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A multi-channel marketing strategy is more than simply launching some marketing initiatives on multiple platforms. Instead, a true multi-channel approach creates a unified experience across more than one channel so you can reach your target audience wherever they may be interacting with you at the moment.
This approach is effective as today's consumers have a lot of technology at their fingertips and want to engage with companies in a variety of ways, but without feeling like they are jumping around while doing so. For example, a potential customer may come across your Facebook feed and click a link to read a post on your blog. From there, they may venture into your business to learn more.
That customer wants to feel like they've accessed a single touch point--your company--even though it was really three unique points. Here are a few ways to adopt a multi-channel strategy into your mix.
Before You Get Started
Before you venture into a multi-channel strategy, there are a few important ducks to get in a row. The first is to have a consistent look and feel across all your channels, so make sure your social media feeds, website, and printed materials all have the same branding elements to create a uniform experience.
Next, take the time to create a thorough profile of your target audiences. Without a deep understanding of their needs along with plenty of details about their online and offline habits, you won't be able to leverage the strengths of different channels in a way that will make your audience respond. In other words, you can't give people what they want if you don't know what that is.
Then, make sure you have specific, measurable goals for your strategies so you'll know whether your initiatives are effective or not. That way, you can double down on what's working and take a second look at anything that's not working so you're not wasting resources.
3 Ways to Approach Multi-Channel Marketing
Any combination of marketing channels is possible when creating a multi-channel marketing strategy. Here are three of them to give you a jumping-off point when planning yours.
1. PPC Ad Extensions. Pay-per-click ad extensions from Google give you several options for bringing search traffic to other channels once your ads are seen, especially for mobile users. One option advertisers are given include a "view offer" link that directs clicks to a landing page and allows users to print or save offers for use in-store.
There are lots of other options for ad extensions, too. Some let you provide extra details about your products and services, show specific call-to-action buttons, display store locations, clickable phone numbers that dial the call, and buttons for mobile app downloads.
Each of these can be used to capture the attention of people who are using Google to solve problems and search for solutions, and bring them into the fold of your other channels.
2. Event Warmups. Let's say there's a big tradeshow or conference coming up for your industry and you're deep into the planning stages for the event. Your tradeshow booth and marketing materials are designed and with the printer for production. Your customized swag is on its way. Your collateral packages are ready and you've had extra business cards printed with a custom URL to welcome new prospects you've met at the event.
Along with these preparations, give your audience a bit of a brand warmup in the days or weeks leading up to the event. This will provide them with an opportunity to see your name a few times and have an idea of what you're about rather than encountering you for the first time at the event. For example, a targeted social media ad campaign can help boost your name recognition while also drawing in potential event attendees.
3. Paper Outreach. There are lots of ways to build your digital audience, but an often overlooked avenue is offline campaigns. A direct mail campaign that targets less-frequent digital users can be a great way to bring new people into your online space--especially if you've been unable to reach them with digital efforts due to their infrequent connection to the web.
Consider an offer sent via U.S. mail that invites people to "check in on Facebook" the next time they are in a store to receive a discount. Or a printed insert that can be handed to customers at the checkout that directs them to your website for more offers. You can keep these outreach efforts simple, or try something fun like creating a photo booth in your store with props and signage. Customers can snap a pic and upload it to social media to share with their friends.
When you encourage customers to bring their in-store experiences online, not only will those customers then be part of your digital network, but your brand will be exposed to all of their connections as well.
Always Consider Customers
The key to making cross-channel promotions work is to focus on what your customers will respond to. There may not be much action from a photo booth at the tax accountant's office, but those clients are very likely to be interested in your blog series on how to be smart about tax-advantaged savings accounts. When you put your customer's needs first and keep your branding and messaging consistent across all your assets, your audience will enjoy a seamless trip across channels and you'll meet your marketing goals.
Today's consumers are making purchase decisions everywhere: on their mobile devices, in stores, looking at menus in a restaurant, flipping through magazines in a waiting room. To reach your target audience successfully, you have to be in all the right places at the right times, and a multi-channel marketing plan will get you there.
