A decade ago, it would have been hard to imagine the proliferation of channels that most marketers now find themselves juggling. Text, voice, social media channels, email, and so on. Today, marketers aren’t juggling just a few channels, but often upwards of 20 to 30 different channels. Scaling marketing efforts across these numerous channels while delivering a consistent experience is a significant challenge for almost every marketer. And the difficulties are often exacerbated for multi-location businesses who must figure out how to manage it all not just across multiple channels, but across multiple locations.
We asked eight marketing executives at successful multi-location businesses across a wide range of industries about their omnichannel marketing challenges and successes. We also covered a wide range of topics, such as best practices on building a strong data and analytics foundation, how to create brand consistency across channels, and thoughts on technology and innovation. Continue reading to find out how brands like Mattress Firm, American 1 Credit Union, Rentokil, Professional Physical Therapy, and more find success with omnichannel marketing.
3 ways Authority Brands uses data to improve its omnichannel strategy.
Back in the day, when you needed a plumber or an electrician, you opened up the Yellow Pages, looked at the advertisements and names listed, and made a call (or several). Today many consumers have probably never seen the Yellow Pages, let alone used it as a channel to find a plumber.
“We used to have fewer channels available,” says Heather McLeod, CMO of Authority Brands. “Now there are so many channels and so many ways people can connect with us, and they get to make a choice. Specifically with home services, we have to be thinking more broadly about how we can be in all the places our potential customers are.”
Which is why, for Authority Brands, a 10-brand franchise organization with nearly 2000 territories across the nation that provides home services such as plumbing and electric, they’ve significantly recalibrated their marketing strategy, going from solely offline channels to dozens of online channels.
“Digital is a huge bucket for us—everything from paid social to PPC to Google local service ads. But direct mail is also still a big piece of what we do, as well as online video, like YouTube pre-roll, streaming radio, and email,” says McLeod.
With so many channels to market to customers now, the big challenge has become how to effectively manage and monitor all these channels in concert with each other, so that leads are correctly attributed, and no channel is cannibalizing leads from another channel.
If you’re struggling with similar challenges, here are Authority Brands’ best tips for keeping your channels working in harmony:
01. Track and correctly attribute leads and conversions.
Getting lead attribution right has always been tricky with omnichannel marketing. “It requires constant awareness,” says McLeod. “You need to constantly check whether you have everything set up properly to track as people cross between channels.”
Attributing conversions can also be challenging but is also critical to ensuring you’re spending your marketing budget wisely on what you know works. “We try to look at all of our activities and the business that’s being generated off them by comparing them over time. And by asking, ‘Did we make the pie bigger, did we collectively, with all the things we’re doing, generate more off this combination of activities than we did before with the same slice of budget?’,” says McLeod.
She acknowledges that sometimes this can be really hard when you have branding activities that lift everything, but you don’t have as much direct attribution. One way McLeod’s team tries to improve accuracy is by looking at the whole customer journey.
“We get as many data points as we can to try and understand that journey as much as possible. Once we have people who have activated and become leads or customers in the system, regardless of what channel they came through, we try to do a match back on our direct mail list to see if they were someone who was originally targeted by mail, even if they converted on a pay-per-click ad or something else online,” says McLeod. “We know that it’s never a hundred percent, but that normally gives us a pretty clear snapshot on what’s moving the needle for us.”
02. Remember, no channel works alone.
It can be easy to think of each channel as its own entity, doing its own thing. But McLeod cautions against this kind of siloed thinking, especially if your business is focused on direct lead generation like Authority Brands.
“One of the things we have to be aware of given how much we do and spend on lead generation is whether one channel cannibalizes from another channel,” says McLeod. “We’ve come to learn over time that each channel isn’t in a vacuum.”
She notes that you might discover a brand-new channel, but then discover that you’re getting the same leads from that new channel as you are from other channels. “There’s just a lot of overlap between channels,” says McLeod. “So, it’s important to not only test channels, but to test them in a mix, so you can see what happens to the rest of your channel activity when you turn something else on. You might be surprised that it doesn’t always net out exactly how you think it will.”
03. Be smart about your customer data.
Using customer data as part of its omnichannel marketing strategy has become increasingly important for Authority Brands, especially with Google’s plan to ban third-party cookies.
“Our focus is to try and maintain and create integrity within our own customer data, because at the end of the day, that’s the one thing we can completely control,” says McLeod.
With 10 brands, leveraging first-party customer data has big benefits. “We can use our customer data within each brand to offer up not just incentives, but suggestions of services based on what we know about the customer,” says McLeod.
For example, if Authority Brands knows that a customer’s HVAC system was last serviced by them a certain amount of time ago, they can infer that they might be ready for another service based on the age of the system and recommend that to the customer.
“The more data points like that we have specifically about the home, the better we’re able to promote service offerings that make sense and are relevant given the age of home or the age of a certain system,” says McLeod.
To gather that data, the company relies heavily on the employees out in the field doing the work. “For us, so much of it comes down to relying on the individual technicians that are in customers’ homes and their accuracy and entering data into the system, which is tricky,” says McLeod. “We have had different data points entered, so sometimes we need to clean that up.”
Another way Authority Brands is getting the most from its customer data is by looking at ways to use it to cross-sell to customers across its family of 10 brands.
For example, if a customer had their pool cleaned by Authority Brands, they might also be a good candidate for mosquito control service because they enjoy being outside.
“We are just now figuring out how to best leverage what we know to not only deepen the relationship at the originating brand, but also to serve that customer by more than just one brand,” says McLeod.
Constant change is the name of the game.
Authority Brands has invested in an omnichannel approach to ensure it stays top of mind with customers by being in the right place at the right time. “It’s just a more complicated world than it used to be,” says McLeod. “I think you have to think more broadly about what the right mix of channels for your business is. It’s not the same for everyone, and it changes all the time.”
