My first job out of college, in 2007, was as a manager for a cataloger.
The title “manager” was pretty vague. I learned to work on the circulation plan for a few of the catalog brands the company had. I wasn’t really anybody’s boss, but worked a little on the merchandising, budgeting, design and a little more.
It was an interesting time because online and digital marketing were starting to mature. At least in terms of ecommerce. There had been plenty of ecommerce sites in the previous 10 or so years. This company had sites for all their catalog brands. Email marketing was still pretty new. Social media wasn’t really a thing. YouTube was only a year or so old. So was Facebook.
There was a term that started popping up: Omnichannel.
The definition seems to have changed a little over time, but basically it’s always been about having a cohesive strategy across any channel that reaches a customer or potential customer. For some, that meant doing the exact same thing on every channel. For others, it means having a cohesive brand strategy while tweaking different tactics depending on the channel.
Today, the concept of omnichannel is pretty mature and it’s good for small businesses, especially those that are strapped for resources, to understand how to develop a good strategy. One that delivers results.
Here are the steps…
1. Branding Self-Analysis
The first step is to look internally. A tricky part of business, marketing and growth is to understand yourself. The leaders of the company and what your values are. If you’re the sole owner of the company then you’re really looking at yourself and what you value.
It’s helpful to do this anyway for your personal and professional life, but many people overlook it. They kind of wander through life without really thinking about what matters most to them or what they want out of life. So many business owners also overlook this with themselves and with their business.
When you know what you value you can better communicate with marketing efforts and messages no matter what the channel. The form of the message may change – video, podcast, photo, etc. – but the values represented will be the same and that is what makes for good omnichannel marketing.
2. Channel Opportunities
The good thing about omnichannel is you have a ton of opportunity for reaching your target customers. The challenge is that you have a ton of opportunity…
We often get paralyzed when we have lots of opportunities. It’s easy to start one and then quickly wonder if you’re making the right decision. It’s easy to start a pattern of lurching from one opportunity to the next without really giving any of the efforts a fair shake.
The better approach is to take the time to research all or most of the opportunities you have. Talk to other business owners that have had success in various channels. See how long it took them to reach that success.
3. Team Strengths & Weaknesses
As you get information about the opportunities you’ll start to form an opinion on a priority list. But before that a good step is to consider your team’s strengths and weaknesses.
Depending on the size of your small business this could be you and maybe one or two other people. If you’re larger it will obviously include more. Specifically the people that are working on the marketing efforts. It could also be contractors or vendors that you’ve hired.
And you can expand on this to determine if you need to hire someone else.
Get a feel for what your team is good at. If your marketing person is good at video and poor with text, then video might be the better opportunity even if it’s not quite at the top of the channel priority list. The person may be likely to create more video and better video over time compared to something like a blog or social media channel.
4. Channel Priority List
Now you get into the channel priority list. It’s obviously a mix of the best opportunity and the fit with your team. Really you’re taking the time to analyze yourself and your customers and the market and then trust it for the long-term.
I like to focus on 1-2 priorities each year and then come back to analyze the results. Then I’ll reassess the opportunities again with any new information. It might take quite a bit to change because you want to trust yourself for the long-term, but you also have to be ready to shift if there is something better.
5. Analysis & Experimenting
And that got a little into the analysis part early. It’s easy to analyze short-term results today. Easy in the sense that information is available, but it’s important to understand that nearly all marketing efforts are long-term. They need at least a year and usually more. That’s why I like asking people that have had success how long it took them. It’s usually at least 1-2 years. And if you ask people that haven’t had success they’ve usually only tried something for a few months.
Experimenting…I like committing to little experiments throughout the year. Trying new things that pop up on your radar. Nothing too crazy where you dive all in, but little efforts so that the next time you analyze the opportunities you at least have a little info to go on.
Omnichannel has been losing a little steam in the marketing world. There are always hot new things taking the spotlight, but I also think it’s because omnichannel is just a reality of marketing today. Most companies are doing it. Not always effectively. That’s where the steps here can really help.