Changing Channels

June 25, 2020
June 25, 2020 Kate Neale

Changing Channels

“Channel – to direct toward a particular end or object”. This may be one of the most significant words in this year’s marketing almanac, because marketing, like water, infiltrates through channels, one source penetrating a space from multiple directions to permeate an area. Channels are very relevant to marketers today because:

  • we use channels for communication and distribution
  • as marketers we are always channeling in send and receive mode to form relationship
  • our channels are no longer silo-ed and none is omnipotent
  • efficiency dictates we identify channels that allow us to infiltrate where target people congregate
  • our presence in these channels needs to be frequent and demonstrate continuity

I’m inspired to share my observations on this subject as I observe the shifting sands of marketing tactics in response to the new world order created in response to Covid 19. Let’s explore the impact of our changed circumstances on commercial operations and marketing practice in terms of the points identified above.

Communication And Distribution

It wasn’t that long ago in the scheme of human history (50 years) that the Internet was created and it’s hard to fathom that as recently as 20 years ago people would question the necessity to even have a website for a business! In 2020 the Internet has proven it’s incomparable role in unifying humanity and facilitating our essential communication, from sharing information on the details of the COVID virus, to rallying protestors for Black Lives Matter rallies, bridging our isolation connecting with Zoom and delivering the goods and services we need.

Online is unequivocally a powerful communication channel – but it is not the only or necessarily even the most important channel to reach and effect people.

In a previous post I explored the growth phenomenon of marketing online and how so many SME’s seem intent on channeling significant portions of their marketing budget on paid search (not SEO) and paid social media tactics, at a time when the more resourced (larger) businesses are reducing their spend in these areas in favour of focusing on other initiatives – some of which are online. The fact is there are a great many suppliers to the online marketing world, not the least of which are Facebook, Instagram and Google, who have an obvious vested interest in encouraging businesses to deploy their budgets in their channels.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disputing that paid search and social are not valid marketing tactics, I’m merely stating that they are not necessarily the panacea to all marketing objectives they have been promoted by those with vested interests as being. In fact, if you consider even the basic premise and principles of how consumers tune into social media, it doesn’t take long to gain insight into the dilution effect of a flooded market.

For instance there are 24 hours in a day and if people are spending, lets say three or four hours on their social feeds following a few hundred people on twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, it doesn’t take long to realise the chances of your posts being seen, much less absorbed are hugely reduced as each person/entity they follow ramps up their posting activity. Add to this the influx of emails from suppliers with promotions or to my mind, worse – receipts, and you’re fighting for awareness, interest, relevance supremacy among thousands of posts and comms, competing for your customer’s attention.

This is why I like to explore the potential to impact the target customer where possible in the real world, as well as or perhaps instead of in the digital environment, which is super saturated with commercial content. This plain fact is what very likely determines your marketing tactics are multi-channel (ie. using a variety of initiatives including email, social, referral, POS, SEO, events, promotional merchandise etc.) by necessity and omni-channel by design ie. a co-ordinated collaboration across all touch points.

So during a period of lockdown, direct mail would hold great appeal as a communication channel, especially for local businesses who could use redeemable printed coupons or vouchers to drive sales. It’s true an app like Groupon could deliver a similar offer, but in a saturated world, the Groupon offer sits with more competition and is more easily forgotten as it can’t be attached to the fridge as a physical reminder. Bar coasters are another simple initiative that can be paired with technology for redemption (and data collection through apps facilitated at the bar. These are just a couple of simple examples of how suppliers can interface with consumers in the real world to be relevant where they live and fit in with how they live.

I simply ask have you considered how your business might interface with key target customers offline or even using online to drive interaction offline?

Distribution channels have also been significantly impacted as a result of COVID and restaurants have shown great initiative in their pivot from dine in to take away offerings, but there is a far greater impact on logistics that has had a profound effect, particularly on the retail sector heavily dependent on Chinese supply. With many manufacturers shut down and shipping halted, the world has had a chance to reconsider the merits of such a dependence on one source of supply.

