McKinsey Versus Me on Multichannel Marketing (Part II)


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The previous post (part I) was dedicated to the lesson learned that analytics can be used tactically (e.g. for marketing process ROI improvements) or strategically (e.g. as the basis on which Netflix will compete with Blockbuster).

But recently, I was reminded by a McKinsey paper that my other passion, Multichannel Marketing, can also be used by companies as a mere tactic, or it can be a strategy.
McKinsey published a great article/paper on Multichannel Marketing. And I wrote a book on Multichannel Marketing. Yet, the contents of the two works could hardly be any more different from each other.

How come?

Well, McKinsey is of course a strategy consultancy. I on the other hand am a techy at heart. So from where each of us stands, it is only natural that we took different angles on the subject.

Diane Gorine from Colletete Vacations, the countries oldest vacation tour operator in the United States, compares a situation like this to the story of the six blind men and the elephant.

In short, six blind men were asked to explore and then describe an elephant. So the six men surrounded the elephant and reached out to touch it. Depending on where each guy stood he would touch a different part of the elephant. And so one man would think an elephant is much like a pillar, another would think an elephant is like a rope, and so fourth.

That is what happened to McKinsey and me.

McKinsey looks at multichannel marketing from a strategy perspective. For instance:

  • Blockbuster saying to Netflix: I see you and raise you by 5000+ stores! Not only will I match your idea of renting movies online and sending them by mail. But I will also enable my customers to return movies to my stores and rent new movies on the spot.
  • Charles Schwab differentiating from both the Merrill Lynch’es and the Ameritrades by pitching a more balanced approach to multiple channels. As in: “You can do everything yourself and online with me, but whenever you want you can still get personal advice too”
  • ING Direct saying: Forget multichannel! We are going to be monochannel, i.e. online only, and we will pass cost savings on to our customers in form of better interest rates. (Much to Kevin Hillstrom‘s point that multichannel isn’t always necessary nor the best approach.)

Points well taken, McKinsey! When deciding a company’s multichannel (or monochannel) go-to-market strategy, it makes sense to start right here.

Where does my book’s contribution come in then? Strategy doesn’t pay the bills by itself. You also have to know how to translate multichannel strategy into execution.

Consider this: “In my book”, ING Direct is actually still a multichannel business:

  • They are running not one but multiple web sites (bank, investment brokerage, etc.)
  • They send direct mail offers
  • There is email too.
  • Of course you can call the call center when you have a question
  • They are running a few ING Cafes, e.g. in New York City
  • They advertise online, in broadcast media, and outdoors
  • Ever heard of a little thing called the ING New York City Marathon?
  • Etc. etc.

So if you imagine being a marketer at ING Direct, wouldn’t you want to:

1. Be Accountable

In order for marketers to account for marketing dollars spent, they need to be able to measure marketing outcomes across all these channels (as much that is possible). Comparing baseline results vs. the effect of changes made to marketing vehicles is necessary for improving results over time.

2. Get Heard

In order to get your marketing message heard in today’s world full of “marketing pollution”, messages need to be helpful, i.e. relevant to audiences. So instead of interrupting a caller to the call center and asking them: “and just because you called today would you also care about some random offer XYZ…”, that offer XYZ can and should be as relevant as possible. Well, that means listening to not just customers’ multichannel transactions, but also their non-monetary interactions (e.g. emails opened, clicked, web pages browsed, recency, frequency, latency on the web site, etc.).

There is a considerable mountain of know-how to climb for successful multichannel marketing execution. And that is where I am hoping the book may come in handy to my fellow marketers in the online and offline worlds.

Bottom-line: Another name for this post could have been: Multichannel marketing tactics vs. strategy. But would you have read it if that had been the title?


  1. Akin

    McKinsey publish many different opinions on many different topics. Sometimes contrarian ones. Never having worked for McKinsey, but having worked alongside their consultants on many occasions, I can vouch for their extremely well thought through opinions, generallly grounded in extensive research. More than can be said for most business writing.

    Take a look at some of the many other articles by McKinsey on multi-channel customer business. Their articles on customer lifecycle management for example, are extremely prescient. I am sure you will be pleasantly suprised.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

    Further Reading:

    McKinsey Quarterly

  2. That’s pretty interesting… That’s great, I never thought about McKinsey Versus Me on Multichannel Marketing (Part II) like that before.


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