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When You Have Channels, Everyone Looks Like a Target

AcxiomApril 06, 2015

Do you remember the first time you walked into a hotel room, and found the traditional alarm clock replaced with a smaller, sleeker version, complete with an iPod charging cradle?  Odds are you were either ecstatic (no digging under the desk for an outlet!) or frustrated by the lack of USB port for your non-Apple phone.  Over time, that has evolved, with clocks providing both an embedded Apple cradle and a USB port for any other appropriate device.  All you had to do was provide the cable.

For a few years, that solution worked out (well, if you’re an Apple user, ok if you were on any other phone).  Then the iPhone 5 came along, making every hotel alarm clock with a 32 pin adaptor obsolete.  With more than 55% of the Apple market currently using an iPhone 5 or 6, hotels are struggling to adjust to the new technology, and staring down the sizable cost of swapping out the dated alarm clocks as technology evolves.

Recently, I stayed at a hotel that tried to find the solution by installing a charging bay with multiple adaptors for older phones, along two USB ports, and a standard plug.  Would have be a great solution had the USB ports and the standard charging ports worked.

Long story short – they had the noble aspiration of trying to anticipate every situation but didn’t maintain their equipment, which sent me back to the same place I was six years ago: crawling under a desk to find a place to plug my phone in.

Multi and Omni channel marketing reminds me a lot of my quest for a charger.  There are so many ways to interact, and so much fear over competitive pressure, that companies are scrambling to get as many options out there as possible.  Similar to my multi-charger conundrum, when you’re trying to be everything to everyone, you’re not going to do any of it very well.

Think I’m overstating?  Well, the average consumer receives roughly 20 promotional emails per day, and that’s sandwiched between an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 ads (broadcast and digital).  Layer in 41 lbs of direct mail in a calendar year, and you have a lot of touches, but like the old Apple charger, they might not be the right ones.

The reality is that, in our rush to leverage the channels we can implement and measure (direct marketing via print and email, display ads, text, mobile, web, etc.) we sometimes forget that simply having access to a channel doesn’t mean that the customer is always going to be responsive.  Instead of using the quickest, most cost effective channels to reach everyone, we have to take it back to the customer level, build interaction strategies at a macro level based on customer groupings, and then filter that based on channels of interest.  Want to talk to my dad?  Direct mail or email is where it’s at.  Want to catch me?  Email, Facebook, or in-app messaging are all great options so long as they are relevant.  My twenty-seven year old brother in law?  In-app messaging or SMS, otherwise, he’s not even going to pay attention.

Suddenly, that charger metaphor is making a lot of sense, isn’t it?   Instead of rushing to add new channels, or building out functionality to expand existing channels, pause for a second, and look at the data and insights you’ve collected via first and third party channels.  Apply that to understand what your constituency wants and needs, and use that to build out the appropriate channels of contact.  It’s a wiser long term payout, and less likely to miss the mark with your customer base.  Last thing you want them doing is digging under the desk for a place to plug in the charger, because we all know that’s no fun.