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Biggest Multi Channel Marketing Mistakes

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You may be reading this post wondering what the heck is a “channel”? I apologize for using Internet marketing Lingua franca. “Channels” are Internet marketing speak for ways to reach customers. Print advertising is a channel. Direct Marketing, or catalogs usually received through the mail, is a channel. Creating an e-commerce web site is a channel. Google’s pay per click ads (PPC) is a channel.

The blogosophere might be an effective marketing channel for some business models. Apple apps are becoming a robust channel and Facebooks ads may prove to be the most robust channel. The jury may be out on whether Facebook’s platform becomes a more effective “channel” than Google, but we live in a multichannel Internet marketing (or multi channel) world.

Marketing across multiple channels brings new challenges and risks. This post outlines ten multi channel marketing mistakes. I write to not to do these things the next time on web sites I manage. If your company is making one or more of these mistakes you are not alone. Multi channel marketing is an evolving science. Channels multiply like rabbits in our fast, furious connected world, so it is easy to make mistakes, ones outlined here and o

A good plan executed today is better in multi channel Internet marketing than a perfect plan tomorrow. I recall wise words from Russ Mills, my first P&G boss. Russ told me, almost thirty years ago, “ Martin you aren’t failing enough.” Russ’s comment came after what I thought was a successful day of selling bar soap and household cleaning products. If your company isn’t making some of Martin’s Multi Channel Marketing Mistakes then you aren’t failing enough. Hopefully this Biggest Multi Channel Marketing Mistakes post will help your company fail more in order to make more money and think of multi channel marketing differently.

Top Ten Multi Channel Marketing Mistakes

  1. Too Many Eggs In One Basket
  2. Speaking With Forked Tongue
  3. Disrespecting A Channel’s Rules
  4. Not Walking Marketing Talk
  5. Throwing Good Money After Bad
  6. Misreading Marketing Analytics
  7. Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots Between Channels
  8. Ignoring New Channels
  9. Allowing Competitors To Seize High Ground
  10. Jack Of All Trades, Master of None

1. Too Many Marketing Eggs In One (or Two) Baskets
Easter seems an appropriate time to steal a metaphor. We are all multi channel marketers now. Your company or not-for-profit can’t survive reaching customers via a single channel. This truth is worth repeating and saying a little differently. Your company must be a multi channel marketer. No matter how good you are or were in a single channel your company must be available to your customers in multiple ways.

Even the greatest infomercial creators, Guthy Renker, include web site addresses for Proactiv, their teenage skin play, Tony Robbins’ Ultimate Edge and Dean Martin’s Roast. Guthy Renker, the best infomercial creators in the world, know they must communicate in many marketing channels. Supporting web sites are the cost of infomercial poker. Create and air a multi-million dollar infomercial without a web address and you will have trouble creating positive return on investment (ROI).

Guthy Renker seems late to the social media marketing party. Being late to social media marketing might be all right in their business model (though secretly I doubt it). Guthy Renker illustrates an important multi channel marketing point. Your company MUST be a multi channel marketer, but this is NOT to say your marketing message must play in EVERY channel. Web sites are required for infomercial creators. Infomercials need a web site’s legitimacy.

We live in Do-It-Yourself (DIY) times. Deny your customers the ability to learn about your products and services easily and on their own at your financial peril. Guthy Renker knows it is too easy to support their main marketing efforts with multiple channels. Infomercial ROI is increased greater than the costs of creating and maintaining supporting web sites.

Some marketing channels are so important every business must have or develop core competency. Required channels are:

Customer Friendly Web Sites
Search Engine Friendly Web Sites
Email Marketing
At Least One Social Media (Twitter or Facebook )

Multiple marketing channels are a MUST. A long post could be written explaining each channel listed above, but, for this post, these four describe the minimum number of marketing channels required. Note the absence of traditional “interruptive” media. Print, television and other “traditional” marketing media have a place, but their place is different today versus ten or twenty years ago. Traditional marketing was THE WAY to build brands and so start a product or service’s sales engine. Traditional media continues to have a role, an amplification role. No product, service or company has enough money to climb today’s marketing Everest with a single channel. And why would you want too?

2. Speaking With Forked Tongue
Many multi channel retailers create channel conflict. Recently I got caught in just such a conflict. Receiving an email on Friday from Borders about a special on boxed CD’s I rushed to the store only to be told the sale started on Saturday. Email is an immediate marketing medium. I took an immediate action, but Borders was speaking with a forked tongue. They wanted to use email marketing to generate store traffic, but they violated one of the primary rules of email marketing – a call to action customers can act on NOW.

Borders is a single example of marketing channel conflict almost every brick and mortar retailer creates. During a trip to Macy’s during the holidays I asked about an Internet promotion only to be told it was “web only”. Macy’s left hand didn’t know the cool stuff its left hand was creating losing money and customer loyalty with each failure.

