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Channel Matters Blog > March 2013 > The Multi-Channel Customer

The Multi-Channel Customer

by Philip Moon
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Today's customer is changing the way they buy, with a huge array of information resources available to them. With buyers in charge of where and how they get their information, companies must develop a multi-channel marketing strategy that ensures visibility while maintaining consistent, compelling messaging.

If you can still remember the 70's and 80's you'll recall that buying the family car meant a trip down to the local car dealer who carried a variety of different brands and vehicle types, or perhaps a once-per-year trip to the regional 'motor-show' trade exhibition. We relied upon good advice from our local reseller and held them responsible for after sales service.

Today's car buyer does most of their research on-line – weighing up the safety and performance studies and shopping for additional options and price. The role of the car dealer has changed too the specialist dealer is the place you go near the end of the buying process to actually test drive your shortlisted car and arrange trade-in or finance.

The internet has had profoundly impacted the role the channel plays in the buying process in many industries. It gives vendors and manufacturers a low cost way of reaching a large number of end-user customers, but rather than making the channel redundant it has more often just changed the partner's role and the value they bring.

Of course the availability of so much information doesn't mean the customer is more informed. Information generated by unqualified or biased sources dilutes meaningful concepts, pollutes informed perspectives and complicates the buying decision. When it comes to information, more is not necessarily better.

strategicdataLeading sales organizations recognize that today's multi-channel buyer is able to obtain information in multiple ways from a variety of sources and that there are differences in how people acquire and retain knowledge. Buyers obtain information through relationships with their peers, staff and personal knowledge networks. They also reach out to providers, consultants or business partners. They may choose to respond to the barrage of unsolicited emails, voicemails and cold calls. Or they may search for information on their own, scouring the Internet for public content. Now, with the emergence of social technologies, virtual social outlets like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn can connect and engage buyers with online communities like PMAP – The Partner Manager Alliance Program organized around areas of interest.

The Miller Heiman Research Institutes 2013 Sales Best Practices Study reveals interesting insights into how World-Class Sales Organizations use social media and the emphasis they place on a clear and formalized value proposition.

It can be difficult for vendors to create messages that stand out in a sea of noise. To complicate matters, sellers can't predict where or how buyers will source information. They must be ready with messages synchronized to the buyer's need for information. Marketing and sales must collaborate to develop and deploy integrated, consistent and cascading messages to each of the information channels.

There are many indirect channel implications that must be considered. A few relevant questions include:
  • What sources of information are your end-customers relying upon today?
  • How does this change the roles and responsibilities you outsource to indirect channel partners across the buying process?
  • How might the change in what you need partners to provide impact the partners cost of sales and service delivery?
  • How should these changes impact on partner compensation and partner selection?
  • What new partner programs and communication channels are required to keep partners and end-user customers engaged?

Channel Sales and Channel Marketing must work together to align key messages with channel roles and responsibilities at each stage of the new buying cycle. It is incumbent on marketing to ensure the messages and assets deployed through each of the information channels are integrated, consistent and value-add.
Last modified on 6/30/2013 10:11:26 PM
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