When it comes to getting your company’s message “out there” in the modern world, you have many options at your disposal as far as marketing channels. This infographic from marketing agency Spectrio discusses the 41 most effective marketing channels of 2017. Or take a look at this ever-growing list of marketing, service, delivery, and transactional channels created by Smart Insights. The craziest part is that these lists are nowhere near comprehensive. There are dozens of ways for companies to reach their target audience members in today’s world. And there’s certainly no rule that says companies need to pick a single channel and stick with it.
However, while a multi-channel approach to marketing is generally more effective than a single-channel approach, utilizing multiple channels isn’t a “magic bullet” that guarantees success, either. As effective as multi-channel marketing can be, such an approach can easily backfire.
We’ll discuss the pros and cons of multi-channel marketing on the whole. For each point (and each counterpoint), we’ll also provide a quick-hitting “takeaway” to help inform your marketing team should you decide to go the multi-channel route.
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
The Main Advantages of Multi-Channel Marketing
A multi-channel approach to marketing and service provision can lead to incredible things for your company. Let’s take a look at why, exactly, multi-channel marketing can be so effective in the first place.
A Wider Reach
Perhaps the most obvious benefit of multi-channel marketing is that it allows you to spread your wings, so to speak, and reach out to more than a single demographic via a single medium. As a simple example, if a company chose to only advertise on the radio, it would have little to no chance of attracting individuals who never listen to the radio. While such an approach might make sense in some very specific cases, most companies in most industries would benefit from expanding their reach by using a few more channels.
The modern consumer typically doesn’t stick to one specific medium. According to a 2016 report by Forrester, 90% of consumers engage with at least two digital devices (read: marketing channels) on a daily basis. The report also found that the average consumer owns 4.3 internet-ready devices.
What’s more, a year-long study by Harvard Business Review found that 73% of consumers utilize more than one channel throughout the buyer’s journey. On the other side of things, less than 10% of consumers consider themselves “online-only” shoppers, and only 20% say they only shop in person at brick-and-mortar storefronts. Your target audience doesn’t stick to one medium – and neither should your company. As we’ll discuss momentarily, a multi-channel approach to marketing allows you to meet your target customers where they are – not where you want them to be. When testing the waters of different marketing channels, there’s the very real possibility that you’ll uncover a new set of potential customers that you hadn’t previously considered. For example, gaining a presence on Snapchat will allow you to gain visibility within the millennial demographic – a customer segment you may not have specifically targeted in the past.
The best strategy when seeking a wider reach is to have a specific reason for utilizing a certain channel – rather than using it just because you feel like you need to. We’ll circle back to this topic a bit further down.
Meet the Needs of the Modern Consumer
On a daily basis, the modern consumer typically uses multiple mediums for engaging with a variety of brands. And they like it that way. 72% of consumers report a desire to engage with the companies they support via multiple touchpoints. It’s worth noting that less than 40% of these individuals report get their wish.
In terms of actually receiving service, 63% of consumers expect to choose which medium they wish to use when engaging with a representative of a company. Obviously, companies that implement a single-channel strategy simply won’t be able to provide a choice – and will likely end up alienating a decent amount of their customer base at some point.
(Source / Caption: A justifiable question)
It is not enough to be present on a specific channel; you need to be active on it in order for your efforts to actually make a difference.
Tailor the Experience You Provide on Each Channel
Most companies have a central message they wish to transmit to their customers as best they can – and as often as they can. Though the message will be the same no matter which channel they use, a brand can tailor the way they deliver the message depending on the medium. Say a brand leverages both email and social media for marketing purposes. When creating drip campaigns, the company might opt to be a more subdued and traditional in its approach, and more carefree and fun when using Twitter and Instagram.
As we mentioned, brands should typically approach social media differently than they would other marketing channels – and they should also approach each social media channel they use differently, as well. To illustrate, here’s a side-by-side comparison of how Taco Bell uses Facebook and Snapchat, respectively:
Of course, this all goes back to meeting your customers’ expectations. As your customers will expect you to “act” a certain way when utilizing a specific marketing channel, you’ll need to be 100% prepared to do so – and do so authentically.