For Authority Brands, that change has been constant and rapid. Currently, their highest performing channel now (Google local service ads) didn’t even exist a few years ago.
“You always have to be looking for what the next thing is and be willing to test and try new things so that you can shift and adapt and move quickly, because it’s constantly changing,” says McLeod.
4 ways American 1 Credit Union manages omnichannel marketing with a small team.
With 16 branches and over 59,000 members, American 1 Credit Union is constantly looking at ways they can engage their members. Consequently, they’ve found themselves, like most businesses, continually growing the number of channels they use.
“We use television, radio, billboards, direct mail, we still even use newspapers on the rare occasion,” says Marla Sanford, VP of Marketing and Communications at American 1 Credit Union. “We also use social media marketing on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube.”
But she also notes that with a small marketing team (there are six of them), they have to be strategic about the channels they use and how they balance those channels with the internal resources and technologies they have.
Here are Sanford’s four keys to effective omnichannel marketing with a small team:
01. Pick channels you can master.
For Sanford’s team, one of the biggest challenges with omnichannel marketing is simply the proliferation of channels in the marketing sector and trying to not only be on those channels but monitor them. One of the things Sanford has learned is, to use a channel well, you need to have some mastery with that channel and dedicated team members to monitor it. Budget with a small team is really challenging.”
“We used to just hire catch-all marketing specialists, but anymore, you need people who are really good at social media content—and not just social media broadly—but an expert in Instagram because you’re telling the story via picture versus writing on Facebook.”
“Or you need a really good videographer now because you’re making TikTok and YouTube videos,” says Sanford. “Being able to handle all these different and widely varying channels that have different outputs on a smaller budget with a small team is really challenging.”
As a result, Sanford has chosen to focus on mastering a few channels versus going broader. “We’ve really found success in doing a limited number of channels really well,” she says. “We don’t use Twitter, but we do that strategically because we know that if we were to add another channel like Twitter, we’d need somebody dedicated to the Twitter space to do it really well.”
Sometimes, Sanford notes, the best thing to do is eliminate some of the channels you’re using. “If you can’t do them really well, stick with a smaller number, so you can master those.”
02. Have a single organizing idea.
Once you’ve decided on the channels you’re going to use, the next step, according to Sanford, is to ensure consistency. Sanford suggests you do this by “having one organizing idea.”
“You have to look at your channels, all of them, both online and offline, digital and analog, as one cohesive storyscape where you’re telling the same story,” she says, noting that you’re just telling that same story in different mediums.
“If you come to it from the approach that this is your one big web where you’re writing your story narrative, then you’ll see that there are elements that fit into all of those different channels that all work together to deliver the exact same story and experience to your members.”
As an example, Sanford notes that over the last year, American 1 Credit Union has been homing in on what its core values are as a credit union. They’ve landed on three key values: boldly generous, convenient, and uncomplicated.
“Over the last year, we’ve taken that core value messaging and we’ve layered it across all of our channels. So, no matter where you’re looking, you’re going to see that consistent messaging,” says Sanford.
“Why is American 1 boldly generous?” she asks. “Because we made sure that our members didn’t have to make payments for three months during the pandemic. Why are we convenient? We have a 24/7 contact center that’s open for our members to reach us all the time, no matter where you are. Why are we uncomplicated? Because we’ve got three main products and we just do them really well. You’ll see those same messages woven through all of our channels.”
She also notes that to ensure consistency, the marketing team shares the message with the entire company. “We take that same message, and we make sure that our whole staff at American 1 knows about it,” says Sanford.
03. Trust your team.
With so many channels to manage and monitor, Sanford has also concluded that having trust in her team is a big factor in being successful. “It’s easy to fall prey to feeling like you need to know everything,” she says. “Especially in management, it’s impossible to have your arms around everything when you’re doing omnichannel marketing.”
While Sanford notes that she doesn’t know every platform in the sense of being able to go in and technically do the task, she’s become okay with this aspect of her job. Instead, she’s come to rely on her team members, who do have specific skill sets.
Fortunately, she notes that she has a solid team that gels together. This helps not only with ensuring that all their channels are being properly managed and monitored, but that they’re all following the “one organizing idea” they’ve agreed upon.
“When we craft our message, we do it as a team, we do it as a unified front and we figure out what that messaging is and how it applies to each of the channels that we use.”
04. Pick channels you can master.
With a small team and lots of channels to cover, Sanford has also relied on technology tools to help her team be able to do more with less.
Thanks to the use of technology, for instance, they’ve been able to funnel all member feedback into a single platform for their member experience team. “With Podium, our member experience team is able to take the feedback that we’re receiving through a variety of channels and put it all in one area so that we can really hear and see what the members are saying and respond to it quickly.”
“With Podium, our member experience team is able to take the feedback that we’re receiving through a variety of channels and put it all in one area so that we can really hear and see what the members are saying and respond to it quickly.”
Sanford notes that this was an area they had really struggled with before they began using Podium. “We have 16 locations and if a member is giving you feedback at one location, pre-Podium it wasn’t usually getting back to a central point, but now it is.”
“It’s critical because it gives you a chance to quickly hear and respond,” says Sanford. It’s also been huge from a resource standpoint. Google, for example, would send them emails constantly – and they were always bad reviews because, as Sanford notes, without prompting, people are usually only motivated to leave a review when they’ve had a poor experience.
“We were getting pinged all the time with these bad reviews, and then we’d have to go in and look at them, and try to figure out which location, and respond to them. And that’s a full-time job. Nobody has time to do that,” says Sanford.
“Podium has been amazing for us because it makes it so easy. It’s not a full-time job anymore because it’s so easy to get in there and quickly respond to the reviews. Our one-star reviews are now almost none versus the five-star reviews, which are almost every single one, which it used to be completely the opposite.”
If Sanford were to offer any parting advice to other omnichannel marketers, she says it would be to “be intentional.”
“Really sit down and think about who you’re talking to, what you want to say, and what channels are the best fit for you,” she advises.
