Cross-channel. Multi-channel. Omni-channel. Please explain?

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Cross-channel. Multi-channel. Omni-channel. Please explain?

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omni-channel

MARKETERS love buzz words.

One of the more overly used and abused is linked to the ubiquitous term “channel”.

The word ‘channel’ basically describes a medium in which a message can be inserted to be watched/heard/read by a prospective customer.  Usually this is a paid insertion, but unpaid messages in ‘owned’ media are becoming increasingly popular and effective (or not, depending on the generosity of mega-platforms like Facebook and Google+).

Reading the trade press, speeches by digital gurus, and their blogs, reveals the increasing and over-zealous use of three terms that seem to mean the same thing: cross-channel, multi-channel, and omni-channel.

So what do these prefixes really mean? And is there any difference when used to describe channels?

To begin, here’s a quick grammatical guide to each prefix.

  • The “cross” prefix describes a scenario where an artist or an artistic style or creative work appeals to a range of audiences. Like a cross-dresser.
  • The prefix “multi” refers to there being greater than one. Of something. Anything.
  • “Omni” means ‘of all things’. A know-it-all would be omniscient. Seemingly everywhere, as ‘in all ways or places’ is regarded as being omnipresent.  

Analysing the meaning of each prefix clearly proves that each term should have a different meaning, although the continuing usage by the media is usually at cross-purposes (pun intended).

When referring to cross-channel marketing, the discussion should be about adapting a message campaign seamlessly across multiple mediums.

Multi-channel marketing would be most accurately used in a dialogue about the fact there are many mediums for a marketer to promote their goods and services to an audience. There always have been, always will be.

The third term, omni-channel, has mystical and astrophysical attributes. “Omni” suggest the medium is everywhere; the air, the clothes, the built and natural environments….well maybe that’s stretching it a bit far.  It sounds cool though. And seems to have become another marketing buzz word.

For a detailed and informed explanation about these terms in relation to e-retailing, I recommend reading this post on the atinternet blog. The authors make some excellent observations, the most compelling being:

Customers like to use all channels as soon as they are available 

and

A customer who uses several different channels is more likely to make a purchase

So to decide which term is best to use, I turned to that all-knowing oracle – Google Trends. It’s a handy tool to look up what’s popular with the search ‘crowd’, and how that popularity is trending. The below chart surprised me:

Google Trends multi-ch mktg

Ta dah – multi-channel is the most popular. Although from a dramatic peak of popularity in Oct 2011, it has a declining trendline. Whilst both terms “cross-channel marketing” and “omni-channel marketing” were deemed by Google to have “Not enough search volume to show graphs.”

So use multi-channel. The ‘crowd’ has spoken 😉

N.B. For anyone unfamiliar with the expression “Please explain?”, credit must go to ex-Australian ultra-conservative politician Pauline Hanson for this succinct response to an interviewer’s very basic question.


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Anatomy of a digital marketing campaign

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OVER my career I have planned and produced a wide variety of digital marketing campaigns. One certainty is that it’s not getting any simpler.

In an attempt to demystify the process of creating a digital-led communications campaign, I have developed a 5 Stage overview from planning to implementation to measurement. This post summarises each discipline/tactic, basically in chronological order, although this will vary depending on the complexity of the campaign elements.

[Note:  I have not included offline marketing processes, however there are some key digital decisions that enhance integration between the two disciplines.]

Stage 1 – Brief

The marketing brief must align with the overall business objectives.  Audience profile, budget and timing are also imperative elements of the brief.

The brief will inform the creative development process, leading to ideas that will be communicated to an audience through multi-channel digital strategies.

digi_mktg_ball

Stage 2 – Planning

The content of the campaign messaging must be reviewed and, in effect, cleared for use across ALL  digital platforms that will be utilised in the campaign.

Search terms
A successful online marketing campaign starts with choosing the right terminology so you optimise SEO (organic) to minimise SEM (paid). Develop a strategy based on SEO-friendly content, judicious use of paid search terms, and don’t underestimate the importance of social media to support SEO. Check out sites like Google Trends, Google AdWordsBing Trends or Twitter Search to learn about relevant search terms’ popularity.

