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Multi-Channel Marketing: How to carry strategic messaging across multiple channels

“Marketing” is a broad term that some define as anything you do to promote and sell your products or services. As a marketer, I try to educate clients that marketing isn’t exactly anything related to business development and sales but there is certainly a relationship. One of my agency’s most visited blog posts entitled “What’s the difference between marketing and business development” (which by-the-way quickly earned page one search results; obviously it’s a commonly searched phrase) discusses that in my opinion, while marketing and business development do overlap, and actually depend upon one another, that doesn’t make them the same. To sum it up, marketing is about identifying your audience and delivering them a strategic message. Business development is about creating relationships and ultimately converting prospects into consumers and brand loyalists.

With the rapidly changing digital environment, marketing tools are seemingly impossible to keep up with. There are numerous platforms for the distribution of brand messaging. Many businesses excel at identifying their strategic priorities for the year, or for a particular initiative, but tend to jump right to the marketing tactics they either know and love, or to the ones that have been mainstays of their marketing program. To truly reach the broadest audience and meet your prospects where they spend time consuming content, multi-channel marketing is the blending of different distribution platforms for the greatest impact.

There’s an art to developing an effective integrated marketing campaign that recognizes each individual marketing channel as just one facet of a comprehensive plan.

A multi-channel marketing plan can give your brand the boost it needs, engaging audiences across channels, capitalizing on content, and ensuring visibility and a wider awareness of your strategic messages. Before you can get tactical, you need to understand the differences between the categories of marketing channels: paid, earned, owned and shared media channels.

Paid Media

Any type of paid advertising falls into this category, which revolves around paying to leverage brand visibility on a third-party channel to reach that channel’s existing audience. Think TV spots, newspaper ads, boosted Facebook posts, programmatic ad placements, radio spots and Google adwords campaigns. For many, paid media is an entrance into the world of marketing, if not the bulk of their entire marketing program, offering an easy exchange of marketing dollars for a specific advertising message that your business controls and signs off on.

Earned Media

Also known as public relations, the earned media umbrella is all about distribution through credible third party media. This includes press coverage, speaking engagements or panelist opportunities and word-of-mouth awareness. Unlike paid media, while you may pitch a story idea about your product, service or an industry trend to a journalist or influencer, you don’t necessarily have oversight or control over what gets published in the finished piece. However, earned media is commonly viewed as more valuable than paid media because the message is coming from a trusted source, not being bought. These days, having (unpaid) influencers or bloggers talk about your brand can also fall into the category of earned media.

Owned Media

Anything you create or control falls into this category, including your website, brand and/or sales materials, blog posts, webinars, podcasts, email marketing and other educational materials. If you created it and manage it, you own it. Most organizations invest heavily in their website, social media channels and brand and marketing materials used to support sales. Significant resources are spent on the development and ongoing oversight and management of owned media.

Shared Media

Your presence on social media and organic social posts fall into the shared media category and are a great way to leverage content that falls into the owned, earned, and sometimes paid categories. Shared media can also be a relationship-building tool to help connect with other brands or target media influencers.

Now that you understand the types of marketing channels, think strategically about how to release and reinforce your messaging across channels, keeping in mind that each of your efforts should be working toward aligning goals. Here’s how to get started:

Step 1. Consider which audiences can be reached via each channel

Even if you lack a comprehensive marketing plan, you know that different segments of your target audience receive your messages from different channels. Your direct customers may be most easily reached on social media, while your stakeholders and industry professionals are more likely to encounter your messaging via trade publications and business news outlets.

Your owned media can be a great resource for reaching multiple audiences with carefully curated content. If applicable, your website should house various sections that make it easy for your top audience segments to find exactly the type of content that’s applicable to them with minimal searching. While one audience segment may engage with organic social media content, other segments might respond best to targeted email campaigns that more directly address their relationship with your business. Owned media is also an ideal starting point for an inbound marketing strategy designed to engage web visitors with useful, educational content in exchange for their email address. From there, the nurturing of the brand to user relationship begins.

