Reimagining Your Channel Strategies for 2018

Sep 22, 2017

Article ImageI’ve been working in the digital sphere since 1994, so like most marketers, I’ve seen new channels constantly emerge and quickly dominate— web, podcasting, social, chat, apps. What is far less obvious is how channels themselves have changed in both our expectations for them, and their potential for brands. With many clients deep into 2018 planning, this is a good time to avoid the cut-and-paste of last year’s choices and rethink what else your channels can do for growth next year.

Web: The New Awareness Channel

The conventional thinking is that TV, print, and display drive awareness, and the web catches and converts, right? The truth is your website can act as a powerful awareness and traffic driver at the top of the marketing funnel. It starts with an always-on content strategy pre-purposed for SEO, not just reactively optimized for search. This way, your ungated web properties can work harder to help your brand be discovered and attract new customers who, 24/7, are searching for needs that your products can solve. Juico, a juice company in Turkey, attracted new customers through search engine optimization and needs-based content. It expanded keywords to go beyond branded words to long-tail terms such as detox-related, weight loss, and healthy living. To do it, they created pages of web content around healthy living, such as clean-eating recipes and fitness tips. Results included a 40%+ increase in online transactions and a 30% increase in online revenue. Who wouldn’t want some of that?

Social: Selling Beyond Promoting

Social platforms are traditionally used by brands for promotion and customer service. But what if social could act as a revenue driver by directly selling products and services? Take KLM Airlines. Once flight details have been arranged, KLM will send a link to a flier in a private message on Facebook or Twitter. That consumer can select her preferred method of payment and complete the transaction. The result might surprise you. The platform cost under €5,000 to set up and, according to a presentation given by Gert Wim ter Haar from KLM Royal Dutch Airlines at #Engage2016, was taking in €150,000 per week in sales.


Another social strategy reminds us how personal social can be. Instead of pushing ad-like posts to consumer feeds, you might start to use social the way humans use social. Shipping brand Maersk turned B2B social media marketing on its head through its innovative use of Instagram and Tumblr to create a beautiful visual brand aesthetic. Striking images of its huge shipping fleet amassed Maersk a surprisingly large following across platforms and gained organic engagement month after month, and year after year.

PR: Very Public Relations

Public relations has been thought of more as a perception shaper than sales driver. Brand acts such as State Street’s recent “Fearless Girl” grab headlines and do more efficient demand generation than millions more in paid advertising. We also now see that in the digital age, product announcements and company moves can drive product sales and share price. REI’s #OptOutside during Black Friday was an employee-driven business decision to close their stores yet evolved into a public relations and social campaign that drove a national conversation not to mention a 26% hike in online traffic.

Influencers: Your Next Best Ambassador Isn’t You

Indirect can also be as effective than direct, a jarring idea for those of us who spent years in direct marketing. With high marks for credibility and the power of inbound links on SEO, influencer marketing through blogs and social is growing. For retailer Bigelow, bloggers created product-centric posts using the formats that appealed to their followers. For instance, Jess from “A Million Moments” blog created a guide for making a flower pot for a Mother’s Day present using tea packaging. This drove additional revenue by encouraging readers to buy tea as gifts — Bigelow reported double-digit sales lift, more than 44 million impressions and top organic search ranking with certain phrases. How much are you investing in influencer programs? Perhaps you should spend more that way in 2018.

Sales: From Feeding Sales, to Sales Feeding Your Marketing

Your sales team can act as a channel for content if tapped correctly. Rather than simply feeding them content to use in their business development efforts, why not leverage sale team knowledge and expertise in the field to create new content? One software brand I worked with used sales as their eyes and ears for new content and helped tailor not only the message and cadence, but filled gaps of formats that were needed, including elevator pitch, email summaries, and follow-up pieces.

Unexpected Channels: Paradoxical Relevance

Sometimes it’s not about changing the way you use an existing channel, but rather trying a new one altogether. This can give you first-movers advantage or shake up your content strategy with a new audience or format. For example, Amazon Alexa users can now use their Echo devices to check into United Airlines flights, get the latest itinerary updates, and even verify if the aircraft has amenities like power outlets. Cheetos offer another example. When you think of marketing this orange crunchy crisp on social, your head probably goes to Facebook or Instagram. Pinterest would be better for fashion, home, and visual brands, right? Well, Cheetos leveraged search data from Pinterest to understand what target customers were searching for, and then created content that placed its products ready to be found. Cheetos learned that customers were searching for knee high boots, so they created video content of boot-shaped Cheetos that showed up in searches. Ridiculous but the results were delicious with a 18% lift in brand favorability and a 51% lift in purchase intent against the target demographic.

Existing Channels: Shift Formats Within Your Mix

Another area of trial should be within the content types and formats. Too many clients still present their thought-leadership as downloadable PDFs, when we know that web-based thought leadership is more interactive, trackable, and video is far more persuasive. Podcasting is now making waves with larger, better audiences. Infographics are another format to look at -- highly consumed and widely shared, although some research says they have limited lasting effect. And one last plug for a touchpoint that I’ve written about in the past— company About pages.

Despite their tenure as 24/7 brand canvases, About pages are underappreciated and underleveraged. Add video, audio, or interactivity to increase engagement and improve your storytelling.

Good luck. I hope you open your aperture to channel strategies in 2018, and we see fresh thinking, even on familiar platforms.

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