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Are you making the classic multichannel marketing mistake?

When we consider MCM it is vital that we remember what the last ‘M’ stands for – Philip Kotler defines marketing as “the science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit”. Fundamentally, this still defines how we approach marketing strategy and MCM as an integral part of that.

From an MCM point of view, one common definition brings together most of the required elements:

“Multichannel marketing refers to the practice of interacting with customers using a combination of indirect and direct communication channels – websites, retail stores, mail order catalogs, direct mail, email, mobile, etc. – and enabling customers to take action in response – preferably to buy your product or service – using the channel of their choice. In the most simplistic terms, multichannel marketing is all about choice.”

For me, the key take-out is that it’s all about customer need and choice, ie the customer chooses the channel so they are in control. Therefore, the multichannel approach is built firmly around customers to meet their needs.

None of the definitions that I could find says that MCM is a way of using different media, built around the sales force, to deliver a sales story.

“So what?”, you might ask. Well, the reason I am writing this is that I have just read a recent piece (2016) by IMS titled ’The Essential European Revolution: Why Multichannel is Vital to Europe’.

The key success factors that they identified in their lead case study make interesting reading:

  • Content is king: Doctors seek content that is interesting and useful to them – rep personalisation of content and feedback on what doctors use enables reps to further establish
  • Empowering the reps in the move to multichannel is vital: Regional multichannel rep “ambassadors” understand the need for change and can effectively communicate the benefits of a multichannel approach
  • Digital enhancement of each rep’s effectiveness and reach

As an observation, “content is king” has been true since we learned how to smudge pictures onto cave walls, but do doctors really want representatives to filter it for them? The last two points really frame why this thinking is problematic.

For me, the big questions are “where is the customer?” and “where is the mobile revolution?”. IMS are talking multichannel selling here, not multichannel marketing.

This is the crux of the problem. And it’s not simply semantics; there is a key difference here. Yes, in multichannel sales we use limited channels, controlled by us, to tell the customer what we want to say. But that’s very different to multichannel marketing. And, if companies like IMS make this basic error, it isn’t surprising that it is still a common misapprehension in the industry.

Google talk about “winning the moments that matter” when building multichannel strategies. This entails creating approaches around our customers, their needs and behaviours to ensure that we are there with the right mix of push and pull interactions whenever key information is being sought or key decisions are being reached. Or, as Byron Sharp terms it, “building memory structures that trigger recollection of our brands at those points”. So we still get to say what we need to say, but at points where it is much more relevant to the customer.

If we wish to be successful we need to build our strategy and infrastructure around those objectives. Delivering the selling story is part of that, but can’t define its totality.

Maintaining focus on our customers’ needs and how we meet them, as part of the overall marketing strategy, in an integrated way, is much more likely to lead to success than sawing off a part of that, labelling it MCM and somehow treating it as a separate activity.