Keywords
Build a Keyword & Key Brand/Product Messaging matrix. Prioritise the matrix and ensure it is followed by everyone who is writing copy for the campaign’s online and printed material.

Short URL
Sometimes called a vanity URL, this is very useful for print media (ads, brochures, posters, etc.) where you want people to easily remember the URL. A number of options are available:
– create a landing page within the main website with a URL like ‘www.yourdomain.com.au/campaigntheme’;
– create a stand-alone microsite with a new domain name based on the campaign theme; or
– register a new domain name based on the campaign theme and redirect the URL to a landing page within your main website.

Hashtag (#)
Over the past few years the humble hashtag has become the marketing weapon-of-choice for major advertisers. They’re now used liberally on TV, posters, sports ground signage, and social media where they originated. Search multiple platforms to see if your chosen hashtag is available, using tools like TagBoard. The main ‘trap’ to watch out for is who else is either using that hashtag now, or might over the time period of your campaign. Acronyms are especially susceptible to have multiple meanings. Another hashtag ‘trap’ is the unwitting blending of letters when multiple words run together, creating a completely different meaning to the original campaign theme (for bad examples see this Guardian article).

Social media
Review existing SM channels and consider if new ones can be launched via the campaign (of course they must continue to be used after the campaign is over). A high level SM planning document should identify the audiences and related social network/s, and how the the Brand/Product Messaging matrix will drive the publishing cycle and content.

Stage 3 – Content

Landing page
Further to the discussion above re SEO and short URL, the landing page is the ‘destination’ for all digital marketing call-to-action (CTA) elements. People will arrive here after they have clicked an online ad, a link in an email, a social media post, read it in a brochure or on a poster. What is written and shown here must present the brand/product information in the most engaging way. It must also take the CTA to the next logical step – a buy/checkout option, download a report, request a sales call, or subscribe to an eNewsletter.

Email
Ideally your business has a regular eNewsletter with a substantial subscriber database. Include the campaign message/s within the existing eNewsletter template, or create a bespoke email to promote the campaign. Use the exact same campaign keywords/terminology in the email as that used on the web, in social media posts and search marketing.

Blog
Not every business has a blog, as it requires significant time and effort to publish consistently and professionally. For those that do blog, it can be an ideal ‘launch pad’ for a campaign. The selected keywords and brand/product messages must be written into the copy, also links to the landing page/website, as these are what search engines will be looking for. Blogs should also include ‘rich media’ like video, audio and photographs as these are known to encourage reader sharing.

Social media
Preparing a social media publishing and content calendar will optimise the use of these channels. Ideally it should include video and visual content to accompany written posts/updates, as these are proven to receive much higher rates of user engagement and sharing.

Video
The success of video to support digital marketing initiatives has grown significantly in the past few years. The variety of ways to use video makes it such a flexible tool for digital marketers: ‘how to’ videos are amongst the most searched on YouTube; crowd-sourced videos make for some amazing and entertaining films; and authoritative speakers filmed at a conference (or to camera) are highly valued by audiences.

Online ads
There are many options to use paid online media to reach an audience.  Dependant on budget and campaign messaging, a professional marketer can identify appropriate online media to reach a business’ prospects. An excellent resource is MediaScope, a comprehensive directory for marketers and agencies to find the right media for their needs.

Stage 4 – Channels

Owned/earned

Website
This is where all the action will be when customers come looking for information, to buy your product/service, to subscribe/download/engage/etc. Ensure it is optimised so people can find what they are looking for quickly and do what they want to do easily.

Microsite
If the campaign requires a microsite, ensure it is designed to complement the brand identity and the main website. It can harm your brand image if a microsite has a completely different look & feel to the brand’s other digital assets. Launching a microsite also means starting your organic search performance from scratch- this can inhibit the campaign’s early results. Thus ensure SEO-friendly keywords/metadata and optimise the home page user experience.

eNewsletter
Include campaign messages  within an existing eNewsletter or send a custom message to an established email subscriber database (opt-in permissions permitting). Purchasing a 3rd party email list is a tactic that is becoming much harder to get satisfactory results given the improved performance of spam/junk email filters and firewalls.

