Omnichannel marketing is an natural evolution of marketing practices that have advanced beyond multichannel marketing. With multichannel marketing, companies invested to ensure that they were engaging with customers and prospects on all key channels. They took steps to ensure that their activity was customized and optimized for each channel. Multichannel marketing itself is a significant undertaking and many organizations are still focused on getting this in place.

However, many companies that were leaders in multichannel marketing have now advanced their capabilities into what has been termed omnichannel marketing. So, what’s the difference between multichannel and omnichannel? While the emphasis with multichannel is engaging customers and prospects on all key channels, omnichannel makes the leap to coordinated activity and interactions across channels. Each channel is aware of interactions that have occurred on other channels.

The omnichannel experience is quickly becoming what customers want and expect. Customers now insist that their interactions on one platform are reflected in their next interactions, even if on another platform. In other words, they expect a seamless experience.

Customers often engage with a brand dozens of times between inspiration and purchase. According to a survey conducted by Endeca Technologies, 50 percent of customers interact with an average of two touchpoints to research or purchase products, and 36 percent engage with an average of three. Technology is driving much of this. Customers are rapidly adopting new devices and new digital touchpoints, such as Pinterest. Technology has turned our customers into moving targets.

Another trend behind the push for omnichannel is “showrooming.” Showrooming is a trend where customers shop and research products in brick and mortar stores but then purchase online at lower prices. Participation in showrooming is increasing, and many traditional retailers have taken notice. A recent Harris Poll revealed that 43 percent of U.S. adults have participated in showrooming. Most who engage in showrooming use their smartphones to comparre prices, and is the most popular destination for their eventual purchase.

Companies are responding to customer expectations for an omnichannel experience and the rise of showrooming in different ways. Here are three examples:

Cartwheel by Target

  • Target is partnering with Facebook
  • Offering deals that customers can only redeem in stores on their mobile devices
  • Strategy is to get smartphone-carrying customers to visit and purchase in bricks and mortar Target stores
  • Response to showrooming


  • New stores equipped with mobile point of sale devices
  • Top salespeople given iPhones to contact customers
  • Significant investments in IT to ensure online experience matches in-store experience
  • Company has integrated inventory and fulfillment for stores, the Internet, and mobile devices


  • Disciplined, consistent approach to Starbucks brand across all channels
  • Leveraged robust IT platforms to launch new loyalty program
  • Loyalty program users can join the program and also make purchases using their phones
  • Now coffee can be purchased directly with a smartphone

The Omnichannel Experience

The experience that customers have across channels matters a great deal. Recent research, such as the chart below, has highlighted the critical connection between experience and company financial performance. Companies have higher levels of engagement and loyalty when their customers engage with multiple touchpoints. In fact, Forrester Research indicates that omnichannel customers are worth five or six times more than those who interact on a single channel.

Making It Happen

Enabling Omnichannel marketing requires investment, discipline, and coordination. Common barriers include:

  • Organization: Many companies place emphasis on single channels. Managers of each channel pursue success metrics based on optimization of that channel alone.
  • Data: Customer data and customer interaction data is typically spread across many different data “silos” in the organization.
  • Technology: Legacy technologies prevent scale or integration required for omnichannel.
  • Analytics: Many companies lack the ability to conduct cross platform digital ROI and understand a comprehensive view of the buying cycle.

In order to move forward with an omnichannel approach, companies must address these barriers and focus on a truly cross-functional approach. Success requires coordination and collaboration across marketing, IT and customer service.

Will your company make the leap to omnichannel marketing? Companies with omnichannel strategies are still on the leading edge of common practice. However, the rewards are considerable. They include improving overall experience, attracting the most valuable customers, and combatting showrooming. Given these benefits as well as the complexity of implementation, now is the time to begin crafting an omnichannel approach and roadmap. Customer expectations won’t wait.

There are some who argue that idea generation among consumers is a frustrating task.  After all, who knows a particular product category more than the manufacturer, its advertising agency, and other groups committed to the survival of the product (and the product line)?  And it doesn’t help that facilitators of all kinds are guilty of asking consumers to be experts where they are not and to assume greater role playing in marketing decisions than is justified.  Asking consumers to step outside of their worlds – to pretend to be someone (something) else – may seem foolhardy.

Consumer ideation, however, can be a useful approach, particularly when it is constructed with two key ingredients: 1) people who are product-involved; and 2) individuals who can provide fresh, new insights.  Finding consumers who are product-involved is not difficult, but not all consumers are “creative” thinkers who can produce new perspectives or have the ability to look at something inside out and make sense of it, or take the familiar and make it strange.  This takes a very special recruiting effort, which is one of the many differences between idea generation and focus group research.

