The last couple of weeks I have listened to a lot of arguments over which marketing platform is the best for marketing and sales. I have heard arguments like “Facebook has the best reach so they win”, “TV still has the most viewers” and “Video creates the most engagement therefor YouTube is the best”. Well guess what. You are wrong! There is no such thing as the best marketing platform. They are all very different and should be used for different purposes. Marketing is not about choosing the platform with the highest reach or making videos because they sell and everybody else is doing it.
A Marketing strategy should be based on your company’s values and your customer’s and prospect’s needs. That’s it!
Social Media and smartphones have made it easier for a company to engage with its customers 24/7, which in fact has turned out to be a problem for a lot of companies. As customers we have come to expect that the companies are present across multiple platforms when we need them. We also expect them to deliver the same values and customer service, regardless of the contact point. If our expectation from a company is not met or it displays different values in different channels, we lose our trust in them and might go elsewhere to fulfill our needs. This is probably why over 86% of companies believe that a multi-channel marketing approach is critical to their long-term success. Although planning and implementing an Omni-channel strategy may sound simple, according to Perry Simpson, 93% of companies are ineffective at cross-channel Marketing.
However implementing an Omni-channel marketing strategy is your opportunity for giving your customers a better all-round experience with your company and your brand. So instead of spending your time comparing Social Media marketing channels by their general attributes, should you use the time to lay down a customer focused Omni-channel Strategy.
The Omni-channel Strategy
An Omni-channel strategy involves giving your customer a seamless and streamlined cross-channel feel of who you are as a company and what you stand for. The channels you use should vary depending on your company, your goal with your communication and your target group, but could entail: retail, e-mail, website, social media, flyers, posters, TV, affiliate, mobile, SEM, inbound, blogs, PR and so on. The channels you choose for your marketing should be based on your customer’s preferences. So where do you meet them and where do they enjoy spending their time?
There are lots of things to consider when you are planning and implementing an Omni-channel marketing strategy, but for me there are 4 essentials that will make or break your effort.
Get to know your customers
Getting to know your customer is crucial in any kind of marketing situation, but even more so when it comes to an Omni-channel strategy. You need to know where they are going next to secure a seamless brand feel. There are many ways of getting to know your customer and nobody knows them better than you do. So I’m just going to name the methods I think will be valuable to you no matter what business you have.
- Listen with the intent to understand. In order for you to know what you can do to provide real value to your customers and prospects you will have to actively engage with your customers. Join their communities, talk with them and listen to what they have to say.
- Embrace your feedback, also the negative kind. It often amazes me how few companies actively use negative feedback to further develop their customer care and products. In many cases negative feedback is an excellent opportunity for you to find out how your customers value your service and product. If you don’t genuinely care about how your customers experience your company, you will not be able to give them the best experience.
- When planning your Omni-channel strategy you should make up plausible user-stories based on what you already know about your customers and test them out. In order to do this you will have to measure your customers and prospects movement and satisfaction across every single channel. This, of course, is hard work, so choose your channels carefully. There’s no point in being active in places or debates your customers don’t care about.
Use different channels for different purposes
Once you have gotten to know your customers and prospects you will be able to choose which channels you should integrate into your marketing. Keep in mind that every channel has its strengths and its weaknesses; the customer knows that and so should you. Where you go to browse may not be where you go to buy or get help with a problem. You can use that to your advantage. By creating different but value rooted content and engaging with your customers and prospects in a way that’s suitable for the specific channel, you will be able to build up long lasting relationships that brings value to both you and your customers. Although the channels used should be dependent on the customers and prospects for your specific company, there are three things I believe are worth some consideration.
- Today it should be obvious to anybody that for the vast majority of companies, social media needs to be an integrated and important part of your Omni-channel marketing mix. We as customers spend more and more time on social media. We use it to search for information and products. We use it to contact you and to talk about you behind your back (if you’re not there to respond). And we are highly influenced by what’s being said on social media. When choosing which social media channels you should be present on you also need to ask yourself these questions: Why are you here? What do you want to do/say? and Who do you want to say it to? Remember that what you put in will reflect in what you gain. My advice would be not to automate more than absolutely necessary and not to copy/paste content across platforms. Get to know the premise of the specific platform and create content that fits that premise. If you can get your customers and prospects to collaborate on the content creation that would be amazing, since they are already part of the community you are talking to, they will know what to say and how to say it.
- Don’t discard the traditional ways of advertising. Just because social media is very popular it doesn’t mean that we no longer watch TV or read magazines. If your customers enjoy a certain magazine every Sunday, you should definitely still consider this as a good channel.
- Physical presence can be very valuable. Remember that any contact point is a part of the overall customer experience. For some it can even be a very good idea to go out and meet your customers where they spend their time. If for example your prospects are spending a lot of times at music festivals, it would be a good idea to take your marketing there as well.
Today most of us spend a lot of time on our mobile devices. For that reason we could check out your company’s online activities and offers as well as your competitors from any location, at any time. This means that there are a couple of things you need to consider.
- We as customers have a very short attention span. We might just have a few minutes during lunch to check out what we came to see, so you should try to minimize the friction we encounter as much as possible.
- Customers shifting contexts requires consistency throughout your companies marketing channels. Promises and tone of voice from one channel should be consistent with what I as a customer will experience in another channel. If I go online to check you out before going into your store or vice versa and the experiences and values don’t add up I will get confused and maybe even disappointed. Customers today expect you to keep your brand promise across all channels. Cases where companies fail to do that is something you’ll come across often if you are on social media. Here’s a classic example of what a broken brand promise can cause.
- By integrating geo-targeting in your strategy, you will be able to supply your customers with experiences and offers in the right moment and at the right place. Use your imagination to come up with fun geo-targeted experiences that are valuable for your customers and prospects and consistent with your brand story.
- Omni-channel marketing is a cultural thing
In order to promote your company’s values and overall brand message, you are going to have to break down the silos that exist within your company. This is necessary for two reasons:
- The development of subcultures is a normal development within any business, but there’s a big difference between having healthy subcultures that are aligned with the company’s overall values and having subcultures that are behaving as countercultures. In order for your company not to send out mixed signals regarding your brand, everybody – from retail associates to customer service – needs to embrace the company’s values. What do we want to portray? How do we sell? What is the tone of voice? And – How do we handle complaints?
- The shared experience is very valuable. If your marketing team is developing campaigns in a silo, they may miss all the information the customer service team gains regarding the customer experience itself.
Did you know that 84% of smartphone shoppers use their device while in store?
Omni-channel marketing is a journey of well strategized experiences
For many companies going Omni-channel with their marketing won’t be a case of adding more channels, but simply a case of removing the silos and integrating the marketed experience in consistency with the big picture.
All in all Omni-channel marketing is about taking your customers on a seamless cross-contextual and cross-channel journey, where every touch point is another piece of the puzzle of what makes up your brand experience. Yes it requires insight, hard work and imagination, but if you get it right your customers will love you for it. Remember you don’t have to bring in every single channel that exists; use the ones that will add value for both you, your customers and your partners.
Edited by @Marksalke