Blog
A well-subscribed blog is the place to start a conversation around the campaign theme. Don’t sit on the fence, invite audience discussion, and that will encourage sharing. Link to the blog post from all your social channels plus from the website/microsite. Where appropriate find related blogs to contribute your point-of-view in conversations that can lead back to your own blog/website.

Social media
There is a huge array of content marketing that can be implemented via SM. I won’t go into the many strategies and tactics of using your own presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, etc., suffice to say they are powerful platforms to reach existing and new customers when used to their maximum potential.

Mobile app
Building a new mobile/tablet app is a big investment in time, money and resources. If this solution meets the brief then it will need a fully scoped plan to design, test and launch – and regularly maintain content and functionality!

Paid

Online ads
The budget for online advertising will determine the scope for buying media space in relevant online media. Keep in mind the click-through-rate (CTR) of banner advertising is very low (in the 0.1%-0.4% range) and due to their abundance, banner ads are basically ignored (called ‘banner blindness’). However there are design and placement strategies that can deliver suitable returns on investment.

Search (SEM)
SEM is a pay-per-click (PPC) model with a bidding (auction) process. Two key factors determine if your paid ad appears in Google search results: your maximum CPC bid and Quality Score (QS) – the latter is a key metric to determine how relevant your ad is to the user and good SEO practices impacts your QS. Check out Google Adwords site for more info. Engaging a professional search marketer is recommended to ensure your SEM investment returns positive results.

Social media
New audiences may be reachable via paid advertising on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Buying that reach is not a simple prospect, and is best considered when budgets and resources allow proper planning to ensure a successful investment.

3rd party apps
Advertisers can now reach customers through mobile (or in-app) advertising. This is a new medium with the potential to reach niche targets like gamers or fitness fanatics. A detailed explanation of mobile advertising can be read on this Wikipedia page.

Stage 5 – Analytics

Google Analytics (GA)
GA has become the default product for measuring website traffic, behaviours and technology. For the casual user GA provides valuable high level data. For the power user the data provides deep insights into your digital marketing performance. Setting up a campaign to be tracked using GA code is a key element in the production phase, and a job best left to an expert. Google regularly improve/change the functionality and design of the GA interface so it pays to engage someone who is proficient with the tools that Google provide for free.

CMS Analytics
Many content management systems (CMS) have their own analytics service to track and report website performance. In some cases this will provide more useful data and better reporting functions than GA, especially if the website is integrated with other internal systems like CRM and eCommerce.

Email Analytics
Sending emails is one of the most measurable digital marketing tactics. Whichever email system is used will come with an analytics function that provides all essential data to measure the responses to sent emails. Set benchmarks and test different creative solutions to continually improve your email performance.

Advertising Analytics
Online advertising can be measured at both the source (ie. the media owner) using the media owner’s analytics software, and the inbound destination (usually the website) using Google/CMS Analytics. Confusion can arise when data differs between systems, however the best policy is to compare ‘apples with apples’.  Google provides a good overview here showing how to set up the tracking codes for online advertising.

CRM Reports
There are some powerful CRM systems that can report on customers that visit your website then transact with your company. Data that identifies who buys what is always going to be the most valuable to a business; this is especially critical for an eCommerce business that must deliver online after-sales service, customer loyalty programs, and a continuously improving customer experience.

The digital marketing eco-system is actually far more complex than I have attempted to describe here. Due to the proliferation of ‘owned’ media channels, business owners would be excused for thinking that customers can be reached at an ever decreasing cost. Even the management consultant, educator, and author Peter F Drucker said, “The new information technology, Internet and e-mail, have practically eliminated the physical costs of communications”.

However intangible costs have moved in the opposite direction – in skilled personnel, in software, in services.

My advice: plan, test, measure, learn; re-plan, re-test, re-measure, re-learn; and so on. Marketing has become an iterative process.

 


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Lessons from ‘The Tipping Point’

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I HAVE just re-read The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. It is Malcolm Gladwell’s seminal book, published in 2000, that struck a chord with the generation of innovators, technologists, and entrepreneurs who emerged in the mid-2000’s after the dot-com bubble had burst and the Internet was being taken seriously again.

