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Develop a Multichannel Contact Strategy

By Aug 03, 2011

Most marketers realize that customers have kicked us out of the driver’s seat as we cruise along the multichannel highway. Marketers that don’t recognize this shift in power are facing a very bumpy ride as dissatisfied customers take it out on the last place that didn’t deliver as promised, whether it’s a website, email, direct mail, or call center.

Making multichannel marketing work means having a contact and messaging strategy for key member segments and every one of the key touchpoints they are likely to use. At the same time, we need to understand what makes each of those individual dialogues successful. And as marketers keep experimenting with new channels like mobile and social, process becomes more critical. Here are seven milestones that will guide you along the best route:

1. Build a customer journey map for your key segments.
Before creative development begins, start by mapping successful outcomes for each customer segment. What actions do you want prospects or customers to take as they move through their relationship with you? What channels are they likely to prefer? What will define success for each type of dialogue?

2. Establish a clear creative development process.
Build a campaign brief detailing the objectives for each channel. Multichannel campaign flowcharts that represent the interaction of each medium help everyone understand how the pieces work together. Make sure they include flows for response management, data capture and measurement. If you want the best from your creative design team, give them a complete visual of creative, segment, response and measurement strategy. A picture is worth a thousand words.

3. Develop a response management implementation plan.
Absolutely critical to the success of a creative messaging plan is a plan for response management. Consumers may be able to respond in multiple ways to any given message stream, and you’ll want to make sure those responses can be captured and measured appropriately. Assume that in many cases microsites may be needed, and data capture for analysis and return to the database must be coordinated as a part of the whole.

4. Personalization management is critical.
Use customer insights wherever possible to create relevant messaging. Getting to smart personalization by segment or audience group means you’ll need to design a segment messaging and contact plan. Add personalization to the testing matrix to establish the value or lift of personalization for each campaign. Practical creative asset management is a critical success factor in driving consistent multiple versions and variable messaging through the final execution and response channels.

5. Automation—look at nurturing and triggered messaging plans.
Nurturing or triggered messaging will often need to be piloted to prove its effectiveness, but throughout the planning process, consider how your messaging will move from a one-time pilot to an ongoing communications stream. Ultimately, this is the best way to manage highly complex communications to multi-segment audiences.

6. Consider your execution and production management.
Managing a multichannel campaign manually is clearly complex, and unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet for complete automation. Most campaign management tools are not tightly integrated with the messaging engines they push to, and there is always some duplication of effort in setting up the effective delivery of messages.

Evaluate the capabilities of each execution channel at your disposal. Can you utilize Print on Demand? Can you automate and streamline the implementation process of individual email campaigns? Evaluate the capability of your email provider to host microsites and/or for mobile or social implementations and identify a proof of concept pilot where these capabilities might be tested.

7. Test and learn.
Each of your messaging plans or campaign elements should have a learning objective to guide you towards an ultimate roll-out to an automated multichannel program. Just because coordinating the multichannel campaign is complicated doesn’t mean you should skimp on incorporating testing and measurement into the program design.

Think through the post-pilot analytics while you’re developing creative and messaging – make it an afterthought and you’ll be forever stuck in pilot mode and less able to streamline and automate to consistently improve your results and ROI.

Martha Bush is senior vice president of strategy & solutions at SIGMA Marketing Group.