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The fundamentals of a cross-channel digital marketing strategy

By George Gangar, Head of media planning



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December 2, 2021 | 6 min read

‘Cross-channel,’ ‘multi-channel,’ ‘integrated’ and ‘holistic’ are just some of the terms used by marketers 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 across every user micromoment’ or marketing platitudes such as the need to ‘break down silos and adopt people-centric planning.’ It’s tempting, then, to think that, as with much of the jargon endemic across the marketing landscape, ‘cross-channel strategy’ is just another one of those buzzwords: no one knows what it means, but it’s provocative. It *ahem* gets the people going...

Impression provide a clear guide for drawing up cross-channel strategies that allow for greater integration.

Impression provides a clear guide for drawing up cross-channel strategies that allow for greater integration

The reality is that you’re likely to be using more than one channel, and having a way to tie those channels together to achieve a common goal is going to play a key part in making your marketing efforts a success, regardless of whether you’re using paid media, SEO, digital PR or CRO. Here, we’ve tried to outline three simple and intuitive recommendations to ensure that you are getting the basics right when it comes to developing and delivering cross-channel strategies.

1. Integrated objective setting

Stressing the importance of objective setting might sound like we’re stating the blindingly obvious, but while having a clear overarching business objective is certainly a start (and probably a minimum requirement), ensuring that you are translating your business objectives into marketing objectives and digital KPIs is something that every strategy will benefit from. This will also ensure you’re well positioned to describe your strategy to stakeholders in the future too, as this will provide you a clear framework for communicating how your strategy and channel plans can impact wider business objectives.

Think about it like this:

  • What is your overarching business objective?

  • How might marketing impact that business objective? Use the answer to define your marketing objectives.

  • How might your digital channels impact those marketing objectives? Use the answer to define your digital KPIs.

Once you’ve completed the above process, you’ll be left with a KPI framework that clearly shows how your various digital KPIs all ladder back to your overarching business objective. As we all know, each channel has its own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the KPIs that it can drive. By using a framework like this, you can employ a variety of channels with different KPIs, while being sure that each one has a clearly-defined role within your overall marketing strategy.

2. Using quality insights

Another one that sounds like it should be a given, but ‘should’ is the operative word in that statement. While many strategies might claim to be insight-led, the reality is that many are founded upon too many assumptions. As we’ll come to, there’s nothing wrong with making assumptions as long as they’re identified and put to the test. Before including something in a strategy, ask yourself, what insights do you have to support that decision? This may be related to what your competitors are doing or what you can glean about the different channels available to choose from.

Fundamentally, high-quality insights should be relevant, actionable and supported by more than one source wherever possible.

Humans are creatures of habit and we therefore tend to default to the things we know have worked for us in the past. Applying the above criteria to any insights that you are using to build your strategy will help to prevent you from falling into this trap. Ask yourself why you’re recommending a certain creative, format or channel. Is it because the data tells you to, or is it because it aligns with activity that you’ve seen done before? Instead of just doing what’s been done elsewhere, use insights to guide your decisions as much as possible.

3. Create hypotheses

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

Hypotheses should be based on insight; measurable with a clear KPI; and aligned to your objectives’ framework.

Fundamentally, 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 results of the tests will also provide you with greater insight for the next cycle of activation.

By incorporating these three relatively straightforward recommendations into your cross-channel strategy, you should be able to very quickly deliver a more integrated approach when it comes to your digital marketing efforts – especially as you move through this cycle a few times.

George Gangar, head of digital strategy at Impression.

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