How to Make Multichannel Marketing Work in Your Company

Episode #002: Marsha Villasenor, Digital Messaging at Merkle

How much thought have you given to your multichannel marketing strategy? Are you seamlessly incorporating every channel throughout the customer journey and ensuring the customer is at the center of it? While most marketers strive to make this happen, it can oftentimes be challenging when channel ownership is distributed throughout the organization. In our second episode of Mobile Matters, we talk with Marsha Villasenor, Digital Messaging expert at Merkle, about the importance of multichannel marketing and how she’s been able to implement effectively.

Stephanie's Strong Opinions

  1. We’ve spent the last decade primarily designing for a desktop and then thinking about how it would transition to a mobile device second, but it’s time for that to change. We need to start designing for mobile first and then thinking about how it scales up for desktop second.
  2. Whether you call it multichannel or omnichannel marketing, you need to be doing it and you have to keep your customer at the center of it. This can be challenging for large organizations, but it’s possible to get everyone aligned and drive truly integrated campaigns across multiple channels throughout the entire customer journey.
  3. It’s hard to purge subscribers and purposefully choose to decrease your subscriber list across any channel, but it’s something that you really need to make a cornerstone of your overall marketing strategy.

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Episode Transcription

Stephanie Cox: I’m Stephanie Cox, and this is Mobile Matters. Today, I’m joined by Marsha Villasenor at Merkle. She’s responsible for Digital Messaging at Merkel and spent the last ten years developing and managing multi-channel communication life cycles. In this episode, Marsha and I talk a lot about the difference between a mobile-first and mobile-all mentality by a multi-channel approach that’s so crucial to your marketing success, and how you shouldn’t be afraid anymore to remove unengaged subscribers and make sure you stick around until the end where I’ll give my recap and top takeaways so that you can not only think about mobile differently but implementing effectively welcome to the show, Marsha.

I’d love to hear your perspective of how you think about mobile strategy overall and really combining all the different ways you can communicate on mobile with someone? 

Marsha Villasenor: Well, as you said, multichannel campaigns is something that is really near and dear in my heart. And I think that with any kind of technology, mobile is moving so quickly that it’s really hard for organizations to keep up. And one of the ways they can keep up, I think they’re struggling with, is pulling together the multi-channel mobile and tying it into their day to day marketing. Mobile really should be the major component of your daily marketing efforts and not a separate component. 

Stephanie Cox: So, when you think about multi-channel mobile, what exactly encompasses all that for you?

Marsha Villasenor: Well, mobile comes, it comes across every channel. So, there’s mobile web, mobile, email, SMS and MMS, there’s mobile push, we even have social media ads that we see on our mobile devices, so really having a comprehensive strategy that encompasses all those through a coordinated effort. It’s really the ideal way to be successful at mobile marketing. 

Stephanie Cox: I think that’s a really great point, because a lot of times when I talk to other marketers about mobile, they immediately think of their native mobile app or they think of SMS, they don’t think about all those other components that you talked about. Email, social ads, and really thinking about it as a device we consume it on. 

Marsha Villasenor: Yes, as they say every day, mobile is more and more important. Everybody walks around with their mobile devices attached to their bodies. They never put them down. We do our online shopping, we do our online banking, we do everything for mobile so, as marketers we should also be marketing through mobile. And really even moving away from the mobile-first mentality. Into more of just a mobile all mentality. Everything we do should be geared towards mobile. It should also be available on desktop, obviously. But I think as mobile becomes more and more important, it’s going to become the primary component of our marketing. 

Stephanie Cox: So let’s say, right now, I’ve been designing primarily for desktop first, mobile second, which is what I’ve talked to so many marketers and they’re still doing. How do you think about getting someone to flip to a mobile all mentality? Yeah, desktop and tablet that’s still important. What I really want to think about where you know 60, 70, 80 percent of my content is consumed, which is on that mobile device. How do you think about having that conversation with someone? 

Marsha Villasenor: It’s really a matter of changing mindset, right? And I think we’re seeing it slowly happened as a lot of the web properties that we see. You can see from the design how they’re made to scroll continuously a mobile device and that’s translated a little bit to desktop. But I still think that organizations are modifying their desktop web properties to fit mobile instead, instead of vice versa. I really think that we should be developing for mobile and then optimizing for desktop afterward.

