How a multi-channel strategy can help you connect with buyers in the right place and at the right time.

If you asked tourists in Times Square how they got to New York, you’d probably hear tales of trains, planes and automobiles. One person might describe flying from Sydney to Hong Kong to New York over an exhausting 24 hours. Another might mention a far less eventful trip, like a morning train ride from Boston to Penn Station. And yet, another might tell you they took the subway from New Jersey.

When we make travel plans like these, our thinking is pragmatic. We decide what it is we want to do—in this case, visit New York—and pick the transportation mode that works best for us. Unfortunately, we don’t always apply this kind of thinking to B2B communication. Rather than using the channels or modes that work best for reaching buyers, too often we limit ourselves to just one channel. And just like taking the train won’t work for every visitor to New York, one communication channel won’t work for reaching every buyer.

Change the channel

In the B2B world, you spend your days trying to reach audiences that have long and complex buyer’s journeys. Using only one channel limits how and where you can meet them in those journeys. With a multi-channel approach, you can capitalize on the opportunities that the many channels in today’s complex media landscape can offer to reach buyers. This includes opportunities to reach buyers at different times in their journey and to reach different types of buyers.

So, how do you deploy a multi-channel communication approach? With a rock-solid understanding of your communication goals and your target market and a well-crafted strategy for moving your buyers through the awareness-to-adoption continuum. You can do this by following six steps:

  • Define your goals

You won’t know if your communication is successful unless you define up front what success looks like. Start with some of the basics: What do we do? Why do we do it? Then, go deeper to identify what it is you’re trying to achieve with your communication. Where is our business now? Where do we want it to go? How and when do we get there? What’s standing in our way?

  • Get to know your buyers

We can pretty quickly identify the best transportation method for getting to New York. But understanding our customers and the motivators that inspire them to act isn’t as easy. Ask questions like: Who do we need to reach? What do we want them to do? What are their trusted sources of information? Work with people not only within your communication team but also from other teams or departments to map out the answers to these questions.

  • Customize your messages

Just like you can’t always rely on the same channel, you also can’t always rely on the same message. Certainly, your high-level story should be consistent. But your key messages and proof points should be personalized to different buyers. They should be tailored, for example, to resonate with a buyer’s habits and beliefs. They should also acknowledge the challenges the buyer faces. And they should clearly articulate what the buyer will get by taking the action that you offer them.

  • Map paths for buyers

Visitors to New York have different paths and schedules for getting there. Similarly, buyers have different channels for different outcomes. Look at your buyers’ personas. Do they get news and information in different ways and at different times? This can help you decide which communication channel you should use—and when you should use it— to reach them. If buyers are looking to influencers on social media, for example, you should be on that medium trying to reach them, perhaps with a campaign that involves those influencers.

  • Test messages and channels

Barring some dramatic change to transportation, a tourist from Australia will never veer from using an airline to get to New York. But that doesn’t mean you should never change up the messaging or channels you use to reach buyers. This is where measurement is crucial. If you can track your efforts against your goals, then you can continually evaluate, adjust and optimize your communication.

  • Take the wheel

Once you’ve gone through these steps, you’ll gain a new appreciation for how different your buyers can be and the different paths they can take on their buyer’s journey. And you’ll see why leaning on a single-channel approach makes about as much sense as asking everyone visiting New York to arrive by bus.

This article was originally featured in O’Dwyer’s November 2019 Technology PR Issue.

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