Spend some time mapping out your audience segments and use any previous metrics and industry data to determine the most effective channels for each audience. Think of the various marketing channels as an ecosystem, keeping in mind that your initial budget or resources for implementation may limit the size or complexity of the channels within your ecosystem.

For our agency, we look at audience segmentation by industry and target legal (law firms or related services such as M&A brokers, exit planners or wealth managers) finance (banks, credit unions, accounting firms, etc.), healthcare and business related services (broadband, data/cyber security, etc.). We also look at the decision maker within those segments. Finally, referral sources would be other marketing professionals who do not provide our scope of services or other vendors to those organizations.

Given that our audience consists primarily of other business professionals in service related industries, we develop case studies that help decision makers better understand our approach and results. We also blog and provide industry related resources via monthly emails to an opt-in list of subscribers and existing clients.

Step 2: Determine the types of media that are the best fit for each outlet

In addition to utilizing your existing metrics, it can take some trial and error to see what your audiences respond best to. One way to do that – and to keep them engaged long-term – is to think critically about what types of content are most appropriate for the outlets your audiences are reading. A CEO interview or op-ed might be the best fit for reaching investors that are reading your industry trade publication, while creative, eye-catching digital ads might be the best way to catch the attention of consumers on social media.

Multi-channel marketing isn’t a “set it and forget it” solution to your marketing needs – and that’s partly the beauty of its power. The goal is to reach audiences across multiple channels with varying types of content that all work toward your overarching strategic message. You want to remain on their radar without creating the brand fatigue that can result from seeing the same messages over and over everywhere they turn.

For Fluent’s brand visibility, we use earned media (including speaking engagements and contributed articles), paid media (a mix of LinkedIn sponsored content and occasionally Facebook ads), owned media (our blog, email newsletter and case studies on our website) and use social media mostly to disseminate the owned content and stay top of mind with our online community.

Step 3: Map out your messaging

The goal here is to identify at least one overarching key message that aligns with your corporate strategy and serves as a basis for your campaign. While we certainly want to steer clear of creating a single ad that appears on repeat across every channel, there’s a brand visibility benefit to keeping things consistent. Consider overarching themes that all of your brand messaging falls under, and that can be traced back to aligning with your strategic messages.

Larger campaigns that utilize numerous channels may even rely on a hashtag to weave all messaging under one theme together. Smaller campaigns may simply utilize the same headline or tagline for brand consistency.

Step 4: Build a media flowchart

Don’t neglect the importance of staying organized as you build out your marketing campaign. Consider the different channels you’re looking to utilize, which messages are the best fit for each channel, and how they might overlap or alternate over the lifetime of the campaign. For tracking purposes, we often like to alternate the channels that are live. This results in ongoing exposure across channels, but can also be beneficial in tracking any spikes in traffic when a specific campaign is running to determine what efforts are the most effective.

This type of outline can help ensure you’re reaching the widest audience through a variety of channels, and can be helpful in scheduling specific time- or region-sensitive messaging.

Step 5: Plan your metrics for each channel

Before you launch your marketing campaign, be sure you have a plan in place for tracking its efficacy and achieving your desired results. In some cases, this might mean creating a landing page that you’ll be able to track traffic to. To further the value your ads are providing, you might consider a call to action on the page that requests information from the visitor. This might be something like “Enter your email address to download our new guide” that will provide value to the visitor as well as supplying you with their contact information for future follow up.

Reviewing Google Analytics is essential to better understanding which efforts are driving traffic. Understand your top sources, keep track of boosts in traffic that align with specific advertising efforts, and note which pages are getting the most traffic to leverage consumer interest in future advertising efforts.

Multi-channel marketing is an ever-changing pursuit that requires planning, experimentation, testing and refinement. It’s a blend of strategy, analysis, creativity and psychology that has exponential benefits for brand visibility and lead generation results.

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