How to effectively plan and execute across channels

Cross-channel marketing (also called unified or multi-channel marketing) ranges from pretty straightforward to highly complex. It means you have the ability to synchronize your message and offer to a defined and recognized audience across marketing channels to achieve your marketing goals. Let's dig in. 

Overview

To understand the complexities of cross-channel marketing, it's important to understand the fundamentals. I'll outline each role. 

Infrastructure

Starting from the bottom, your infrastructure is the foundation. You have to have the backend in place to ensure proper data collection, the appropriate tools in place to allow for audience segmentation, and ensure your marketing and data requirements are met. 

Analytics

Hopefully you are or have access to a data scientist or analyst who can provide requirements to your IT organization on what should be tracked and how to track it. Cross-channel marketing is complicated and it's helpful to have someone with expertise to help with the analysis of campaign effectiveness as well.  

Marketing

This is a broad topic, but we'll keep it simple. You'll need to know who your audience is, what you're saying to them, and where you're reaching them. Let's get into more detail on how to utilize this information effectively. 

Planning and strategy

You should have your goals and objectives already in place. You will take your objectives and align them with your audience, message, CTA, and vehicle. I use a spreadsheet to help make sense of it all like the one shown here. 

Whether you're part of a small team or have a robust marketing machine, you need to know:

  • Your product message—A high level message that describes your product or service and what the benefits are. This message will be nuanced based on who you're talking to and at what point of the purchase cycle, which brings me to my next point.
  • Who you're selling to—Also known as audience segmentation. Some examples might be "Anonymous visitors," "Prospects," which have certain criteria—known or unknown traits, or "Existing customers," which have certain traits as well. 
  • What you're offering them—Depending on where someone is in the sales cycle, it can be content, a free trial, or a discount. 

Leveraging analytics

Once you have identified these 3 areas, you might notice that just a few audiences has turned into an exponentially large group of segments. It isn't manageable to have unique messaging and offers for one person, so you have to prioritize. You have few options: 

  • Opportunistic—Look at the biggest bucket (e.g. the largest audience that comes to your site) and target them with a specific message and offer (CTA). 
  • Strategic—Perhaps there's a smaller segment, but converts higher. This audience is more valuable.  
  • Behavioral analysis—Reverse engineer site behaviors from certain actions and identify who these visitors are.   

Aligning your segmentation

To truly work across functions, you not only need to have the same segments, the definitions need to be the same. If you're manually segmenting, you could find you're not speaking to the same audience. To be precise, you need to use a segmentation tool like Adobe Audience Manager (part of the Media Optimizer solution in Adobe Marketing Cloud). This way the audience is defined once and reused across all functions. 

This requires a partnership with IT or the team who set up your infrastructure and Analytics. If IT set up your analytics tracking on your site in the first place, leverage their expertise on how to implement audience management as well. Analytics will have to provide requirements on what to track and how. 

Note: If you want more information about audience segmentation, there's a great presentation on the topic from Matt Scharff: Unleash the Power of Display through Analytics and Audience Targeting on Adobe TV. 

Implementation and management 

You have your marketing plan, analytics has provided insights and is poised to help with reporting and analysis, and the infrastructure is in place. You're ready. 

Launching your campaign 

It's not necessarily synchronized. In fact, there isn't a linear path that prospects go through that is repeatable across users. So, keep in mind that there are different variables that influence your campaign. 

Leverage best practices 

Don't throw away what you already know works well in the marketing vehicles you utilize. Keep your best practices intact—just ensure you cross-reference your plan to make sure everybody is aligned with the same audience, same message(s), and same offer(s) or calls-to-action. 

Test and iterate 

As your campaign runs its course, you'll glean insights and find you'll need to make adjustments. Are you finding that your audiences weren't behaving the way you thought they would? Did your business priorities change?  Partnering with your Analytics team will help dig into some hypotheses and provide suggestions for test ideas.

Analysis and Reporting

Although I bookended analytics before and after running a campaign, it's a partnership that should be leveraged consistently throughout your overall marketing program. Cross-channel reporting and attribution (that is, what vehicle gets credit for the purchase) is a highly complex topic and hope to tackle in an upcoming post.

Summary 

In short, planning is the foundation of ensuring a smooth cross-channel campaign that is a complementary experience to the user; not redundant. Keep in mind the vehicle you're using, where the audience is seeing it, and what you want them to do next.

How are you delving into cross-channel marketing? I'd love to keep the conversation going.