by Brian Sun, Senior Manager, Content Marketing, Autopilot

7 Multi-Channel Marketing Best Practices to Create a Personalized Experience

“We are a living in a multi-channel world, and I am a multi-channel girl.” – Madonna. That was the song, right?

Jokes aside, we do live in a multi-channel world. The problem is only 14% of organizations say they are currently running coordinated marketing campaigns across all channels.

These multi-channel marketing best practices will help you overcome that hump to create consistent, personalized experiences.

1. Try sequential multi-channel messaging

There is no such thing as a mono-channel customer today. As the number of channels a consumer uses to make a purchase increases, so should your touchpoints. Punctuate your marketing message by sequentially trying new channels if one isn’t working.

For example, when people think of “marketing automation,” email is the channel most frequently used. After all, the marketing automation industry was birthed out of the batch-and-blast email era. But what do you do when your automated emails aren’t being opened in the first place?

Most marketers try email A/B testing their way to success. Another, less utilized approach is to send a similar message through a different channel. In the brand new world of customer journey marketing software, you have multiple channels to choose from:

  • In-app messages
  • On-website messages
  • SMS
  • Direct mail

So if a contact doesn’t open up an email, you can send the same message through a different channel. Here’s a sequential multi-channel messaging flow example to illustrate.

webinar final

In this case you’re hosting a webinar. You send out an email you worked on for three long hours that gets a 15% open rate…but what about the other 85%?! If a chunk of those come back to your website to log in to your service, you could display a Headsup message to invite them to the webinar a day later.

webinar headsup

The extra nudge could lead to additional webinar registrants, thanks to making the invitation through a different channel.

2. Motivate the next step in the customer journey

Timing is an important factor when thinking through your multi-channel messages. Not only should you be thoughtful about the customer journey stage your audience is in, but you should also consider the order in which your audience will see your messages across different channels.

In terms of customer journey stages, use the Customer Journey Marketing Framework as a reference:

CJM framework

It’s a blueprint that helps you envision how to acquire, nurture, and grow more customers.

With the framework in mind, think through the marketing channels you have at your disposal—social, display, retargeting, search, email, text, phone, in-app messages, direct mail, video, in-store experiences—the list goes on. What channels make the most sense to communicate through based on your customer’s journey stage?

Say you’re a SaaS company, and want to choose the best channels for each stage.

  • Acquire stage channels could include LinkedIn paid campaigns, Google AdWords, email, and on-site messages with a focus on problem awareness.
  • Nurture stage channels could include retargeting, email, text messages, and nurture emails with a focus on education and showing value through case studies.
  • Grow stage channels could include email, in-app messaging, and in-person events with a focus on activation, enablement, and encouraging usage.

Think about which channel is your first touch and which channels would be subsequent touches to tell a cohesive story. Every time a person interacts with your brand, you want to teach them something new about your offering through a channel where your story won’t go stale. Over time, their knowledge of your offerings will compound, and nudge them further along the customer journey.

3. Automate multi-channel messages based on behavior

Behavior-based messaging is an advanced way to reach contacts at the right time and offer a personalized experience. The way it works is when X happens then Y is sent. Here are a few multi-channel messaging examples to illustrate:

  • When a new person signs up for a SaaS free trial, then an email and an SMS are sent
  • When a new person becomes a customer, then a direct mail postcard is sent
  • When a new person browses a product on your website, then recommend that product and similar products via dynamic retargeting ads

The key is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and ask “What message on what channel makes the most sense in response to this event?”

People are more likely to respond to messages that are directly relevant to their previous interactions and interests. If you send a customer an email after they’ve taken action on your website, make sure the content is personalized for their specific needs. Further, if the customer clicks a link from the email, the page you send them to should be relevant and encourage continued interaction.

4. Layer multiple channels on top of each other

Multi-channel marketing is at its best when you layer channels on top of each other to reinforce your messaging. Consider the marketing automation channels we’ve already discussed along with where they meet the contact:

  • Email → inbox
  • SMS → phone
  • Direct mail → physical mailbox
  • In-app message → in your product
  • On-website message → uhh on your website

With these five channels alone, you can send a strong, unified message. You can even add retargeting into the mix, in partnership with your marketing automation channels, to engage with customers while they browse around the web.

For example, we layer email and SMS channels on top of each other when users sign up for an Autopilot free trial. Immediately after signing up, users receive this email:

Welcome email

Along with an SMS message right after:

Text message

Both channels nudge users toward adding the tracking code—an event that increases the likelihood of becoming a paying customer. This email-plus-text-message approach jives with the finding that 72% of consumers would rather connect with brands through multiple channels.

5. Keep a consistent brand voice and visuals

60% of millennials expect consistent experiences when dealing with brands online, in-store, or by phone. The keyword here is consistent. I’d argue that the principle extends to the specific channels we’ve covered in this post—if your email and SMS message are sent at the same time but say different things, then recipients can easily become confused by the mixed messages.

So, as a rule of thumb, keep a consistent brand voice and visual identity. Big brands are the best at this. As an example, take a gander at Coke’s “Share a Coke” campaign with consistent messaging across banner ads, billboards, and a booth experience.

coke brian 01

Notice the consistent “Share a Coke with…” copy and the iconic Coca-Cola colors and visuals. Whichever channel a person interacts with during the campaign, they’ll enjoy a consistent experience.

6. Tailor your message to each channel

Every channel comes with built-in constraints. How can images be incorporated, if at all? How much text is appropriate? What dimensions are you working with? The list goes on. Cutting and pasting the same message and visuals for every channel could result in a bunch of weird lookin’ marketin’.

So the best path forward is to tailor your communication to each channel. Practically speaking, you can use a copy deck to make this happen. A copy deck is a document that contains a series of related messages, and provides the infrastructure required to plan (and later write) your copy.

A key part of the process is structuring your core message with these components:

  • the key message (e.g. you’re invited to our customer journey marketing conference)
  • any supporting information (i.e. when and where the event takes place, where and how to buy tickets, etc.)
  • the call-to-action (e.g. book your spot)

Once you have these components nailed down, massage the copy to fit within the constraints of each channel. For example, write a succinct text message and a more fleshed out email—just be sure to hit the three key components.

On the design side, send the imagery dimensions to your designer ahead of time so they can do their thang. Plus they’ll love you for making their life easier.

7. Leverage certain channels for certain types of messages

A contact’s time and attention are valuable. The last thing your audience wants is for you to bombard their inbox, phone, or physical mailbox with irrelevant messages. They expect and deserve better. According to our findings in a recent study, consumers want messages that are timely, knowledgeable, and personal.

Consumers want messages that are timely, knowledgeable, and personal.

We know this intuitively when we’re the customer, but somehow forget it when we put on our marketer hat. With that said, it’s important to treat our customer’s attention with respect. Be thoughtful with what you send, when, and on what channel.

For example, say you release a new feature like better search functionality in your app. Is your gut reaction to send out an email blast to your whole database? Probably. You’ve worked hard to get the thing ready. But is that new feature a top priority pull-out-all-the-stops launch or a nice-to-release-but-not-announce feature? If it’s the latter, an in-app message may be better suited for this release instead of an email send. It’s important enough to let users know, but not important enough to send an email.

Give these multi-channel marketing best practices a shot. What do you have to lose?

To get started with multi-channel marketing, sign up for an Autopilot free trial.

Thank you to Anne Fleshman and Lauren Davis for their ideas and insights on this topic.

Author Brian Sun, Senior Manager, Content Marketing, Autopilot

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