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What is a Marketing Channel, and How Do You Choose the Right One?

What is a marketing channel? I’m glad you asked…

There are a myriad of ways of raising your awareness, helping your audience to evaluate your product or service and to convert your potential buyers into actual buyers. 

Each type of marketing below can be thought of as a marketing channel – a method of communication that has its own rules, restrictions, costs and advantages in terms of audience and level of exposure.

Remember the marketing funnel? Well, each phase of the funnel may require different types of communication as your audience are in different places in the marketing funnel. This might mean a different message or even a completely different type of marketing channel. 

What types of marketing channels are there?

Different businesses may use different channels for different parts of their marketing funnel, while some may focus on just a few of these. Here are some examples:

  • Advertising – TV, radio, newspaper, magazine, billboards, buses, tube, trains, directories  
  • Online advertising – Facebook, Bing, Google, Native ads (ads that look like a part of the site they are presented on, but actually link to your product), Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, banner ads, sponsored links or sponsored blog posts.
  • Guerrilla marketing or experiential marketing (unconventional public marketing, like publicity stunts, sculpture or eye-catching, unusual posters) 
  • Printed materials – flyers, posters, business cards, packages, brochures
  • Direct marketing – sending letters and lumpy mail (letters containing a literal ‘lump’ – a physical object like a gift or toy that entices people to open the mail) to prospective clients, customers and supporters; leaflet drops, face to face, SMS mobile, point of purchase, sponsorship/partnership, joint ventures with other businesses
  • Content marketing – blog posts, guest blog posts, articles, checklists, tips, reports
  • Public relations – press coverage, press releases and submissions, word of mouth
  • Signs – magnetic car sidings, shop signs, in-store displays, directions, stickers
  • Website – microsites, blogs, SEO
  • Social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Messenger
  • Networking – online and offline direct communication
  • Events – tradeshows, conferences, exhibitions 
  • Public speaking – events, seminars, webinars
  • Email – newsletters to subscribers to your mailing list 

That’s a big (and by no means exhaustive) list! You should be able to see that some of them are more suited to the top of the funnel and others might be middle or bottom.

Email newsletters are great for lower down in the funnel because in order to have their email address in the first place they will have had to engage with your company in some way.

As you are investigating this list, think carefully about how you could use each type to target your audience at the various stages.

As a new business, it’s generally best to do a few of these well than a large number poorly. 

In addition to actually using these channels, you’ll need to measure how successful they are. The more channels you have to measure, the more overhead in time and reporting you’ll add to your business. 

Be focussed and discover what works before expanding and trying completely new activities. The alternative is often a wild spending spree – which may get you some sales, but without the data, you need to make more cost-effective sales in the future.

The audience you are targeting may have an obvious marketing channel you can use to start off, for example, a dedicated forum for the niche market your business provides for, or you may have several different audiences, each of who can be reached through different, perhaps overlapping, sets of marketing methods.

Deciding on your brand will help you stick to a consistent tone in your communication across these channels. We’ll cover this more in the branding week later in the month.

In this article, we’re concerned with the channels themselves, and how they are used by your competitors and, eventually, by you.

How should I choose the right marketing channels for my business?

Marketing and sales funnels help you see that potential customers are at different buying stages. Some are a long way off to making a purchase, others just need a final nudge to make their purchase.

Recognising this, choose marketing methods that target people in these different stages. The way you communicate with someone who is ready to purchase will be very different to someone at the top of the funnel.

In addition to choosing marketing methods with the right ‘fit’ for your audience, you’ll need to look at how successful these marketing efforts are likely to be. What is their ROI – their return on investment?

  1. Pick channels that cover your entire funnel
  2. Pick channels that are most likely to reach your ideal customer
  3. Pick channels with good ROI

Picking marketing activities to reach your most ideal customers

Marketing efficiently is about spending money on activities that get your message in front of the audience that is most likely to buy. Your ideal customers. Remember the personas we created in the market research post? Make sure you have them in front of you when you’re trying to figure out how to market to them. Where do these personas spend their time?

Remember your market research, where were you finding the customers you wanted to target for research purposes?

For example:

  • Relevant forums
  • Online communities
  • Facebook groups
  • Commuting route
  • Conferences
  • Events
  • Industry hubs

Understanding where they are and what they like to do should help you narrow in on marketing channels they will see and respond well too.

Another method is to look at someone who’s done it before. You can get an idea of the marketing channels your ideal customers might respond to by looking at your closest competitors. 

In Week 3 we went through how to complete detailed competitor research. Each of your competitors approaches the market using marketing channels – just as your business will. Look at the marketing channels you noted down for each of your competitors and revisit this piece of work.

You can learn about what your competitors are doing now, but this doesn’t mean you should emulate exactly what they do. They are likely to be at a completely different place in their business journey to you.

If they are well established they may just be seeking to keep their brand at the forefront of people’s minds and are marketing accordingly. They could be testing a new untried channel or perhaps targeting one small part of the marketplace because they are trying to increase their penetration in that area. Looking at your competition is a starting point for ideas, not the complete answer.

In addition to looking at what your competition is doing, look at what they aren’t.

Find new channels that aren’t being utilised by your competitors, but which still could give access to the target markets you have identified.

It may be that your competition is quite traditional, and hasn’t cottoned on to how to use social media yet, or they could be a trendy new company that has never considered anything so archaic as sending a physical catalogue through the post. 

For some of these channels, experimentation is the only way to find out how successful they will be.

Wherever you find your ideal customer, consider ways you can market to them and it will help you narrow in on the right type of marketing channels for your business.

Summary

In this post we covered: 

  • What a marketing channel is
  • What types of marketing channel there are available
  • Choosing the right channels for your business
  • Picking a channel to suit your target market

This post and the posts on market research go hand in hand. This is because we use information about your customers and competitors to inform our decisions here. 

Therefore it’s important that your market research data is up to date and rock solid, otherwise you’ll be heading in the wrong direction.

In the next article, we’re going to talk about measuring the success of your marketing efforts.


Not caught up on the 90 day challenge? Check out last week’s articles!

This blog post forms part of our series on how to start a business in 90 days. For an overview of the series and all the blog posts so far click here.

The 90 Day Challenge is also available as a series of free chapters here.

Tim Room 9th December 2019 By
 

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