Modern Marketing Essentials Guide: Cross Channel Marketing

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The sheer volume of marketing information available today is nearly impossible to sift through, and it can be hard to decide how to allocate your valuable time. Ain’t nobody got time for that. We’ve got marketing magic to make!

The Modern Marketing Essentials Series gives marketing leaders and practitioners the opportunity to supplement their existing marketing strategies with helpful insights into the topics marketers must know about, and more importantly those that are affecting your bottom line.

It’s more important than ever - essential even - to ensure that you’re keeping up with smart marketing tips to maximize your success. We’ve got you covered. Modern Marketing Essentials Guides are a quick but detailed, short but knowledgeable, and compact but thorough resource for topics and education modern marketers need the most.

Think of them as helpful vitamin supplements to your daily marketing diet. Like any nutrition plan, this one will continue to evolve and help your marketing stay healthy and thrive. We have several guides in the works, but we want to know which topics are essential to your marketing!



This should be breaking news to no one. NO ONE. The customer experience as we know it is broken, out of order, or at best in life support. Regardless of what side of the aisle your customer falls on, be it the B2B or B2C side, their experience is broken.

How can this be with all the advances in digital marketing, you ask. Far too many customers are subjected to a fragmented or non-integrated experience across all channels. For example, let’s say one of your customers purchases something from your website. This in turn triggers an email, naturally.

However, what if in that same email your customer saw an ad for the exact same product they just purchased? Don’t bother answering for we all know it would not be pretty. And the reason it would not be pretty is for the simple fact that your customer would not expect to see the same product they just purchased in a follow up email.

Let’s break this down in the most basic way possible.


To play on the adage, if it’s broken, you’ve got to fix it.

According to a study conducted by MultiChannel Merchant: 89% of consumers and prospects said it was important for retailers to let them shop for products in the way that is convenient for them, no matter which sales channel they choose.

However, a study done by Accenture revealed that 78% of customers receive a fragmented experience as they move from channel-to-channel; while research done by Blue Research showed that 94% of consumers and prospects discontinue relationships because of irrelevant ads or promotions.

Regardless of channel, consumers and prospects have more refined appetites for marketing and higher expectations. They expect and desire more than a generic product experience - they want to feel an affinity for their investment and attraction to a brand.

There’s an opportunity for marketers to build better, lasting relationships with consumers and prospects by consistently delivering content that inspires engagement rather than just begging for conversion.”


No matter what your situation is, there are steps you can take right now to improve.

  • Total chaos and duplicated effort. You’re outbound and social teams don’t even recognize each other in the elevator.
  • Some coordination between channels (when you’re lucky). You and other areas sometimes coordinate efforts, but you wish you could get everyone on the same page. 
  • You already promote across most or all channels... But is there more you could do? Are you maximizing every engagement?


Regardless of where your cross-channel marketing stands, this practice requires an evolving strategy. We’ve compiled three core points to support your ability to ramp up your activities.


With so much data out there (and more being generated literally as we speak), the need for marketers to get a proverbial handle on all of it is paramount. It’s the only way to lower that percentage of consumers and prospects who receive a fragmented experience.

(Note: To learn more about the importance of data from an overall perspective please refer to the Modern Marketing Essentials Guide to Data Management.)

In a study done by Forrester, when marketers were asked about their biggest challenge with their cross-channel marketing programs, the #1 answer was: Understanding customer interactions across channels.

In the same study, marketers were also asked where their current marketing technologies fall short. The top three answers all dealt with the subject of data:

  1. Having the ability to use cross-channel analytics to improve performance.
  2. Tracking standard Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) across channels.
  3. Having access to a unified customer view based on in house data.


It may come as a bit of surprise to some reading this, but did you know that a single customer or prospect of yours could have 10 or more IDs that can stem from emails, social handles, or device IDs?

Think about that for a second.

Now you can see why so many marketers have trouble understanding customer interactions across channels and having access to a unified customer view based on in house data as aforementioned.

(Note: To learn more about how to having a singular view of your customers aand prospects please refer to the Modern Marketer’s Guide to Connected Customer Journeys.)

How do you know that your customer on a given computer is also the same person who just downloaded your app? How do you know if this same customer is referencing your brand via social media?