Stephanie Cox: I completely agree. So, when you think about multichannel marketing, specifically tied to mobile, how are you thinking about measuring success? Because that’s one thing I find too, that sometimes marketers have a hard time putting benchmarks around, how we think about measuring my mobile success? Like what native mobile apps, the first thing I always hear is it’s the number of downloads. And I always challenge, it’s not the number of downloads, it’s downloads plus engagement plus return visits plus ROI. It’s all these other things like we would think about for like a standard web part property. So, when you’re thinking about crafting a multi-channel journey, how are you thinking about measuring that?

Marsha Villasenor: And I agree 100 percent, it is not just downloads. And it’s not just opens and it’s not just clicks, it’s actually becoming the customer. Being engaged and completing whatever that CTA is that we’re sending out. And, as you said, being a repeat customer and being engaged with the brand, having whatever that mobile property is that brand has it being that go-to place for the customer. So, if I’m a big fan of cosmetics and I download a cosmetics mobile app and then I’m getting ready for date night or a wedding or what have, I should be opening up that app for makeup tips or things like that. I shouldn’t just be using it for purchase, I should be using it to engage with the brand and to help answer my questions around whenever that brand is selling. 

Stephanie Cox: That’s a really great point. One of the things that I think has been challenging on mobile that we haven’t seen as much on e-mail or even on web properties, is the ability to do dynamic content. If you think about email, from we can make an entire email be personalized to you. But it becomes harder on a mobile device for a mobile app or even for some mobile messaging. But I think that’s one thing that people are missing is, how do I think about creating those more personalized pieces of content? 

Marsha Villasenor: Yeah. And I really think that kind of the progressive content is the way to go. Whether it be through email or through SMS. Some of the most successful SMS campaigns that I have done have included just a shortened URL that takes them to our mobile landing page that is designed and personalized to the customer. So, combining some of these technologies is really the way to personalize and engage with the customer more effectively. Instead of just thinking, oh I’m going to do an SMS campaign or I’m going to do an email campaign to be tied together, where the email takes you to a personalized experience or the SMS, as much as possible. Since there are limitations particularly around SMS, we really have to be creative in thinking about the best way to do our content through that channel. 

Stephanie Cox: I think we all, as consumers, have the stories of like, I got an email and a text message with the exact same message from the same brand within a few minutes of each other. So, how do you think about structuring not so it comes across as helpful, is exactly what they need when they need it, but isn’t feeling like you’re blasting them with too much?

Marsha Villasenor: So, I think customer behavior is really key. We really need to understand what they’re engaging with and use those channels as the primary channel and our other channels as a follow up if we’re not getting through to them. I also like the idea of that progressive marketing effort, where the messaging in a multi-channel campaign is slightly different across each channel. So it’s not, you’re not looking at an exact replica of what you see in email, in your social media ad. They should be a little bit different, but with a similar theme. It makes it interesting, almost like a storytelling process where they get something in email, and then they see something similar in social media that they can click on and get a little bit more. So, it’s really dependent on the brand and how, what you’re trying to promote. Some brands really can create a very rich experience, where they’re driving their customers from one channel to another and taking them through a storytime. 

Stephanie Cox: No, that’s a really great point. I love the idea of calling it progressive marketing. How do you think about it, in a lot of large organizations, mobile may be owned by one person. Email is owned by someone different, social is controlled by a different group. How do you think about getting them all together, so you can have like you were talking about, a similar theme to a message but it’s different content across every channel? 

Marsha Villasenor: That’s tough. That’s where your strategy team, whoever is your strategy leadership or your program or product manager, have to come in and help coordinate those efforts across all the different channels. I’ve worked in organizations where each channel is very siloed and people work very independently. And sometimes, one team doesn’t even know what the other one is doing, and they might be working on the same thing but not working together.  So, you really need those, the campaign management to spread across all those channels and pull all of that together to truly be successful. And a multi-channel campaign and it can double or triple ROI, easily, if not more. Particularly, with the holidays coming up, brands really need to think about how they can make all of these channels work together, without bombarding the customers and increasing their ROI and their success in these campaigns.