“Don’t feel pressured just because everyone else is doing it. It doesn’t make sense for everyone to use every channel. There are too many channels for us to just adopt them all. So, be confident about who your target demographic is and where they’re going to be hearing you.”
Mattress Firm’s 3 top strategies for building consistent omnichannel experiences.
Buying a mattress isn’t like buying a new pair of earbuds or even other pieces of furniture. Getting the right mattress is essential to a good night’s sleep. And if you don’t get it right, you’re going to be miserable. Every. Single. Night. Which is why about 90% of Mattress Firm’s business still happens in one of their 2,500 brick-and-mortar stores.
But this doesn’t mean that digital channels aren’t important. They’re super important—and a key part of the customer journey.
“We know that the vast majority of our customers start on our website doing research and visiting various other websites before deciding to come to our store,” says Steve Barnes, Sr. Manager of Omnichannel Marketing at Mattress Firm.
Given the high rate of customers that move from an online to an in-store experience, Barnes notes that it’s essential to ensure that whatever Mattress Firm promotes online is reflected in its stores and communicated to its Sleep Experts (Mattress Firm’s name for their store associates).
“We have flash deals that we offer on our site, where the product usually isn’t in the store, but
if somebody comes into the store, we need to make sure our associates know what those flash offers are, as well as any couponing or financing offers that we’re promoting online. We need to honor those [promotions] in-store as well.”
Ensuring a seamless experience for customers between its online and offline channels hasn’t been easy for Mattress Firm. “Aligning what we’re doing from a brick-and-mortar standpoint to what we’re doing in the digital space and making sure that there’s consistency has been the biggest challenge that we’ve had,” says Barnes of the company’s omnichannel marketing efforts.
Mattress Firm has made big strides in conquering this challenge—especially in the last 18 months.
Here’s a look at the key strategies they’ve used to more closely connect the in-store and online experience successfully:
01. Connect online customers directly with local store experts.
Mattress Firm has invested in technology to better connect the dots between customers’ online journey and the in-store journey. One
of their investments was Podium, a cloud-based text messaging platform for communicating with customers. Using Podium, they’ve added a text-based Webchat tool to their website that quickly and easily connects customers with local sleep experts. Connecting customers to local stores directly, instead of going through a central call center team first, provides a better experience for customers and more lucrative results for the business.
“When somebody lands on our store locator pages and is trying to find a store near them, they can now click on that location and chat with somebody that’s in their local area and ask any questions that they have. It’s a pretty unique experience compared to a traditional call center,” says Barnes. “You can actually chat with a local sleep expert before coming in. Then, when you visit the store a few hours later, you see them in person.”
02. Integrate online and offline experiences.
To make the online and offline experience even more fluid, Mattress Firm created customer-facing apps that can be used online, in-store, or both. For instance, their MattressMatcherTM web app, which uses a quick survey to help people get recommendations on the best mattress for them, can be used online before customers come into a store or in the store with one of Mattress Firm’s Sleep Experts.
But to further create a consistent experience, Mattress Firm has also made sure that if a customer does take the quiz online and then visits a local store, its store associates have access to those results. This allows them to pick up with the customer right where they left off online and eliminates the need for the Sleep Expert to ask questions the customer has already answered online.
03. Establish a constant loop of communication between marketing and store associates.
Approximately 6,200 sleep experts work in Mattress Firm’s stores—and they must have the know-how and skills to create a consistent experience for customers when they come into the store. As a result, store associates spend about 225 hours a year in training.
The marketing team also uses several internal communication tools, including an internal website and a weekly newsletter, to keep store associates in the loop about any promotions, changes, or updates that store associates need to know.
Finally, the marketing team values and listens to store associates’ input. “Over the past couple of years, we’ve started soliciting feedback on how they want us to communicate with them, how they’d like to be trained, and getting feedback about what messaging resonates with the guests that come to see them in the store.”
“We’ve started to apply that [feedback] in a lot of our online efforts as well,” says Barnes.
“Your people are your number one asset because they’re in touch with your customers, so it’s important to listen to them.”
For example, Mattress Firm’s store associates wanted to handle customer chat themselves. The marketing team listened—and the “chat with a local Sleep Expert” feature online has been, as Barnes puts it, “the biggest win we’ve had in bridging online and offline experiences.”
Consistency builds buyer confidence.
Why has Mattress Firm invested so much in ensuring that their customers have a consistent experience no matter what channel they use to engage with the company? It’s all about building trust.
“The biggest annoyance for a customer is either having to repeat themselves, start a process over or getting different or conflicting information from whatever interactions you have with the company,” says Barnes. “If you don’t have consistent messaging on your website that they’re going to see in the store or the experience online is vastly different from what they’re going to see in the store, it’s a turnoff. The customer’s trust meter goes down, and the confidence to buy with your company starts to diminish and disappear eventually.”
5 reasons why Rentokil marketing director says benchmarking is essential.
When Robert Wilgus joined as the Marketing Director for Rentokil/ Environmental Pest Service (EPS), a full-service pest control company with both residential and commercial customers, he was put in charge of marketing for 23 branch offices in three states. To get his arms around where the company was currently at with their marketing—and how he could improve it—one of the first things he did was begin to benchmark performance.
“When I joined the company, there was a lot of triage to make sure
I was comparing apples to apples, but at the end of the day, each channel has its own unique characteristics, so you have to have a really good benchmark to know whether or not that channel is performing better than or worse than the standard benchmark that you set,” says Wilgus.
“ Each channel has its own unique characteristics, so you have to have a really good benchmark to know whether or not that channel is performing better than or worse than the standard benchmark that you set.”
It’s been a two-and-a-half-year journey from “haphazard marketing” to a multi-channel, fully integrated marketing platform, but it’s been well worth it. “It can be daunting,” says Wilgus, noting that he was spending 80% of his time on maintenance and only 20% on creative work during those first years. However, since he’s gotten his new marketing system and strategy up and running—the tables have turned. He now spends 90% of his time on creative marketing and 10% on maintenance.
