Blinded by Channel-Centric Marketing: the Eye of the Beholder

channel centric marketing blinds usWhen social media started to become ‘big’, a new species was born : the social media expert, also known as pundit, maven or guru. Many of them had a PR or blogging background and few had a (digital) marketing background.

There is nothing wrong with that. At least, until they started talking about…marketing. This new breed of opinion makers, often blinded by personal branding and influence scores, rapidly started shouting that the end of traditional digital marketing had arrived. Email was dead, blogging would follow and advertising was doomed.

As we all know, history has a tendency to repeat itself. In no time social media got siloed and nicely divided in the organizational structures we have known for ages. The battle for the ownership of social media could start. ROI became Return On Influence and KPIs changed overnight.

Social and email: black and white

The classic black-and-white thinking we are so often guilty of, raised debates that would last for years whereby the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ channels were seen as enemies of each other. It wasn’t only so in the minds of the social media pundits. Quite some ESPs saw social as the enemy of email.

In those days, I started writing about how channels reinforce each other and today, it seems that most businesses discovered that interaction channels indeed cross-fertilize each other. You still notice the occasional ‘email is dead’ opinion. It’s always good for debates and gazillions of mentions on social networks. Ironically, these useless discussions have added to what we call ‘social media noise’ nowadays. Spam, anyone?

Today I realize I was completely wrong to talk about the integration and mutual strengthening of channels. I plea guilty, I got caught in what I had sworn would never happen to me again: a channel-centric vision.

Away from the channel-centric vision

Channels don’t live. Nor do online properties. Cross-fertilization is not about the inherent capabilities of communication channels, nor is conversion.

We have massively fallen in the trap of a channel-centric vision with the never ending avalanche of news and opinions on media, networks and online properties. And we forgot, the social media pundits in the first place, that marketing is not about that.

A customer-centric approach, which is the only approach that really works, is by definition cross-channel and increasingly channel-agnostic. Obviously, we still need people in our businesses who understand the specificities of various marketing tactics and channels. Yet, we cannot continue to repeat the same errors and put everything in silos.

A single customer and integrated touchpoint marketing view is a must. As are cross-channel metrics and a customer-centric approach, that is by definition preference-driven instead of permission-based.

When it boils down to optimizing conversion, regardless of the channels, there is one thing that matters: consistency and relevance across all touchpoints, one of the main topics at the Fusion Marketing Experience.

To achieve that and maintain value and what Bryan Eisenberg calls ‘scent’, one of the pillars of conversion, we must look at every interaction a (prospective) customer has with our brand. Online and offline.

It is only by looking at each single touch point, direct and indirect, that we can succeed in offering great experiences and, doing so, achieving best conversion possible. Behavior and preferences above tactics and channels.

We don’t matter. Our messages don’t matter. Our channels don’t matter. Relevance is in the eye of the beholder. And we’re not the beholder. 

Originally published as a guest post earlier this month for the Infobox newsletter of the Direct Marketing Association UK.