How can you, as a marketer, hope to understand interactions across multiple channels and have a unified or integrated view of a customer with so many disparate IDs floating around? The short answer is, you can’t.


Identity mapping, as it is commonly referred to, is a critical component for being able to carry out and deliver a true cross-channel marketing experience. A marketer needs to be able to make all these connections across channels and devices (and real world actions) to provide a more consistent and relevant cross channel experience.

Fortunately for marketers, a major innovation that is in play right now that’s critical to carrying out true cross-channel marketing will be to provide the ability to accurately identify a person or audience across these touchpoints and IDs.

The key will be for marketers to work either with their in-house teams or external vendors who can offer a solution that enables marketers to accurately connect their audiences across channels, devices, browsers, and environments to form a single view of a customer and deliver the most relevant experience when they engage with your brand.

Yes, that is a mouthful; but in short, it means being able to create an ID map strategy that will help marketers connect the dots between all the disparate IDs that are prevalent in our society.


Today there is no shortage of conversations, studies, surveys, and research papers exploring the importance of having accurate data as it relates to your customers and prospects.

Then there’s “big data”, which is a term that is omnipresent in many a marketing meeting room as marketers spend sleepless nights trying to figure out just how to deal with the influx of data and figure just which of their big data they should be using to deliver on the promise of a true cross-channel marketing experience.

But what they don’t realize is that big data is the reason so many disparate IDs exist in the first place.

The title of a September, 2013 Forbes piece says it all: “It’s Not Just Big Data, It’s The Right Big Data That Matters Most.” In other words, marketers need to focus on the data that matters most.

When it comes to cross-channel marketing it is less (not only) about the accuracy of a particular attribute (is someone interested in buying X), but more also around the accuracy of identifying who they are across all channels and touchpoints so you as a marketer can deliver a more relevant message everywhere.

  • A key to unlocking true cross-channel marketing strategies: The ability to form a unified view of your customer as they navigate and leave signals across the world of websites, devices, brick and mortar, etc.
  • The hold-up: Various versions of one customer because of the multiple IDs that are prevalent from emails, to social handles to device IDs. Marketers themselves won’t be tasked with solving this challenge, but understanding the intricacies of connecting multi-channel data points and aligning with a strategy that gives them the most cross-channel coverage, will give them the advantage for delivering the prized 360 customer experience.


If the data is in driver’s seat, and it most assuredly is, then attribution is riding shotgun; for marketers are all about numbers, the bottom line, ROI, and so on.

You may have heard John Wannamaker’s famous quote from about 100 years ago: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, the trouble is I don’t know which half!” Now in the age of cross-channel marketing, it’s a lot more challenging to measure the effectiveness of marketing communications that touch the customer in so many different ways.

As a result, many marketers are now paying close attention to the emerging field of attribution modeling and analysis to define better strategies to allocate their precious marketing budgets across different channels and programs.

Forrester defines cross-channel attribution as: “the practice of allocating proportional credit to all marketing communications, across all channels that ultimately lead to the desired customer action.” The marketing communications interact with the end user at various touch points, like email, display advertisement, SMS message, TV ad, flyer in the mail, etc. across the paths that lead to a customer action, or a conversion.

Google in turn defines an attribution model as: “The rule, or set of rules, that determines how credit for sales and conversions is assigned to touch points in conversion paths.”

The main objective of an attribution model is to offer a simple mathematical formula to measure the impact of each marketing communication at different touch points throughout the conversion path. For example, if a user received an email, saw a TV ad, clicked on a sponsored listing, and used a coupon code within five days before purchasing a product, the attribution model is used to assign credit to each of these marketing touch points.

From the attribution model analysis, a marketer can gain insights to more effectively orchestrate a cross-channel, multi-touch marketing program to increase conversions that in turn lead to higher ROIs.


It’s the Holy Grail of digital marketing: Measuring the bottom-line results of a single campaign that plays out across multi-level marketing channels—from email to mobile to social media to display advertising. But how?

Until now, the metrics used have been overly simplistic, and not always useful.

