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How to survive channel integration in 2019

Emma Crofts of The Marketing Pod outlines 3 important survival tips for channel integration in 2019

I think it’s fair to say that your average modern-day marketer is well versed in channel integration.  We’ve generally got plenty of experience in sharing carefully crafted messages across multiple channels. We already understand those channels need to complement each other and add up to an enhanced customer experience. On this level, channel integration has been our shared fixation ever since the first email providers showed up on the newly mainstream digital scene back in the ‘90s. However, it’s probably also fair to say that doing channel integration well has become remarkably more complex and more involved with every passing year since then.

Back before social media, smart phone apps and machine learning, channel integration meant making sure your customers heard the same product offer on the radio that they saw in the press, that your logo translated well on email designs and that your direct mail landed in time to complement telesales efforts. These days, it’s a little harder. In 2019, our channel choices are profuse and interwoven, our digital capabilities are increasingly sophisticated, online platforms continually evolve and we have access to all the stackable software we could possible need. The result of all this capability? An immense marketing opportunity. We now have the potential to reach and influence our audience at multiple ‘touch-points’ along their decision-making journey. Our new tools enable us to create a virtual surround-sound of marketing messages and create perfect cohesion from what could otherwise be a fragmented experience. It means we can reach the right people, at the right time, with the right words and images. The other result of all this capability? Well, let’s just say that it might be okay if some of us were to admit… we’re a tiny bit confused.

Channel integration 101: some survival tips

Those of us who live our marketing lives in the B2B world know that gaining the trust of a niche audience – who are often short on time but long on technical expertise – has always required a careful blend of well-timed on and off-line marketing. So, amongst all this exciting new data-gathering capability and digital wizardry, what remains true and what has changed? How can we be sure we’re not missing a trick? And how can we begin to sort through the plethora of new tools available to find the ones that will really do what we need them to do? Here are our top 3 tips for successful channel integration in 2019:

1. Focus on the customer, not the channel

With endless software and service providers vying for your attention, you could be forgiven for getting so excited about the latest analytics platform or social influence navigation tool that you lose sight of the crucial element at the centre of it all: your B2B buyer. This can be avoided if you start not by focusing on how to make the most of your marketing channels but by really getting to know your audience. Before you plan impressive digital activity or subscribe to innovative new technologies, spend time doing some good old-fashioned research on the people you’re trying to reach. Go beyond their job title to ask who they are, where they are, what they want and how you can help them. Then keep the answers to those questions pressed close to your heart as you start to explore ways in which to guide their experience of your brand.

How should you get to know your audience? Combine data crunching and desk-based research with team workshops and involve anyone from your business that has front-line access to your marketplace. This is where your closer relationship with the sales and customer service teams begins.

Ask them for their experiences and opinions.

Then perhaps visit trade events and have conversations. From all of this, a picture will emerge that will enable you to focus in on the channels and tools that will give you the most value. You will also be able to immediately disregard a host of other options which sound fancy but are in fact unnecessary or irrelevant.

A short note on integration and communication. Now you’ve selected your a-team, whether in-house or out-sourced, do your best to get everyone together in one room. This is no time for a digital vs conventional marketing divide. The customer message can only be truly consistent if everyone joins in the conversation. Choose technologies and teams that can work seamlessly together. If it doesn’t play well with others, it shouldn’t really be allowed in the park.

2. Know who you are and what you want

Once you’ve got to know your audience, you’re going to want them to get to know you. But who are you? Are you friendly and approachable? Will you disrupt the status-quo? Or are you solid and dependable, with a firm handshake?

Your brand personality

might not mean you should automatically avoid any one channel, but it will certainly help shape the mix. Even more important are your objectives. Before you know what to do, you need to understand why you are doing it: what exactly you hoping to achieve?

Depending on your brand personality, audience and objectives, direct mail, breakfast briefings and editorial in specialist press may be the order of the day. In different circumstances, a programmatic digital ad campaign, social media polls and serialised video content will be a better fit. Raising brand awareness will require a different approach to lead generation, and no two brands or campaigns will ever benefit from the same plan.

The only real rule is that everything fits together to create a cohesive, hassle-free experience; not necessarily always guiding your audience through a traditional sales funnel, but certainly always leaving them with a positive impression and the inclination to carry on the brand journey. Attention grabbing social tiles could lead to valuable website content. Personalised emails could contain links to videos or downloads. Wherever your audience joins the journey, and whatever else they learn there, there should be a clear message about who you are and what you’d like them to do next. Channel integration done well will build trust in your brand’s personality and ethos, continually amplifying your core messages and reinforcing the reasons buyers should choose you above all others.

3. Don’t put all of your eggs in an automated basket

Even the most sophisticated software or chat-bot technology is no match for a creative marketing brain when it comes to a brilliant customer experience. Software has the power to make prospect identification and personalisation easier. It can certainly make channel integration almost effortless – but rely too heavily on

automation without human oversight

and intervention and you risk hitting a duff note that leaves prospects cold. The best types of software are those that are easily stackable, supported by infinitely helpful tech teams, and designed to complement the talents of your people.

If you’re not exactly sure what you need from your software, the amount of martech out there can be overwhelming – and a five minute google search of ‘build your martech stack’ will provide enough results to ensure you remain 100% confused. When it’s time to get started, avoid the temptation to rush in and grab the hottest tools on the market. Instead, take a deep breath, revisit points one and two, map out your strategy, look for the gaps in your processes and start to pull together a stack that complements your existing capabilities. Make use of trial periods and online demos; then test, measure, repeat to be sure you understand what works for you and what doesn’t. Channel integration is something we B2B marketers are great at – provided we remember that the old rules still apply and keep the customer at the core of everything we do.

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