The fundamentals of a cross-channel digital marketing strategy

“Cross-channel,” “multi-channel,” “integrated,” and “holistic” are just a few of the terms marketers use to describe campaigns that run across multiple channels and platforms. However, when it comes to articulating what is meant by “cross-channel digital marketing strategy”, the explanations are decidedly unclear, often using grandiose statements such as “creating a seamless and unified customer experience every micro user moment” or marketing platitudes such as the need to “break down silos and embrace people-centric planning”. It’s tempting then to think that, as with much of the endemic jargon in the marketing landscape, “cross-channel strategy” is just another of those buzzwords: no one knows what it means, but it is provocative. It *ahem* gets people moving…

The reality is that you’ll likely use more than one channel, and having a way to tie those channels together to achieve a common goal will play a key role in the success of your marketing efforts, whether you’re using paid media, the SEO, digital PR or CRO. Here we have tried to present three simple and intuitive recommendations to ensure that you have mastered the basics when it comes to developing and implementing cross-channel strategies.

1. Integrated Goal Setting

Highlighting the importance of goal setting may seem like blindingly obvious, but while having a clear overall business goal is certainly a start (and probably a minimum requirement), make sure you translate your business goals into marketing goals and digital KPIs are something every strategy will benefit from. It will also ensure that you are well placed to describe your strategy to stakeholders in the future, as it will provide you with a clear framework for communicating how your channel strategy and plans can impact broader business goals.

Think of it like this:

  • What is your primary business goal?

  • What impact can marketing have on this business objective? Use the answer to define your marketing goals.

  • What impact can your digital channels have on these marketing goals? Use the response to define your numeric KPIs.

Once you have completed the above process, you will end up with a KPI framework that clearly shows how your various numerical KPIs all flow back to your overall business objective. As we all know, each channel has its own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the KPIs it can drive. By using a framework like this, you can use a variety of channels with different KPIs, while ensuring that each has a clearly defined role in your overall marketing strategy.

2. Use quality information

Another one that looks like it should be a given, but “should” is the operative word in this statement. While many strategies may claim to be insight-driven, the reality is that many are based on too many assumptions. As we will come to, there is nothing wrong with making assumptions as long as they are identified and tested. Before including something in a strategy, ask yourself what information do you have to support this decision? This may be related to what your competitors are doing or what you can glean from the various channels available.

Fundamentally, high-quality information should be relevant, actionable, and supported by multiple sources whenever possible.

Humans are creatures of habit and so we tend to miss the things that we know have worked for us in the past. Applying the above criteria to all the information you use to build your strategy will help you avoid falling into this trap. Ask yourself why you are recommending a certain creative, format, or channel. Is it because the data tells you to, or is it because it matches activity you’ve seen before? Instead of just doing what has been done elsewhere, use the information to guide your decisions as much as possible.

3. Create hypotheses

When planning digital campaigns, the focus is firmly on data and rightly so. However, while we tend to create strategies based on the data we have, the data we don’t have can be just as valuable but is often overlooked. The reality is that no matter how much you know about your customer, your product, and your channels, all strategies are based on assumptions. As we mentioned above, you should try to base your strategy on insight as much as possible, but there will always come a time when you have to make an assumption about what will work. This is where assumptions can play a huge role in identifying which assumptions were right and which were wrong.

Assumptions should be based on insight; measurable with a clear KPI; and aligned with the framework of your objectives.

Basically, every recommendation you make in your strategy should be turned into a hypothesis with a clearly defined testing methodology. Taking this approach will not only allow you to validate your strategy, but the test results will also provide you with better understanding for the next activation cycle.

By incorporating these three relatively simple recommendations into your cross-channel strategy, you should be able to come up with a more integrated approach to your digital marketing efforts very quickly, especially as you go through this cycle multiple times.

George Gangar, head of digital strategy at Impression.

William L. Hart