Many companies think of themselves as ‘omni-channel’ or ‘multi-channel’ in the way they describe their contacts with customers and prospects.
But in fact, often there is only ONE way that they really put forth any true effort.
Are they so time-impoverished that they only have time for one channel?
And, are they so knowledge-impoverished that they only know how to do one thing right?
The fact is that, in this industry, we have the time, we have the talent, and with some work, we have the knowledge and brainpower to create truly convergent channels. And through dedicated merge of brand and markting, we can make it count so we’re recognized everyplace we’re found.
Here are some quick but essential tips for getting the most bang for your omni-channel buck, through smarter convergence of your channels.
1. Consistency. You have a brand, yes? Well, if you have that brand being handled by a number of difference resources, from agencies to web developers to in-house PR departments and more, there’s a pretty good chance you’re losing control of your brand to the extend that your messaging is not consistent.
Your brand standards are an essential part of your marketing package. It’s more than a logo and a color scheme. It’s more than a folder full of approved photos and a vocabulary list of do’s and don’ts. A real brand realization on our part is one that tells us who the customer is, and we ‘recognize’ that person in our lives.
For example, in a real estate project assignment I was on, they described the customer as someone like Tom Hanks – casual, friendly, wealthy but not flaunting of wealth. Family man, busy but appreciative of quality of life. With that note, we know exactly who he is.
That branding note helped to perfect the foundation of our marketing profile, on which we based a hugely successful direct mail, email and landing-page program.
It’s intersting to note that in every project i’ve done in the real estate industry, the client wanted a separate creative group to do the mail and the email+landing page. But when the email and landing page is well-coordinated with the direct mail, it benefits the entire campaign significantly. When there is no connection – ie, when the offer is not worded the same, when the look and feel are different than the mail — it’s likely to bomb. In another client arena, we found that email and landing pages that were treated as a cohesive unit performed over double what the efford did that was kept on an independent track.
Brand standards, however, can be OVER-enforced, leading to a dull kind of thumping from channel to channel — and when that happens there is simply no way to breathe new life into your brand if it’s constrained so much that it’ can’t change from one place to the next. Brand standards should be well-defined, but filled with enough knowledge that they have some flexibility. I worked on a project some years ago where the branding agency had designed some kind of strange swash art that was to go across the bottom of each and every printed and online piece. This is where i find myself wondering if that agency was simply an overblown design studio, or a REAL branding agency. Because real branding is not reliant or chained to some dopey graphic swash. It’s much much deeper than that. But we were really stuck with that and it ended up driving entirely too much of the look of the advertising. In fact, it distracted from the message. A real shame, The campaign was successful but probably would have been more so if that had not been a ball and chain we had to drag around.
2. Variety. Multiple channels offer great experience opportunities to take advantage of. Wine of the Month Club uses its email to create wildly wacky and candid correspondence and camaraderie with their customer. Meanwhile, their monthly newsletter is friendly but very informed wine talk with the kinds of descriptions you’d hope to find if you’re trying to become better educated about wine. This is what is now referred to as ‘content’ — although many today seem to think they ‘invented’ content for the web. They don’t realize that direct marketers, particularly newsletter writers, have been doing content for over a hundred years.
Now, Wine of the Month Club also does direct mail, and in a massively successful mail effort they took an advocacy approach – “I reject 9 out of 10 wines that I taste, and so should YOU!”, followed by “Never pay for wine you don’t like.”
These advocacy approaches are worded differently, but at their core they are targeting the same person — someone who wants to know wine better, and doesn’t like a snooty approach to wine. This client based his business on the fact that making someone uncomfortable about their level of knowledge is one of the fastest ways possible to alienate them.
This variety of statements still makes it clear that these efforts are from the same company.
3. Integrity. Every channel has someone in charge. And some of those in charge have a better understanding of marketing than others. Consistency in offers is paramount. And how the offers are worded is key to whether the customer trusts you or not. Don’t create crappy offers and think it will get attention. 10% off reads ‘I don’t really want you that badly”. And an offer of something other than a discount shows that you are really thinking of them and want them to be happy. Imagine that, no discount offers. It is essential to more effective marketing. Most of all, treat your customer as YOU would like to be — would DEMAND to be — treated.
4. Strategy. PLAN, PLAN, PLAN! Today’s client-side managers often come from an internet background, and they’re accustomed to trying out new things on a moment’s notice. They never seem to understand the value of mail, despite its length of time to create and print. Many of these young managers don’t have the patience, the bandwidth or the interest in testing and planning. It doesn’t occur to them that when real professionals put a mail program together, their campaigns will benefit from that across the board, through better-considered offers, quality content as a result of more professional and confident writing, and more. When great tactics are developed as part of the over all strategy, they can be reused across most other media.
To get this done right, you need to write solid project briefs. And do your research. Just because something was done before and failed doesn’t mean that when it’s done correctly it will fail. Au contraire! One hopefully learns from mistakes. This also means you need to share back efforts, successful and not so successful, with your marketing and creative team.