Omnichannel marketing is the most effective approach

Omnichannel marketing transcends traditional integrated marketing and communications to include all of the interactions between an organization and its audiences.

Omnichannel marketing transcends traditional integrated marketing and communications to include all of the interactions between an organization and its audiences.

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, not the person. That approach never made any sense to me as an inquisitive college student or at any point during my 40-year career. 

we finally shifted our nexus from the media channel to the recipient

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 I describe as, “recipient-oriented communications.” It’s not what you WANT to say, it’s what they NEED to hear.

In the late 1970s, I worked for Brewer Advertising, the Young & Rubicam agency in KC. Back then 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 advertising 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 begin teaching 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 skills of recent graduates. I wanted to hire 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 soon 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 new master’s degree. Innovative for its day, that program now has hundreds of graduates practicing IMC in all sectors and locations (including several alums from Morningstar Communications!). 

The IMC program at KU Edwards had a renaissance during the last recession, but then found enrollment down. The KU J-School 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.

Today, IMC has morphed into “omnichannel” marketing

In addition to simply focusing on traditional marketing channels (paid, earned, shared and controlled), omnichannel marketing includes ALL of the touchpoints that build your brand. 

Your sales people and their tools, customer service, on-hold messaging, invoicing, and all client interactions comprise an omnichannel approach.

This is another advancement in the way marketers and communicators build and implement brand-building programs. The recipient doesn’t discriminate between channels (is that a controlled communication or a customer service interaction?).

The power of an omnichannel approach is the synergy or gestalt effective leaders create by orchestrating all of their tools. This amplifies your message.

How to maximize your ROI

Here's an example.

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.  

Leaders understand that educated prospects usually become the best clients. And while most everyone hates to be sold, most people like to buy, and they buy from trusted providers.

The omnichannel approach builds trust and strengthens your brand.