Multichannel marketing: Opportunity from the marketer’s POV

Marketers have bombarded consumers with messages since the advent of advertising. Today, communication channels added daily to the mix create an unprecedented, daunting din for marketers to break through.

Most consumers engage multiple media at a time, yet they don’t truly multitask. Our brains aren’t capable of that. We focus on texting, TV and surfing not all at once, but in rapid succession (and not very well at that). What we typically refer to as multitasking is really mere flitting.

Therein lies the marketer’s opportunity. If you can grab attention when an audience flits to your message, you might just sell something.

To grab a consumer mid-flit, you’ll need to be good a few things:

• You’ll need to be good at getting flitted to. This means showing up in the same place where your customer happens to flit. Of course the print-broadcast-direct mail-only model is obsolete, and it’s no longer enough simply to add “the Internet” to the mix. “The Internet” isn’t a single channel. It’s a growing array, from Google to Pinterest to Foursquare to more being spawned as I write. The list keeps growing, so you can never rest. On the positive side, more channels mean more opportunities to connect.

• You’ll need to be good at not getting flitted from. It’s one thing to get passersby to look when you yell “Look here!” It’s quite another to be so engaging that they won’t abandon you for the next marketer who yells “Look here!

• You’ll need to move customers to action. Anyone can make a distracting noise, but not just anyone can make a sale. That’s why not just anyone is a marketer, notwithstanding your neighbor who has “a great idea for a commercial.”

• You’ll need to be an adept two-way communicator. Today’s media allow for full interaction with customers, and customers can tell—and they reward—marketers who listen well and respond well.

Finally …

• … You’ll need to try lots of things in lots of channels—continually—while tracking results. That way, over time, you can learn what works, what doesn’t, and hopefully do more of the former and less of the latter.

A good starting point might be to emulate an Eddie Bauer, Cabela’s, or Omaha Steaks. None is just a catalog marker, retail chain, or e-merchant, but is all of the above and more. Each channel carries its weight in sales, branding and profitability.

Marketers who find the new and growing multichannel world daunting might consider its pluses before leaping in despair and to a less challenging career. One study suggests that customers of multichannel companies spend 30% more. Moreover, today’s shoppers use multiple channels to do homework before buying. Thus you can use each channel to build your brand, reinforce key messages, and promote the other channels. Assuming your brand is consistent across channels—if not, it’s a weak brand—there are economies of scale, since branding elements need only be invented once.

Besides, multichannel marketing is fun! Pity our marketing forbears. Once they mastered print, broadcast and direct mail, they were done. How boring is that?

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