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A friend of mine who is a marketer once remarked that multichannel marketing is a lot like sex: just about everybody wants to do it, but until you really know what you're doing, it can be a bit of a disappointment once it happens.
One of the most disappointing things about multichannel marketing campaigns is that, in retrospect, they turn out to be meaningless exercises. A lot of excitement gives way to confusion and the reality that what you expected isn't what you got. And that's assuming you expected something in the first place.
Fortunately, it doesn't have to be this way. Multichannel marketing can be meaningful, and beneficial. But before you try it, you need to have start out on the right foot. Here are several prerequisites for doing that.
Focus on action. There's no limit to how creative you can be when you're working with multiple channels, but remember that at the end of the day, the goal of any marketing initiative should be to drive action that benefits the business. So instead of thinking about channels in the abstract and evaluating what you can do in them, think about the actions you'd like to drive and then figure out how you can use a combination of channels to produce those actions.
Pick your KPIs wisely. In marketing, your campaigns are only as good as your KPIs. That's especially true in the realm of multichannel marketing, where you have to collect and analyze data from multiple channels. That often presents some unique challenges, but they're not insurmountable. You just have to be thoughtful about how the data you can collect in one channel can be used to help paint a picture of how that channel is contributing to your campaign more broadly.
Go where your customers are, not where consumers are. Everybody's doing X, so we need to do X too. Nothing could be less true. Even the biggest consumer brands target specific audiences, and chances are your business does too. When evaluating which channels you should take advantage of, don't give too much weight to what's new and popular with consumers in general. Instead, evaluate who your customer (or potential customer) is and what channels he or she is using in the real world. Target those channels.
Pick a few channels at most, and really dig into them. Multichannel marketing is interesting because of the 'multi' part. But too much of a good thing can be bad for you. Biting off more than you can chew is easy in multichannel marketing because it can be difficult to do multiple channels really, really well. That's why it's generally a good idea to focus in on a few channels at most and really work on execution.
Don't be afraid to experiment. There is no magical formula when it comes to developing successful multichannel marketing campaigns. Doing so is sort of like trying to invent a new cocktail: you're going to have to do a bit of experimentation before you hit the jackpot. Experimentation, of course, can be painful because most experiments fail. But so long as you're learning and making new mistakes, failed experiments will usually help more than they hurt.
Photo credit: Brian Hillegas via Flickr.