Monday, 7 February 2011

One man can't lift half a piano, but two men...

As I start writing this, I haven't made my mind up about the title of this post.

This is mainly because I'm not 100% certain where this post will lead itself (a slightly damning enditement on my writing, I accept).  I opened up my thinking by wanting to talk about the affective use of multiple channels, something that we've talked about quite a bit to existing and potential clients, and is a pet peeve of our Client Services Director, Sarah Cantillon.  However any piece talking about the use of different channel needs to not just reference how channels can co-operate, but also how they should integrate.

But that said, I've written a few times before about how mobile can act as the "integration-glue" between offline and online and also how we in the digital industry, need to understand that whilst we recognise the differences between mobile and online, consumers don't, meaning that we should be taking a more holistic view and so, cater for the user who mainly reads his email on an iPhone; or who uses their mobile device for messaging but doesn't have a data bundle and so will only use their home PC for browsing.  So I'll try my best to not drag myself off on a tangent and focus on the point in hand - using different channels for each others mutual benefit and the use of appropriate comms that support and compliment each other.

Basically... channel sequencing.

Unfortunately, too many comms programs are black and white - there is a preferred channel and underneath that a hierarchy of alternatives.  This may be that Direct Mail is used if they hold your address and you have opted-in, or if not, will contact you using email, or then outbound call, and then maybe mobile if nothing else is possible.  However this plays out, the last choice channel will most likely get the poorer "quality" consumers and so suffer from a lower response rate and be seen as less effective (note that this isn't a pop at the lack of use of mobile, just the lack of using multiple channels effectively).

This could be symptomatic of a number of things - one being a company using different agencies, each responsible for a different channel and so with vested interests in pushing their own at the cost of others; or maybe lazy thinking on behalf of the brand and their planners; or maybe both of these.  In any event, what seems clear to me is that, to effectively use multiple channels is to do so by using each in a coordinated, consistent and (a word we use a lot here) appropriate manner.

Why not prompt the consumer, who's given you the email address of the account that he checks once a fortnight, that you've just sent him an email with some exclusive offers by sending him an SMS, or even an MMS (which can compliment the email content and design) and so improving open and possibly click-through rates?

How about sending an email to a customer, letting them know that they'll be receiving a DM piece in the next week with details about changes and new feature to their account, so that they are less likely to file it in the bin without opening it?

And why the devil not send a text to a customer, asking them when they would be able to receive an outbound call and so reduce hang-ups and non-answers?

Channel sequencing is an evolution and extension of using each channel in the right way - where I would always advocate using the right channel, to say the right thing, at the right time.  For example, don't use SMS to introduce or demonstrate a new product - use a richer channel such as email or MMS;  don't use an email to send important information that the consumer needs to retain - use DM;  and don't send a discount voucher that they user needs to take into a store by email - use DM or, even better, SMS or MMS.

Of course, it's not as straight-forward as just saying it.  Putting in place the capability to manage your customer communication in this way is not an overnight job - particularly as most businesses, both technically and in terms of their comms rules, are not set up to support talking to their customers in this way.

But thinking about it, why not use all of the channels available to you to support each other, making them work harder together, and generate a higher response rate, RoI or opt-in* than they would otherwise do independently and so, together, enabling them to carry the proverbial piano.

* insert relevant KPI here

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