Marketing messages must be coherent and consistent across channels. “Internet Only” is one way around channel conflict, a cheap and uninspiring way. When a company says “Internet Only” they admit to channel conflict so severe they can’t see their way home. Marketing is hard enough. Creating silos inside a company’s marketing is consumer death.

This is not to say every campaign has to go full bore on every channel every time. Testing a new ad campaign inside a single channel is a good idea. If Macy’s wanted to make their Pandora offer Internet Only as a way of testing the expense of campaign extension, a perfect use for the Web, then more power to their marketing team. Be sure to say “Internet Only” in bold, large letters. Consider adding copy to tell the story of why something is Internet Only. Internet Only because your company is testing and wants customer feedback. Sharing the backstory gets customer feedback faster than keeping that secret. Customers feel informed, engaged and 1% will be willing to help. Read more about customer participation in my 1:10:89 post.

Don’t let what is happening to Borders, they filed Chapter 11 several months ago, happen to your company. Make sure your marketing messages are consistent and supportive across multiple marketing channels.

3. Disrespecting Channel Rules
Borders violated a primary rule of email marketing – allow customers to take action NOW. Each channel from YouTube to highway billboards has rules or best practices your marketing team must walk, talk and incorporate. Typically I advise “go now and beg forgiveness later” figuring a good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow. While this “go now” attitude is generally correct some caution is needed when marketing in a new channel.

You only get one chance to make a first impression. Gatekeepers and customers are judging every Internet marketing move. Jumping into the deep end of a new marketing channel’s pool may be a mistake. Better to hire or create expertise THEN begin marketing in new marketing channels. The world is awash in helpful information, so read up or hire a consultant to learn, incorporate and respect a marketing channel’s rules.

4. Not Walking Marketing Talk
Not walking your marketing talk is deadly. Assume anything you publish will be challenged, scrutinized and checked with wisdom of crowds aggregation tools. The time of marketing speak may be over killed by social media, blogs and easy wisdom of crowds aggregation tools. Web sites are platforms for interaction more than “selling” tools. Customers buy on testimonials, reviews and ratings. Building a platform where honest collaboration is easily possible may be the most important marketing statement any web site can make.  Walk your marketing talk and back your ideas with supportive non-verbals. This means you can’t say, “We are great at customer service” and not have a Zappos-like Twitter feed. Zappos understands the cost of best in class customer service is using Twitter to allow an open and honest conversation, a conversation where Zappos employees contribute thoughts, experiences and solve problems. Zappos walks their Internet marketing talk AND they understand how to translate their beliefs into site architecture (i.e. a web site’s “nonverbals).

5. Throwing Good Money After Bad
Many new channels don’t respond well to money first marketing. Money first marketing is selling hollow ideas or products with large advertising buys. Spending a million dollars in Google PPC advertising doesn’t make sense if every forum, blog and rating site is trashing your company, brand, product or service. Any attempts to climb marketing Everest with money alone fail.

A Bully Finds A Pulpit on the Web, a November 2010 New York Times article, outlined how an eyeglass retailer provided lousy customer service at least partially to gain Search Engine Optimization (SEO) ground. The customer understood links from high PageRank pages would boost his lousy store into lead positions on important keywords. Mess with the bull and get the horns. Google changed their algorithm not long after the New York Times article to deflate this retailers nasty e-commerce dreams proving Google’s relationship math always wins, if we had any doubt. Gaming the system is not a multi channel marketing ploy with a sustainable or profitable future.

Multi channel marketing is about creating greatness, telling amazing stories and supporting customers desires to evangelize your company, brand, product or service:

  • Good news: it has never been easier for your customers to help build your company.
  • Bad news: it has never been harder to earn the most important multichannel marketing you can’t buy – WORD OF MOUTH.
  • Create greatness, tell the story and then listen intently. Don’t try to scam or buy your way to the top of the mountain.
  • Don’t throw good money after bad.

6. Misreading Marketing Analytics
Knowing exactly when and why you are making money can be foggy in a multi channel marketing world. Did your ad + web site + email drive a sale? If so, what portion of the sale should be allocated against each channel? Smart multi channel marketers know answering the “why”, “when”, “where” and “how” questions are impossible. Taking reporting license is needed. If this sounds like a Serious Wild Ass Guess (SWAG) you aren’t too far wrong.

Every customer touch point contributes to making sales. Quantifying who gets what can drive you mad. Better to realize we live in ambiguous marketing times and assign business rules to help define where and why you are making money.

I’ve heard Marketing Directors make crazy statements such as “Twitter is stupid,” or “organic marketing doesn’t work”. Read Why Twitter Is Important for more on how curation tools such as Twitter will shape our Internet Marketing future. Find ways to value every channel’s contribution and you won’t misread your marketing analytics and cut off an important upstream contribution to your Internet marketing’s success.

7. Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots Between Channels
It is possible for an offer in one marketing channel to knock the block off another.  Creating campaigns that obliterate each other is cross talk to a maximum degree. Some offers are so strong they MUST be carried across all channels. Free Shipping on your site means your catalog should offer it too. A “buy one, get one” in the catalog means your site must match the offer.

