The sheer number of marketing channels available today can make your head spin. From old-school techniques like yellow page ads, direct mail, and radio spots to the relative new kids on the block like email, social media, and online video, the list seems endless.
So how do you choose which channels are right for your marketing strategy? By taking a look at what’s working for you now, and what’s working for other companies.
A Few Important Numbers
First, let’s take a look at some statistics. According to a 2013 survey by Social Media Examiner, 86% of marketers place a high value on social media marketing, up from 83% in 2012.
Video and blogging were major focus points, with 69% planning to increase their YouTube presence next year, and 66% planning to start or increase blogging for their companies. Facebook is the clear social media winner, with 49% of marketers saying that, if they had to choose only one platform, Facebook would be it.
Why is social media such a big focus for marketers — and what can marketers learn from these numbers? For starters, social media is effective for expanding reach; 89% of those surveyed said that increased exposure was the number one benefit of their social networking campaigns.
For more understanding, let’s break down the different channel types typically evaluated in marketing studies:
Years ago, channels like direct mail, telemarketing, and TV or radio ads were the major focus of marketers. But, with the internet boom and the rise of social media sites, traditional advertising has lost much of the power it once had.
Television commercials are easily skipped through the use of Hulu or fast-forwarded with TiVo. iTunes and internet radio such as Pandora took away much of radio’s audience, making radio ads far less cost effective. Finally, with 2/3 of U.S. citizens on the FTC’s Do Not Call list and 44% of direct mail tossed in the trash unopened, traditional marketing just doesn’t have the bite it once did.
So, What’s the Solution?
With the power of traditional advertising channels declining, how can marketers make up the difference?
Increasingly, marketers in all industries need to make the switch from outdated splatter-marketing channels to relevant, personalized communications with their customer base. Messages need to be delivered through direct channels that customers frequent and allow for interaction. Often this requires strategic integration of channels rather than a channel specific campaign. While social media is a natural choice for expanding reach and increasing interaction, statement marketing is a natural fit for targeted messaging that is compliant with privacy regulations.
According to the e-Consultancy Cross-Channel Marketing Report, many companies and marketing agencies have already seen the importance of changing their marketing models. eConsultancy asked marketers what their three top-priority marketing channels were for the next year. Digital channels such as company websites (50% of respondents), e-mail (39%) and social media (39%) topped the list by a wide margin. Direct mail (12%), newspaper ads (10%), and telemarketing (6%) were near the bottom of the list – however direct mail and print media are the offline channels most often integrated with digital channels, with just over half (53%) of companies reporting that they integrate these channels. Like most industry reports on channel effectiveness, the eConsultancy report overlooks the customer communications or statement marketing channel completely. This is not surprising since this tremendously valuable communication channel (sometimes referred to as Transpromo) is overlooked by most corporate marketing departments as well – despite its low cost, high value and guaranteed access to customers.
Making Online/Offline Campaign Integration Work
Of course, making the switch from traditional channels to online and social channels won’t happen overnight and getting marketing departments to embrace a channel like statement marketing that has long been the domain of IT or Operations often requires some arm twisting. For most marketing departments, both of these migrations will take time and culture change.
In order to understand the calculus of reach and return with the new and old channels available, marketing departments must invest in more and better measurement. There must be a renewed focus on understanding the goals of campaigns in order to develop strategies that make the best use of individual channels and the interaction between channels:
- Response codes on direct mail or statements that link to web or mobile apps
- Combining direct mail, email and web messaging
- Social media gaming and statement marketing
Cross-channel marketing is about more than offline or online, it’s about understanding where your customers are and how they want to interact with you. To fully understand the options available, marketers may need to invest in education on channel optimization – but beware of hiring “experts” who are biased towards one channel or another. Experts in Social Media may tell you that it is “the only way to go” while others may tout the benefits of email or direct mail. Chances are, there is a mix that is specifically right for your company, your goals, your priorities and your budget. You’ll only find that through doing your homework.