Any great marketing firm or any great marketing pro will tell you that approaching a strategy and campaign requires addressing multiple channels. For example:

  • Search
  • Social
  • Content
  • Email
  • Advertising

To magnify this point, let’s quickly consider traditional marketing and advertising prior to the Internet:

For this example, let’s use the ultra-visible brand Tide.

tide laundry detergent

Prior to the Internet, when Tide sought to acquire and retain more customers, they most likely produced television commercials and had those commercials run at strategic times and on strategic television channels. Most likely on the big three networks:

multi-channel television advertising

Of course, they also utilized print, billboards, radio, etc. Those are most definitely additional channels (or multi-channel marketing and advertising); however, for the sake of this point, let’s keep the example simple and focus on the multiple television channels Tide used to magnify and spread their brand footprint in the analog world.

The point is, the parent company of Tide would have been proverbially shooting themselves in the foot if they chose to advertise only on CBS and leave its target audience that had television-show preferences on NBC and ABC ‘in the dark’, so to speak. They didn’t, thus, illustrating that Tide understood that they had a multi-faceted audience that had similar goals and needs, it’s just that they ‘consumed’ marketing and advertising messages on various channels, not simply one channel. Skipping the other channels would have stunted business growth.

It almost goes without saying, today, in the digital age, that same sentiment hasn’t changed. Target audiences not only consume messaging on multiple channels (search engines, social media, email, etc.), but also from diverse types of content (text, graphics, video, audio, etc.).

diverse types of content marketing

Today’s Multi-Channel Approaches Are More About Search Than Typically Thought

That’s a bold statement that may catch the eye of other marketers, those who may say, “Prove it.” Saddle up, because here we go:

First, understand how people buy: The Buyer Behavior Process is rooted in science and its definitions can easily lead us back to Search.

In the first step, consumers have a Needs Awareness moment. They recognize there is a need or a problem to solve, thus, they NEED a solution.

It’s this critical second step that forms the foundation for this post’s argument:

The second step to the Buyer Behavior Process is search; an Informational Search. Let’s broaden our definition of search and get out of the confines of thinking simply of digital search (i.e. Google searches).

People, especially in American culture (but not exclusive to), start search with this:

INTERNAL SEARCH: this is when a consumer starts searching for information, but often the first place he or she looks is to his or her own experience or memory.

product and brand recall

The average consumer thinks about the brands he/she already knows and can include the experiences he or she has had with those brands, but doesn’t always have to be a direct product/service experience with the brand that comes to mind. The brand(s) that a consumer recalls from memory are a reflection of his or her top of mind awareness. Upon recalling brands from memory, a consumer disregards any options that would be obviously unsuitable.

See that? We mention search in a digital marketing blog post and many readers expected a dissertation on Google, Yahoo, and Bing! However, this is where we have found the foundation of our point: internal search is first — this can lead to branded searches on Google, Yahoo, and Bing, but also on social media channels, Youtube and more.

To take this behavioral idea one step further, think of the multi-channel examples we referenced above:

  • Search
  • Social
  • Content
  • Email
  • Advertising

When a brand is actively pursuing a marketing strategy and campaign from a multi-channel digital perspective, no doubt they would be strategically creating high-quality, consumable, meaningful, valued content on platforms (i.e. channels) such as social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, et al), email marketing with active segmentation strategies, ad campaigns (including text ads, banner, retargeting, search ads, social ads, etc.) and SEO (think stellar UX and content on their responsive website properties).

Even if a consumer hasn’t necessarily experienced, first hand, the products and services of some brands, the power of campaigns rooted in great content get shared and spread far and wide. Brand awareness, therefore, is also a hugely under-represented factor in marketing and advertising campaigns — where typically, marketing agencies and business owners can often seek targeted traffic mainly for the sake of conversions only.

friends shopping and suggesting products

And, they often report campaign progress from a baseline standpoint compared to the number of conversions over time. Not a bad thing, just making the point not to forget the power of brand awareness in a digital world that is suffocating us all with the sheer amount of content and sheer number of choices.

Circling back, internal search can be influenced by brand awareness (not always brand experiences) from a multi-channel marketing strategy/campaign.

Internal Search Triggers External Search

Consumers conduct an external search by some of the following:

  • Looking through search engine results
  • Asking for information on their social networks
  • Checking and evaluating review sites
  • Asking friends for recommendations
google's customer journey

Let’s again look at multi-channel approaches from an external search perspective using our examples directly above:

Looking through search engine results

This is the typical/conventional definition of search when thinking about and talking about digital marketing strategies.

search engine searches

Asking for information on their social networks

Brands need to be present (and active) on social networks for numerous reasons, but for this post: search doesn’t always start and end with Google. Social networks have powerful search functions and powerful influential aspects that brands can either benefit from or give away that power of social influence to their competitors.

using social networks for brand evaluation

Checking and evaluating review sites

Beyond the obvious reasons why reviews matter (from a pre-Internet definition), we know that humans are social animals and are influenced by the opinions of and buying habits of others. And, of course, reviews can influence search results in some cases.

review sites influence buying

Asking friends for recommendations

These inquiries can be from real-world/offline friends, but the Internet has created a massive online community of ‘acquaintances’ that cross borders and industries. These types of searches harken back to our previous point (we base buying behavior on the buying habits of others) but they are directly influenced by the buying habits of friends/acquaintances who have already been influenced by multi-channel marketing and advertising of particular brands.

asking friends for recommendations

In other words:

A multi-channel campaign influences people and their purchases. Those people are later queried by their friends for opinions about brands/products/services; thus, multi-channel campaigns affect those who are directly influenced, but their experiences then can directly influence the buying decisions of others who may not have any touch points online for a particular brand/product/service. Therefore, multi-channel approaches both influence directly and indirectly and to a larger audience than first considered at the outset of the campaign itself.

package delivery to consumer

While marketing can certainly serve as an external cue to trigger need recognition, the various channels a brand utilizes in its marketing toolbox can serve as internal search and external search opportunities. Multi-channel marketing is more about search than you think, just not the modern default definition rooted in search engines.

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Joe Schaefer
Marketing Director at Digital Marketing Training Group
Joe Schaefer is the Marketing Director at Digital Marketing Training Group. Digital Marketing Training Group offers a business opportunity for entrepreneurs that launches a fully-functioning digital marketing agency with full support and a team of white label, professional marketers who perform the heavy-lifting when it comes to implementing modern, forward-thinking, working digital marketing strategies. Apart from being simply the Marketing Director, Joe Schaefer is also the lead instructor of the 5-day, in-person digital marketing training that precedes the launch of an individual's digital agency.