Managing the Proliferation of Marketing Channels


If you’ve been in marketing for 20 years or more (as I have), you’ve seen our profession undergo more changes that I thought possible when I got my MBA.  The biggest change has been the proliferation of communications channels.

Twenty years ago, there were really only nine communications channels used by most companies. In 1990, the most common communications channels were:

  1. Newspaper ads
  2. Magazine ads
  3. Collateral
  4. PR
  5. Broadcast TV ads
  6. Cable TV ads
  7. Radio ads
  8. Billboard ads
  9. Events

There was a tenth channel – online. But only a handful of pioneers like me were using online media at all, because the tools we had available to us (message boards, AOL, CompuServe, email, etc.) were quite limited – and so were the number of potential customers who could be reached that way.

Today’s marketing graduates are expected to know at least the rudiments of 25 different communications channels, with the emphasis on numbers10-25:

  1. Newspaper ads
  2. Magazine ads
  3. Broadcast TV ads
  4. Cable TV ads
  5. Satellite TV ads
  6. Radio ads
  7. Satellite radio ads
  8. Billboard ads
  9. Events
  10. Webinars
  11. PR
  12. Email
  13. Internet banners
  14. PPC / Adwords
  15. Streaming video ads (on other people’s content)
  16. Viral video (original content)
  17. SEO/SEM
  18. Collateral & downloadable assets (White Papers, eBooks)
  19. Mobile Internet (QR codes, mobile search, etc.)
  20. Video games
  21. Podcasts
  22. Short msg. svc. (SMS)
  23. Instant messaging (IM)
  24. Social media
  25. Blogs

As if that isn’t enough to be getting on with, think about the complexity involved in even a relatively simple multi-channel marketing process. For instance, look at a company selling life insurance – let’s keep the example very simple and say that the company only offers two products (term and whole life), and has a four-part distributed marketing chain:

  • Corporate marketing (Brand management / strategy)
  • MGA’s
  • Local agents who work for the company
  • Local independent agents

What you wind up with is the potential for six “voices” in the marketplace (1 for each product + 1 for each group selling the products) X 25 communications channels or a total of 150 potential communications streams.  No wonder compliance and monitoring the many messages about their brands has become a major headache for so many marketers!

My job is primarily business to business (B2B), so I don’t have to worry about all 25 of the potential channels. Still, I deal with more than twice as many communications channels today as I did when my career began – and I do it without an administrative assistant. (Goodness I miss Mary Tavares, Karen Kelsey, and Marilyn Younger – three of the talented administrative assistants I’ve had the good fortune to work with!)

Thank goodness for high quality distributed marketing and marketing automation products. At work, I use the Distribion Distributed Marketing Platform to manage all my communications channels, with Basecamp as my project management tool and MyPRGenie for press releases and PR. I couldn’t survive without any one of them.

What tools do you use to manage your multi-channel marketing communications without getting an ulcer?

About debmcalister

I'm a Dallas-based marketing consultant and writer, who specializes in helping start-up technology companies grow. I write (books, articles, and blogs) about marketing, technology, and social media. This blog is about all of those -- and the funny ways in which they interesect with everyday life. It's also the place where I publish general articles on topics that interest me -- including commentary about the acting and film communities, since I have both a son and grandson who are performers.
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