The implications of this are already emerging with businesses all around the world diversifying their sources and others instigating manufacturing on home soil, albeit at a higher price. Sadly while Australian society extols lofty ideals, it’s not always willing to pay for them, but local manufacture can work if whole of market demand and dynamics warrant.

A good point in case is StormSeal, inventors of a polymer seal that has stretch capability and acts as a tarpaulin. StormSeal Managing Director Matthew Lennox could have manufactured offshore much cheaper, but in 2016 a government grant of $500,000 allowed him to manufacture locally and StormSeal is now exported internationally, especially to the US, where the potential market is larger and the exchange rate favours the pricing.

One of the key marketing considerations is distribution ie. having the product or getting the product where the customer wants it, so whether you’re delivering restaurant made food, technological innovation or intellectual property, the channels you select to deliver will determine sales and profitability to a large extent.

Streaming content became a solution for many businesses during COVID but are there other avenues your business could pursue to get your product to your consumer? Who can you partner with to take advantage of shared logistic and promotion criteria, and who do you offer a value add opportunity to?

Perhaps the world is now ready to choose a different value criteria, one beyond price alone, when they make their purchase decisions? Just remember consumers might find verbalising high ideals is cost effective, but paying for them might not be.

Channeling In Send & Receive Mode

Businesses don’t operate in a one way communication channel, it’s two way all the way with consumers provided direct response and feedback mechanisms through social media. In effect these channels are more than two way because they expose positive and negative feedback to a shared audience on a global basis. This dynamic alone is the rationale behind how brands who had held a formidable dominant marketshare for decades, have been toppled with mind boggling speed and efficiency in the past decade. It’s how Michael Dubind, founder of Dollar Shave Club used social media to introduce an alternative razor and distribution solution in 2011, threatening Gillette’s stranglehold on the world of shaving and later selling it to Unilever for $1 billion.

Dubind didn’t just create a competitive product, he addressed the indignation men felt at paying $25 for a few slithers of steel for basic grooming. He used social media to drive awareness and build a customer base and then conveniently delivered the product to the customer, eliminating that pesky visit to the shops to buy new razors at over inflated prices. A quality razor that works and is regularly home delivered, ensuring his customers don’t have to shave with blunt razor again – Gold!

Dollar Shave also paved the way for competitors such as Harry’s to enter the market and serve an estimated 13 million customers, according to researcher Euromonitor International. The net affect on Gillette was a 13% loss of market-share between 2012 and 2017, Gillette’s product development of 3D print razor handles, price reduction and the introduction of their own subscription model.

But perhaps the greatest distinction in this example is that Dollar Shave Club’s business model has grown in the direction of servicing the broader grooming and personal care needs of a membership base, based on an intimate knowledge of their individual requirements. It’s highly relevant that their parent Unilever is a great asset in terms of product development designed to meet the brief.

Strategically however Dollar Shave remains ahead of the curve as it’s is clearly moving their strategy to a more meaningful and deeper relationship with the customer that extends beyond technical product innovation and price point. Dollar Shave is channeling a deeper commitment to well-being and the goodwill of their customers, inducing loyalty and referral.

If the word channel is important, relationship is equally so. Advertising to drive awareness, generate interest and ignite desire is one thing, but relationship is ultimately what delivers transaction, repeat transaction (loyalty) and recommendation (referral) – or not! Stop thinking marketing and start thinking relating. What need can your product or business deliver on that will build relationship? There’s a reason real estate companies sponsor the local little league…

What can you do that your competitors are not doing, have not thought of doing or are not willing to do, that could give you this type of beneficial connection to your customers?

Channels Are No Longer Siloed Or Omnipotent

There are so many marketing channels available to us today and the consumer’s attention is so intensely diluted that capturing audience in bulk or with the efficiencies of scale is a rare occurrence. This often leads us to multi-channel marketing, a kind of ‘drop-sconning’ approach to marketing tactics on the premise that multiple, properly targeted channels will provide greater scope for awareness and interaction with a diverse array of people, than putting all our marketing eggs in one or two baskets.

