Inbound marketing in a cross-channel marketing strategy: same old challenges?

Dec 09, 2011  Inspiration Manu De Ros

Inbound marketing in a cross-channel marketing strategy: same old challenges?


Although a lot is happening online and mobile communications, emerging technologies and social media are very hot (and important) topics, cross-channel marketing and its challenges are not new.

In 2005, the MIT Center for eBusiness published a report, called “The Cross Channel Impact of Marketing Communications”. It showed that the cross-channel impact of marketing campaigns and programs was already a hot topic then, among others, because of the Internet.

All online channels, as they existed then, formed a challenge for cross-channel marketing and for a global and holistic look regarding the identification of the sources where customers and prospects came from and how their buying journey developed throughout all possible interactions.

Wasn't it the same before that time as well, when Internet started to become used for commercial purposes? In fact, didn't we face the same cross-channel challenges before Internet even was known? Since 2005, we saw the development of advanced marketing automation and lead management tools, web analytics platforms and customer intelligence and management systems that helped businesses in getting that cross-channel view and approach.

With the arrival of social media and the increasing focus on inbound marketing, however, it again has become more difficult for businesses to develop, manage and optimize a cross-channel marketing strategy and to follow and serve the prospect and customer throughout all interactions. It is as if every new development brings the same cross-channel challenges back.

The quest for new metrics

As recent studies have shown, many marketers find it very hard to trace the impact and ROI of social media marketing and other forms of interactive marketing. They even find it more difficult to integrate everything in a cross-channel marketing strategy, let alone optimization process.

One of the reasons is that immediate conversion can be tracked on social media (clicks etc.) but the real conversion, from prospect to customer, in inbound marketing requires another approach. On top of that, the impact of social media engagement, reviews, etc. has to be measured in other ways. New metrics regarding reach and engagement should make it easier to translate social media marketing effects into understandable metrics that can be used in a cross-channel perspective.

We should also realize that social media marketing and inbound marketing are broad terms that cover a wide range of underlying marketing channels and tactics. There are for instance several forms of social media marketing that are excellent for conversion and immediate lead generation.

It’s time to integrate

Other forms of social media marketing strive more towards having or building a community around your brand. Here the purpose is to bring as much people as possible in the influence sphere of your brand. Cross-channel marketing and multi-channel marketing are becoming an imperative. There are more channels than ever before and they should not sit in silos if you have a customer-centric approach.

When combined and integrated in function of the customer buying journey, all channels strengthen each other.

Smart and coordinated cross-channel campaigns not only improve the reach your brand has but are also a necessity in this era where people want to be able to choose communication channels of their preference themselves.

That’s one of the reasons it is time to integrate. Since it's not about the channels. But about the customer. And, as long as we don't see that, every new marketing phenomenon, such as inbound marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, mobile, etc. will pose the same cross-channel challenges as we have known for so long.

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Summary : The hottest topic in marketing and communication is without any doubt social media marketing. Although many businesses are still testing the waters, many others have successfully integrated social media in their marketing mix.

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