Stephanie Cox: Do you ever think we’re going to start to see roles like Multichannel Marketing Directors that are responsible for really orchestrating all of this? Or I know there’s been a lot of talk and I’ve seen it pop up in some organizations, of a Chief Digital Officer that’s really going to be responsible for like the digital customer experience. Do you think that’s the direction that we’re headed? Or do you think, in time, marketing is still going to be super fragmented and we’re going to have to take it upon ourselves to come together in a room and flush it all out. 

Marsha Villasenor: Well, I think smart organizations are heading the route that you mentioned, Chief Digital Officer or the digital strategist or even, I’ve even seen where program managers, where their responsibility is to develop this of multi-channel program mentality across the different teams in the organization. And when I have worked with people who do, we really have seen a lot of success. 

Stephanie Cox: So, when you think back to your own experience, what would you say is like your favorite mobile story? Something that you did from a project that went so well and why was that unique?

Marsha Villasenor: So, I think, I worked in the higher ed space for quite a while. I really think that some of the enrollment tools shows that we were able to provide for our students and as soon as their enrollment was approved, getting them a text message with a video congratulating them and welcoming them to new program, to the school and getting them excited. We were able to do A/B testing with that and we really did see a tremendous increase in student engagement from the students that did receive that amped up video to get them all psyched for going to school. From a high-level executive, a dean welcoming them to the school or other students telling them about their experience. So, being able to do that immediately through mobile, on their mobile devices and getting them to engage very, very quickly was really key to getting them to start being successful. 

Stephanie Cox: Do you think it was due to the quickness of which you were able to send that, the type of content? 

Marsha Villasenor: I think it was a combination of the channel and the speed. So, obviously getting an SMS campaign out the door can happen a lot faster than an email. And getting it on their mobile device as a text message. And I tell people repeatedly, if you look at your device and look at a little banners of unopened emails versus how many unopened text messages you have. Most people have thousands of unopened emails, but they rarely ever have more than one or two unopened text messages. So, getting to people, particularly millennials through SMS and getting them to click through and engage with other content really seems to be successful.

Stephanie Cox: So, let’s think back to the biggest challenge you had to face from mobile. What was the hardest thing you ever had to do or figure out? 

Marsha Villasenor: I think the biggest challenge with mobile and this is probably true still today, is that regulatory and compliance component, right? So, once TCPA came out, the telephone consumer protection act and we had to change the way we market to mobile devices. And, I think a lot of organizations really struggled with getting that compliance component into place. And keeping it in place, because it is, it’s tricky. And there’s a risk. You see every day, these lawyers on commercials on TV asking you if you receive unwanted text messages and call them so you can get money. So, there’s definitely a regulatory and compliance risk, if you’re not marketing to mobile correctly with SMS. And that’s probably the biggest challenge that I faced and that a lot of organizations face. 

Stephanie Cox: That’s the one thing I always tell people is, if you’ve never done mobile messaging or even native mobile apps, then you don’t have like war wounds to show for it. Because it’s not easy because it requires to know so much about regulations and compliance. 

Marsha Villasenor: And it’s so easy to lose. And a lot of people don’t realize that opt-in doesn’t necessarily belong to the person on the phone number, it belongs to the phone number. So, if I change my phone number and I’m no longer opted in with you, and if somebody else gets my phone number and you text them, because you have me in there as a customer with that number. That’s not compliant. So, it’s really hard to keep up with that and to keep numbers current. You really have to make sure that people are engaging and receiving and using offers that you’re sending and you have to be very conscientious hygiene. Data hygiene with SMS and mobile numbers and make sure purge people who are engaging. Yeah, it’s definitely a lot of work. 

Stephanie Cox: So, you just mentioned one of my favorite topics which is purging people who aren’t engaged. Because I’m a big advocate for those across mobile, e-mail. So, when you think about making a decision to clean your list, based on who’s not engaged with you, like why do you believe strongly that that’s something that marketers should be doing? 

