E-mail marketers and search-engine marketers know that it is important to provide a consistent experience to Internet users between their e-mails or search engine ads on the one hand and landing pages and follow-up interactions on the other.
This need for consistency is not only important for improving conversion rates in these specific forms of interactive marketing.
It is also a pillar in a multi-channel and cross-channel world, that is governed by the needs, experience and satisfaction of the prospect and customer, and thus it is important for all interactions.
Already at the end of 2003, Forrester's Bob Chatham pointed out the three crucial"C's" and the three important principles of cross-channel marketing in his "Simplifying Cross-Channel Design" report:
- Choice: Let the prospect/customer choose the interaction channels they want and give them control.
- Consistency: Avoid any possible confusion and be consistent in all dialogues and interactions across all channels.
- Continuity: Give people the possibility of switching to another channel at any time according to their changing needs.
Today, seven years later, many companies are still struggling with these three principles. Businesses often limit the choice of interaction channels, there is lack of integration, preference centers and opportunities for letting customers choose can be improved and many marketers fail to provide a consistent experience.
When Chatham wrote these three principles down, there were no blogs, social networks, Twitter or mobile interaction channels (with the exception of texting).
People were not overwhelmed by advertising as they are now - with the risk of marketing fatigue as a consequence - and the media and communications landscape was not as fragmented.
Channels, customers, conversion, brand and consistency
Furthermore, in disciplines such as e-mail marketing, much less emphasis was placed on customer control than today. Companies are only just beginning to realize that the communication and interaction process is completely dominated by the customer.
Chatham's three recommendations remain valid. In cross-channel marketing automation operations, where people are approached and served individually, according to segmentation the individual buying journey and other triggers, and in which they themselves determine how to interact with companies, choice and consistency are crucial.
Consistency is not just a matter of conversion rates (the more consistent the interactions, the higher the conversion rate) and customer-centricity (consistent experiences lead to ease of use and a positive customer experience) and content: it is also very important for the way your company and brand are perceived.
Consistency is further related to expectations, trust and even word of mouth!
In multi-channel and cross-channel interaction processes, scenario-driven communications, marketing automation and lead nurturing, consistency should be part of global and integrated strategy planning. Various studies and daily experience still show that there is room for improvement here. And not just in e-mail marketing or marketing automation.
Content and consistency: the cross-channel perspective
In all these aspects, from personalized interactions to conversion and brand perception, content is key. Which brings us to the importance of consistent content.
PR and communications company Burson-Marsteller found a big difference between the messages the Financial Times Global 100 companies send out and the way these messages are handled in their blogs.
This "message distortion" phenomenon is not new but it is clear that it remains an issue. It is striking that the "message gap" between companies and various traditional media and channels is smaller than it is with blogs.
One of Burson-Marseller's recommendations is for companies to create relevant and "compelling" content to spread via social networks like Facebook and Twitter, as there is then by definition consistency between the message (content) and these interaction platforms.
For business blogs, it is a case of pursuing more consistency, as the individual and personal nature of the medium can not be ignored. And for all other forms of interaction, from mobile e-mail marketing to print, consistency is, and remains, a continuous challenge in cross-channel and customer-centric marketing, regardless of the formats, and even more so in a world of multimedia.
A guest post by J-P De Clerck
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