  • Display advertising managers have been obsessed with reach and clickthrough rates.
  • Search advertising managers are only looking at impressions.
  • Email marketers have focused on open rates and deliverability.
  • Mobile marketers are looking at app downloads only.
  • Social media marketers are solely focused on the number of Likes or Followers.

And none of the teams has worried much about what others team were doing— or how well they are doing it. But all that is changing.

Marketers across industries, from life sciences to retail to telecom, are shak- ing up their businesses in response to sweeping changes in consumer and prospect behavior in the digital age. They’re learning how to connect with customers on a personal level. They’re hiring experts in lead generation, analytics, and SEO. They’re dismantling the silos that separated display ads from social media and mobile from email marketing, and asking teams to collaborate on highly targeted campaigns that aim to connect with a consumer or prospect across multiple channels.

The CMOs who are driving these cross-channel campaigns want to see quantifiable results. So instead of tracking how many consumers or prospects opened an email announcing a new smartphone, and then how many of them actually went to the carrier’s site to buy one, marketers today are looking for insights into how different messages delivered to consumers or prospects across multiple channels actually resulted in the purchase of a new product, whether it’s a smartphone, or a business software technology.

The ROI analysis across multiple channels is still in its infancy. Marketers can’t yet easily track the direct impact of traditional TV and radio ads, combined with a consumer’s or prospect’s interactions with emails, display ads or other digital marketing campaigns. But what they can track today are conversion rates when select channels are combined. Customers are happy too because they’re getting messages that resonate and are delivered through the channels they use most.

Measuring results from cross-channel campaigns won’t be possible, however, without strong leadership in the marketing department. CMOs have to commit to breaking down the walls that separate the various teams within a department. They can do this by creating incentives such as ROI-based bonuses to teams that work together. A motivated, collaborative marketing department that has access to the right software will produce real and measurable benefits when different channels are combined—and tracked—in the same marketing program.


Keeping with the whole “car” analogy, the customer experience is undoubtedly the engine that keeps the marketing machine running. At least it should be.

Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, the customer experience is broken. The reason why it is broken is quite simply because the marketer experience is broken.

When you have thousands of products—and millions of customers with different affinities that you want to connect with those products - building personalized experiences is a tall order.

To do it right, it’s much more than just getting someone’s name right, or understanding that they purchased a particular product. Let’s look at what’s getting in the way…


Today’s legacy automation and journey builders enforce binary, yes/no decisions, forcing marketers to build one unsustainable campaign after another to support the customer experience.

The first issue is around automating the customer experience. It’s nearly impossible to do at scale because of the binary way in which they configure a customer experience. Most of today’s automation and journey tools force the marketer to implement binary decisions that cause the customer to run their course very quickly. If a customer purchases, they get one message. If they don’t, they get another.

Once the customer reaches the end of these binary journeys, it’s time to create a new program. And another program. And another. And another. Over time, this creates extra work for the marketer that prevents them from being more strategic.


Despite a plethora of data points, most marketers only leverage one: Did they purchase?

The other issue is around the data utilized today to message customers and build personalized experiences. Today, most marketing and rudimentary automation systems only leverage limited data about the customer, such as whether or not they purchased, or whether or not they opened and clicked on any link in an email.

It doesn’t look at what channel that customer prefers to be messaged on, or on what device. It doesn’t go deeper into their purchase history, or specific content they may have engaged with in a message that says something more granular about their interests.


Blame org charts, management, software licenses, or politics—marketing teams, processes, and the tech they use to reach customers operate in silos.

This isn’t just a technology problem, however. All around the enterprise, many of the marketers involved with these channels sit in isolation from one another. In certain cases, digital marketing and email might be lock step. In other cases, they may be running efforts completely in parallel, and often create redundant messaging.

Because each of them has a job to do, they create new campaigns with separate applications to bombard customers with different promotions—and it turns out the majority of these aren’t hitting the mark with customers.

The experience needs to be consistent and orchestrated across all channels. Loyalty is threatened when a consumer or prospect has a positive web or social experience only to then be bombarded with irrelevant or overly promotional email marketing by the same company.


To dig deeper into the world of cross-channel marketing, we interviewed Claudia Townsend, Assistant Professor, Marketing at the University of Miami School of Business Administration.

Q: Why is it important to provide a seamless, cross-channel experience to consumers and prospects?