Marsha Villasenor: If I’m sending something repeatedly and you’re not opening it and you’re not responding, you’re not interested. You’re not interested in my product, you’re not interested in my message or you don’t want to be engaged with through that channel. And that’s where you really want to look at the behavior. Well, they’re not responding to SMS, but they’re opening every email. So, maybe I should stop sending SMS and focus on email or vice versa. It’s where you really need to take the customer behavior into account based on your message. 

Stephanie Cox: Well, and that’s where I think, to your point earlier on this multi-channel journey and having it set up where all of your channels are tied together, because you can say, if you’re not engaging on this channel then direct it to this channel or test this out. I mean, we do that in our own marketing here, at Lumavate which is more B2B, where we think about, if you’re not engaging with us on a channel that we’re reaching out to you on what’s another channel we can reach out to you that might cause you to engage? 

Marsha Villasenor: And, of course, using some sort of marketing automation platform that allows you to do that. Where you can send an email, and if they don’t open the email send them an SMS. If they don’t open the SMS, send them an email. If they haven’t opened email in the past six months, then send them an SMS. If they haven’t engaged with SMS in the past three months, then don’t send it. So, using those marketing automation platforms, where we can build out those rules is really critical, too. As we said, trying to manage all of these in silos as independent channels just doesn’t work. 

Stephanie Cox: So, thinking to your entire experience and your career. If hindsight is 20/20, what’s the one thing that you wish you would have known? 

Marsha Villasenor: That’s a tough one! If hindsight is 20/20, I think you probably know what I mentioned just really understanding how not to over message customers. Because you lose customers. You’re not going to get them back, it’s rare you’ll get them back. Win-back campaigns might help. But, it’s just really understanding where that fine line is, between giving them what they need and being invasive on their mobile device. 

Stephanie Cox: So, you’ve spent time on both the brand side and now you’re on the agency side. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing marketers, in regards to mobile moving forward? Whats the things that we’re not thinking about doing or were doing and we’re just not doing well. 

Marsha Villasenor: And I think really the timeliness of just getting your mobile opt-ins, or getting your customers acclimated to mobile. Because people will spend a lot of time and effort building out these huge campaigns, get people to opt-in to SMS or to download their mobile app and they spent all this time doing that and they actually forget that they’re doing it to deliver content. So then, three months go by and you don’t get a text message or anything through the mobile app. You really need to  have a content strategy laid out and ready to go before you even start those opt-ins. And it’s not some people say it’s putting the cart before the horse, but once you let those opt-ins if you have nothing to give them. Then, that whole effort of collecting them was really wasted, because if you don’t message them in three months, most people will get look at a text message and say, who is this? I don’t know who you are, if you haven’t received a message from them or if you don’t get a message and continue to get them on a regular basis. 

Stephanie Cox: Exactly. My first thought is this must be spam. 

Marsha Villasenor: Yes. I didn’t opt-in to this, who are you? Whereas, if you just opted in and you get your double opt-in, you get your confirmation and then you get regular messages with offers and things that are valuable to you. You actually come to appreciate it. Yeah, I know I have certain brands that I’m opted into mobile and the rare occasion that I do still actually go to a store and go shopping. I always check my mobile device because I think, Oh I bet I have a coupon in my text messages from them because I know which ones I’m getting from and which I value. 

Stephanie Cox: Exactly. It’s just, it’s so frustrating like if you’re going to do it, to your point earlier you could do it right. Do it immediately or don’t do it. So thinking to the future, if we all had a magic ball and could read what’s coming, where do you think the future of mobile is headed? How are consumers going to engage with brands on mobile. What does that look like to you? 

Marsha Villasenor: I mean, I really think, as I said before the whole mobile web design. I think that we’re going to look for our favorite brands on our mobile devices and expect a fully mobile experience. We’re no longer going to accept a desktop platform that was  potentially versioned for mobile or even a non-mobile web page. I mean, I’m amazed whenever I look something up on my mobile and it’s not responsive or mobile pops up in this day and age. It’s almost acceptable from a brand anymore. So, I really think that that full-level experience, where you look for something on your device and it immediately pops up in a really great mobile-friendly way that allows you to find what you’re looking for, order what you want, get your notifications. And everything happens on your device.

