I read an interesting article in AdAge recently that served as a good reminder of just how hard it can be to market effectively across multiple channels. The piece rightly questions the notion put forth by marketers lately that consumers want to be “friends” with brands. The headline ­­sums up my point nicely: “Brands: Consumers Don’t Want to Be your BFF in Social (They Want Help).” Working for the last 25 years in the digital marketing and web analytics space, I’ve learned that in almost every situation consumers aren’t looking to be friends with a brand on any channel ­– they’re looking for customer service, discounted offers and product support.

Technology is of course ever-evolving, but some things never change. You need to invest to attract customers to your brand, and over the years, you’ve likely made significant investments in your website as well as mobile and social channels. Today, brands are investing in all three of these areas simultaneously. What this recent marketing trend shows is that effective customer engagement across many channels is no easy task. Each channel – whether it’s social, email or on your browser – comes with its own nuances and expectations and needs a tailored strategy. And for that strategy to work, you need the specific tools designed to execute on it. Brands need to strike the right balance of being approachable, friendly and engaging without crossing the line to overbearing and annoying with certain types of “chatvertising” channel marketing strategies. It’s important to be smart with your cross-channel marketing, contextual personalization and the requisite data-driven approach.

To create an effective cross-channel marketing program, you need a data strategy built with solutions that allow you to stitch together customer interactions across channels and between visits, while optimizing movement from one touch point to the next. For example, if a customer is deemed high-value, using proactive chat and phone to convert may be worth the added cost. And you may have your own goals for engaging customers within channels, so it’s important to use a journey-mapping process that shows the customer’s goals for the use of each channel – be it mobile, phone, social or online.

So instead of brands angling to be BFFs with customers through social channels, for instance, help your customers achieve their goals by optimizing the use of each channel so they get the help, advice or customer service they need. Do that, and you’re likely to see consumer behavior that yields a satisfied purchase, rather than becoming an unwelcome intrusion to customers. If you’d like to learn more about how you can understand your customers in every channel, we’d love to talk.