Evolving a Channel Strategy for Today's Digital Customer

by Chris Horn

In this series, we’ve been exploring stage one of our digital go-to-market roadmap, which is about pivoting the business around the customer and laying foundations for future change. We started out with practical tips for securing executive sponsorship and educating the business, then moved onto sharpening marketing segmentation and mapping out persona and buyer journeys. Last week, we looked at developing a successful content strategy and today, I’d like to follow on with evolving your channel mix so that it delivers an enhanced customer experience, at a lower cost.

During our work with enterprise businesses over the last couple of years, we’ve identified three broad stages that are usually navigated on the transformation pathway, and have outlined stage one below. 

Evolve Channel Strategy

In my previous blog, I discussed step four - setting up a successful content strategy that enables your organisation to have relevant interactions with your customers across digital and physical channels. Equally important and intrinsically intertwined, is having a good channel strategy in place, so that you can deliver your new content to the right places at the right time, but also to serve and sell at a lower cost. Especially when you consider how today’s sophisticated buyer traverses multiple channels across different devices. 

Step 5 - Evolve Your Channel Strategy

To distribute your content to the places where your customers are, you will more than likely need to launch new digital channels. These might include digital marketing channels such as online search, display ads or social media, but could also include digital purchase or service channels, such as online support or apps that facilitate ongoing customer engagement and repurchase. Whatever your needs are, a clear plan will be required to outline when these channels will be activated and how they will effectively integrate with each other and legacy channels, such as sales.

It is also important to figure out how you can ensure customers are sold to and serviced through the optimal channel mix. For example, you could migrate your lower value customers to new and more cost-effective digital channels, allowing your expensive sales channels to focus on higher-value customers. Clearly defining this channel migration strategy and how you will incentivise any required channel shifts is critical. 

Consider the following factors when developing your strategy:

Carefully Assess Your Channel Mix

Analyse the behaviours being exhibited in your customer base – both digitally and physically – as these are representative of indicative buying. The objective is to adjust the channel mix to respond to these signals more meaningfully and efficiently. To achieve this, new channels will likely be required and account segmentation must be appropriately matched to marketing and sales channels. Channels such as inside sales are an increasingly common solution for more quickly and cost-effectively responding to emerging buyer needs.

Move in Lockstep with Your Buyer

A key challenge for business leaders is the need to evolve the channel mix in sync with customers, so as not to be left behind and lose relevance, but to also not be too progressive and alienate more traditional buyers. As you incorporate more digital channels, it is critical that your organisations changes at the right pace. It is all about understanding your customers. If your channel mix doesn’t match your target customers’ buying preferences and consider your competitors’ stage of evolution, you may alienate a sizable portion of your existing and potential customers.

Consider Specialist Sales Roles

Given the level of sophistication of today’s buyer, specialisation of sales roles is often required to lift the value of sales interactions. Building deep specialisation in the sales channel mix around industry, functional or solution expertise is a proven strategy for enhancing impact.

What’s Next?

To enable your staff to deliver relevant customer interactions in the right channels at the right time, will require the support of technology. Given how complex this can be to implement, it is important to start laying the foundations early on. In our next blog, I’ll provide some practical tips for evolving your technology ecosystem to enable scale.