Marketers have a tough job! No juggler's job has ever been as tough. With 13 or so online marketing channels (and just as many offline), the job of cross-channel marketing is difficult. But creating a successful cross-channel marketing organization is possible.
Building a strategy and organization to implement cross-channel marketing usually requires changes in the following:
- Marketing strategy and tactics
- Organizational structure
- Team skills
- Individual channel manager skills
- Technology and tools
That list may seem overwhelming, but don't stop reading. You can minimize those barriers and build a cross-channel marketing force with greater focus, impact, and alignment.
Building a cross-channel marketing organization requires three processes:
- Creating a cross-channel marketing strategy. Create an overarching marketing strategy that aligns with your company's strategic objectives.
- Integrating cross-channel activity. Create a single point of integration for all your online channels.
- Measuring a common cross-channel metric. Use of a common metric allows comparison among all channels and campaigns.
1. Create a cross-channel marketing strategy
Many marketing departments transformed their online marketing processes the same way: With each new online marketing technology, they added a new marketing manager, tactic, skill set, and channel-specific metrics. That has created marketing departments with strategies, tactics, and metrics that aren't aligned. Each channel is doing what it thinks it does best, but that may not be what's best for the company strategy.
To build a marketing strategy that aligns all channels and supports the company's strategic objectives, you must first identify your company's strategic themes. Whether you know them explicitly or not, most companies have two (and not more than three) strategic themes, which are complementary.
The following are a few common strategic themes for all organizations:
- Build the brand.
- Be cost effective.
- Strive for customer intimacy.
- Be a leading edge innovator.
- Expand the franchise.
- Focus on the niche.
Each strategic theme requires a unique portfolio of channels and campaigns.
Marketing is a competitive battle; and as in any battle, you make the greatest impact by aligning and focusing your forces. Just as Hitler and Napoleon found out, despite their initial success, when you don't align your forces and you spread them too thinly, you lose big.
For example, if your company's strategy theme is selling leading-edge technology to teens concerned with style and social status, you need to focus on a teen style-message via Twitter, Facebook, and a "cool" website. If you are a B2B with a long sales cycle and decision process, you should create deep information assets available via webinars, LinkedIn groups, whitepapers, and forums on a deep website.
Each member of your cross-channel portfolio should reinforce the other members by contributing its own counterbalancing set of risks and rewards. Allocating channel resources according to your company's strategic themes makes it easier to decide how to set budgets. Viewing your marketing mix as a portfolio of channel and campaign resources makes it easier to allocate resources while keeping the same organizational structure, people, and skill sets.
What you must add are overarching meetings to align channels and campaigns so they reinforce each other.
But you'll still need a way to integrate all your cross-channel activity and bring together all your online marketing.
2. Integrate cross-channel activity
Having a single point of integration brings all your marketing results together in one location. The right technology for integrating cross-channel tactics will allow you to keep your current teams and skills while tracking all your online marketing results, even if they are from disparate systems.
The easiest and most effective way to do that is to bring all online marketing conversions back to the website. Make the results from email, marketing automation, social campaigns, and webinars culminate in a website conversion.
For example, each social event, webinar, and email campaign should be tied to a campaign code and landing page. To track those conversions, customize Google Analytics or use a Web content management system. Some of those systems can even track people or their businesses via specific channels and campaigns.
Even when you use a Web content management system to integrate all your results, you still face the problem of comparing results from different channels and campaigns. Some experts have estimated that it would take 47 metrics to monitor the 13 or so online marketing channels. How can you compare your channels using so many metrics? You can't. You need a newer, easier-to-use metric.
3. Measure a common cross-channel metric (engagement value)
What you need is a metric that measures how engaged visitors are, no matter which channel they use. You need something that measures engagement the same way engagement in human relationships would be measured. As human relations build, they usually go through four steps:
The current Web analytics measure attraction. You can attract any visitor to your website, and get her to look at pages and download assets. But she still might not be engaged.
Engagement begins at the next step, when communication takes place. By definition, "communication" requires a two-way transfer of information. Downloading whitepapers doesn't count. You and your visitor must exchange information. At the lowest level, that exchange includes her website address and your newsletter. A higher level of communication—such as requesting a quote from a B2B business—might also require a higher level of trust. A quote, for example, requires both sides to share budgets, timeframes, and specifications. For a nonprofit, that higher level of communication might be receiving a donation or gaining members.
Once communication and trust build to a high-enough level, commitment will form. Commitment is the intent to create a purchase or build a long-term relationship. For a website, commitment could be shown via a request for a live demo, a request for a salesperson to call, or a sales order. For a nonprofit website, commitment might be an offer to volunteer for a task or attend a meeting.
Measure each of those transaction points on your website not with a single point, as most conversions are given, but rather with a value placed on each transaction that depends on the level of engagement. For example:
The numeric value of those points isn't important. What is important is the ratio between the values.
By tracking the accumulation of those Engagement Value Points for each marketing channel, each campaign, or each asset, you can easily identify the marketing that adds value. When you know the value attributed to each channel, you know which one produces the greatest return to the business. When you know the value attributed to each campaign, you know which campaigns, no matter the type, produced the greatest results.
Some Web content management software will even allow you to track the value attributed to specific people or all the people within the same company. That gives you insight into how engaged they are and when they might purchase.
At that point, you know the portfolio of marketing channels and campaigns needed for your company strategy. With engagement analytics, you have a common measure that lets you compare the effectiveness of different channels and campaigns. Now it's up to your creativity to put the power of that marketing machine to work.