It’s funny you know, even sometimes when I’m sitting at my computer doing stuff. I’ll pick up my phone to do something on my phone, instead of just pulling it up on the desktop and then I’m like, oh I can be doing this on a big screen instead of this tiny thing. But you know I have things bookmarked and saved on my mobile device, and my passwords are in there, and it’s just easier to do everything. And that’s what mobile experience should be like. It should be easy and it should be seamless.  

Stephanie Cox: It should be fast, right?  

Marsha Villasenor: Yes. It should be fast, it should not be a frustrating experience where it takes forever for things to load. Some of those pages that are out there that aren’t really as optimized for mobile as they should be. The images are too big. The fonts not the right size, the buttons aren’t done right now and it’s just not a comfortable experience on a mobile device. And that’s what everybody wants now. 

Stephanie Cox: Well, that’s where one of my huge pet peeves is, if you’re going to do buttons on mobile, make it so an adult finger can tap it. Like if they’re too small and I have to zoom in like, that’s not OK. 

Marsha Villasenor: It’s not and you run the risk of clicking on something else that’s close to it. That’s another thing. There should be enough space between those links so that you don’t mistakenly click on the wrong link because you’re trying to do it on a mobile device on a link that’s too small and too close to another one. 

Stephanie Cox: Exactly. Well, and then my favorite which is, I accidentally clicked on something I didn’t mean to. And now you’ve recorded that in my consumer profile and now you start sending me content about it.

Marsha Villasenor: Yes. Now you’re getting corralled for ads for something that you’re not interested in everywhere you go.

Stephanie Cox: I’ve known Marsha for several years now and I always enjoy hearing her perspective. She brings up some really great points especially around this idea that mobile is more than just native mobile apps and SMS programs. Instead, we really need to think about mobile is the way we consume content, not just as a channel anymore. Now, let’s get to my favorite part of the show where we’ll take the education and apply it to your business.  There so many great insights to my conversation with Marsha that can really transform how you think about mobile marketing. Let’s dive into my top three takeaways. 

First, let’s finally all stop designing for desktop first and then thinking about how it transitions to mobile. Given that the average US consumer is already spending 3 hours a day on their mobile phone and more than 50% of web traffic is coming from mobile devices it’s clearly time for us to adopt a mobile-first mentality. And one of the first questions I get asked when I say that is well, “What’s the difference between mobile-first and mobile responsive?” Well, so mobile responsive website typically means that you’ve designed it for desktop first and then you thought about how it will transition to mobile and in most cases that involve stacking content implementing a hamburger menu and so forth. And that was really the right way to get started when we are all trying to figure out how to deliver website experiences on a mobile device for the first time but it’s time for a change. 

We need to really start designing for mobile-first and then thinking about how it’s scales up to desktop. So think about that. Today, we think about stealing from desktop down to mobile and now we need to flip it. We need to start with mobile and scale-up to desktop and that’s going to require more focus and prioritization during the design process. We’re going to have to sweat every single piece of functionality we put on the mobile screen just like we sweat the words in our messaging and we’re going to need to know who’s coming or website, why they’re coming, where they’re usually to be different than what you see with a desktop-user. They’re also going to be generational impacts to this. Think about it for a second. Millennials and Gen Z are growing up with a mobile-first mindset; many of them have their first phone in middle school and even some in elementary school and they’re spending numerous hours a day watching videos or using messaging apps. To a lot of people and Gen Z, texting is outdated. Think about that. This is why it’s so important for us to adopt a mobile-first mentality, now. It’s not something you can solve overnight. In fact, it’s going to be an ongoing challenge that will not only require you to change your website but also fundamentally change how your entire organization thinks about mobile and I can promise you one thing. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s definitely going to be worth the effort if mobile usage continues to grow the pace that it’s been growing.

