If you’ve shopped at a major retailer recently, you’ve likely experienced omnichannel marketing. Let’s take the cosmetics retailer, Sephora, as an example of how it works at its best. Customers who have downloaded their mobile app are immediately recognized by Sephora’s IT systems as soon as they enter one of their brick-and-mortar stores, and it brings up a map of the location on their smartphone, complete with details on sales and other promotions. Beauty advisors in the store help customers determine which products will work best for their features and the look they’re trying to achieve, and they scan every product customers try. After the visit, the customer will be sent a complete list. If the store itself is out of something a customer wants to buy, no problem — it can be easily and seamlessly ordered and shipped right there in the store.
This marketing strategy is typically presented from a B2C perspective, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less relevant for B2B companies. But before we get too deep into how you can develop and execute an omnichannel marketing strategy, we should first define what it is.
Omnichannel vs Multichannel
Omnichannel marketing is a step up from multi-channel marketing, which is something every marketer does. No matter what business you’re in, you’re almost certainly interacting with customers via email, your website, social media, and digital advertising, just to name a few. Omnichannel marketing ties all these channels together to provide the customer with a consistent experience no matter which channel they use. It’s a powerful strategy for driving customers towards a sale no matter which channels they use to interact with your company.
But it takes a lot of planning, research, technology, and commitment to pull it off. Here are some of the major steps you need to take:
Understand your customer: The customer must be at the center of any omnichannel marketing strategy, so if you don’t fully understand your customer, you’ll never get to the launchpad, much less get off of the ground. Develop personas for each of the roles that are involved in making a purchase, and base them as much as possible on data, not anecdotes. It’s important to avoid building personas based on assumptions. The data may show, for example, that compliance managers are far more important to closing sales than are CIOs, despite what your sales reps keep telling you.
Map out the customer journey and how they interact with your company: In order to provide a consistent experience that’s relevant to your customers, you also need to have a complete understanding of the path they take to their decision to buy. Understand their challenges and preconceptions. Discover what drives them to action.
Collect and consolidate customer data: Omnichannel marketing depends on having lots of good customer data. But collecting the data is just the first step; it must also be readily available. Unfortunately, especially in large organizations, customer data is often stored in disparate, disconnected silos. For example, customer interactions with your website may be stored in one place under their IP address, where email communications are stored in the CRM platform under their name. Customer data unification is a big undertaking, but it’s well worth the investment. Understanding what part of your website customers find most interesting, for example, could go a long way towards helping determine the most effective collateral to offer via email.
Communicate in context: Context is a key element of any omnichannel strategy, and once you have complete access to a rich set of customer data, you can avoid mistakes like sending an introductory email to a prospect who’s been interacting with your sales team for several months. Contextual communications show prospects and customers that they’re not just another line in a spreadsheet or mailing list, but that you really value and understand them.
Integrate your marketing and sales systems: We’ve already touched on the need to unify your data, but you also need to ensure the entire technology stack for sales and marketing works as a seamless whole. Your CRM platform will serve as the foundation, providing a comprehensive view of each customer and prospect, and it should be able to share data with your marketing automation platform, social media management solution, content management system, and email. Analytics will play a large role as well, making connections and uncovering insights within your customer data that will drive your marketing to increase sales.
Integrate your various sales and marketing teams: Making sure your teams are working together as a coherent whole is just as important as integrating your marketing technology stack. The social media team needs to be on the same page as the web team and content creators. The sales team must understand and reinforce the messages that prospects receive, with a full understanding of the customer’s current situation. Thankfully, sales and marketing teams are much less likely to be fractured these days than they were even five years ago, but it’s important to remember that omnichannel marketing requires a very strong commitment from everyone if it is to work.
So, what might a mature omnichannel marketing strategy look like in a B2B environment? Let’s say you are a cloud storage provider, and a prospect clicks on a promoted tweet to download a white paper on collaboration in a hybrid cloud environment. At your website, you collect some basic information — company, title, phone number, name, and email — and that information is correlated with the customer’s IP address and stored in the CRM system.
The marketing automation platform will send a follow-up email inviting the prospect to watch a recent webinar on collaboration via the cloud. At this point, it won’t send them information about data consolidation, ease of management, and data protection. All of these are important value propositions for your service, but you know that this prospect is a line-of-business manager. She cares much more about collaboration than IT management, which your marketing automation stack knows because of your research into her persona.
When a sales rep reaches out over the phone, he will know exactly what her role is and can respond with messages tailored to her needs. And because he understands the customer journey, he knows that his next step must be to get IT involved, because they will play a key role in making the sale. The data storage manager will have a different, but consistent experience with your channels than the line-of-business manager, because their needs are different. And from there, the journey continues until you finally get them to sign on the dotted line.
Omnichannel marketing is not just a buzzword. It’s one of the most effective strategies in modern marketing. But it’s no easy feat to pull it off. A strong omnichannel program requires a substantial investment of time and money into IT integration, planning, and coordination. So, before you jump in, make sure you have all the pieces in place. If you do it right, you’ll see the results: better close rates, increased sales, and happier customers.
Need help developing your omnichannel marketing strategy? Get in touch!