“When you think about omnichannel marketing, it is a process. It takes time and it requires a strategy and clear integration into the inside and outside sales channel leaders.”
Here’s a look at EPS’ strategy and what they’ve done to create a smooth omnichannel operation that delivers strong ROI and enough leads that Wilgus’ sales team has reported that they no longer have a lead problem. Which, as Wilgus notes, is about the best thing a marketer can hear from the sales team.
01. Know your lead sources.
With 26 unique marketing channels, it can be hard to know which channels are performing well and which ones aren’t. Which is why Wilgus and his team carefully track and report on each channel.
“The channels we use can range from pay for performance to inbound calls from people who see one of our yard signs after a technician finishes services,” says Wilgus. To help ensure that each channel is attributed correctly when leads come in, every piece of marketing, whether digital or traditional, has a unique source code and is tracked and reported on separately.
“Some of our channels have dedicated phone numbers, so the minute that the phone call comes in, it automatically triggers a lead being attributed to it,” says Wilgus.
However, in other cases, where it can be more challenging to track the source of the lead, such as a customer that saw a yard sign, then went to the website and called the company’s call center team, EPS simply asks the customer, “How did you hear about us?”
“The vast majority of my lead sources have dedicated phone numbers and dedicated channel IDs, so for the most part, I know exactly where every call, every form, and every lead is coming from.”
02. Use one platform and one definition of a lead.
When Wilgus joined the company, they were operating seven different brands on seven different websites with nine different marketing partners. “Part of where I had to go from four years ago to now was first vendor consolidation and then brand consolidation,” says Wilgus, who combined the seven brands into two.
In addition to working extremely hard over the next two-and-a-half years to make sure EPS could plug in every single lead source, traditional or digital, and track every single call lead, form, or inquiry, Wilgus also created clear direction and definitions of what was a lead.
“You have to be in the same mindset and on the same sheet of music,” he says. “Otherwise, you can get really bogged down. I was fortunate that I’ve got two very passionate and strong leaders in our sales call center and we all saw that exact same thing and we didn’t have to fight over what is a lead and what isn’t a lead.”
Getting everyone on the same page, also requires a unified technology approach as well.
“I use technology to make sure that every single one of my 26 channels has clear and 100% visibility into every inbound call, lead, or form. I have one platform, a lead management platform, so every one of my vendors now know that this is how leads have to come into the system and there’s a one-to-one connection between every form or call and what the channel provided.”
03. Have a strong analytics foundation.
Wilgus has made collecting analytics and monitoring all his channels second nature—so much so that he says he can “press a button and do a quick report” on where his leads are coming in from. “I’ve gotten to the point now where I know by the day and time of the month how my leads are doing,” he says.
Being so attuned to the data has also helped Wilgus quickly spot when there are issues with a certain channel. “I can get a gut feel without having to go too granular because I’ve got such good analytics,” he says.
“If something is going very well or very wrong, then I can drill down into each one of the channels to find out quickly what’s not performing.”
As an example, EPS recently had a channel that was underperforming. “I looked at that channel and quickly realized that it wasn’t performing as it should – we hadn’t gotten any leads from it that day,” says Wilgus. He immediately picked up the phone and asked the vendor why. It turned out the channel was out of money due to a miscommunication on the budget between EPS and the vendor.
04. Set benchmarks by regions, not just channels.
One of the interesting things that Wilgus and his team have learned is if you’re a national or multi-region business, demographics and location can significantly impact how your channels perform.
For instance, in North Carolina local service ads have delivered an amazingly strong ROI for EPS. “As of yesterday, we’re closing local service ads at over 50%, which is amazing,” says Wilgus. However, they’ve seen the opposite in other parts of the country. “Down in southwest Florida, in the Tampa market, we’re closing almost zero,” says Wilgus. “They just scroll right past local service ads and go down into organic SEO or Google My Business (GMB) page. It’s the same platform, but we get more leads from GMB than we do from local service ads.”
Because the results can vary so dramatically by region, Wilgus has refined his benchmarking not only by channel, but by region and even down to the branch level. “I have my dashboard where I can drill down and determine where I need to invest more money because I’m getting better performance. Because at the end of the day, a channel may not perform in one market, and it may really kill it in another.”
05. Recalibrate your benchmarks as needed.
While tracking source leads helps you understand and set benchmarks, your benchmarks shouldn’t become a static piece of your marketing strategy, advises Wilgus.
“You have to reset that benchmark every year, because it may be going up.” He points out that if he’s doing a really good job on EPS’ website and investing in improving its performance, then he needs to also notch up how he measures performance on that channel. “Maybe it’s a hundred leads an hour instead of 90 leads an hour,” he says.
“When you’re doing omnichannel marketing, you have to identify each channel’s unique performance, its KPIs, and then hold the channel accountable to that and have good analytics to monitor that performance,” says Wilgus.
While internally Wilgus is laser-focused on looking at the data and benchmarking performance across all channels, he emphasizes that the reason he’s in the business of omnichannel marketing in the first place is because of the customer.
“They just want to get their bug problem taken care of as fast as possible,” he says. “So, I always want to make it as easy for consumers to get in touch with us in a way that’s most comfortable for them.”
And even when it comes to benchmarking, he notes that the consumer is still the star. “At the end of the day, consumers are going to actually validate what channel is going to perform,” he says.
How Professional Physical Therapy uses omnichannel marketing to create a better patient experience.
As the Northeast’s largest physical therapy provider, Professional Physical Therapy (PPT) serves over 520,000 patients at more than 200 locations. In addition to marketing PPT’s services, a primary goal for the marketing team is to ensure that the experience is seamless for patients throughout their entire customer journey.
