Silos are broken down for a reason. And that reason is because they are rarely effective or revenue-producing. In the world of marketing communications, this holds especially true.

Let's take a look back at recent history. Before the turn of the 21st the century, transactional documents were one silo, and a direct mail or promotional piece was another. In the early 2000s the term transpromo took the print and mail world by storm by inserting promotional content into transactional documents, or what we call "critical communications." Eventually, an e-component was added via the likes of a QR Code, pURL, etc.

Our industry continues to see gradual shifts of how we deliver communications, largely based on observations of consumer behavior. The CMO Council cites that email marketing is the most effective digital marketing channel for consumer retention. In the contemporary marketing landscape, the mentality is to lead with the web or e-programming and then drive the recipient to the next step, which would complement paper, and then track the response to all of the component - opening emails, clicking links - and then follow up with direct mail, which is very relevant and more impactful and incorporate a QR code or pURLS. But this shift raises questions: While email might mean more engagement, is it the right engagement for your organization? Is your audience more adept to receiving information in other ways?

It is questions like these that are yet again presenting marketers and IT professionals alike with a decision to make regarding the effectiveness of their communications. What's most interesting about this particular turning tide is the clear tie between strategic thinking and a campaign's resulting effectiveness.

No longer is a mail piece or an email merely a component to a pre-determined strategy. Now, communicators and operations team members must take a step back and truly become strategists.

How Are Multichannel Campaigns Evolving?

Marketing scientists and strategists know that in today's world a campaign is most effective if it's an integrated, multichannel approach. Mailers and operations managers have become accustomed to this approach as well. Questions both parties must ask themselves now include:
· What is the objective of having your print sync with email?
· What are the unique demands of the campaign and program? There's never a one-size-fits-all solution.
o For a drip campaign, you want to ensure a continuous conversation. While for a tradeshow event, your call to action will have a more defined period of time and will likely be to drive traffic to the booth or session.
· For this campaign, might it be more effective to start with an email and follow up with a direct mail piece (versus the traditional direct mail, followed by an email)? How specific or broad do you want to be? For example, a direct mail piece that has a microsite linked via a pURL can connect a recipient to a website and allow them to delve into the brand's content. Or sometimes, direct mail will be supported by follow up emails which reiterate the same call to action - for example, clicking through to a webpage or microsite specific to their subject. Additionally, many marketers are increasingly implementing direct mail campaigns as an email program, and following up with direct mail.
· What are the psychographics of your campaign? How can you go beyond the traditional demographics?

A mailer's integrated, multichannel communications approach must be created with the intention to be full circle. It must include a variety of touch points and seek to continually reinforce your messages via the communications vehicles that your recipient sees as most useful. Determining this is no small task - but it is one that can be done more precisely by addressing the questions above.

What Makes an Integrated Online and Offline Campaign Effective?

Consistent look and feel simply doesn't cut it anymore. Campaigns that deliver desired results go far beyond similar layouts. A check list that should be evaluated during campaign planning process and creation should include:
· What's the message? Be interesting. Speak to the recipient's interests and spread the message in a way that makes sense for the communications mechanism. Think about it - do you need the same amount of language on a mail piece as you do an email blast? Perhaps not. However, it remains important to keep the underlying message consistent.
· Is it easy? Determine what you are asking your recipients and make it as clear and as simple as possible for them to interpret. Do you want the mail piece recipient to go to a website? If so, work to make it an easy to remember URL. Do you want the email recipient to click on a link? If so, work to place it high and prominently in the email. Be clear with your call to action and keep it simple.
· What's in it for them? Consumers today need incentives. Always go into campaign development knowing that if you're not offering something, the competition is. Be thoughtful with your offer. An offer for offer's sake is rarely effective.
· What's your timing? Whether you are leading with offline or online, determine when the next communication will be launched. Waiting too long can result in the recipient forgetting what the initial communication was about. Going too soon could make them feel pestered. Before launching your campaign, ask yourself this vital question.

An effective integrated, multichannel campaign will always evolve, and continue to break down silos. Similar to the evolution of direct mail, email and transpromo, consumer behavior will drive communications. Today, consumers are seeking relevancy; they want to know what it means to them. Make it relevant. Be where they are.

And remember, before each campaign - sit back, take a deep breath and be strategic.

Kurt Konow is director of vertical marketing, Ricoh Americas Corporation.