Making Sense of Multi-channel Marketing


These days, it seems like a hot new marketing channel grabs our attention every week. With so many new channels at your disposal, it’s hard to know how to prioritize your marketing spend.

One good rule of thumb is to carefully consider where your target audience spends their time. Then, select a handful of different communication channels based on your conclusions - enough to reach a wide audience, but not so many that you don’t have the time or resources to make each channel shine.

What is multi-channel (or omni-channel) marketing?

First off, let’s define what a “channel” is. Potential marketing channels include company apps, blog articles, landing pages, social media, trade shows, billboards, phone calls, regular mail, email, radio and video ads. Multichannel marketing is the use of many different types of marketing to reach your customers in a coordinated effort.

Many major retailers, including Nordstrom, Target and Home Depot have embraced multi-channel marketing by combining in-store experience, email campaigns, branded apps and video ads. Their goal is to create a cohesive brand experience, targeting customers at each stage of the buying cycle.

Why Multi-channel?

Today’s consumer takes multitasking to the extreme. They surf the web, text, read, listen to music and stream their favorite TV show all at once. In response, marketers are looking to multichannel marketing strategies to reach consumers from every angle.

Just as marketers advertised on TV, radio and in newspaper 30 years ago, the objective is to bring your message to customers where they already look and listen.

Delivering an integrated message across many channels distributes your message, helps maximize brand awareness, and ultimately drives sales. But surveys have shown that multichannel retailers see coordinating several channels to create a seamless brand experience as their biggest challenge.

Small businesses are still more likely to pursue only one or two channels (e.g., social media and email campaigns) than to run an integrated campaign across multiple media. And that’s ok -- as long as they manage them well and expand as they grow. Don’t run faster than your feet can carry you, but recognize there is opportunity in expanding your message radius.

How Do You Do It?

A common misconception is that multichannel marketing is costly and complex. But it doesn’t have to be. A few simple steps can extend your reach across multiple channels. For example, if you’re running an event or in-store promotion, follow up with an email or SMS, and mention it on your Facebook page or blog. If your brand has an app, offer promo codes to attendees who download it.

To be most effective, a multichannel campaign must include both digital and traditional communications. So what should be in your multichannel marketing mix?

Digital Marketing Channels

Social media is an easy, direct channel to your customers. But which social media networks should you choose?

The best bet is to focus in on the social media platforms most viewed by your core customer group. Choose a couple and maintain them well. It’s less important how many social media accounts you have, and more important that you maintain the ones you start.

Video content is an essential part of any social media channel. Create your own YouTube or Vimeo channel and post short, engaging videos. Assign keywords to your video so users can find you in their searches. Then, link to your videos from posts on your other social media channels. You can set up a blog for free on WordPress, Tumblr or Blogger. Use your blog 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. Email campaigns are great ways to reinforce brand awareness, and they don’t take a lot of time to create. 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.

Paid search advertising helps potential customers find you on the search engine results page. Setting up and maintaining a paid search account requires a certain level of expertise, but, search engines like Google and Bing offer lots of online help. And you can control your spending with daily limits.

Traditional Marketing Channels

With all the attention social media and digital channels are getting, it’s easy to lose sight of traditional channels. Tactics like billboard advertising, trade shows, radio, and in-store events can still be effective if they are used properly. It’s wise to maintain a healthy ratio of traditional “tried-and-true” marketing channels in your mix, but encourage traffic to your newer channels as well. For example, make sure to include your website address if you’re doing a video ad, and put matching banner ads online.

The bottom line is to make sure all your channels are integrated, all of your branding is consistent, and all of your messaging is aligned.  

How are you leveraging multi-channel marketing?