“Our product is patient-centric. It’s about literal caring for the physical needs of our patients,” says Lauren Donahoo, the Marketing Director at Professional Physical Therapy. “So, we try to make the channels that we use as personalized as possible.”
This personalized touch also extends beyond patients to PPT’s 35,000 referring doctors, who are responsible for generating a large portion of the company’s business. “We’re a bit different from the e-commerce model. In a product-based model, customers can think about buying a coffee table, and it just shows up at their home without a single interaction,” says Donahoo. “You don’t need another person’s endorsement as much as we do.”
To build their reputation as a trusted provider with their patients and with referring doctors, PPT has found that taking an omnichannel marketing approach is essential. But, given the sensitivity of dealing with patient data in a healthcare setting, delivering a great experience also requires a careful balance in how they use different channels and how they communicate with their customers.
Here are four omnichannel tactics PPT finds work best in creating a patient experience that feels personalized, private, and patient-centric.
01. Create an organic customer journey.
One way a patient journey differs from a consumer journey is that people expect privacy when it comes to their health.
“You know that feeling of overwhelm you feel when you’re seeing coffee table ads everywhere just because you looked at one online? People don’t want that in their healthcare experience,” says Donahoo. “We have to make sure that people understand that privacy is our primary concern and that we want to solve our customers’ problem, but we don’t want to throw the book at it.”
There’s also a different goal for a healthcare provider than an e-commerce business. While an e-commerce business is looking to sell the customer more and more products, PPT’s goal is to not see its customers again. “It’s a really different approach,” says Donahoo. “So, we focus a lot of our customer research on making sure that the omnichannel tools that we’re using are making their way into our customers’ lives organically.”
PPT wants its customers to think, “PPT is in my life because I heard about them from a friend, my physician recommended them, or when I searched, PPT had crazy good reviews.” But to achieve this kind of organic awareness, an omnichannel marketing strategy is essential. “That’s where our channels really come into play—is that idea that when you need us, we’re going to be there in whatever facet you want to find us,” says Donahoo.
Their in-house sales team is particularly important in helping to drive physician referrals. “A lot of our business still derives from face-to- face interactions,” says Donahoo. “We try to build a reputation with particular doctors or specialists. It’s a matter of nurturing awareness in that referral source. Here are the patients you sent us and here are their results. Here are their satisfaction surveys and their outcomes. That’s how our sales team can beat traditional media.”
02. Choose your channels based on your target audience.
PPT has a very broad demographic for its customer base. Patients could be as young as six or seven or as old as 97, and every age in between. This means that their patient population also has widely different preferences in how they want to communicate with PPT.
“Because our demographic is based on an experience and not an audience, omnichannel experiences are a prerequisite to being in healthcare,” says Donahoo, noting that how a 97-year-old interacts with the brand is very different from how a 17-year-old does.
This is one area where Donahoo thinks PPT has excelled. “Our channels need to be flexible across our demographics,” she says. “We still test printed campaigns with the message that we’re right around the corner. We have good word-of-mouth referrals, which is because we are in the surgeons and in the doctor’s offices very frequently.”
“But at the same time, a 17-year-old may find us on social media before they find us anywhere else, or they may hear about us from a friend or family member.”
When selecting what channels they want to use, PPT takes the approach of first determining what channel would be good for a certain audience and then works to develop a message that’s appropriate for that channel. “We’re adjusting our strategy all the time to be more engaging and informative, but we look to the channel first to determine what’s most effective, then we roll it backward to develop the message that’s appropriate for that channel,” says Donahoo.
“We’re adjusting our strategy all the time to be more engaging and informative, but we look to the channel first to determine what’s most effective, then we roll it backward to develop the message that’s appropriate for that channel.”
03. Make gathering and responding to customer feedback a priority.
Customer feedback is a critical component for PPT— and they work hard at ensuring that their customers are giving them top ratings. They currently have more than 4,000 5-star Google ratings.
They use multiple channels to gather reviews—emails, SMS, and most recently QR codes. “We just rolled out posters in all of our clinics with QR codes,” says Donahoo, noting that COVID has revived the use of QR codes, and now they’ve become second nature to people. “These posters make it really easy to scan the QR code, and it takes them right into our social platforms to leave a review. We’re also emailing after visits with customer satisfaction surveys and giving out links for our social channels to leave reviews.”
Donahoo notes that gathering reviews is “one of the strongest things we do as a company.”
And that they’re strong not just on gathering customer feedback, but also in responding to that feedback— especially negative feedback.
“We have a great process internally for dealing with any detractors,” says Donahoo. “We go right back to the source at the clinic and say, ‘Hey, what do we know about this patient? What do we know about their care? We need to make an adjustment’.”
Then, rather than just responding on social media to the review, they call them. Not only are patients surprised when PPT calls them to acknowledge their experience, but in most cases, PPT is able to turn the customer’s review around because they realize it all comes back to the source—caring. “We find that we can influence the reputation conversation a lot with exceptional customer service, so we do our best to be on top of that as quickly as we can,” says Donahoo.
04. Track your customer journey.
Another key way that PPT creates a seamless patient experience is by meticulously tracking each patient’s journey. “A lot of our use of our different channels is to check in with patients,” says Donahoo. “We know where they found us online, when they discovered us on the web, or what marketing materials they’ve accessed. Then when they come in, we do patient satisfaction surveys, and we measure their progress.”
She notes that their focus on measuring patient progress is critical because sometimes physical therapy can feel a little bit up in the air, and patients might wonder whether they’re making progress. PPT does this for them as part of the patient experience. “We take measurements in a data-focused manner and look at our patients’ outcomes from when they came in and then cross- compare to when they leave,” says Donahoo.
To keep the experience seamless, the marketing team also tracks all aspects of the customer journey in a single, centralized location. “So, we’re able to look at multiple systems and how all of these different aspects may have impacted their journey, what’s influenced their care, and at which point their care may need to be adjusted, and because all that’s in one place, it really sets us apart.”
