Marketing communications continue to evolve as audiences interact with brands through an ever-increasing number of channels. Since campaign success is largely tied to consistently getting the right messages in front of target audiences, a single or even dual-channel approach to marketing is quickly becoming a thing of the past.
Buyers now encounter both B2B and consumer brands across multiple touchpoints within the same sales cycle or purchase evaluation. For example, a search for products and solutions may originate with a web search, leading to initial research on company or partner websites. This initial search may complete, then reinitiate later with a mobile application search that continues on social networks.
This research may need further prompting and nurturing through multiple channels of communication to help encourage a decision (e.g. through SMS text, email, and even direct mail). Finally, to cement large purchases, it may be necessary to follow up through your sales or customer care teams. And these are just a few examples of existing communications channels–new channels continue to emerge each year.
Traditional Marketing vs. the Future
Traditional marketers have largely considered campaign execution to be a series of micro-campaigns rather than a cohesively connected and self-directed buyer journey. This is often evidenced in the way we divide up the workload on the marketing team with specializations in email, website, mobile marketing, and more. While these specializations may continue to provide value, the future of successful marketing organizations will largely depend on creating a connected, personalized, and cohesive customer experience across multiple channels.
As the number of channels for communicating with our target audiences continue to increase, so do our opportunities to capture their attention. At the same time, it’s important to be able to automate these interactions at scale, without drowning in all of the potential channels for communication.
So what does it take to execute multi-channel campaigns without adding additional stress or workload to your already highly-leveraged marketing team? Is it even possible to communicate through so many channels or will you have to make compromises between staffing and content distribution?
A sophisticated marketing platform makes centralized multi-channel marketing automation a reality. The same changes in technology that have enabled us to experience self-selected, digital journeys are also delivering opportunities that simplify and scale multi-channel communication.
Here are three practical functions supported by a forward-thinking marketing automation platform that will set the stage for current and future marketing success across channels:
1. Audience Management
Rather than defining audiences each time a campaign is launched, a leading platform allows users to set up automatically updating lists that refresh membership based on real-time interactions and field-level criteria. By listening for changes in status, you can properly identify a buyer’s preferred channels of communication and the most relevant topics, rather than using a traditional ‘batch-and-blast’ approach.
By decoupling audience definition from program execution, you can more effectively influence when, where, and how buyers experience your brand. For example, instead of building individual lists that only support a specific campaign, it’s possible to think more holistically and reuse these audiences over time to drive increased results based on user-defined communication patterns.
In the past, many marketing automation platforms were unable to consistently pass these audiences to all of the channels that supported multi-channel communication. But now with strong APIs, pre-connected campaign-to-audience functionality, and intuitive interfaces, a sophisticated platform allows the marketing team to execute their audience strategy from a centrally managed and completely connected hub.
2. Connected, Multi-Channel Marketing Automation
Defining reusable audiences is the first step in a connected customer experience. The second step is being able to orchestrate a desired experience based on buyer interactions. To accomplish this across channels, a marketing automation platform must support trigger-based responses across channels within the same automation flow.
While on the surface this concept sounds simple enough, the technological alignment needed to support this sophistication requires careful and deliberate design. Pre-programmed back-end frameworks must do the heavy lifting for the standard non-technical marketer and simplify the logic for deciding when to direct users from one type of communication to another. The complexity of simplifying the user interface while maintaining technological sophistication is one of the core reasons many automation platforms still have a long way to go before truly integrating multi-channel marketing within a central automation engine.
The benefits of connected, multi-channel automation are profound. Systems that truly support omni-channel communication free up marketers to plan their campaigns without having to change their approach to match their systems. Logic and workflows within these platforms enable program managers to easily add and remove different types of communication from the same flow and on the same screen, and greatly reduce the number of times they have to leave the platform to set up components in other systems.
An example multi-channel flow would include the ability to initiate an immediate response via email, then send out a direct mail piece within a certain timeframe if the customer has not moved forward within their buying criteria. Today, there are companies that can print and personalize direct mail messages within the first 15 minutes of real-time activity, placing them in the daily mail for immediate delivery the same day.
Another option would be to integrate SMS text messaging within the flow (direct mail may be bit slow for e-commerce decisions) or add/remove individuals from remarketing audiences within your ad networks. And for those managing mobile app strategies, a solid marketing automation platform must be able to align ongoing in-app messages with the most important and current interests of your target audience.
3. Personalization at Scale
Finally, beyond general audience and channel management, a truly centralized marketing automation platform will allow marketers to scale these attempts across all channels. It is now possible to customize the individual user’s experience on your website based on their attributes and activities that are happening in real-time using web personalization. This same personalization should be echoed within the other marketing channels without overwhelming your team.
To make this level of personalization a reality, your marketing efforts need to be scalable across across the entire platform and repetitive activities must be dramatically reduced or eliminated. For instance, if you’re setting up multiple versions of the same email just to personalize the message for each of your target audiences, it may be time to look toward newer technologies that can automate across multiple channels, at scale.
A sophisticated marketing automation platform leads the way in personalizing and connecting the customer experience across channels, without burning out the marketing team. It’s time to get onboard or get left in the dust with siloed, irrelevant communications.
Have you started executing multi-channel campaigns? Please feel free to share some of experiences below.