Delivering great omni-channel customer experiences is important, but your brand will never grow if you don’t extend those philosophies to customer acquisition, prospecting, and lead generation. That’s what omni-channel marketing is all about.
Omni-channel is a buzzword all over the Internet, but its principles tend to apply more to customer experience design (CX) than true, outbound, customer-acquisition marketing. Omni-channel in the regular usage is more about making sure once customers find you, they buy from you. So what do we mean when we say “omni-channel marketing”?
Omni-channel marketing is simply taking the principles of omni-channel design and applying them to customer acquisition and lead generation. With these techniques, you close the loop on your marketing strategy and create consistency from customer acquisition through the purchase and ongoing customer lifecycle.
Turning Omni-Channel Inside-Out
Omni-channel CX allows customers to interact with you through the channels of their choosing. Omni-channel marketing turns that around to interact with them, proactively, on the channels they’re already listening to.
Omni-channel CX puts the customer first by using what you know about him or her — customer data — to provide a tailored experience wherever they interact with you. Omni-channel marketing puts your target prospects first by taking what you know about their channel consumption and using that to optimize, even personalize, outbound messaging to highly targeted audiences.
Omni-channel CX aims to remove obstacles to purchasing by giving customers exactly what they want exactly when they want it. Omni-channel marketing takes that same idea and uses it to attract new customers by putting exactly what they want in the exact channels they are currently present in.
The biggest difference is this: Omni-channel CX happens on your owned channels, and it mostly engages existing customers or late-funnel prospects deciding to become customers. But how do you get those prospects into the pipeline in the first place? Traditional mass marketing? Is that really the face you want to present to customers before bringing them into a highly targeted, personalized, omni-channel experience? That might work for Disney, but most brands need to put more effort into creating the initial relationship.
Omni-channel marketing takes everything you do to build your omni-channel customer experience and applies it to lead generation and customer acquisition. It’s how you show people that you know who they are and what they want, and will help them make it happen.
Turning Data Into Actions
It’s one thing to talk about using the data you have, but it’s another thing to actually use it. Every brand has customer data, but most have a hard time accessing it to do much more than send birthday emails and make fairly shallow product recommendations. Abandoned cart emails and customer lifecycle marketing are a nice step in the right direction but, again, they’re reactive. They only apply your data to customers who’ve been to your website or signed up for emails.
In order to use your data for true outbound omni-channel marketing, you need to be able to extrapolate traits from your existing customers that should also appear on likely customers, which is sometimes called look-a-like modeling. This is where analytics comes in.
The process is two-fold. First, you take your customer database, find the segments you want to model, and identify aspects of their data that indicate someone is likely to be your customer. This is data science, not a single-factor analysis. Each segment may have demographic, psychographic, and behavioral variables, but those create models you can use to find other likely customers.
Then you use those models to target both online and offline marketing. For example, Facebook has long offered look-a-like targeting to its audience. Google offers similar options across its whole online and mobile ad network. You can also use these models to identify mailing lists that include the right kind of audiences and target them with relevant marketing.
Omni-channel marketing is not just for direct response, either. It is highly effective at getting the right content in front of your target audience on social media. You can use these models to target content promotion on social networks and make sure the right stories from your accounts wind up in the feeds of the right people on each network.
You can take this further to an opti-channel strategy by constricting your outreach to just the channels each customer prefers to interact on. That may sound counter-intuitive as part of an omni-channel strategy, but as marketing is getting more ubiquitous, consumers and business audiences are both showing fatigue with being hounded by ads from every brand on every channel. So, there are benefits to actually limiting the channels you use for specific customers.
If you can identify the preferred channel of a specific audience segment — or, ideally, at the individual level — and create a great prospect experience for them on that channel, you stand a much better chance of laying the foundation for a great omni-channel customer relationship.
Turning Content Into Connections
All of that modeling and targeting will be wasted if you don’t deliver content the audience wants to engage with. At a minimum, you must develop ad content tailored to the specific segments you’re targeting. Blasting the same offer to all of your audience models is not omni-channel marketing.
Great omni-channel marketing comes from understanding the wants and needs of those customers and answering them. For prospect segments that are already pretty far down the funnel, target them with ad content that makes it easy to see that you offer the things they want and will make them easy to get.
Our last blog post showed how four brands deliver great omni-channel customer experiences by anticipating individual customer needs and removing obstacles that would have a negative impact on customer experience. In omni-channel marketing, you take that same approach to outbound marketing content. That can be as simple as offering a convincing discount, or as complex as creating a video that addresses the segment’s known buying objections.
Not all prospect segments are going to be that far down the funnel, though. You may be using omni-channel marketing to drive awareness and get top-of-funnel prospects to sign up as leads and receive your newsletter. For these types of prospects, educational content can be highly effective. If they’re new to the market, promote blog content that answers common newbie questions. If they’re experienced but not looking to buy yet, promote high-value content that makes an impression and encourages them to come to you for answers (technology companies like Cisco and HubSpot do a wonderful job of this).
Keep in mind that a highly targeted audience means you can develop highly optimized content. For example, if you’re using something like Google affinity audiences to loosely target the visitors of competing websites, then you can talk specifically about the kinds of things those websites cover. At that point, it becomes nearly as targeted as a search ad on a specific keyword. If you’re aiming for an audience visiting sites that help new homeowners get a mortgage, you can target that ad content specifically to new homeowners trying to get a mortgage.
It’s not quite as personalized as designing an omni-channel experience for customers you know, but it’s at least designing ad experiences for people like the customers you know. And that’s the most important pillar of any omni-channel experience.
When you put the person at the center of the experience you design — whether that experience is on your website for customers you know or offsite for prospects you don’t — and you leverage everything you know to make that experience as positive and unfrustrating for them as possible, then you’re laying the foundation for great omni-channel customer relationships.