05. Make sure you have the right tools.
If Donahoo has any parting last words, it’s that creating a consistent and seamless customer journey across multiple channels requires the right tools. “If the tools don’t talk to each other, you’re better off not talking to your customer,” says Donahoo.
Along those same lines, she says that understanding the marketing operations and making sure that you can use the data is almost more important than rolling out a new and fancy tool.
Finally, she advises that even when you have great tools that allow you to do sophisticated omnichannel marketing, practicing restraint is also important.
“Having restraint and respect for how often you’re marketing and where you’re utilizing channels can pay off in dividends because the communication that comes from you then is much more respectful.”
3 ways Alsco simplifies multi-channel marketing across multiple locations.
With approximately 180 branches in 14 countries, Alsco Uniforms is a global leader in Uniform and Linen Rental Services to over 350,000 customers in the Automotive, Industrial, Healthcare, and Restaurant industries. Given its extensive national and international footprint, Alsco’s corporate marketing team has its hands full when it comes to managing a consistent brand message across all its branches. Add in working with partners and their marketing departments and the task gets even more complicated.
Fox recalled a recent NASCAR event where they were partnering with another company. “We were co-branding the race with one of our big customers, and they just have a different way of doing marketing over there than we do, so getting everybody on the same page was difficult.”
So, what’s Alsco’s secret to achieving consistency no matter how many different channels and teams are involved?
“Keep your omnichannel marketing as simple as possible, but also have a well-planned strategy and execute on it at the same time,” advises Ben Fox, the Director of Marketing at Alsco. “You have so many different touchpoints, and you’re trying to make sure you hit them all. It takes a lot of time to make sure every message is in alignment.”
01. Use technology to simplify processes.
Ensuring consistency, especially in a large organization, is hard. Fortunately, there are numerous technologies that can help.
“The biggest thing we’ve tried to do to improve consistency is purchasing software that allows us to deliver the message in the same way and at the same time across all our different channels,” says Fox. He notes that they are currently looking at additional software that could help by further automating the process.
They also use technology to make it easy for branches to find and use the right assets. “If you bury stuff in an intranet that’s difficult to use because it was created 20 years ago, you’re probably not going to get a lot of usage,” says Fox. “You have to be constantly looking for new software and ways to make it super simple.”
Currently, Alsco is looking at a digital asset management solution or content management software that can store all their marketing collateral in one place.
“Again, it’s about making it simple for everyone,” says Fox.
02. Provide a centralized location for assets.
One common challenge for corporate marketing teams with multiple locations is that local branches often think they know how to market the brand, but don’t do so in a way that’s consistent with corporate branding and messaging.
“Everybody thinks they know how to market,” says Fox. “Everybody thinks they know how to make flyers. So, we’re constantly talking to them about brand guidelines and how we can help them elevate their brand locally, not just on a national level.”
To help further develop brand and messaging consistency across locations, Alsco has selected vendors that provide centralized technology solutions that make it easy to achieve greater consistency across all branch locations. For instance, they use FedEx as their print vendor because FedEx has an online portal where branches can access all of Alsco’s marketing materials as well as brand guidelines.
“By utilizing FedEx our branches have access to all our marketing materials and can then make a few customized tweaks like adding contact information or things like that. Then, FedEx can print it,” says Fox.
03. Keep the offline and online experience consistent.
Like many businesses with multiple locations, Alsco’s core business model is much more about personal relationships than it is about e-commerce or digital interactions. Consequently, they try to ensure that the offline and online experiences align.
“We don’t have a huge e-commerce presence,” notes Fox. “Our business is mostly built on a service model. So, with labor shortages and the need for fewer people doing more stuff within a business, we’ve tried to drive home that we’re that one-stop solution,” says Fox.
Alsco uses its website and social media channels to convey this message, but it also uses its employees.
“Part of our route drivers’ daily duties is developing a relationship with our customers. No matter what we do in marketing, they are the face of Alsco. If people love what they’re doing, then they’re going to spread our message faster than what we can online.
They’ve also tried to build online tools that can help with offline aspects of their business. For instance, the linen and uniform rental industry is known for complex billing models, which can be confusing to customers. One of the messages Alsco tries to convey to its customers is that they provide transparent and easy-to- understand billing. They keep this message consistent by having an online tool, known as A-Track, which customers can use to make changes to their order, view historical billing statements, and pay their invoices.
“While we still want the driver to be the face of the weekly interaction with customers, our A-Track tool is a great supplement for those who prefer to get online and make changes to their account instead of having to call or wait to talk to their driver,” says Fox.
Fox notes that omnichannel marketing isn’t a choice anymore—it’s a necessity. And the customer, not marketers, dictate the channels you need to be on.
“If the customer wants to find you on TikTok, and you’re not there, you may not exist in their eyes. So, you have to be willing to go where the customer wants to find you,” says Fox.
Fox recognizes that the more channels you use to market to your customers the more complex it gets to keep the same message. But, at the end of the day, Fox’s advice for being successful at omnichannel marketing still comes down to the three key things he stated earlier:
- Keep it as simple as possible
- Have a well-planned strategy
- Execute your strategy across your channels at the same time
“You are going to be light-years beyond your competitors just by outlining your strategy, making sure your messaging is on point and then making sure it gets delivered in the same way to the market,” says Fox.
Harbourfront Wealth says innovation is key to omnichannel marketing success.
In an industry where advisors typically use offline channels, such as personal meetings and in-person presentations to generate business, the pandemic posed a unique challenge for Harbourfront Wealth Management’s 22 branches.
“A lot of advisors weren’t prepared for COVID. They had clients coming into their office, shaking their hands, seeing them once every quarter or once a year,” recalls Daniel McQuade, the Marketing and Branding Manager for Harbourfront Wealth Management.
As a result, the corporate marketing team, which is tasked with supporting all advisors at Harbourfront, saw a drastic increase in requests from their advisory teams for more digital marketing support, expertise, and coaching.
