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Live Together, Suffer Alone: Understanding the Cross-Channel Mix (and Why Yours May Not Be Working)

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As the world of online advertising grows, it has inevitably become more complex.

Today's marketers are challenged to implement multiple techniques—from search to affiliate to media advertising and more—to achieve different results. Each channel has its own set of rules, its own potential results, even its own manager (whether outsourced or in-house) to keep things running smoothly.

Although, in theory, each channel can operate on its own, issues can arise when individual marketing channels operate in silos.

Lack of communication can incite conflict, which could lead to lost affiliates and increased competition, among other things. Less dramatic but possibly more damaging are the potentially positive results that can be missed by optimizing within but not across channels.

Pulling together reports from separate entities isn't enough to maximize the opportunity of the cross-channel mix; rather, advertisers need a holistic approach with established rules for each channel.


But with so many channels and so many rules, where's an advertiser to begin?

Diagnose the problem, and scope out the competition

To get a feel for what you're doing right and what could be working better, scope out your competition and see what is and isn't working for them.

You may find some things you want to change yourself. For instance, you may be operating in more channels than necessary to acquire the customers that your competitors are getting using fewer channels.

Where to begin: Look at what your competition is willing to pay for a customer, as an example. How do your target costs stack up? Do you have one channel where you are paying $5 for a customer, when another is spending $7 a customer? If so, do you know why?

If you're operating by channel instead of more universally, you may find that your target acquisition costs aren't optimal for your overall campaign.

Manage acquisition costs more effectively

With multiple channels in play, acquisition costs can quickly add up, posing a major challenge to marketers, especially in an economy where every dollar counts. Looking at spending across all channels is the best way to streamline efficiency and control costs while continuing to drive strong profits and results.

Where to begin: Take a step back and look at your goals and how well each channel supports them. Measure the impact and cost of both current and planned activity using strategies such as proper real-time tracking and reporting by (and across) channels, daily optimization of campaigns, managing to increase the lifetime value (LTV) of your customer, campaign-testing to optimize return on investment (ROI), and proper channel selection.

Test, optimize, and then test again across channels

Incremental differences in testing can drastically affect the ROI of a single campaign and can also be applied across a multichannel marketing program.

For instance, you may find through offer testing that your target consumer responds better to a "dollars off" than a "percentage off" offer. Those results can also be used to determine where similar improvements can transfer to other channels.

Where to begin: Test creative, offers, placements, and landing pages as often as possible, and never put something in the "lost" column. As you make improvements based on each channel's testing results and optimize each one, revisit things that weren't working before, especially when looking at different forms of media. You never know—something that didn't work before could work in the new mix.

Integrate your internal and external teams

In any campaign, but especially in a multichannel one, it's essential to make sure that everyone involved is communicating. Even one lost second due to miscommunication could mean a huge missed opportunity.

For instance, if the IT department changes URLs without communicating to the marketers, it could drive traffic to the wrong place, resulting in lost (and paid-for) traffic that can never be recovered, as well as a poor user experience.

Where to begin: Involve every team member and all necessary stakeholders in the discussion from the onset of each campaign. Keep the lines of communication open as changes to the campaign arise, always thinking across the channels to ensure that everyone affected is always involved.

Stay apprised of industry changes

The virtual landscape of the online world has erased the boundaries tied to traditional marketing. Keywords previously linked to your brand only are now fair game for the competition, which can instantly drive traffic away from your site and directly to theirs. Recent changes to Google have only complicated things, significantly affecting the ROI of both marketers and their affiliates.

Where to begin: Take inventory of who is monitoring and protecting your brand, as well as how the new environment will affect that monitoring.

Google's significant change in broad-match expansion, for instance, has affected not only the ROI of various campaigns but also the enforcement of search-affiliate policy. And its ever-changing trademark-enforcement policy will determine whether you can profitably add search affiliates to the mix—or hand your ROI to your competition.

If you don't have a trademarked or "trademarkable" brand, identify alternative protection strategies, such as leaning on current business-development, affiliate, and cost-per-acquisition partners to help drive traffic and block out the competition.

* * *

Remember that it's about keeping your channels optimized and coordinated. Let your marketing mix lead you to new levels of efficiency and collaboration to ultimately drive long-term success.


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Keith Kochberg is the CEO of iMarketing Ltd.(www.imarketingltd.com), a full-service online-marketing agency.

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