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Email isn't going away, but don't get too attached. Other channels and mediums may be more effective, depending on the specific situation and the audience.

We know that marketers must stay ahead of the curve by delivering the right message at the right time to the right customer in the right moment. Using the right delivery method, however, is quite another matter—it's a constantly moving target that's challenging to pin down.

The device or method our target market audience uses to communicate is just one piece of the puzzle—that's the what. When they use it, where they use it, how and who they use it with, and why they use it are the bigger and more informative questions to ask.

Let's look at email and the telephone (mobile or landline) for a moment. Both are venerable communication methods that are still relevant but no longer primary. A different, and perhaps better, case can be made for looking ahead—by combining (mixing and matching) and prioritizing marketing communication channels.

Indeed, how Millennials (there are 56 million of them in the workforce) communicate and receive information (text, social, voice, email) should be chief among the considerations for reaching and influencing customers.

Again: delivering the right message at the right time to the right customer in the right moment on the right medium is the true equation.

Tools and Channels

For Millennials, email is a niche tool, so marketers must use it as such. Mobile texting, commonly used for its immediacy, is considered by Millennials mostly for personal use. Marketing messages delivered through mobile channels must take that preference into account. Voice still has a place, but its most effective use may be as a second step—following social attention.

As marketers, we must adjust our messaging strategy to ensure our message is being delivered through the most effective means possible:

  • How, for example, do Millennials use email? (On the desktop, on mobile?) The same needs to be asked of text, social, and the mobile phone.
  • What do they use those tools and channels for—personal, work, or both?
  • Where are they when they use them—shopping, working, in transit?
  • And, why do they opt for one tool when other options are available to them that might work equally as well—or better—to meet their needs?
  • Do they mix and match tools and channels depending on circumstance?

The same or similar questions need to be asked of every communication tool or channel.

How, then, can we incorporate that dynamic in our messaging strategy?

Messaging-Strategy Considerations

Customer Context

Focus on this: Understanding where a customer is (the physical or other context) gives us an opportunity to craft the right message based on what they need at that moment, increasing the likelihood of purchase and creating a frictionless experience.

Take this factor into account: Knowing what communications device they use to receive that messaging and why they're using that tool is vital.

Take this key step: To make your messaging feel like a conversation with your customer, think mobile. The idea is to be a step ahead of the engagement: It's likely mobile gives you the most effective channel when taking customers' physical context into account. The general issue is, How does their reception of your message correlate to the device they're using?

Buying Behavior

Focus on this: Data detailing the customer's past purchase behavior adds a layer of texture to the experience they previously had with your brand, enabling you to strike the right tone and make a more authentic connection with the customer.

Take this factor into account: Did the customer make that purchase using a mobile device, a computer, a telephone, the Web, or on-site? Did they tie their experience to how they made the connection? How can they best be reached in the future? The idea is to personalize rather than just customize.

Take this key step: To make your data more actionable, measure the results of your campaigns by channel as well as the wider view of how your customer targets respond to messaging.

Purchase History

Focus on this: By noting the customer's purchase history, you can drive more relevant, targeted content while avoiding trying to sell something they already have. Should they be offered a lower-cost accessory item or a core product? Think whether a fashion seller might offer a second dress or simply an accent belt.

Take this factor into account: What's the most effective communication tool for the customer to receive timely and relevant personal messaging?

Take this key step: No matter how deep your data, how strategic your insights, and how focused your messaging, identifying the channel to which your customers are most likely to respond is your engine.

The Brand Journey

If you're thinking all that sounds a great deal like a customer journey, you're spot on. To our earlier points, here are two takeaways:

  • Isolate the experience for the customer to create a personal and powerful engagement with a brand.
  • Flip the customer journey to include the brand journey—creating an understanding of how your brand should be and is capable of engaging with the customer.

Knowing the 5W's (and 1H) of communication tools or channels that your customers use rounds out the engagement cycle. That is the ticket to success in marketing communication—especially with Millennials, who dictate the rapidly changing communication mediums.

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The 5Ws (and 1H) of Marketing Success: Adapting Messaging Strategy on the Fly

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image of Curtis Thornhill

Curtis Thornhill is the founder and CEO of Apt Marketing Solutions, which offers expertise in marketing science to help businesses connect with customers in more efficient and meaningful ways.

LinkedIn: Curtis Thornhill