What is a Multi-Channel Marketing Plan?
In a nutshell, a multi-channel plan is a single strategy that's been launched across multiple platforms, or channels. For example, an approach that includes search engine marketing, website lead generation, and in-store promotions for those online signups would be a multi-channel effort.
The benefits of this approach revolve around making your customers happy. By reaching out to them on their preferred channel, and having the ability to have multiple touchpoints, you'll keep people engaged and your brand awareness high. That way, when it's time to make a purchase, you're more likely to be the choice.
Simply deploying a message on a few different channels isn't quite what a multi-channel strategy is all about. Instead, you want to give your audience a feeling of continuity across channels so they recognize you and feel comfortable no matter where the interaction is taking place.
One of the most essential parts of a multi-channel strategy is consistency. Your branding and messaging must be steady and dependable to create a seamless experience for your current and potential customers.
It's also essential to have a deep understanding of your audience so you know where to reach them, and what messaging is likely to cut through the noise. Take the time to build detailed profiles of your ideal customers, including some insight into their daily lives such as hobbies, family, etc. The more detailed, the better!
Lastly, no strategy will be effective without knowing precisely what you're trying to achieve. Each strategy should have goals that are specific, measurable, relevant, and based on a specified time frame.
Creating a Multi-Channel Strategy
Ultimately, every strategy will be a bit different as every business has its own target audience with its own unique needs. For example, we couldn't recommend for every business to loop Pinterest into their strategy as some industries simply will not do well on that channel. However, just about every industry can benefit from a little social media exposure.
When choosing your channels, think in terms of each channel complementing the other. You want them to work together to achieve your goals rather than operating independently. Here are three common channels to consider:
1. Print. In today's digital landscape, print is still an important component of a successful strategy. To achieve the cohesive feel your customers want, your branding and messaging must carry through to your physical items as well as digital.
Along with any printed advertisements, consumer-facing businesses should consider in-store signage, menus and table toppers, coupons, and mailers. B2B companies should consider marketing collateral packages, brochures, data sheets, white papers, and other printed material.
2. Social Media. Consumer-facing businesses will always benefit from the ongoing personal connections made on sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can integrate marketing strategies with informative posts, contests, coupons, and Q&A sessions.
B2B companies may think that social media isn't right for them, but LinkedIn is an easy way to reach thousands of like-minded professionals, and sites like Reddit have groups and boards for virtually every niche audience on the planet.
3. Search & SEO. Paid search advertising allows your links to be at the top of the list when people use search engines like Google to solve problems. SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of making your website and other digital content rise to the top of the unpaid search results.
Many companies likely have a presence on all three of these channels, but that's not necessarily a multi-channel strategy. What's missing is the thread that runs through your messaging that creates a cohesive experience for your audience.
For example, if you're running a pizza parlor and you're having a promotion for a $10 large pizza, you'll definitely want to promote that on your social media sites and may consider mailers to homes in the area. To round out your strategy, you might also do a Google AdWords promotion to capture anyone searching for "pizza offers near me."
To make this strategy effective and cohesive, your branding must be on point: make sure all your branding elements are present on every channel so the "look" of your offer is the same no matter where its encountered. This will help solidify your restaurant in the minds of your audience.
You could include a note on your mailers to "check in on Facebook" which will help others on Facebook see your promotions, and direct search engine users to a page on your website to print a coupon, and then direct them to your Facebook page to stay in touch.
When guests arrive at your restaurant, make sure they know they're in the right place with menus and table toppers that reflect the same branding in your other messages.
What the above example shows is how to capture the attention of potential customers from a variety of channels, and then bring them into the fold where you can stay in touch. Otherwise, each channel would be a dead-end once your current promotions were completed.
A multi-channel approach works because it's focused on the needs of your customers. It provides the flexibility they need to interact with your company using whichever method is convenient in the moment. It also allows you to maximize the capabilities of each channel by boosting its potential through other channels, and that will keep your bottom line in check. In other words, a win-win for everyone.
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