Integrating Multi-Channel Communications
The world of marketing and communications has experienced some pretty radical shifts over the past decade. There are a wealth of channels in which to reach consumers, and it seems like every day someone is releasing a new technology or an innovative new form of communication that threatens to change the game yet again. But while this can be challenging for printers looking to be full marketing services providers, it is also exciting, with those who can be creative and “think outside the box” finding more opportunities than ever before.
“The way consumers engage with brands has dramatically morphed,” notes Michael Chase, Chief Marketing Officer, St. Joseph Communications and today’s Distinguished Leader speaker. “They can access products and product information instantaneously, and they can intermingle with a brand in a cacophony of ways. You have to be a storyteller in this connected world, and understand how to merge marketing, content, and technology in bold and exciting ways.”
“The idea behind multichannel communications hasn’t changed,” says Charlotte Tueckmantel, GM/VP, Web to Print and Value-Added Products, EFI (Booth 2302). “What has changed are the channels we can and do employ, and the relevance of each to different audiences. Five years ago, we focused on email, Web, and print. Today we’re using SMS, social media, and geo-location in campaigns, and we can trigger different messages and different offers.”
“The term ‘multi-channel communications’ encompasses more today than ever before,” agrees Ryan Kiley, Director, Strategic Consulting Services, Commercial & Industrial Printing Business Group, Ricoh USA, Inc. (Booth 2022). “Multi-channel includes direct mail and email, of course, but also web presentment, SMS, social, signage, and, increasingly, augmented reality (AR). Those latter two have especially made strides in the last few years.”
Rather than focus on the channels themselves, the key is to think about the message, and ensure that every single target consumer can receive that message when, where, and how they choose. “In today’s marketing, multi-channel communications has really transitioned into omni-channel communications,” notes Francis McMahon, Vice President, BISG Océ Products PPS Marketing & Support, Canon U.S.A., Inc. (Booth 1213). “The primary difference is that with multi-channel, a brand simply drives messaging over multiple channels and platforms. Omni-channel, however, represents an integrated approach to providing customers with a seamless experience across all channels. Not only does this strategy require consistent messaging across all platforms, but it allows customers to jump from one platform to another with no disconnect in their brand experience.”
That doesn’t, however, mean that print is taking a back seat. “Multiple touch points in the marketing campaign work together to drive business, and are effective because of the use of varying tactics, including direct mail, email and social media advertising, face-to-face meetings, specialized web pages, and more,” says Joelle Steeves, Marketing Copywriter, BCC Software (Booth 642). “Consumers react best to their preferred channel of communications - which is decidedly direct mail. In fact, according to the DMA, direct mail has the highest response rate of these various tactics - it flaunts a steady 5% response rate, compared to less than 1% for its digital counterparts. This is not to say that direct mail alone is the best way to market, but that direct mail in tandem with a digital component wins over consumers.”
“It’s clear that a well-planned, blended approach, using different channels that drive to one another is an effective strategy,” says Kiley. “This allows audience engagement to be as deep or as shallow as the audience member wants at a time when interactivity, customizability, and control are especially important to people.”
Making the most of PRINT 17
As you walk the show floor, and attend the wide range of educational sessions, don’t just think about individual channels. Rather, think about how they can all work together to reach your customers’ specific target audiences. In particular, don’t just look at adding new channels because they are new, or because you are excited about them - think about those end customers and how they want to receive their communications. The most innovative, cutting-edge, or exciting campaign in the world will still fail if the target audience never sees it because they don’t use those specific forms of communication.
“Within marketing today, there is a seismic disruption happening across all verticals,” says Chase. “It’s an unprecedented transformation that’s impacting consumers, commerce, and communication. A transformation in any one of those arenas by itself would be difficult for an industry to respond to, but the fact that all three are morphing at the same time can cause paralysis in the best of companies. The good news? The consumer has become the new CEO, and is truly in the driver’s seat, so at the end of the day, it really is a marketing challenge. And when there’s a marketing challenge, we can assess, measure and act strategically.”
“Flexibility is key for today’s fast-paced business communications,” notes Jamie Harris, VP, Diversified Services, Messagepoint Inc. (Booth 455) “As a print service provider [at PRINT 17], I would focus on reviewing non-siloed solutions that integrate easily with other platforms with minimal IT intervention.”
“Attendees of PRINT 17 interested in providing multi-channel communication services should spend time at the show getting to know different automation platforms that offer campaign management,” says Trina May, GPA’s (Booth 3840) Director of Marketing. “This is their specialty, and they are highly experienced at helping build and automate cross-channel campaigns. Although at its core, multi-channel marketing is simple, it can be very complex at times. Not everyone can get their arms around developing a campaign that’s consistent across all the channels they want to use. Relying on campaign management software helps simplify the development, mapping, and facilitation of the campaign.”
Tueckmantel notes that, for some walking the show floor, the best path forward is to invest in a resource. “I see many of our printers who need a more fully developed plan to market themselves,” she says. “They need a plan for building their business, so if and when they move into selling marketing services, they start from a much more credible place. It allows them to share their own experiences, how long it took to build a campaign, etc., and they are better able to define campaigns, price them, and determine ROI. Once they have done that, then the second step is to invest in a solution.”
“This isn’t as simple as pointing to one silver bullet,” says McMahon. “Printers are aware of industry trends that are driving shorter runs and lower costs. This is what is causing the increase in digital printing throughout the United States, and making more printers acutely aware of how they need to change. Printers then need to define what their application mix and volume is, and then determine the output strategy. This could involve monochrome toner, color toner, or high-speed inkjet. This decision can only come when the printer completes an honest assessment of their company, and defines where the growth opportunities exist.”
There is no one right solution, technology, or marketing channel that will work for every shop. There isn’t even one perfect solution that will work for every client a shop serves. The key is identifying the channels that will work best for your specific mix, and then becoming an expert in those areas. That’s a tall order, but the shops who can do it successfully set themselves up for success both today, and far into the future. “Enjoy the ride,” says Chase. “Things are about to get interesting.”
Toni McQuilken has been writing and editing for more than a decade. Her work includes B2B publications – both in print and online – in a range of industries, such as print and graphics, technology, hospitality and automotive; as well as behind the scenes writing and editing for multiple companies, helping them craft marketing materials, write press releases and more. She is a self-proclaimed "tech geek" who loves all things technology, and she knows that she is one of a select group of people who get to do what they love for a living.