website where content marketing and email marketing can take over and move customers to a more lead-funnel scenario.”

Melissa Gonzalez, founder and CEO of New York-based Lion’esque Group, sees value in pop-ups, which allow brands to have a physical presence wherever their customers are. From festivals to sporting events, places where your targets are gathered are perfect opportunities for consumers to see colors, feel fabrics and have a more educational experience.

And that physical space, though a touch-and-feel environment, is more digital than ever. The physical pop-up is now complemented by social channels, such as live feeds that create a sense of urgency and a real-time conversation between brand and consumer.

How much is too much?
It stands to reason that multiple channels may be a matter of solid communications, but how much information is too much?

Since consumers are bombarded with advertising messages all day, every day, marketers must find ways to break through the clutter and appeal to the target audience at the right time and with the right message. “Consumers are on multiple channels,” Goldstein says. “You need to market to your audience where they are spending their time.”

Falls says that when done well, marketing communications touch consumers in multiple ways at multiple touchpoints to reinforce the unique selling proposition and perhaps, brand promise. This leaves the consumer continually moved closer to a buying decision. The more cohesive and strategic the touchpoints are, the more optimal the communications and successful the marketing effort.

Hands down, consumer behavior drives the need to use multiple channels. “People don’t just watch TV now,” Falls says. “They watch TV, and Tweet or Facebook or Instagram. So the second-screen phenomenon is dictating that brands have a coordinated strategy. When attempting to catch consumer attention on television, they also need to ensure relevant messaging appears on their device or social network to reinforce the message and even engage the consumer in a more meaningful way.”

Truth be told, it’s still important to have a clear point of view and for brands to create customer segmentation for different customer journeys. “Some people will need five touchpoints, while others may want one or two,” Gonzalez says. “The onus is on the brand to understand their targets and then create campaigns around that.”

Gonzalez says that people can get fatigued. Take email marketing. “Some want something in their inbox daily, and some only want to see a brand on Instagram. Companies should use analytics as much as possible to understand their targets.”

Picking your channels
Every marketer says the same thing: The first rule of communications is to know your audience. The places and platforms where they pay attention and spend their time will be your guide.

“You know if they’re watching TV and Facebooking, then you don’t need to take out that print ad in Ladies Home Journal to reach them,” Falls says.

With multi-channel marketing, consistency is key. Consistent messaging that is reaching your target audience with highly relevant messages at highly relevant times should always be the goal. More consumers will click, visit, consider and convert. But this channel puzzle does not come without roadblocks.

Typically, the challenge will lie in finding resources and implementing the knowledge to coordinate your channels strategically. “It’s not just taking out ads everywhere and hoping,” Falls says. “You have to walk down the path of that ideal consumer’s journey and play the ‘therefore/but then’ game, which can be a long, layered journey. But once you understand it, you’re able to build and design multi-channel experiences that help drive the right consumers to convert.”

A consumer can see a commercial and become interested, therefore conducting a Google search on a product, but then become distracted, and so forth and so on. You have to keep that consumer interested and on the hook through to the end.

Engaging a brand with a community
Most cross-channel efforts actually are expensive and involved, so the goal can’t be “engagement.” The end game should be about sales and revenue.

Take the winning connection Falls’ agency did with Valvoline. “My team was essentially challenged with connecting a challenger motor oil brand with a very hard audience to please: installers and desk staff at auto parts stores. The resulting engagement platform was TeamValvoline, where we not only have content marketing just for them, but also verticals for DIYers, race and car enthusiasts, and other key stakeholder groups in the Valvoline audience that needed a connecting point.”

Falls says the content resulted in a powerful organic search magnet that his agency supports with paid search, as well, to drive membership and engagement.

“We track revenue from the community via receipt uploads and service tracking by members,” he says. “We are working to enhance the various data points and services to reveal a bigger picture that includes loyalty numbers and more. The cross-channel pieces of this project include partnerships and sponsorships with NASCAR drivers and teams, online media, paid search and some selected TV and print executions around sweepstakes and promotions we’ve run exclusively for members.”

Although the lines can seem blurred at times, the mission is clear. “We’re going to continue in a way where brands will become more and more active at creating channels that allow customers to have a two-way conversation with them,” Gonzalez says. “Your brand is your friend, and you know them in a different way because of the different interactions you have. Companies will have to keep that two-way conversation going so it feels personalized and empowering.”