Online Exclusive

Cross Media in the Mix

Cross media is not the Holy Grail that is going to save your company from ruin.

Cross media (or channel) marketing can help drive revenues. It can (potentially) bring in new customers, and help you up the sales you get from current customers.

However, without proper management, planning, staff, and technology, chances are that won’t be the end result.

Being able to offer full cross media solutions—direct mail, QR codes, email—is pretty much a must-have today, says Steve McPhee, Product Specialist, EFI's Online Print Solutions (OPS) technologies, which includes Web-to-print storefronts, job submission, variable data, cross-media and retail portals. “But a lot of printers try and then give up. They don’t have the internal focus or the sales staff to do it effectively.”

In fact, to help its customers succeed, EFI works with printers to help them understand cross media and how to sell it.

That sales component is one of the key issues for Print Service Providers (PSPs) looking to succeed in cross media marketing. Especially for traditional printers, or those who are new to this arena, navigating the internal dynamics of a large corporation can be tricky.

“The way email and online are procured are fundamentally different that the way offline services, such as print, are procured,” says Luke Heffron, vice president of integrated marketing for SG360º, a leading direct marketer based in Wheeling, Il. The employee-owned company, which has a staff of 400, re-invented itself September 2012 with a full-scale identity shift into the realm of digital and cross platform marketing. Its stated mission is “to help brands develop connections with the people who matter most: Our Customers. Our Customers’ Customers.”

Critical for both the PSP and the client he/she hopes to bring on board is how the cross media campaign will be managed within the client’s organization, and “who owns what, how monies are moved around, and how these decisions are going to be made,” says Heffron.

Even a simple campaign that deploys only three channels—email, social media, and direct mail, for example, can be tricky. Email and social media will probably require little or no extra expenditure, while direct mail might go through the corporation’s normal purchasing channels. Now your client wants to combine email, social media, and direct mail in one campaign—how does it get managed within the client’s organization? Who manages it? Certainly not procurement.

“These are the kinds of decisions, across every corporation, that they (both the PSP and the client) are going to have deal with,” says Heffron. Besides logistics, internal politics within your client’s organization can come into play. The purchasing department might not want to let go of managing the print component.

In order for the cross media campaign to be successful, the chief marketing officer has to be on board, and ideally be your point person.

The reality is that CMOs are looking for a lens into the communications touchpoints,” says Heffron. “They want to know how each customer wants to be communicated with, and when. No matter what the industry, no matter what the channel, marketers are trying to figure out what the key is to unlocking the desired interaction with the customer.”

To help insure a successful campaign, SG360º’s approach is to implement a two-step process. First, a baseline of communications is established, demonstrating where the client is and how they are using the different platforms.

The next step is mapping out the strategy of how to get the client to where he wants to be. Key to being a cross platform provider is that you aren’t married to any specific solution. It’s no longer just about printing; it’s about finding solutions in order for your customer to realize their marketing goals.

Both the PSP and the client should invest the time in planning, vs. just reacting, says Heffron. When the whole cross platform phenomena first became big, marketers—and their service providers—reacted to every channel that came out.

“Now there is an opportunity to slow down and think carefully about the strategy you are going to implement,” says Heffron.

“That’s where the void is in the next five years,” he adds. “The technology is getting there, but what’s missing is how prepared the organizations are to execute the multi-platform strategy,” says Heffron.

For PSPS, your client’s lack of preparedness provides a real opportunity. As the expert, able to put the pieces together, you will become your client’s partner, elevated from being a simple print provider. Of course, the reality is that you need the expertise to deliver the solutions your clients expect.

Follow the data brick road

With any cross media campaign, all roads lead back to data acquisition and analysis.

In its recent report on “Digital Marketing & Media Trends,” InfoTrends’ Bryan Yeager, Associate Director, writes the ability to deliver the “right content to the right person, in the preferred channel, at the right time, in the right context,” is within reach, butorganizational challenges like cross-departmental data sharing and tying that data to specific individuals persist.”

In fact, says EFI’s McPhee “data is the biggest part of any campaign; it’s critical that PSPs understand the different parts of data.”

SG360° is certainly on track, employing a process called Empirical Direct Marketing Solutions, which is built on three pillars: BRANDIRECTions (the data-based research and analytics arm), IMPRESSions (printing—sheetfed, inline web, and digital) and EXPRESSions (finishing and fulfillment).

Empirical Direct Marketing Solutions allows SG360°’s customers to tap into testing services to maximize a campaign’s effectiveness before going into production. The direct marketer isn’t going down this path alone—it is partnering with leading creative, analytics and market research firms to implement the program, which in addition to national online testing panels, includes research into behavioral segmentation, predictive modeling, and lifecycle integration.

“We don’t just manage data, we deliver insights for our customers on how to use it differently,” says Heffron. “Everyone is into data segmentation, it’s the big thing. But we have found that in some instances segmentation or using demographics might not be predictive of getting the desired customer response. We don’t just take the standard data rules, we take the data and look at it differently.”

“The diversity of data sources available today—web analytics, geo-location, transactional, social, mobile, and more—can be leveraged to create and deliver highly relevant, contextual customer experiences,” states Yeager in the report. While he is speaking to personalization specifically, the sentiment holds true for cross media marketing in general. “Tactics like data mining, audience segmentation, predictive modeling, and other forms of targeting that originated in practice with direct mail now play a prominent role in driving email marketing, content marketing, and online advertising.”

According to John Fulena, Ricoh’s director of professional services and solutions marketing, “PSPs need to take steps to be able to track, analyze, and report on campaigns back to the end user; this is where workflow with verification and automated document factories play an important role.”

Adds Fulena, “Tracking digital content and being able to report on hit ratios and opened/read rates is also important. I’ve learned through talking to PSPs that have employed multiple content channels that knowing where and why a recipient stopped reading a message is incredibly valuable insight. For this reason, PSPs should take the step to establish and open communications with their customers on the analytics of their campaigns. Having a back-and-forth dynamic allows for PSPs to not only build stronger relationships with their customers and better understand campaigns—it also allows them to adjust elements of the campaign as necessary over time.”

At PRINT 13, Ricoh unveiled a Web-based platform, 1 to 1 Create Marketing Services, for PSPs that want to offer multi-channel marketing campaigns to their clients.

Along with data, central to any successful cross media program is a compelling call to action tied to the marketing piece, no matter what it is, says Fulena. At SG360°, the focus of the campaign is always on actionable data, says Heffron. “Making it actionable is what is critical,” he says.

Within the cross media realm, data drives the campaign, which means an entry in handling your customer’s multi-channel programs demands expertise in gathering the data, and then interpreting the data so your client gets the desired result. Partnering with firms that already have this expertise is a smart approach for PSPs that aren’t well versed in this area. The time and cost of getting up to speed might be overwhelming, so partnering (or if you have the financial resources to acquire) is a viable alternative.

“Everybody is seeing there is no single source solution, instead companies are either forming partnerships or acquiring to come up with a solution,” notes Heffron.

Think of your operation more along the lines of making a movie, instead of a static, fixed entity. “Right now, the thing to do is pull together the right people for a specific job, and then perhaps a different set of people for the next job, depending on what is required, “ Heffron explains.

Think of it this way: James Cameron used two very different casts and crews for his mega hit films “Avatar” and “Titanic.” Given the scope of what is required for a multi-platform campaign, and the breadth of skill sets required, is it time for PSPs to rethink their traditional approach?