A Step Toward Omni-Channel Marketing
Developing a proper multi-channel marketing strategy will prepare your organization to make the jump to omni-channel marketing in the future. The time is coming – and soon – where an omni-channel approach is not just appreciated by consumers, but will actually be expected.
While a multi-channel approach to marketing essentially involves utilizing more than one marketing channel alongside each other, omni-channel marketing involves creating a synergistic experience by blending each of these experiences together. Making the eventual transition from multi-channel to omni-channel marketing is much easier than making the jump all the way from single-channel.
Before you begin spreading your marketing initiatives out, you’ll want to be aware of some of the major pitfalls that can arise when doing so.
The Major Pitfalls of a Multi-Channel Approach
As is the case with pretty much all marketing initiatives, multi-channel marketing doesn’t come without its fair share of inherent risks, but the better you understand the risks, the more you can avoid them.
A Resource-Consuming Proposition
Multi-channel marketing requires much more of an investment than a single-channel approach.
You’ll be developing more marketing campaigns than you had been in the past that will require you to either A) reallocate your current human (and other) resources, or B) hire additional employees to maintain your various campaigns. In either case, you’ll need to make sacrifices of some sort. For smaller companies, neither choice may be a viable option at the current moment. With limited capital and minimal resources to pull from, startups and other small businesses might need to focus on a single channel for the time being. Even larger companies may also feel as if they’re unable to implement multi-channel marketing strategies due to similar constraints:
when beginning to implement multi-channel marketing strategies, you’ll want to:
- Understand exactly what doing so entails in terms of an investment of time, money, and manpower
- Know which channels will be worth investing these resources into
- Be prudent when investing in technology aimed at helping you streamline the entire process
Siloed or Lost Data
In contrast to an omni-channel approach, the data within each channel of a multi-channel approach rarely – if ever – intersects. Similarly, the teams behind each channel’s respective campaigns aren’t exactly required to communicate with one another, either. As illustrated by the British Airways debacle, this can cause information to get mixed up, misplaced, or completely lost altogether, which will almost certainly lead to major frustration on behalf of the customer.
In instances such as these, a multi-channel approach can end up actually doing more harm than good. As we said earlier, if a company can’t be present and active on each of its chosen channels in a way that enhances the customer experience, there’s no point for it to be present on the channel in the first place.
As we’ve discussed before here on PostFunnel, the best way to avoid these situations is to ensure that all team members maintain authentic and dynamic lines of communication with one another. You want to make inter-department communication not just possible – but absolutely necessary.
Ubiquity Isn’t Always a Good Thing
The last thing you want to do is creep out your customers by making them feel as if you’re watching their every step or spying on them.
Case in point:
- 58% of consumers say they prefer a personalized experience only if it’s borne out of information they’ve provided a company
- 38% will happily provide their information in exchange for a personalized experience
- Roughly two-thirds of consumers want to be given control over their information after they provide it to a company
It’s quite easy to unintentionally break (or, at least, bend) the rules a bit when implementing a multiple-marketing strategy. Just think of the last time you searched for a product, only to be shown an ad for the product while scrolling through your Instagram feed hours later. Although these instances are typically acceptable by today’s standards, you should still be cautious when using your customers’ private information. Side note: The newly-implemented GDPR actually makes it illegal to use customer data for anything other than what has been agreed upon.
At any rate, when using multiple channels for marketing or other customer-facing initiatives, a good rule of thumb is to only be present and to only act in a way that your customer expects and wants you to. What might seem like extra-personalized and valuable service to you might come across as creepy and an invasion of privacy in the eyes of your customer.
A multi-channel approach to marketing can lead to great things for your company – as long as you know exactly how to navigate each of these channels successfully. Before registering for the newest social media platform customers are joining by the thousands, consider whether the medium works for your brand and how you can best communicate your voice and values in a way makes sense to customers and delivers a positive experience. As with everything else in the world of business, the more prepared you are, the better your chances of success become.