STEP 6. CHANNEL STRATEGY
By this stage, you have a good idea of your target personas and their consumer journeys. You now need to start to make some decisions, the first of which is to identify the key moments of engagement. This is the beginning of a practical plan which tells you when you need to engage.
You also need to know where to engage. For example, if your product is auto parts and your target audience is auto enthusiasts, you might have identified websites like CarDomian, or MotorAuthority for the Trigger stage. This goes into your Channel Strategy, which enables you to focus your resources more narrowly on the channels that you think will have the greatest impact on a particular target segment at each stage of the journey. As most mapping exercises reveal, at each stage there are many channels and influences, so part of the process is to winnow them down to those that give you the greatest impact, recognizing that you cannot do everything. As I’m sure Clausewitz, the master military strategist, said somewhere, concentrating your forces gives you a better chance of breaking through.
A CHANNEL STRATEGY CREATES A PLAN FOR WHERE A COMPANY SHOULD FOCUS ITS TIME AND MONEY AT EACH DIFFERENT STAGE OF THE JOURNEY.
Channels include everything from retail and customer service to traditional media, digital channels, mobile and social sites. Each channel has its own rules, requirements, unique consumer dynamics and levels of investment. All these should factor into the decision making because channels should not be entered lightly. All too often brands put a toe in the water with a channel, such as Facebook or frequently mobile apps, and find that they really didn’t understand what was required to succeed. Nestlé was quickly burned by negative PR when it attempted to control user comments and the use of its logo on Facebook. Similarly, Walmart failed to understand social dynamics when it pushed out repeated advertising messages, and limited feedback and interaction from social community members.
Channels that might work for creating awareness, might not be right for cultivating preference. Importantly, your channel strategy should also show how channels integrate with one another.
RECOGNIZING THAT NO ONE CHANNEL TACTIC STANDS IN ISOLATION, MARKETERS NEED TO CAREFULLY CONSIDER THE CUMULATIVE EFFECTS OF CHANNELS AS THEY IMPACT THE CONSUMER DURING THEIR JOURNEY.
Messaging and impressions created in one channel are layered on top of those created in other channels. This should take into account message and brand consistency, plus the layers with which the brand’s value proposition is constructed.
Channel strategy can, and should over time, also be expanded to include a plan for how to optimize channels based on performance. It should also show how to identify channels that are more effective with different personas, who should then be migrated to that channel. How to rationalize channel use, eliminating low performing channels based on performance is important too. Channel strategy, therefore, becomes not only a planning tool, but a living, marketing operations tool as well.