I was a Director of E-Commerce in a company started as a catalog. Our catalog created GREAT offers, but some mechanics were hard to duplicate online. Our catalog loved creating variable set merchandising. Buy $20 of this get this free. Buy $50 get this other thing free. This kind of mix and matched merchandising was very hard to match with our web’s legacy content management system. We found klutzy ways to make these “catalog” offers work online. It was hard for our site to explain, in real time, how to get the deal. Our web site’s block was knocked off by our catalog.

Customers hate it when they can’t get or understand a promotion. Better to error on the side of simplicity. After ten years of Internet marketing I know nothing is ever as simple as it you think it is or should be. Don’t let one of your channels knock the block off another channel’s marketing efforts.

8. Ignoring New Channels
Ignore new channels such as YouTube, cell phones and Twitter at your marketing peril. Set aside 10% of your yearly marketing budget to “blow” against new channels, new media. Suspend the return on investment (ROI) conversation for this money. Assume you will lose every dollar but gain valuable intelligence and be ready to create effective marketing in new channels when they become undeniably robust. Don’t get hung up in what “undeniably robust” means. Look to lose money to “fail enough”. When in doubt, read Biggest Multi Channel Marketing Mistakes number 9.

9. Allowing Competitors To Seize High Ground In New Channels
New marketing channels form quickly and without any guarantees. They may or may not be around ten years from now. Watch your competitors closely. When they begin listing Facebook and Twitter symbols so should you. Ideally you would lead, but you can’t be all things to all people. Sometimes your marketing is about marking a competitor’s move. You can’t afford to be absent. Your competitors may build too much steam if you seed new channel’s high ground for long.  Mark a competitor’s move, watch and wait. Use a service such as SpyFu or Hitwise to make sure your competitors aren’t seizing the PPC high ground. Watch their sites for new social media marketing icons and don’t be far behind. If your competitors seem to be emphasizing a new channel, watch, listen, learn and mark. Never seed new channel marketing high ground uncontested.

10. Jack Of All Trades, Master of None
No company, brand, product or service is going to be brilliant, innovative and world changing in every channel. Can’t be done, so don’t try. Understand the marketing channels critical to your business model and get or hire experts. This begs the question what channels are RIGHT for my company, brand, product or service.

There is no cookie cutter formula to answer the “what channels are most important” question. Guthy Renker figured out they had to have web sites to support infomercials. Your company may combine direct marketing, Facebook, email marketing, search engine marketing and content marketing in a profitable way.

Select one or two marketing channels, build or hire expertise. Define these first two as your marketing “core”. Add new channels by testing offers and comparing results. Never abandon a “core”, but always look to add a new floor or room to your multi channel Internet marketing house. Watch your metrics and find reasonable SWAG’s for attribution. Understand it is always better to be generous in attribution than too cheap since down playing an important marketing channel may secretly kill your business. Once you gather data on multiple marketing channels start to prioritize based on perceived ROI.

Remember to be fuzzy and generous. If you think sales come from 10% email marketing, 30% PPC, 30% direct mail (catalogs) and 30% organic search be willing to share some dollars with what seems like the lowest contributor. Look for “best practice” metrics and compare your ROI to these benchmarks. If something seems off create a SWAG and do a deep dive on the data to figure out what makes the most sense. Going in search of multi channel marketing needles can be time consuming and fruitless, but necessary.

If your business model is not living within available standards find out why. If you are doing a better job in direct mail be cool with that even as you try to bring way ward channels, such as email marketing in the above example, back up to standard. I wanted our marketing channels to shape up like this:

30% Organic Search (i.e. content marketing)
30% Pay Per Click (PPC)
30% Email Marketing
10% Direct Marketing (catalog)

** This is before social, see Perfect Ecommerce Pizza Pie for more. **

This ideal multi channel mix made sense for the business model, company, brand and products I managed. It may make little or no sense for yours. If asked I could explain why each channel received its value with the “why” grounded in the business. The brand I managed was an implied content play, so 30% of sales should come from content marketing. Content marketing is strongest when matched with PPC, yes it does make sense to buy PPC ads even when your site comes up first on a search, so 30% of our marketing budget was allocated against a $3 to $1 ROAS (return on ad spend) PPC buy. Email marketing was our most profitable marketing channel, so I wanted it to grow, grow, grow. The company was founded on a catalog, but its share of web sales continued to shrink over my seven-year tenure. If you want to see a good example of catalog and web site integration go to and request a catalog. Uncommon Goods knows how to avoid speaking with forked tongue.

Multi channel marketing is tricky and getting more so every day. Hope this post helps your company, brand, product or service find a path inside the multi channel marketing labyrinth.

Good luck, and call or email ScentTrail E-Commerce if you need some advice, coaching or multi channel marketing strategy. We’ve been there, done that and do want to do it again ☺.



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