The Channel Is Not The Strategy

Brian Lauterbach, Founder of DonorPath, a consulting agency that is focused on supporting the non-profit world, gave an amazing seminar on non-profit fundraising 2 weeks ago. On one single slide,  at the beginning of many wonderfully clear and concise slides, was his statement, "The Channel Is Not The Strategy."

I wanted to jump up and yell and clap when I saw this. Wow. Such a powerful thought and one that I have struggled with many CEO's over since the late 90's.  

When I started my marketing career in the catalog world, we had ONE way to sell our stuff and go to market - we mailed customers a catalog. We didn't do TV, or radio, or postcards or any other fancy thing. We mailed a catalog. We called ourselves "catalogers". We were a "catalog company." 

If you weren't a cataloger, you were a retailer, with a brick and mortar store. Retailers did use other means to drive sales into their stores - TV, radio, catalogs and newspaper flyers and ads. Retailers did use more than one channel to acquire customers. But they were  "store retailers". 

When I launched my first website in 1995, I was still a "cataloger" with a website. I was not an e-commerce retailer. And we had no idea on how we were going to blend these two channels together. The word " canabalization" was born.

We have migrated to the point now that the dreadful word "Omni-Channel" has been adopted and everyone is focused on making sure that they are marketing and selling in "ALL" channels. And possibly, scarily even, walking away from some traditional channels that could be very successfully delivering sales.

But, as Brian so clearly and simply stated, selling, messaging and marketing in a channel is NOT your strategy. Having a website, having a Facebook page, sending out a catalog, Tweeting an offer - these are delivery pathways for your strategy. 

The challenge is to understand your customers and where they interact with you. Do not dismiss engaging in channels that are considered "old-fashioned." Be careful about adding or deleting channels. Check your channel arrogance at the door.

Start with your customer. Understand your customer. Create your strategy to support and grow your customer base and acquire new customers. Whether you do that through a robust website or through a field sales force making face-to-face calls, leverage the channels where you can find your customers and do not assume "sending out an email" is a strategy. We all need to remember that the channel is the spoke and not the wheel. And I apologize to those out there whose titles are "Vice President of Omni-Channel Marketing."