A: It is vitally important for two reasons.

  1. Consumers and prospects are cross channel these days meaning that they are using multiple media sources. No consumer or prospect is using only one source of media so no brand should be. The quintessential example of this is what marketers are referring to as the “second screen” meaning that consumers and prospects are on their laptop, tablet, or mobile device while watching TV. T his is an example of simultaneous multi-media usage. But we also see consumers and prospects engaging with different media at different times of day though this is not new. Whereas in the past marketers talked about the consumer or prospect who read the newspaper in the morning, listened to the radio during her morning commute, and then watched television at night, now it is the same thing just magnified with more sources.
  2. But also different media have different benefits and consumers and prospects have different expectations from different media. So a brand really can’t do everything with one form of media. For example, a great deal has been said about how social media is great for brands for building trust and creating a personal connection. It is very easy to develop brand personality and rapport with consumers and prospects on social media. That being said, consumers and prospects generally do not like to feel like they are being sold to over social media. So it’s a great way to develop a relationship. But a more overt sales message ought to be on a different platform. Brands need to recognize this and optimize the use of each source of medium. No one media can be used for everything.

Q: How can brands ensure they are delivering the seamless, cross-channel experience people want?

A: Despite this notion that different media are optimal for different actions, brands have to ensure that the message is seamless. There are three aspects of this. The first two are connected—simply that there needs to be consistency in how the brand and message is defined across channels.

  1. Identify your brand personality/voice and keep it consistent. If the brand is light-hearted and witty in its ads, then that same tone needs to be used in social media. Brands make the mistake of perceiving social media as a more relaxed and casual interaction than traditional media. While this is true, the voice of the brand—who it is and how it speaks to the consumer or prospect—needs to remain consistent.
  2. Identify your message and stay on message across media. What is the take-away message that you want consumers and prospects to learn? Is it that your brand offers a specific feature or quality? That it is low-price? Whatever that message is, it needs to be re-affirmed every time the consumer or prospect engages with the brand—whether that’s when viewing a print ad, visiting the website, the Facebook page, the store, or whatever.
  3. Then the third is to acknowledge that the various media channels do not each work in a vacuum and make the most of that. So the consumer or prospect who sees a particularly good television ad might be motivated to visit the company’s website or Facebook page. Or the consumer or prospect who reads a Tweet might be motivated to visit the store. Brands are, indeed, capitalizing on this—featuring social media hashtags and/or web addresses in traditional media or making their television ads available on YouTube. But all brands need to assume such behavior will occur and then take the next step of motivating it because a consumer’s or prospect’s brand involvement naturally increases when he engages with the brand across media.

Q: What is the inherent risk in not providing it?

A: See all of the above. But basically this is a huge opportunity that brands can’t ignore. If you are missing a media channel you may be missing the chance to engage with the consumer or prospect in, not just another manner, but a different manner with different benefits. Moreover, the consumer and prospect these days expects this multi-channel approach. Their view of the brand is going to be negatively influenced if, after viewing a television ad, they find the brand doesn’t have a social media presence or, if after seeing the brand on social media, they are unable to locate its latest television ad campaign on YouTube.


  1. The customer experience, be they a B2C or B2B customer, is broken.
  2. Far too many customers do not receive a true cross-channel marketing experience.
  3. One reason for this is the fact that a given person can have multiple IDs - each of which can be used for marketing purposes.
  4. Thanks to Identity Mapping, marketers can create an ID map strategy that will help marketers connect the dots between all the disparate IDs.
  5. It is less about the accuracy of a particular attribute (is someone interested in buying X), but more around the accuracy of identifying who they are across all channels and touchpoints so you, as a marketer can deliver a more relevant message.
  6. Proper measurement and attribution of cross-channel marketing is essential.
  7. Measuring results from cross-channel campaigns won’t be possible, however, without strong leadership in the marketing department.
  8. Today, most marketing and rudimentary automation systems only leverage limited data about the customer, such as whether or not they purchased, or whether or not they opened and clicked on any link in an email.
  9. Marketing teams, processes, and the tech they use to reach customers operate in silos which prevent true cross-channel marketing from becoming a reality.
  10. These silos must be knocked down to ensure long term loyalty.

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