“Since most locations interacted with clients mainly in person at their branch, how to facilitate that spur of the moment demand for a digital presence and help them get multiple touchpoints, such as their websites and social media channels, locked in quickly has been a crazy scenario and one of the biggest challenges we’ve faced,” says McQuade.
Prior investment in online channels pays off.
Fortunately, prior to COVID the company had already been heavily investing in upgrading and modernizing their website as well as their overall digital strategy. “Our investment in making sure our website was a seamless experience before COVID hit helped us to be prepared for the pandemic without knowing it was coming,” says McQuade.
The goal of the updated website was to ensure customers could get all the information they needed. “We’ve been very methodical about what’s on our website and the placement of CTAs and the actions associated with them” says McQuade. “Where you send someone once they click on a CTA is just as important as the CTA, so you need to make sure you think about that part of the experience and whether they’re getting the information promised.”
A full-scale digital upgrade also helped Harbourfront better assist their advisory teams with their own websites and digital strategies. “We’ve been able to help individual advisors build out their websites with goal to make it seamless to connect with an advisor—whether that’s visiting on mobile or a browser, and whether the customer wants to visit the website, call, or email,” says McQuade.
Investments in technology streamline omnichannel processes.
The marketing team has also invested in a technology hub, where all third-party tools reside. This has made it a lot easier for Harbourfront’s corporate marketing team to manage their omnichannel marketing efforts. It’s also been helpful for individual advisor locations to deliver a consistent experience to clients. “It gives them a place to direct clients to, where they can log into their accounts, and conduct other business,” says McQuade.
The technology hub has also helped with compliance requirements. “Compliance has to review everything,” says McQuade. The company is also subject to audits. “So having a third-party software that can acts as a hub for all out social media is really helpful.”
Advisors create their social media posts in the technology hub and then compliance reviews and accepts/rejects posts. All posts are also able to be archived within the hub for auditing purposes, which is key to being able to maintain compliance. The software also provides a central location for the marketing team to monitor social media and respond to comments on any posts.
Consistency across channels builds trust.
At a financial institution, building client trust is one of the most crucial aspects of recruiting and retaining customers. “When you’re managing people’s assets, it requires a lot of trust, so it’s important that we figure out how to make people feel comfortable and trust that the advisor knows what they’re doing,” says McQuade.
A key part of building this trust is by providing a consistent message across all channels.
“The whole idea is you want to have the same message across everything. From step one of developing what that message is going to be, who you’re targeting and how you want it to be perceived on each platform, it’s a challenge, but it’s also kind of the name of the game.”
“Someone on Facebook is in a more casual mood when thinking about retirement vs. someone on LinkedIn who is already in the business mindset. Messaging needs
to be on brand and consistent, but also in tune with the channel and the audience on that channel,” says McQuade.
To help ensure a consistent message that’s appropriate for each channel, the marketing team relies heavily on data to help them with messaging. “We look at the analytics behind what they’re doing and dissect how many impressions, clicks, etc. things are getting to determine what’s working and what’s not,” says McQuade.
The compliance department also participates in data management to ensure that the company is meeting all data regulations and compliance standards.
Innovation is an imperative.
If McQuade has one parting thought, it’s that innovation is an essential component of being successful at omnichannel marketing. Because Harbourfront is “more agile and entrepreneurial” than the big banks in Canada, the marketing team has had more freedom to support innovation at all levels of the company, says McQuade.
As part of their own innovation mindset, Harbourfront has also begun incorporating multi- experiences through modalities such as touch, voice, and gesture on devices, and apps. This way, customers can not only experience an integrated journey, but an interactive one.
They’ve also tried to encourage innovation at the branch level. “We try to allow our individual locations to be innovative with their marketing while ensuring it stays within the confines of compliance and the brand,” says McQuade.
He believes having an innovative mindset is also critical for any marketer who wants to succeed with omnichannel marketing. “With everything moving so quickly as an organization, keeping up with what’s happening in the industry can be hard,” says McQuade.
“It’s easy to fall into the complacency where you realize you’ve just been doing your job for the last couple of years and haven’t leveled up. It’s important to take the time to study and learn about new marketing tactics and strategies.”
Podium’s 5 strategies for delivering exceptional omnichannel experiences.
No one has ever said omnichannel marketing is easy. Because it’s not. Managing multiple channels often brings multiple headaches— especially for multi-location businesses.
Nico Dato, the Executive Vice President of Marketing at Podium, says that some of the biggest challenges he sees multi-location businesses struggle with when it comes to omnichannel marketing include:
- Knowing how to successfully use different channels for different purposes
- Ensuring a consistent message and experience across channels
- Struggling to innovate because of the complexity involved with adding new channels or technology
- Neglecting to create a seamless digital to physical experience
Despite these challenges, Dato says it’s absolutely critical that businesses get on board with omnichannel marketing and stay innovative. “The fact of the matter is you have potential customers everywhere. You need to make sure that you’re wherever they can find you. Anyone who’s not thinking about going omnichannel is going to one hundred percent get left behind.”
Here are five strategies Dato recommends multi-location businesses take to overcome their top omnichannel challenges and deliver exceptional, consistent experiences to customers every time, everywhere.
01. Deliver a consistent message and experience.
When thinking about how to drive message consistency across multiple channels, Dato says it’s important to think about what the core message is you’re trying to drive—and then make sure you’re synching that message across channels.
Why is consistency so important? “It’s tough when you’ve got completely different messages across completely different channels,” says Dato. “People might miss the context that you’re really trying to convey to them.”
Dato gives the example of an auto dealer, who on one channel says they’ve got the biggest inventory of anyone else around. Then on another channel says, they have the most in-tune salespeople around to help you get into the right car. And on another channel, says they have free oil changes for a year after purchase.