Idea generation sessions or workshops are not focus group research discussions.  Here are a few key ways in which consumer ideation – defined as a balance between loosely-structured brainstorming and the more structured, solution-oriented Synectic method – is differentiated from traditional focus group research:

  • Research objectives.  Focus groups are attempting to understand underlying beliefs and motivations for consumer behavior, compared to consumer ideation where the goal is to make the familiar strange and generate as many ideas or solutions as possible without asking consumers to justify or defend.

  • Preliminary groundwork.  Focus groups are often conducted to explore product-related questions that are being asked for the first time without necessarily the support of prior knowledge.  In contrast, ideation sessions are more productive if they are conducted only after preliminary research has indicated real opportunities.
  • Sampling & Recruitment.  Focus group research design should strive to include an honest representation of the target audience.  This means a fair distribution of demographics, geography, product-usage level, and other considerations.  The primary interest in idea generation recruitment is often (but not always) to find consumers who have shown (via their attitudes and behavior) a particularly high level of involvement in the product and/or category, and proven their ability to think “creatively” by way of responses to carefully-crafted screening questions.
  • Session length.  Focus group discussions are, typically, 90-120 minutes in length, compared to ideation sessions which can run half a day or longer.
  • Facilitation.  A focus group moderator is generally intent on controlling the content of the discussion in order to successfully cover all topics on a predetermined discussion outline.  The role of the facilitator in an ideation session, however, is to control the process – by keeping participants fresh, keeping a productive flow of ideas – not the content.  In idea generation, the content can not be predetermined, the content belongs to the participants.
  • Psychological environment.  All facilitators attempt to create a “safe” environment for their participants.  The leader of an idea generation session places a particularly heavy emphasis on this aspect by loosing the structure, the usual social or cultural norms, and by having participants build on others’ comments while making participants feel safe from “attack.”

We all have our insider language and acronyms. Marketers will talk endlessly about things like SEO, UX, CTR, CPA, KPI and more. Sales counters with the need for BANTPPVVCGPCTABC and my personal favorite MMC. But what are we really getting at?

Time to move beyond the typical marketing language and get right to the questions your Sales VP really wishes you would ask about the sales pipeline.

For all our talk about awareness, visibility and engagement what we really need to focus on are the things that will help move the revenue needle. This starts with building a partnership between sales and marketing. To establish this partnership it’s critical to understand what sales teams are up against in trying to close more deals.

5 Questions you should be asking about the sales pipeline before you kick off your campaign.

Remember, your Sales VP doesn’t really care about traditional marketing measurements like impressions or site visits. They care about the things that will help them succeed and so should you. This starts with asking the right questions.

1. What is the revenue target we are trying to hit and when are we trying to hit it?

More than any other part of the organization, sales live and die by their number. As marketers we need to know what it is and how you can help them reach it.

2. Who is the ideal buyer?

Marketers understand personas, demographics, and many also get the importance of knowing the psychographics of the target audience. However are you paying close enough attention to the firmagraphics of the ideal B2B buyer?

Firmagraphics include things like industry, employee size, geography, revenue, ownership structure, organizational structure (who are the influencers, and who are the decision makers), etc.

3. What are the 5 questions prospects always ask?

Are there any critical questions buyers always ask? Are there any misconceptions that need to be overcome to make the sale? Marketing can help qualify prospects and educate potential buyers, but only if we know what needs to be overcome.

4. What are the compelling reasons that move buyers to actively seek a solution?

This is all about getting to the real reason buyers are researching. This is a perfect place to work through a “Pain Chain” with the team. What is the real challenge and how is it impacting the organization.

5. When we win, why? When we lose, why?

Are there other indicators that will help identify and qualify what leads are good fits, and which ones are bad fits. How can we better identify the pain points of buyers and who are the influencers and decision makers we need to influence? How can we more effectively demonstrate the vision and value of our solution as the answer to solving our prospects problems?

Bonus Question:

What is happening with leads that are not actively being worked in the sales pipeline?

The sales team only has so many hours in a week. The good ones will ruthlessly prioritize which leads they will work and which they will not. Needs matter, budget matters, and above all, timing matters. This means there will always be some qualified leads that just aren’t ready to move forward because of timing. Maybe their budgets aren’t approved yet, maybe they’re in a contract with another provider for another 6 months. Sales people don’t always have time to follow up individually on these longer-term prospects. Ask if marketing can help nurture these longer term prospects till they are ready for a sales conversation.

Bottom line, to build a stronger partnership between sales and marketing, ask how you can help the team be more successful and rely less on the oldest of sale strategies: MMC “Make More Calls”.