Paradoxically, one highly targeted channel with a sufficient volume of prospects can deliver strong results eg. targeting golf club members to sell golf balls to, but this theory is less compelling when every golf ball manufacturer chooses the same tactic. You get the principle…

So omni-channel marketing allows us to use a multi-channel approach to our marketing tactics and compound their effect by collaborating with each of the channels to deliver on a shared objective eg. direct mail, POS, sampling and events might drive awareness and interaction, while online can deliver transaction and customer service efficiencies.

You might want to sponsor or participate in content, create or curate video to entertain, educate or engage the customer and then pair it with programmatic targeting, or integrate your product into a video game sequence to drive awareness, stimulate interest and promote response. You may want to implement any number of other unique initiatives, but it’s likely your results will be improved with tactical omni-channel marketing.

Infiltrate Where Your Target People Congregate

When you know and understand your target market people from a demographic and more importantly psycho-graphic perspective, you’ll indelibly find they participate online or offline (in the real world) in groups with commonality. They might skateboard, have a passion for knitting, support a charity or cause, or maybe they’re just delighted they share the same name (hello to all the Shirlies…), but your research will uncover commonalities that lead to potential channels to communicate, interact with and possibly distribute to.

Covid has demonstrated we’re social animals and we like to congregate around those like us. It’s worth remembering that as more SME’s move to target people via the digital medium, the volume and mass of messaging every one of us is subjected to is going to increase to a point beyond saturation – if it hasn’t already. Therefore infiltrating your congregations through other mediums or methods and using digital to facilitate efficiencies in interactions such as shopping, transactions or a quiz with results, might be the best way to use the digital medium.

Be Frequent And Demonstrate Continuity

Ever heard or seen an ad that struck a chord but you forgot about it because you didn’t see it again? Ever seen a post you like and want to go back to it but it got lost in your day’s other priorities or the automatic update of the app, never to be seen again? Repeat exposure of the same ad, message or intel allows for more people to see it and for more of the same people to see it and each time they see the content of relevance, you’re penetrating the prospects head space and ideally that space they reserve for their preferred supplier in your category.

Beware the insistence that you post social or digital content prolifically. If you’re an influencer with a tight knit niche community, your need to post more often is heightened. But as a supplier building a brand, you need to post is determined by how often you have something that’s relevant, useful and valued by your audience. Anything else is just fodder and that can be a great catalyst to turning your audience off. Also as a SME, unless you have the resources required to feed the beast that is a social media machine, you’ll be taking valuable time away from other components of your business operations to throw unnecessary content at people.

Although frequency of your presence or content is therefore an important element of stamping your identity in the consumers mind, so is consistency. Your brand is what you do consistently and the best things to be consistent at are delivering on your product promise and delivering marketing content that’s relevant, useful and valued.

Your brand can be consistent in a variety of ways eg. being there the same time each day, wearing the same outfit  to help imprint a visual ID in early branding, using the same font, showing your logo and visual branding elements in a consistent presentation ie. don’t interchange colours, fonts, composition; using the same talent; having a focus on an issue or area of expertise so that you’re recognised – with repetition – as prominent in this space.

Continuity compounds an impression in the target’s mind through repetition of visual identity and point of reference/relevance as it reinforces brand personality and values and ‘caches’ the brand’s key identity markers. Continuity of impression can be achieved cost effectively through simple initiatives such as a bold or striking graphic element, an audible cue, jingle or animated sequence at the start of each piece of content, an ongoing storyline, visual theme or authoritative information.

I like to understand the target market people and the value proposition of an offering to them, then I love finding that unique and valued communication initiative that makes them respond positively and proactively, using channels that have cross over.

So what can you do, where you are, with what you have, that will allow a multi-tier or multi-prong approach to your marketing activities and give opportunity to compound their effect with collaboration across all of them?

If you would like to know more about how you can use different channels to communicate and distribute to your customers, resonate with relevance and meaning, and compound your marketing effectiveness across multiple channels, contact Wanted today – Reward offered.

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