ThetippingpointGladwell introduced us to three agents of change (The Law Of The Few, The Stickiness Factor, and The Power Of Context) and three types of people who spread ideas and messages throughout a community or across the globe (Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen).

He also argued that the power and value of networks grows as the number of connected devices/people grows. The ubiquity of the telephone, the fax machine and email were examples Gladwell referenced to make this point.

However there was also a warning to marketers that ubiquitous networks lead to participants suffering from “immunity”. The very thing that makes them so appealing – inexpensive and easy to reach large audiences – renders people ‘immune’ to the message after they get swamped with calls from telemarketers, fax stream messages, and of course emails. Gladwell extended this argument to the explosive growth of advertising messages we are exposed to on TV, print, radio and outdoor billboards.

“When people are overwhelmed with information and develop immunity to traditional forms of communication, they turn instead for advice and information to the people in their lives whom they respect, admire, and trust. The cure for immunity is finding Mavens, Connectors, and Salesmen.”

Fast-forward to today, when the marketing landscape has exploded in ways that Gladwell never dreamed of when he was writing Tipping Point, and his advice really comes into its own.

The Law of The Few challenges advertisers to find the “cure for immunity” in a highly diffused marketing environment, where ‘disruption’ and ‘innovation’ are the buzzwords and advertising fatigue is a real issue.

What strategies should brands follow to connect with the people who can start a trend, a craze, a sales frenzy? A few ideas to start the conversation:

  1. Use the data from store or website visits to look for emerging trends, and tie those back to the people driving newly observed behaviours.
  2. Internal teams can often spot changes in customer attitudes or behaviours well before research or Nielsen reports have. Find ways to tap into customer-facing personnel and leverage the day-to-day knowledge they collect.
  3. Reinvent the marketing brief! Instead of writing a brief to create communications that appeals to the widest possible audience, think about how to communicate only to a small but highly influential audience who will percolate your brand into their networks. (Gladwell uses Airwalk Shoes advertising to illustrate this approach.)

What other strategies or tactics can brands use to take advantage of The Law of The Few? Post your thoughts below.

 


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Mapping the customer experience

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RECENTLY I have run some workshops to map the customer experience (CX) for some different types of businesses.

Here are my observations and advice on the process and the outcomes.

Process

  1. Workshop participants must represent the breadth of people who interact with your customers in different channels and points in time, such as phone/in person/social media.
  2. Be open to every thought/idea/impression from every person in the room.
  3. Decide whether the customer journey extends to post-purchase, or just focus on pre- and during purchase. It may be smarter for your business to split these stages into two workshops.
  4. Start the workshop by asking participants to come up with a CX statement they believe holds true for the business. Close the workshop by asking them to again articulate a CX statement – and see how it differs from the words/phrases used at the beginning.
  5. Ensure the CX statement is written from the customer’s POV (ie. in first person), includes emotive language and describes how your product/service delights the customer.
  6. Get all to agree the ‘moments of truth’ along the journey; the point in time where a prospect makes the decision that moves them to the next stage. This will serve your marcoms planning down the line.
  7. Identify online and offline touchpoints in tandem. Many customer journeys occur simultaneously so ensure these are captured, and understood, in the workshop discussion.
  8. If there are multiple audience profiles, map their experiences separately. A homogenous approach will ultimately fail.
  9. Capture customer’s rational and emotional experiences across the numerous stages. You will ultimately focus on the emotional aspects of the journey when articulating the CX statement and value proposition.CX journey map
  10. There are many ways to illustrate customer journeys. Choosing the most appropriate technique for your product/service is critical; start by doing some online research into “customer journey maps“.

