Cutting omnichannel marketing in half

There are now so many marketing channels, businesses are struggling to utilise and master them all. Marketing guru Craig Davis gives the lowdown on channelling your time into just a few.

The addition of social media into the traditional marketing mix has left companies grappling with how to find the time, money and know-how to advertise their brand through all possible channels. There is a sense that the business won’t be successful or taken seriously unless it is attempting to reach an audience through all available platforms.

This year, co-founder of technology and service design startup Sendle and Adjunct Professor at the University of Technology Sydney’s Business School, Craig Davis, gave a keynote talk at Business Victoria’s Small Business BIG Marketing conference about challenging the notion of mastering all marketing channels. We asked him to outline how this is best done.

Do you think many businesses are drowning in the sheer number of marketing options?

Yes. Communication technologies are growing exponentially and much of their output translates into noise. As a business you are not compelled to participate in all those channels – they’re not compulsory; they’re a choice. I think too many people are trying to do too many things and, consequently, are not necessarily doing any of them very well.

For example, with social media, people see it as free and it’s not. It requires a lot of your time and that comes at a cost. If you run a small business, then that’s time in your day (or night) that you can’t commit to your business or life in other ways. I’m not at all anti-social media but choosing your channels carefully and doing fewer things better, I’d argue, is the better practice.

What purpose does social media serve when used well?

  • One great element of social media is that it builds advocacy. Social platforms are where people are in large numbers, and where people are spending a large amount of time. And that’s important, particularly to small business, if you have a product or service that will resonate with some part of this crowd. But you need to be super-specific in who you want to engage with or you’ll confuse ‘likes’ with real success. Better to have a handful of genuine advocates than legions of lightweight fans.
  • Social media can really help you to understand customer problems. Customers are far more likely to comment on what you’re doing right or wrong on a platform they’re using than to respond to an email survey or go ‘off platform’ to share their thoughts with you. The hardest part is paying attention and listening actively, especially when someone is calling your baby ugly.
  • Social media is great for customer insight, for building engagement and developing your brand voice if you’re prepared to be personable. With brand voice you need to have a high trust relationship with whoever is managing your social media – you can’t expect they’ll run everything through a review committee like you would with traditional advertising. You need to feel comfortable that they’ll be the voice of the company. At the big end of town CSIRO are doing it really well. And at the small end, check out Over the Moo dairy free ice cream.
  • If you can create good content then social media offers you a chance to get it circulating, and if it’s good enough it will keep circulating. But there’s a high threshold to get past. There’s a comment I put in my twitter feed about 10 years ago and it keeps circulating: ‘Stop interrupting what people are interested in and BE what people are interested in’. That’s the real test for social media content.

How do you think social media marketing compares to more traditional forms of marketing?

Social is brilliant when the idea is good enough and you’re very clear on the value you want to create and measure. I think people confuse ‘likes’ and comments with creating genuine value. Building a following who aren’t very engaged doesn’t mean as much as a small tribe of highly engaged, passionate, loyal advocates and critics.

How do you choose which channels to work with?

  • You need to go back to basics and get really clear on your market. It sounds like marketing 101, but it’s easy to get overly ambitious or lazy about understanding your customer demographic. Be very disciplined about who your market is, their preferences, pain points and frustrations; it will help shape your channel decisions.
  • You’ll also need good modelling on the lifetime value of those customers so you can figure out what you can spend to acquire them.
  • Then work out how you’ll find those customers efficiently and how you’re going to win them over. And what are you going to invest to draw them to your brand? Some channels will be too expensive or won’t align well with the behaviours of your prospects. For example, SEO and SEM are vital for some businesses and not at all for others.
  • If you’re doing your own marketing you also need to ask yourself where your strengths are. Can you write engaging content? Are you good at direct sales? Where can you get a clear win against your competitors?  If they’re all investing in trade shows or sponsorships look elsewhere to partnerships or affiliates or one of another dozen channels to get your clear win. But above all, test your hypotheses. Choose a channel or two, develop a plan and put them to the test. If they perform for you double down. If they don’t, stop and choose another one, and start testing. The trick is to not keep adding channels but find a handful that you can prove work for you.

Are there any advertising channels working well across the board?

It depends on what your business model and market is, your product, your service, your price, your margin – all those things; there’s no one channel every business should be pursuing. There are no short cuts, you’ve got to do the work.

Any predictions for where marketing might head in the coming years?

I’m passionate about the idea that a commitment to truth and purpose will serve companies well. Where once you could spin your way around a product or service that wasn’t great, you can’t do that anymore. A large part of future marketing success lies in making a deep commitment to having really good products and services. Increasingly, people will look for meaningful brands and will expect their purchases to make a positive contribution to the world. Part of that is having a deep and genuine purpose at the heart of your brand so that becomes part of your story. Sendle became Australia’s first technology B Corp and first 100 per cent carbon neutral delivery service for this very reason.

When you get those ingredients right, people are much more likely to be an advocate for your brand.

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