The Multichannel Communications Formula for Success

If you have fragmented technologies and workflows, you'll have a hard time reaping the benefits that multichannel communications has to offer. Why? Because information about consumers (content) goes through workflows to create personalized communications in the format needed to send through the intended channel. That's the formula: Content + Workflows + Channels = Effective Multichannel Dialogues with Consumers. The complexity of this formula reveals itself when you start looking at what content you use, how to capture it, how to trigger workflows, how to determine the channel, how to create the format for that channel, what to do when one channel is not producing, how to link the channels and much more. Multichannel is more than creating output from a composition engine in a format for the channel, that's just one part of the puzzle that many people focus on.

If you're getting into the multichannel game, here are a few tips:

  • Content is king and activity–based content is the kingdom — Your consumer database has valuable lifestyle and demographic data, along with the purchase histories and channel preferences the consumers gave you. That's the "king" part. Tracking what consumers do in the world gives you the keys to the kingdom. With all that information, you'll be able to communicate in relevant ways with consumers at the time they want to have a dialogue. As you advance your multichannel initiatives, lean on your vendors. It is hard to do this alone.
  • Start small — Sounds cliché, but people say it for a reason. Multichannel projects are complicated, multidisciplinary, and you can run out of enthusiasm and funding if you try to boil the ocean. Start with creating the output formats needed for the channels and creating simple workflows to push the content through the channels and tie the channels together. For example, create PDF from your document composition system that you attach to an email, and then measure what happens to the email. You can trigger actions such as sending a text or physical mailpiece if the emails are not opened. That connection between channels can become intricate, but there are some simple things you can do without too much effort and cost.
  • Use technology — If you and I are the only people in the world, then we can easily communicate through just about any channel. If you want to talk to 10,000 people, then you're either going to hire a big staff, or you're going to use technology. The hard part is finding the right tools for the job. Start by thinking big picture and avoid being sucked into one area of your workflow like composing the right output formats for the channels. That's an obvious place to look, but you might find that you want to have multiple places in your workflow where you create personalized messages and it's not always at the document composition system. Architect your solution from the 30,000–foot view and then execute your plan piece by piece as time and money allow. Pay special attention to integration of your systems and channels. Vendors offer integration platforms that assemble a nice system out of what you already have.