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Omnichannel marketing: THE most effective strategic approach

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Jul 26, 2016 • Eric Morgenstern • Blog

Omnichannel Marketing



The premise behind omnichannel marketing is really quite simple: Organize your marketing and communications around your audience, not the channel. Determine your story and share it through every available vehicle. Do this clearly, consistently and concurrently, and your brand (and business) will grow. Makes sense, doesn't it?

But that's a relatively new approach. 

For a long, long time, marketing was organized around the channel. That old-fashioned approach never made sense to me as an inquisitive college student or at any point during my nearly 40-year career. 

From academia to the private sector

When I was in college in the 70s, the construct now universally embraced as integrated marketing communications (IMC) simply didn’t exist. Everything was taught and practiced in silos. Advertising, PR, film, events, etc. were developed and deployed independent from the other vehicles. This simply won’t work anymore. The nexus has taken a complete shift. 

Today, we align by audience. Or what we like to describe as, “recipient-oriented communications.” It’s not what you WANT to say, it’s what they NEED to hear…in the way that THEY choose to pay attention.

In the late 1970s, I worked for Brewer, the Young & Rubicam agency in KC. At the time, they didn’t know exactly what to do with me. I quickly became the physical embodiment of “integrated marketing” at that agency because I worked on the ad accounts in the morning and PR accounts in the afternoon.

We’ve come a long way since then. It’s taken a tremendous amount of effort, and while agencies have always been on the cutting edge, both higher education and corporate leadership needed to get on board.

The private sector led academia to embrace IMC 

By the mid-1980s, I had been complaining for years to the University of Kansas (KU) journalism school leadership about the lack of cross-channel strategic integration skills of recent graduates. I wanted to employ graduates with multiple skills, but the curricula still embraced “one-channel” thinking. Finally, I was asked to serve on a private sector advisory group for the KU journalism school, which later founded one of the first IMC master’s degrees in the early 1990s. Higher education caught up to the real world.

That initial advisory group represented corporate, agency and not-for-profit leaders. We created guidelines for this unique master’s degree. Innovative for its day, that program now has several hundred graduates practicing IMC in all sectors and locations (including several alums from Morningstar Communications!). 

The IMC program had a renaissance during the last recession, but now finds enrollment down, so the KU J-School’s Dean Ann Brill and Associate Dean of Graduate Studies Scott Reinardy decided to reboot the IMC program. Again, they have reached out to a handful of recognized industry leaders to serve KU as the IMC Advisory Board. I’m honored to be selected along with Phil Bressler, Lainie Decker, Liz Hawks, Michelle Keller and Mike Swenson.

Moving forward with omnichannel marketing

Today, IMC has morphed into “omnichannel” marketing, which better describes the myriad of communications channels that comprise a fully integrated program. In addition to focusing on pure marketing channels (paid, earned, shared and controlled), omnichannel marketing includes ALL of the touchpoints that build your brand, including your sales people and their tools, customer service, on-hold messaging, invoicing, etc.

This is another enormous change in the way marketers and communicators build and implement programs. Most importantly and appropriately, now the nexus is the audience, not the channel. The recipient doesn’t discriminate (is that a controlled or paid communication?). They simply receive (or block) the message.

The power of an omnichannel approach is the synergy or gestalt effective leaders can create by orchestrating all of their tools. We call this amplifying your message. In other words, what can you do before, during and after a moment to maximize the exposure?

One simple example goes like this:

You have an upcoming speaking opportunity to share your smarts in front of a target-rich industry group. Approximately 50 people attend the event. Sending effective, enticing information in the send-ahead, including learning objectives, helps build anticipation and plants seeds. 

Then, you deliver the presentation. Nail it. Leave them impressed and wanting more. Have someone live tweet your highlights in order to create a content trail of the best “pearls” from your remarks.

Follow up with all attendees with an email and a pdf or link of your presentation. Next, take your content and imagery for your presentation and repackage it into a byline article that can be placed in a key trade magazine. Finally, merchandise the heck out of that reprint through emails, social media, posting it to your website, etc.  

This is omnichannel marketing in the real world, an approach we implement regularly for our B2B clients.

Leaders understand that educated prospects usually become the best clients. And while B2B buyers hate to be sold, they eventually have to buy. And people tend to buy from those who educate them. 

This post puts a capstone on the omnichannel blog series brought to you by our team. Omnichannel approaches simply work. Always have. Always will. 

Onward and upward.

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