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The Complexity of Multi-Path Marketing

In our most recent survey of CMO’s, we asked: “What is your primary Voice by which you go to market? Is your Voice that of: product line; industry; solution; campaign (or theme); customer segment; or job role?” The responses were evenly spread across these six voices. Which basically translates to: “As an industry, we go to market with all those voices at once”.

I see so many executives struggling with this complex messaging ambition. Mar-Comm executives like to refer to this ambition as their “messaging architecture” but frankly I don’t see many of these architectures that would pass the building inspection: it’s just too complex.

Now, add to this a second dimension: the media in which your voice is carried into the market. Today’s marketer has dozens of choices of media to choose from: from traditional advertising to social media tools. Obviously.

Finally, add a third dimension of time. New IDC research shows that the average cycle time of creating a new tech B2B customer — from initial marketing all the way through to a closed deal — is over 17 months.

And so now you have six voices, perhaps 35 different mediums of choice; and 17 months of engagement time. What do you get? In the first place – you get overwhelmed with choice! In the second place, what you do get is about one closed deal for every 2000 contacts that you started with at the very beginning of your campaign.

I once had a job as an assistant product marketer and my boss gave me a direct task: “Fax those new product fact sheets to our top 100 clients, today”. One medium, one voice, and one dimension of time. No decisions on my part. I was a skilled faxer, and quite poorly paid.

But now you are the boss and “they’re paying you the big bucks”… So, how are you going to figure this out?

This is the challenge of multi-path marketing and I believe that it is a bellwether issue for senior marketers. Over the past several weeks I have been interviewing some of our industry’s top marketers about this issue, seeking their approaches. Here is what I am hearing, and some guidance on process approach:

1) The objective of all of this is greater “Personalization”. Get the right message and content to the right person in the right time, place, sequence, format and voice. Now, to accomplish this, you might think to install the marketing content and execution tools in the part of your marketing apparatus that is closest to the customer: the channel partner or field seller. Counter intuitively, the opposite is happening.

2) Personalization begins with centralization. To make personalization happen, the best marketers are moving content production, tools, and process “Upstream” — that is, away from the field and deeper inside the central machinery of the marketing operations areas. Content and asset management tools and sales enablement portals are helping this process.

3) Yes, there still needs to be local execution decisions: translation and choice of media are the two primary areas. But the field marketers who are most successful in these decisions are supported by those robust content management tools way up-stream at headquarters.

4) An additional element that adds to the complexity of multi-path (and multi-geography) marketing execution is the contribution of agency partners. Agencies will add their own flavor of voice and media choices – which may cause a global campaign to become very “un-unified” quite quickly. Several large tech vendors are moving towards agency consolidation to help alleviate this.

In a recent head-to-head with a CMO I asked: “From a marketing perspective, what is your single biggest challenge for your $20b company?” His reply: “We need to ensure that the marketing messaging that we create here at the top is effectively threaded into our execution all across and down through the organization”.

In a nutshell, that is the challenge of multi-path marketing.

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