Outcomes

  1. All ideas/comments/opinions should be documented. Later, the primary concepts that emerge should be validated through additional testing, research or other feedback mechanism.
  2. Illustrate the information as much as possible using charts, tables, graphics, symbols, icons, word clouds, call-out boxes, flow chart markers, etc.
  3. Highlight unexpected or new ideas that have come out of the workshop. (I’d be surprised if one or two didn’t emerge!)
  4. Take the (final) CX statement and absorb it into your company culture; ask HR to help make this happen.
  5. Create a new, or review, your value proposition based on the learnings from the mapping exercise.
  6. Consider the marcoms channels your business is using to reach prospects, and compare them with the touchpoints identified in the CX map.  This exercise may identify gaps in your marketing channel use, or that too much effort is spent on a low value touchpoint.
  7. Agree a set of words/phrases that summarise the attitudes and feelings of your prospects/customers. A word cloud format is handy to illustrate and for sharing internally. (Suggest using this online tool – Wordle)
  8. Rather than a (boring) PowerPoint presentation, present your map on paper (min A3) to workshop participants.
  9. Nominate clear and achievable goals towards optimising the customer experience across the whole organisation. Start by ensuring all stakeholders understand what this really means.
  10. Acknowledge that CX mapping is an iterative process that must be reviewed and updated at least yearly, given the pace of change and digital disruption that is impacting so many businesses.

Does your business need to know more about the customer ‘journey to purchase’? Read about my strategic advisory services, then contact me to enquire about facilitating a customer experience mapping workshop for your company or brand.

And watch a video of me speaking on this important topic:

Also if you have been involved in these workshops, I’m keen to hear your thoughts on ways to get the most from a customer experience/customer journey mapping workshop.


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The ostrich approach to #digital disruption

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IMAGINE you’re the CEO of a major watch brand, with a proud tradition of making some of the world’s trendiest wrist watches.

Then along comes ‘wearable technology’…looking for all money like a major disruptor to your traditional industry.

Would you speak publicly and…

  1. Snub this new trend because it just doesn’t seem popular yet?
  2. Acknowledge but stay neutral about how ‘wearable tech’ will impact your industry?
  3. Wax lyrical about the exciting future for wrist watches that a digitally-enabled device will bring?ostrich head in ground

Option 1 is classic ostrich* behaviour. And it’s exactly the approach taken by the head of Tissot (owners of Swatch), speaking at a recent watch fair in Basel, Switzerland. Similar views were expressed by Patek Phillipe and Hermes. Quoting Mr Francois Thiebaud of Tissot:

“There’s a lot of noise about smart watches, but you don’t see them on people’s wrists…we’re not interested in launching a gadget watch.”

Of course there aren’t many people wearing smart watches today! They’re still very new and expensive due limited production runs. But watch this space as it won’t be too long until we see lots of trendy types (i.e. opinion leaders) wearing them; then the mass market will follow!

Swatch comments on wearable tech

smh.com.au article screen shot – click to enlarge

The smh.com.au article above clearly indicates Swiss watch brands are ignoring the threat to their centuries-old business model posed by Apple, Samsung, plus many startups. They really really need to have a chat with Sony, Kodak, News Corp, or one of the major music publishers – all businesses that either failed or were too slow to acknowledge the threat of digital disruption to their businesses.

The watch industry is ideally placed to feel the turbulence of digital disruption.  The question I ask is – what mainstream watch brands will survive the next decade? The ‘head in the sand’ approach just won’t save them.

BTW, for news and views on smart watches on the market today, check out the SmartWatch News website.

 

* N.B. Contrary to popular belief, ostriches do not bury their head in the sand to avoid danger; according to Wikipedia 😉

 


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Customer of the year

Recently I saw a poster on a coffee shop wall featuring a picture of a man and handwritten alongside the picture were the words “Customer of year”.

Wow. What a simple idea to make one customer feel appreciated.

How many businesses stop and ask themselves “how can we we recognise the most profitable/frequent/happiest customer?” The payback in terms of increased customer loyalty can be huge if this is done well.

So what can a business do to publicly recognise and reward a customer or a group of customers?  Some starter ideas:

  • Use your website/social media channels to promote a customer’s story
  • Invite them to a special event as your guest
  • Promote special rates on future purchases for selected customers
  • Feature them in your paid advertising
  • Ask the customer to feedback their thoughts on how you could improve your product/service
  • Create a unique and identifiable factor that applies to your business – eg. staff voting on best customer feedback
  • Put up a sign in your shop/business that promotes ‘Customer of the day/week/month/year’

What other ways are there to recognise and promote a highly valued customer? Let me know your thoughts below.

customer image


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