“All of those messages are nice,” he notes, “but what you have to remember is that not everyone is going to see every single message, so if your brand message is ‘we provide the best experience possible across every single touchpoint of our dealership,’ that’s probably not going to land with customers because they haven’t heard that message on the channels they’re on.”
Dato’s advice is to pick the most critical thing for your customers to know and make sure to convey that same message on all channels. Then, you can also provide ancillary messages that help support that primary message.
02. Use different channels for different purposes.
Another struggle Dato sees for many omnichannel businesses is figuring out how to best use each channel.
“You need to understand how omnichannel can work for your customer base,” says Dato. “What types of communications and marketing should happen via direct mail, text message, social media, or email.”
He notes that different channels have different strengths and benefits. “Voice, for example, is absolutely needed when there’s a more in-depth conversation you need to have,” says Dato. “But what you also see is businesses saying, ‘call us to learn when we’re open,’ and that’s pretty ridiculous.” Voice is not the right channel for information that customers need easy, fast access to.
He also says that sometimes he sees a one-size-fits-all approach.
“It’s like, ‘Hey, look, we’re going to do everything via email. We’re going to do everything via text or everything via voice,’” says Dato. “But the truth is, there are different channels to accomplish different things, and the effectiveness of those channels may vary from business to business.”
His advice? Take some time to think through:
- The best use cases for each channel your business uses
- Which channels are already working successfully
- Which channels may be losing traction with or causing friction for customers
- Which new channels make sense for your audience and business goals
- How each channel fits together to ensure you’re providing the best experience and impact possible
03. Consolidate your customer feedback channels.
Having to respond to texts, emails, and social posts from customers can quickly become time- consuming and disjointed if that responsibility is spread across multiple teams and systems “It happens all day, every day,” says Dato. “Your social media manager tweets something out, and they get someone messaging them back. Or your marketing team sends an email out, and you get someone responding back to that. Same thing with text. And often, some responses will go to someone on the corporate marketing team, some may go to customer service, and some may go to an employee at an individual location. Keeping track of all these interactions and feedbacks can be a daunting task.”
“Having a tool where you can consolidate all of these channels into one place and have visibility into all of the feedback that’s coming in—even across locations—is absolutely critical,” says Dato. “If you don’t have that, you end up having to appoint one person to monitor all the messages that are coming back to the social, a person doing the same thing on email, a person doing the same thing on text, another team of people on phones. And there’s no way to really consolidate that feedback and understand what you need to change to make the customer experience better.”
04. Keep innovating.
While most companies know they should innovate, too many end up just tackling what’s in front of them rather than thinking ahead.
“For lack of a better word, it’s a roadblock because businesses are scared about how to manage new channels at the multi-location level,” says Dato, “It seems really daunting because now you need to figure out how to make this work for 20 or even hundreds of locations and the complexity can be tenfold in some scenarios when you’re going to a newer channel like text.”
“It seems really daunting because now you need to figure out how to make this work for 20 or even hundreds of locations and the complexity can be tenfold in some scenarios when you’re going to a newer channel like text.”
To get over the “complexity hump,” Dato recommends not trying to reinvent the wheel for a new channel. “You just need to take that same message that has been working via email and take it to text message or whatever new channel you’re adding,” says Dato. “This will let you move more quickly and overcome some of those complexity concerns.”
He notes that this is particularly important at the corporate level. “It doesn’t matter if you have 30 locations underneath you. If you’re sending emails from corporate, you can send texts from corporate too,” says Dato. “So, think about how you can substitute the channel with the exact same content.”
05. Consider pre-built solutions.
Another roadblock to innovation is the complexity of getting the technology implemented and integrated. Dato says that what Podium often sees is that businesses will first consider building new martech themselves.
“They’ll say, ‘I’ve got the APIs. I can go build something and we’re going to make this thing work,” says Dato. “But what we’ve found is that building new omnichannel technology in-house is not that easy. There are short codes versus long codes that you have to take into consideration. There are myriad opt out and privacy laws that you need to make sure you’re compliant with.”
Dato’s advice, “The best way to overcome all of that headache is to partner with the right vendor.”
He notes that there are vendors who can go beyond just connecting the technology and help you set up reporting, individual phone numbers for locations, best practices, and more. In addition to that, the right vendor can act as an extension to your team, helping you come up with innovative ideas and solutions that will bring you the best results and ROI.
“You can just drop your business into one of these prebuilt solutions, where you bypass a lot of that headache and you’re up and running almost immediately.”
To remain competitive, focus on creating a seamless digital to physical to digital channel experience.
As Dato notes, gone are the days where a business can just plaster the roadside with billboards, have a phone in their office, and maybe do a little bit of email. “What you’re seeing now is that the local business brands that are doing really well are the ones that are creating a seamless digital to physical to digital experience. They’ve got a strong website and online reputation, they’re doing SMS marketing, touchless payments or text-to-pay, and they have all that customer context available to them when the customer comes into the store or interfaces with a local employee, and so on. Those brands are the brands that are going to win because they’re everywhere that their customers need them to be,” says Dato.
The key takeaway: Consolidate and innovate.
There have never been more ways to reach your customers and drive growth. This is good news. But it doesn’t come without challenges.
As marketing leaders across industries noted in this guide, delivering a modern, seamless customer experience requires not just being present on multiple channels, but having the ability to consolidate systems, gain visibility into the customer journey, communicate and coordinate effectively with employees across the entire organization, track and measure results, and respond promptly to customers on the channel they want to use. Success requires not just unified technology, but a willingness to constantly innovate. Those companies that can do so—are the ones that will survive and thrive.
Simplify omnichannel marketing with Podium.
Podium is the leading Interaction Management platform for multi-location businesses. With Podium, you can:
- Manage all channels and interactions in a single inbox
- Consolidate systems in your tech stack
- Gain visibility into the entire customer journey
- Provide a modern, frictionless customer experience with a single text thread
- Connect with customers faster for greater business impact
- and more.