Multi-channel marketing sounds daunting and official, doesn’t it?
It’s something you’d hear bandied about in a stuffy boardroom, or in a business school classroom. Lots of small business owners’ eyes glaze over at terminology like this and instead like to think of themselves as a bit more guerilla with their marketing tactics.
Or they make the mistake of dismissing multi-channel marketing because they are confusing MCM with the dreaded MLM (Multi-Level Marketing.)
Wikipedia defines MLM as “...a marketing strategy in which the sales force is compensated not only for sales they generate, but also for the sales of the other salespeople that they recruit. This recruited sales force is referred to as the participant’s “downline”, and can provide multiple levels of compensation.”
Others define MLM as “a pyramid scheme” or “scam.” MLM is not the same as MCM. That’s an important distinction to make!
No, MCM is simply a multi-syllabic way to talk about being everywhere for all of your customers. Channels used to just include things like television, radio and print. These days you can add on a boatload more.
Including, but not limited to, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Slideshare, StumbleUpon, blogs, podcasts, Yelp, SEO, Pay Per Click, direct mail, inserts, leaflet drops, local TV, radio, trade magazines, ambassador programs, blogger outreach, sponsorship, PR, press releases, vehicle signage, referrals, Ebay, Amazon marketplace, comparison shopping feeds.
In 2015, when we say “multi” we mean multi.
That’s a pretty exhaustive list of all the channels available these days. And an exhausting one! You don’t need to have a presence on each and every one(but if you do have a ton of social media accounts, this post I wrote on how to manage social media in one hour a day should help). But you should make a big, fat, effort to figure out where your current and prospective customers are likely to be browsing…and then set up shop there.
I’ll tell you a surprising story about a friend of mine. (Yes, I do have friends. That’s not the surprising part.) She founded a company that catered to small business owners in the wedding industry. She initially got the idea for this business because her own mother was a wedding vendor.
But how to reach these people? Creating videos online didn’t work. Sending out email newsletters didn’t either. Then one day, she realized that most of her potential customers were a little bit older and more experienced. And a vast majority of them were artists and craftsmen. Definitely not the demographic who lives on Twitter and YouTube.
So my friend decided to start publishing a good ol’ old school print publication. With exceptional results. She practically doubled her business overnight! Turns out her customers felt more comfortable with a print publication than they ever would with a smart phone or podcast.
She figured out what channel would most appeal to her customer base, and she went for it. And was richly rewarded for doing so.
Now, that’s print. And print does cost money. But the point of that story is not to urge you to expand into print. Many, if not most, of the channels I listed out above are absolutely free. If you can get organized, systemized, structured, goal-driven and disciplined…you can go head to head with the big brands on any of these platforms.
I don’t know what channels you are on currently so it’s hard for me to tell you where to branch out. But I can give you a few pointers on how to get into the multi-channeling head space.
1. Go Inside-out
The first people you need to discuss your multi-channel marketing plans with are not, surprisingly, your customers. It’s your staff! Anyone who touches the customer holds a wealth of knowledge about those customer’s habits. (Watch and listen to this 5 minute podcast on training people to work with you. Some great tips on getting your staff involved).
Maybe your customer service staff has customers asking for more How-To videos from you, or maybe they want less email. Ask your sales staff if customers have ever hinted that the competition is doing a better job reaching them…on a different channel.
(Important: Once you interview them thoroughly, remember to come back to them and let them know what other channels you are exploring. You don’t want them to be the last to know and feel foolish when a prospect mentions a Twitter campaign they didn’t know you’d begun!)
2. Think Outside The Monitor
There’s no doubt that digital marketing should be at the very core of your multi-channel marketing plan. But don’t count direct mail out just yet!
Experiment with affordable postcards and mailers. Even if a customer is going to trash or ignore your postcard, he or she will at least have to look at it once to do so. That’s more than you can say for email marketing where nine times out of ten, your message gets caught and filed away and trash canned by a spam filter, without your prospect ever seeing it!
Direct mail is also less intrusive and once you have the customer’s attention, you can ‘spread out’ a little more with your messaging. You have more time because the customer’s in control of the communication. (Unlike pop-ups or PPC.)
Direct mail still works and will continue for many, many years to come.
3. Tweak Your Tone
Think of each channel as it’s own country. You wouldn’t go to France and speak German, would you? So why would you go on Facebook and speak Twitter? Doesn’t work.
There’s a cadence, a rhythm, a kind of communication that customers expect from each channel. Take time to research best practices for each channel before you start communicating on them.
4. Be Consistent
Regardless of what channel you are marketing on, you need to keep your branding and your messaging consistent. Now this may sound like it’s in direct opposition to my “Tweak your tone” tip, but stay with me here.
Although the way you ‘talk’ to your customers in different channels might vary in length and tone, what you are communicating should be very similar, if not the same.
For instance, let’s say you have an upscale, professional golf brand. You can, and probably should, create professional, educational and mature golf tip blog posts and videos.
But when you start to experiment with, say, Vine or Tumblr, don’t think “I have to speak Millennial!” and begin to post videos and images of skateboarders and cats.
Don’t paper Pinterest with tons of inspirational quotes written in watercolor fonts. The channel might change, but your branding shouldn’t. Stay on brand.
On every single digital channel, think mobile. Smart phones and tablets are outstripping laptops (let alone desktops!) every year. It’s time to stop thinking of mobile technology as an afterthought. Instead, put it front and center of all your planning and design.
There’s a better than average chance that your customer will never see your classic/non-mobile efforts. So plan them second and plan your mobile messaging first.
6. Get Goal-Obsessed
When you launch a new campaign on a new channel, you should have a clear goal in mind. Are you gunning for X Twitter followers by Q4? Do you want to get Y amounts of repins on your new content? Set those goals and make everyone who’s in on the campaign aware of them. (Goals are part of setting up the perfect systemization. For more tips like that, read this post I wrote about setting up the perfect business system.)
7. Monitor Your Metrics
This one should be obvious but all too often I see owners get caught up in launching, launching, launching. They try something new and then leapfrog onto the next big thing.
Don’t make this mistake. If at first you don’t succeed in a particular channel, don’t give up right away. Tweak, test and try again. It might take a bit of time to begin to resonate with your customers on that particular channel.
But that also may be your most profitable one yet. You never know if you don’t keep an eye on your metrics.
Okay, Time For Today’s Challenge
Either open a word document or (if you’re old school like me) and grab a pen and paper to create a checklist of channels. You can use the list at the beginning of this article or you can look around online and see which channels mostly apply and appeal to you.
Check off those you are currently using. And no, posting one video to YouTube 3 years ago doesn’t count as you having a presence there! Be honest with which channels you really are exploiting for all their worth.
Now pick three channels you have yet to try, but that you could you add to your marketing mix at no or little cost. Then decide which ones you will begin to market on in the next three months and circle them. Pick one today and write a deadline of 30 days from now next to it.
Get cracking. The more channels you explore, the more prospects you could reach…and turn into loyal, paying customers.
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