Diversifying Your Engagement Channel Mix to Keep Up with Changing Customer Expectations
On average, customers engage with nine different channels in their buying process before making a purchasing decision.
Communication preferences have changed over the past few years. Buyers are choosing to engage in new ways as they continue to increasingly prefer to do their own research prior to ever getting on the phone with a salesperson.
But while customers have had massive changes in their engagement channel preferences, traditional marketing hasn’t kept up. Most teams are still operating in the same handful of channels, unaware that their buyers are no longer there.
You must diversify your current mix of engagement channels if you’re going to keep up with changing customer expectations. Here’s how:
Step 1: Find out where your prospects search for information
When’s the last time you conducted research to find out where your prospects are searching for information? If it’s been more than a year, it’s time to revisit the question. Research shows that newer channels like live chat, SMS, and social media have been gaining traction with buyers, while more traditional channels like events (both live and digital), email, and phone have been declining in preference.
Stop making decisions about which channels to invest in based on old data. Start by finding out where your prospects are searching for information today.
Begin by conducting first party research. Ask your customers and prospects where they go for information. Then, apply the findings not just to your engagement channel strategy, but to your entire marketing strategy.
Don’t be surprised if you discover that preferences have changed. The lines have become blurrier than you might have originally imagined. B2B brands are becoming more and more prevalent in traditionally B2C or peer-to-peer channels like podcasts and YouTube.
Step 2: Align engagement channels to each part of the funnel
Engagement channels should have one of three goals: acquire, nurture, or convert leads. The content you serve in each channel should change accordingly.
Acquisition channels should serve low friction, top-of-funnel content like blogs and short videos. A good example of an acquisition channel is social media.
Nurture channels should serve medium friction, middle-of-funnel content like white papers and case studies. This content should provide more detail about your solution and meet deeper informational needs. Good examples of a nurture channel include email nurture programs.
Conversion channels should serve high friction, high intent, bottom-of-funnel content like demos, pricing, and FAQs. Retargeting is usually a good example of a conversion channel.
Some channels (like your website) will be good at all three and others (like social media) may only perform at one. The point is that not all channels serve the same purpose and that each is aligned to its appropriate place in the funnel.
Step 3: Lean on reporting data to inform decisions
The unknown is the biggest roadblock to diversifying engagement channel mix for most organizations. It can be hard to move away from channels that have established performance patterns and start investing in uncharted territory.
But the reality is… your non-diversified channel mix already has a data reporting problem.
Sure, your analytics might be able to focus on acquisition metrics like click-through and conversion rate, but it’s unlikely you’re able to connect the dots between how a lead’s engagement with each channel impacts their progression through the funnel.
There are three main metrics you should lean on when making decisions about engagement channel strategies.
- Contributions: How many touchpoints has a channel contributed to each Lead Qualification Stage
- Elasticity: The percentage of leads that achieve a certain stage after interacting with a specific engagement channel or content offer
- Impact Expectation: The effectiveness of a channel or content offer at generating leads of a specific Lead Qualification Stage
How to move forward
While consumers continue to embrace new channels, marketers can’t get complacent. The most successful teams will strive to engage with customers in ways that feel very natural to them.
Like any new undertaking, you can expect to spend money. But embracing new content channels for your marketing may not be as expensive as you think and the potential payoff is huge.
Because B2B marketers are notoriously slow to react to the changes in consumer behavior, the opportunity to get in on the ground floor remains for many channels. The cost – and the competition – to enter these channels will only be growing from here on out.
Plus, getting into these underutilized channels presents a unique opportunity to build authenticity and transparency with your buyers in a more natural, informal environment.
Diversifying your engagement channels in an authentic way empowers you to meet your buyers where they are. It provides huge opportunity to build relationships and keep up with changing customer expectations. Just remember to do your research, align your channels to each stage of the funnel, and lean on data when making decisions.