Home Data-Driven Thinking Finding Marketing Channel Balance In An Unbalanced Marketing World

Finding Marketing Channel Balance In An Unbalanced Marketing World

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Suzanne Schwartz, Senior Director Analyst, Gartner Marketing practice

Customer behavior continues to evolve as digital experiences become woven into everyday life. People use digital maps to navigate the offline world, set their home thermostats from miles away, and take advantage of buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) programs.

This creates challenges for marketing leaders who must decide how to balance priorities to maximize investments across multiple channels when the distinctions hold no real meaning to customers.

Thinking through the right channel mix can help codify where you can do more or do less. 

For example, wanting to add more emerging channels and collect first-party data might require managing more channels initially. But by optimizing multichannel investments, it may be possible to eventually manage more at scale. Conversely, a larger number of channels might not be the right focus for a business that prioritizes performance marketing and lead quality.

Marketing leaders therefore must adapt their channel strategies to fit their business objectives and cross-channel, not channel-specific, priorities. 

Creating the right marketing mix

There is a sweet spot in multichannel marketing: a convergence of budget, resources, customer adoption and marketing use cases. It is at this point where a good marketing channel strategy sits, minimizing both lost opportunity and being spread too thin. 

For example, it’s important to optimize existing channels in a way that opens up budgets and resources for testing of new channels, such as podcast advertising. It’s equally important to maximize the potential of each channel, personalizing and segmenting messaging to ensure customers don’t receive generic content. 

It’s very difficult to achieve a perfect balance, but there is a way to get close – and strategies actually differ depending on the number of channels marketers employ. According to Gartner’s 2023 Multichannel Marketing survey, marketing leaders that have invested in 11 or more marketing channels are:

  • Better able to optimize their multichannel investment.
  • More likely to have achieved increasing first-party customer data collection.
  • Are enabled to handle more complexity, including emerging channels and technology.

What this could mean in practice is that those with more channels are more likely to develop their multichannel investments through investments in mar tech (e.g., multichannel marketing hubs, mobile marketing platforms), which then enables them to optimize across their channels and more easily add newer channels (e.g., podcasts and social media, such as TikTok) to their channel mix. They are also more likely to have developed ways to collect first-party data based on this investment.

Concurrently, the research shows that organizations with 10 channels or less are more likely to:

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  • See success in performance marketing that drives sales through online and offline channels.
  • Have improved their lead generation quality.

In other words, those with fewer channels could focus on driving specific key sales results through channels such as display ads or social media ads. Those with fewer channels in the B2B space also focus more exclusively on improving their lead generation quality; with a more exact understanding of a prospect, converting them with fewer channels could be easier.

Taking near-term action 

For organizations with many channels: Marketing leaders should evaluate current customer behavior at least biannually. Determine, throughout the customer journey, how customers are interacting with your channels as well as where (on a smartphone, laptop, in a store). 

This will enable you to see where consumers use multiple channels at once, where channels have compounding effect and where they amplify each other to continue to refine marketing tactics.

For organizations with fewer channels: Marketing leaders should avoid an everywhere-all-at-once approach and ensure that any potential channel additions have been thoroughly assessed from a value-add perspective. Be prepared to take a gradual approach. Prioritize based on existing business gaps and customer and business needs. Pinpointing what channels require testing or are ready for launch and why is also key, as not all new channels can, or should, be added at once.

Marketers should recognize that there are benefits to adding channels when they’re optimized for value and do not spread teams too thin. But they should also realize having fewer channels can also enable optimization and improved performance in specific areas with the right focus.

Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

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