Why Your Multichannel Approach Isn’t Working (And How to Fix It)

Opinion: The people handling each segment belong to separate entities

Companies need to strengthen relationships both internally and externally bubaone/iStock

95 percent of marketers realize that multichannel strategies are important for targeting customers. It’s puzzling, then, that only 14 percent of them are integrating their approach across every channel, according to The Multichannel Reality report by Econsultancy and Adobe.

Most marketing and advertising agencies and departments struggle with the same problem: While every team member may be charged with creating a cohesive multichannel approach, the people handling each segment belong to separate entities. When the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing, companies are stuck grappling with siloed processes and technology that isn’t integrated.

In fact, The Multichannel Reality found that 67 percent of surveyed companies had limited—or no—integration across their different channels’ technologies. This means their marketers and advertisers can’t react to new trends, channels or devices with their existing technology. And this means their multichannel approach isn’t working.

Get going in the same direction

Investing in integrated platforms and technologies is, perhaps, the easiest solution. But “easy” is a relative term. Many companies don’t want to let go of their legacy systems or can’t afford to invest in new ones. Shifting budget toward marketing and advertising technologies is difficult when other priorities—research and development, production, accounting—take precedence, even if they’re closely tied to the marketing function.

Instead, businesses should work on ensuring that their staff members are oriented in the same direction and viewing multichannel efforts the same way. Pushing social media experts to consider digital ads and asking email marketers to see things from the content marketers’ perspective will work loose some of the current kinks holding companies back.

Lora Kellogg, founder and CEO of franchise marketing agency Curious Jane, says, “When implementing new campaigns, consider how they will be represented on different platforms. Think of how consumers will interact with each platform and touchpoint your company has available.

It’s all too easy for teams that do their work on different platforms to abandon this outlook and isolate themselves, but this is the exact thing that sabotages multichannel strategies, regardless of how well integrated a company’s technologies are.

To create a cohesive multichannel approach and build a consistent brand image, companies need to strengthen relationships both internally and externally:

Ensure that your teams are going after the same targets

It’s surprisingly easy for siloed teams to go after different target audiences. Without knowing who the other advertisers and marketers are pinpointing, how would they ever know they were misfiring? Econsultancy and Adobe found that the complexity of the customer journey was an obstacle for 39 percent of companies, and it’s easy to see why: Two-thirds of the respondents were trying to pair their channels and marketing content with “roughly mapped” customer journeys. Add in (even slightly) differing customers taking that journey, and it’s a recipe for confusion and lackluster return on investment.

Kellogg says it’s important to collect data and share it among teams to ensure that they’re working with identical information. “Personalize the message according to data you have collected or purchased,” she says. “Gather information about your customers’ purchase behavior, demographic data and other preferences, then build your strategy on the basis of that data.”

Openly distributing information about the customer journey—and the customers themselves—will prevent marketing segments from moving in different directions. And mapping a cohesive customer journey for everyone to follow is not only vital to any company aiming for a successful multichannel approach, but it’s also a great way to gather insights from team members on what new data is showing so they can adjust their approach accordingly.

Make your content user-friendly for every platform

One way to cut down on the duplicate work caused by using various platforms is to create content that can be repurposed across each platform. While this doesn’t work in every instance—a long case study’s format simply won’t fit the style of a social media post—it can work for most. And even that case study has great information for the social media team to lift, stylize and share.

The first step is to create a process for sharing the content from one team with the others. This could be as simple as a spreadsheet listing every team’s publications, a Dropbox folder or a SharePoint site. This allows teams to use each other’s insights so that they don’t have to reinvent the wheel, and it helps ensure that their messages are consistent.

Next, teams will need to follow standard style rules for making content user-friendly in digital formats. Some are well-known: Avoid using large, unfamiliar words and incorporate keywords, meta tags and the like so that content is easy to find. “Copy should be short because most users will see it on their mobile phones,” Kellogg emphasizes. “Make sure the calls to action are clear and simple, as users’ time is limited and valuable.”

Creating a style guide is important so teams continue to share messages that are consistent not just in their content, but also in their voice. If a reader doesn’t recognize a series of posts as coming from the same company, that reader will never develop brand awareness.

Let customer behavior guide your actions

Econsultancy and Adobe report that fewer than 30 percent of marketers are delivering content dynamically, meaning that most aren’t using the information they have—info that shows them what customers are doing or how they’re interacting with content. Companies that don’t make use of actionable insights will lose those customers to companies that do.

Take a long view of how certain behaviors play out; this is central to building an accurate customer journey. If a business sees that 75 percent of the people who visit its site click on a call to action, but only 25 percent take any action past that, it can pinpoint the follow-up message as a problem to be fixed. If 90 percent of customers come back for more after trying a free sample offered on the website, the company can move that offer to the homepage and prioritize advertising it.

The biggest problem most businesses face though are silos created by isolating departments and technologies. This can prevent any company from developing a multichannel approach that works. Businesses that want to overcome these barriers have to get their teams using the same playbook. Because when everyone is executing the same plays, fumbles are much less likely.

@MaryCLong maryclong@digitalmediaghost.com Mary C. Long is Chief Ghost at Digital Media Ghost. She writes about everything online and is published widely, with a focus on privacy concerns, specifically social sabotage.