These days, it seems like a hot new marketing channel takes center stage every week.
With all the new and traditional channels at your disposal, making the most of them—and your marketing dollars—can present a real challenge. But rising to the challenge and creating an integrated multichannel marketing plan can yield big results.
So what exactly is it? And why do it?
What is Multichannel Marketing?
Multichannel marketing is the use of many different types of marketing to reach your customers. Potential channels include physical location, website, social media, catalog, phone call, regular mail, email, radio and TV.
Many major retailers, including Eddie Bauer, Crate & Barrel and Target, use multichannel "brick, click and flip" marketing—via retail stores, website, and printed catalogs or flyers.
“Today's consumer looks very different from that traditional image of a 1950s family crowded around the television, giving it their undivided attention,” says Heather Murphy, editor of Direct Magazine, on the Dun & Bradstreet Small Business website.
“These days, people take multitasking to new heights: surfing the web, text messaging, reading, listening to music and watching television all at once," Murphy says. "In response, marketers are looking to multichannel marketing strategies to reach consumers from every angle.”
The objective is to bring your message to customers where they already look and listen. Delivering an integrated message across many channels amplifies your message, helps maximize brand awareness, and ultimately drives traffic and sales.
However, small businesses are still more likely to invest in only one or two channels (e.g., direct mail and the Web) than to run an integrated campaign across multiple media. Indeed, surveys have shown that multichannel retailers see coordinating channels to create a seamless brand experience as their biggest challenge.
How Do You Do It?
A common misconception is that multichannel marketing is expensive and complex. It doesn’t have to be. A few simple steps can extend your reach across multiple channels. For example, if you're doing a direct mail piece, add a URL, follow up with an email or SMS, and mention it on your Facebook page or blog.
To be most effective, a multichannel campaign must include both digital and physical (or “traditional”) communications. So what should be in your multichannel marketing mix?
Digital Marketing Channels
Social media is a great direct channel to your customers. But the lines between digital marketing channels continue to blur. The best bet is to include some of each. For example:
• Facebook's newly released business pages let you create fresh and engaging content for your customers. It’s an effective and entertaining way to stay in touch with your customers and tell your stories in compelling ways.
• Email newsletters are great ways to reinforce brand awareness. They don’t take long to produce. And even if customers don’t buy from you right away, they’re more likely to keep you in mind and may even share the email with someone else. Content is king, so make sure it’s all high-quality.
• Online videos are very popular marketing channels. Create your own YouTube channel and post short, engaging videos. Assign keywords to your video so users can find you in their searches. Post the videos on your blog or Facebook. Ask customers to do video testimonials.
• Blogs can be set up for free using WordPress, Tumblr or Blogger. Use them to amplify your message and write about your industry expertise. Keep content engaging. Match posts to monthly or quarterly marketing themes. Keep current about your industry–and comment on it.
• Search engine optimization helps get your website toward the top of the listing when customers enter relevant keywords into a search engine. Google has free documentation on how to optimize your site for search.
• Paid search advertising helps customers searching for your product or service find you on the search engine results page. Setup and management of a paid search account requires a certain level of expertise, but, again, search engines like Google and Bing offer lots of online help.
Traditional Marketing Channels
Keep a healthy ratio of traditional “tried-and-true” marketing channels in your mix, but encourage traffic to your new channels as well. Make sure to include your website address if you’re doing a TV ad and put matching banner ads online.
Traditional direct mail campaigns usually garner around a 1 percent response rate. However, companies augmenting direct mail with multichannel marketing solutions have seen response rates up to 19 percent.
And don’t forget about your employees. They are your primary brand promoters. Encourage them to come up with creative new channel ideas by having contests to solicit ideas.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of FedEx.
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