Cross-channel marketing – what it is, what it isn’t and how to proceed

It’s pretty clear at this point that if you want to have a fully-formed, multi-faceted approach to marketing your business, you’re no longer able to rely solely on one channel. Even if you think a huge swathe of your potential clients are all in the same place – be it their Twitter feeds or a certain TV or radio station, what have you – it’s still best to branch out.

There are countless ways to connect with consumers in today’s environment. There’s traditional media outlets, both broadcast and print. There’s websites, blogs and social media sites. There’s a broad spectrum of different types of devices, from big desktop computers to small wearable mobile gadgets. Your challenge is to build a brand by balancing all of the above. This isn’t easy.

cross_channel1Let’s explore the topic of cross-channel marketing – in short, the act of taking a multitude of marketing outlets and using them all in concert to help you achieve your business goals. That’s a huge challenge, but there’s a method to the madness.

Understanding the cross-channel approach
Before any business can truly embrace cross-channel marketing, they need to be 100 percent sure they know what it means. A lot of buzzwords get thrown around these days without people fully comprehending them, so a crash course can sometimes be worthwhile.

According to Clickz, there’s a bit of a misunderstanding out there in today’s marketing community because people aren’t picking up the subtle distinction between “multi-channel” and “cross-channel” marketing. The news source drew upon research from Experian Marketing Services that explained the difference:

“Cross-channel marketing is not multichannel marketing,” the source stated. “Cross-channel campaigns are those that are integrated across multiple channels versus those that are run simultaneously in various channels. Integrating campaigns is significantly more difficult than running them individually, but brands understand the imperative and are taking the necessary steps to advance.”

One strategy involves just having a lot of media channels – the other entails actually getting them to work together. For example, have your marketing emails link to your social media pages. Have your social pages link to your blog. Write a blog post that encourages people to check out your YouTube videos. Every marketing effort can feed off of every other.

The hottest trend going, but…
There’s a perplexing thing going on in the marketing community these days. In short, the majority of people out there agree that cross-channel marketing is the wave of the future, and yet many are struggling to get their own plans off the ground. What’s going on?

A recent report from eMarketer indicates that many companies have voiced their interest in cross-channel marketing activities, but we all know that actions speak louder than words. The news source found that according to Oracle Marketing Cloud research, 67 percent of companies say that integrating an approach across all channels is a priority for them. At the same time, though, only 30 percent of those same respondents say they currently have cross-functional teams in place to facilitate such an effort.

Part of the problem here is the massive growth of new technologies – the market is expanding faster than businesses know what to do with. New mobile devices and social sites are being introduced every day, and companies don’t have time to adjust. Every time a new platform is trotted out, marketing leaders need to size it up, learn how to use it and study the numbers on how effective it will be in their target markets. This is a lot to ask.

cross_channel2Finding strategies that aren’t effective
Getting into cross-channel marketing may require a great deal of trial and error. After all, there are so many types of content out there and so many permutations of what fits with what, it’s not always easy to choose the right combinations. Occasionally you’ll try a cross-channel strategy and find it unsuccessful. That’s OK. That’s the game.

Slashfilm recently highlighted one example: A lot of television networks are finding that TV shows and Twitter hashtags don’t mix. You know when you watch a show – say, “Glee” for example – you’ll often see a Twitter logo in the corner of your screen encouraging you to tweet with the hashtag #Glee? According to entertainment and media expert Peter Sciretta, the strategy rarely works.

“It’s a daily annoyance during my television viewing, which most of the time is time shifted, making hashtags for live social discussion rather pointless,” Sciretta wrote.

There’s survey data from Strategy Analytics to back this up. The company found that of today’s TV watchers, 33 percent are “couch potatoes,” meaning they only want to watch their TV sets and don’t bother with tweeting, and 26 percent are “over the top” viewers, meaning they watch shows online later and have no use for live-tweeting.

These things happen. In cross-channel marketing, you sometimes find that one medium and another don’t mix. This only means you need to look for new strategies that will be more effective.

…so what actually does work?
It may take a while before you arrive at a cross-channel approach that yields results. You’ll need to be flexible, adjusting constantly to the changing tastes of your customers, if you want to figure out what really works.

cross_channel3According to Mainstream Data, the secret is “liquid content.” You want to have marketing material that can easily translate from one channel to another. For example, you can write a blog post that would be equally compelling as a Facebook update, or produce a YouTube video that also plays well as an audio podcast.

“It’s important to create liquid content,” wrote marketing pundit Andrea Edmunds Rice. “Create a video so funny that it gets posted to YouTube. Create an advertisement so heartwarming, that it’s shared on Facebook. Focus on your content for a TV commercial, and you’ll find the public finding it on the internet and sharing it with the world. I mean, how often do you see the favorite Super Bowl commercials floating around?”

Ultimately, what you want is for people to engage with your content no matter what platform they’re viewing it on. That may require persistence, and there will probably be some trial and error involved. But eventually, if you keep plugging at it, you can get results.

What does “cross-channel” mean to you? How have you expanded your own marketing horizons?

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