Next, I’m so surprised by how many marketers aren’t thinking strategically about multi-channel marketing, especially when you’re seeing these campaigns result in double or triple ROI like Marsha mentioned. Now, let me tell you, I get it it’s hard, especially in large organizations where you have channels that are often siloed and typically have different reporting structures in different measurements of success. So is all hope lost? No. I promise, let’s start with the good news. You’re already doing multi-channel marketing to some extent if you have a website, email program, social media accounts, etc. The problem is it’s disjointed and that’s why you’ll hear people talk about the difference between multi-channel marketing and omnichannel marketing. And in reality. They really both involve using multiple channels to communicate with a customer. The big difference is whether or not that’s done strategically across every channel, across the entire customer journey. So are you thinking about this from a cohesive customer experience standpoint? And are you putting the customer at the center of that communication? But regardless of what you’re calling it, right, we just need to stop operating in silos. We need to work together to develop is comprehensive strategy. And in a lot of organizations, there’s no one leading the effort today and does that mean that we just wait? No, get everyone together in a room. If you run mobile apps as an example or email marketing get all of your counterparts together. Work together on developing a comprehensive cross-channel communication strategy and present that to your senior leadership team. Think about the reaction you’re going to get, is if you bring a strategy that you’ve all worked on together that’s going to help deliver an exceptional customer experience to your leadership team. I can’t think of a senior leader who wouldn’t want to make that happen.

But to do this, you’re going to have to start combining technologies and the easiest example that I can think of is really sending an email and that taking you to a personalized mobile landing page or sending an SMS to someone hasn’t interacted with you on email for a couple of weeks and trying to reignite that conversation with mobile. But the key to this and this is what I cannot stress enough everyone, is don’t send the exact same message across every single channel.

I know we all want consistent messaging across every channel, I get it. But here’s the thing. We all as consumers get frustrated when we see the exact same message from brands multiple times across different channels. If it didn’t appeal to me the first time, it’s not going to appeal to me the second time no matter how you send it to me. So let’s stop thinking about using the exact same language across every single channel for consistency. Instead, let’s think about it as a drum beat. Okay? So what is the overall concept you’re trying to get across and how can you take that concept and translate it for every channel based on what works best for that channel. And this really means that we got to talk to people differently. How you talk to customers on social needs to be different than how you talk to them on the web and on email or SMS. And most importantly don’t over message them resist, resist, resist people. I know it’s within our own nature as marketers were not seeing the results we want, to send more messages, I get it. I’ve done it. I’m trying to never do it again. But when you start over messaging people, especially with content they don’t want on channels are not interested in talking to you on, they stop paying attention to you and it’s almost impossible to get them back. Don’t fall into this trap.

Finally, let’s talk about my most controversial topic of today’s interview purging subscribers.

I get it. It’s scary. We’ve all been trained to grow subscriber lists for most of our careers. And now I’m telling you let’s decrease it on purpose. I know it sounds crazy, but trust me you’re going to want to do it. Because why are you continuing to send messages to people who aren’t engaged with your brand? If they’re not opening and responding to your messages they don’t want them and it’s okay. It’s time to let them go. This is where we all take a deep breath and repeat, “It’s going to be okay if our subscriber list decreased by 5,10 even 30%, it’s okay.” Let them go, they’ll come back when they want to engage with your brand and if they don’t, that’s okay too. The world will not end, I promise.

Now let’s get to my mobile marketing challenge for you this week. I want you to run some reports looking at the overall engagement level of your audience. You’re going to want to start with looking at how many people haven’t opened a single message from you across any channel in the last six months and compare that to the number of messages you’re sending them. I think you will be absolutely shocked by these numbers that you’re going to see. And then I want you to take it a step further and look at the people that are opening messages from you and see how many of them are actually taking the behavior you want. If you’re trying to get them to buy something, how many of them are actually buying it. If you’re trying to get them to follow you on social, how many of them are actually doing that? And once again, I think you’re going to be surprised. 

Then the next thing you got to do is take your marketing automation platform and create an unengaged audience list. And I initially recommend removing every single person from that list regardless of the channel, but I know that’s going to seem really drastic for a lot of you. So if you want to try something else first, win-back campaign. Send them a few more messages on how they need to re opt-in to receive messages from you or you’re going to remove them in a certain period of time and that time to be really based on your business. And you can have fun with it and do something around messaging about breaking up is hard to do. So it really draws attention, but you’ve got to commit to it and if they don’t respond and they don’t re-opt in, you’ve got to remove them. So this week I encourage you to be brave, say goodbye to all of your unengaged subscribers. I promise you, it’s going to be okay. 

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