Planning for cross-channel marketing is one of those things that seems like, “duh, of course.” Who wouldn’t use different marketing channels in tandem to achieve a common goal? Who wouldn’t provide customers with an all-inclusive, personalized and consistent experience across multiple marketing channels? That can be a company’s plan, but when cross-channel marketing goes awry because its poorly understood, getting a target audience to a decision, or purchase, can be frustrating and uncertain.
What is Cross-Media Marketing?
Cross-channel marketing at its best is when it combines various marketing channels in a way that forms a coherent and obvious progression for your targeted customers to get to the destination you want them to reach. The channels must work seamlessly together.
According to the world’s largest database management company, Oracle, “Cross-channel marketing comes down to engaging with your customers or prospects across every digital channel and any device. From the inbox to social networks, and across laptops, tablets, and smartphones, today’s consumer moves seamlessly and fully expects you to be there with them, providing a truly integrated experience that is relevant and personalized to their tastes and preferences and easy to understand, use and navigate.”
You may be thinking that describes omni-channel marketing or multi-channel marketing (so many marketing categories!), but no. Don’t mix up cross-channel marketing with omni-channel or multi-channel marketing. They all use more than one channel to engage and interact with customers, but omni-channel marketing is an “all in” strategy.
Wharton Business School, at the University of Pennsylvania, describes omni-channel marketing as “a strategy that takes all marketing channels into consideration in determining how to create the best customer experience. Instead of operating channels in silos, a unified strategy applies to all marketing channels, even when they work in different ways or target different audiences.”
And multi-channel marketing uses both direct (TV, radio, phone calls, texts and online display ads) or indirect (online reviews, news articles, SEO and WOM) channels.
Think of cross-channel marketing as, well, laser-focused. With its emphasis on one targeted customer persona, cross-channel marketing is more organized and easier to track and analyze. The focus is on the customer, not the channel, even though the channels are all connected to each other.
The different channels record information about the customer and communicate this data between each other, which makes them all come together into one, singular customer journey, according to Oracle.
Businesses can choose to connect only their online channels or coordinate both online and offline channels. No perfect recipe exists for this, as the choice is contingent on your marketing campaign goals and resources and—most importantly—what channels your customers like better and use.
If it takes so much to define it, how can cross-channel marketing be an effective fit for a business or organization and why is it important?
Cross-channel marketing is particularly important for a B2B audience, who often have many more steps to a purchase decision and usually requires more than one person’s input. When a targeted audience member experiences frequent personalized and integrated touchpoints along their customer’s journey, that person is more likely to respond as an informed prospect, who is less likely to abandon the effort or feel negatively about it. And is more likely to work to persuade others.
B2B buyers use more than one touchpoint to complete their buying decision (almost always) and a cross-channel marketing strategy fits well with this behavior. Prospects may become aware of your product or business from a LinkedIn post, but then visit your website and read a blog to deepen their understanding of what you provide. Then, prospects may complete an inquiry form, which prompts a follow-up call they have with you or your team. The call moves those prospects closer to a decision about purchase or engagement.
Note: Consistency across all marketing channels is what’s vital to the customer’s journey. This is particularly true for B2B buyers, as they usually have a greater investment in their purchase decisions because more is at stake (reputation, dollars) than a B2C scenario with a customer selecting seasonal sneakers.
Given all this background on cross-channel marketing, let’s talk tangible steps to begin an effective cross-channel marketing plan:
Determine the journey your target customer is on
Because you want to customize the campaign for where your target audience members are on their journey, or where in the buying cycle they are, you must know what their journey involves. Is it an awareness or promotional journey where you need to gather the attention and engagement of potential customers around your product, brand or service? Is it a re-engagement journey, where your goal is to bring one-time customers back to your website or before they abandon your products or services? Or is it an onboarding journey?
According to HubSpot, “A positive onboarding experience confirms to your customers that they made the right choice. It also, ultimately, helps you retain them. The top two reasons that customers churn are 1) they don’t understand your product, and 2) they don’t obtain any value from it. Customer onboarding can solve both issues.”
To learn more, go to HubSpot’s customer onboarding journey info. Knowing this will help you reach your potential or current customers at the right time.
Digital touch points are the connections you have with your target audience online. Cross-channel marketing allows you to create lots of these connections. The more you use, the more customer data you can assemble and assess to further elevate your marketing. Digital touchpoints allow for crisper analytics, such as email click-through rates or website traffic, that allow you to measure reach and engagement with different audiences. Digital touchpoints include, digital ads, SERPs, eCommerce transactions, organic and paid social media, videos, emails, blog posts and—of course—your company’s website.
Use the data you gain from your touchpoints to develop insights into your target audience. According to Oracle, “The data you collect from your touchpoints, testing, and your metrics reveals what engages your audience and what doesn’t. What channels do they prefer? Which do they like to be connected? It will all be there in the numbers. That data will allow you to further personalize and enhance experiences.”
Eliminate the barriers that isolate different departments and functions in your company or business. Effective cross-channel marketing demands a wide, aggregate view of what your marketing must accomplish. Different departments, functions and people must work together. If you can’t coordinate cross-promotions from across your company or business and stay consistent with your branding and messaging, then cross-channel marketing may not be your best path. For cross-channel marketing to be successful, everyone on the team(s) must be committed to creating a seamless customer journey.