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Transformation Myth: "Keeping the Team Small Is Simpler"

Adopting a multi-channel mindset to drive customer-centric transformation.

The idea that companies could tightly coordinate marketing and customer engagement across media and channels was a largely unattainable dream until just a few years ago. For many companies, it remains an elusive but attractive goal.  But this is changing rapidly, with huge implications for how companies approach customer-centric transformation.

Merkle’s recent study, “The Case for Change: Exposing the Myths of Customer-Centric Transformation,” reveals Myth #4:  “It will be simpler to get this done by keeping the team small.” For many, that means approaching transformation on a channel-by-channel basis. Frankly, it’s often a lot easier to make improvements within a small team, avoiding the kind of tough conversations and hard decisions necessary to coordinate across multiple channel silos. But increasingly, the channel improvements marketers want to make transcend individual channels. That means you need to broaden the stakeholders and bridge your internal silos when thinking about any sort of meaningful customer-centric transformation.

The creation of channel silos

When digital channels began emerging twenty years ago, each channel was operated via organizational silos that were largely independent and stand-alone. Coordination of marketing execution was difficult to do, in part because of limited data sharing and technology limitations. That left it up to the customer to navigate across a company’s various channels.

Multi-channel marketing typically meant that a consistent message was communicated across channels and media. Even this could be challenging to pull off within many organizations. The idea that a customer could move seamlessly across channels was not even a consideration. 

Shifts in consumer expectations are creating an impact on channels

Today, technology (and consumer expectations) have changed the game. Many companies, especially in financial services, began to optimize the concept that ‘you know me’ regardless of channel. Technology behind the scenes and more effective data management and insights helped enabled this paradigm shift. 

Cross-channel interaction seems to happen seamlessly – a prospect visits a website, a tag fires, the site interaction is linked (anonymously at first) via a DMP to first- and third-party profile data, the prospect/cookie is associated with a segment (audience), and the next interaction delivers content associated with that segment/audience. As the prospect moves through the customer journey, from awareness to consideration to purchase, the interaction gets richer and even more personalized, regardless of the channel.

Technology has also driven the ability for always-on, triggered communications. Not so long ago, marketing campaigns were typically executed in batches (e.g., back-to-School or holiday). Today, campaigns are increasingly not scheduled for specific dates. Leading companies are increasingly adept at engaging customers where customers want to engage – whether website, landing page, call center, mobile, and retail –  then continuing an increasingly personalized dialogue with each customer based on an evolving understanding of the customer and their intent across channels seamlessly.  

The campaigns are said to be always on, because instead of a mono-channel or duo-channel engagement that attempts to reach thousands of customers at the same time with a message, the engagement often begins when the customer wants it to begin, based on a wide range of stimuli which may include an email blast but as often includes a social media mention or a display ad or a paid search result or a mass media mention. The customer often is the one who triggers the engagement with an action they choose to take.

Can companies make true multi-channel and always-on marketing work with rigid channel-based silos? Not readily. Channel-based silos typically result in rigidity and inflexibility that makes triggered, multi-channel marketing challenging to execute.   

Planning and execution needs to transcend the internal politics of channel ownership, and needs to adopt a segment/audience customer journey lens. Successful companies drive collaboration across their channel silos, including far greater coordination of customer journey planning and customer engagement execution (including meaningful input from channel owners).

This doesn’t mean that companies should walk away from channel experts. Each channel has its own nuances and requirements that require deep subject matter expertise for optimal performance. But change the ‘my channel first’ mindset! Think outside in, from the customers’ perspective and how they want to engage across channels with your company. Put measurement and attribution in place that fairly allocates credit across channels (e.g., using a fractional attribution methodology). Revise incentives to focus on broader marketing objectives (i.e. making the sale) while also maintaining an orientation to channel-specific optimization. From a cultural viewpoint, find ways to reward the collaborators, and rebuke those who take a self-centered attitude about channel marketing.

Learn more by reading our recent research: “The Case for Change: Exposing the Myths of Customer-Centric Transformation