It may sound fancy, but marketing channels are simply the variety of platforms and tactics you can use to communicate with customers and consumers. Being thoughtful about your approach in determining the most appropriate channels will not only save valuable time, but it will save money and you’ll come across as more authentic and effective. There is a lot of clutter in today’s marketplace, so it’s best to be focused and aligned with your marketing efforts. And of course, plan to measure ROI by channel to determine if you are making an impact and driving inquiries and sales leads.
There are an overwhelming number of channels out there today, but here’s a basic partial list of channels for consideration, including traditional and digital:
- Publications/print advertising – newspapers, magazines, journals
- Radio and television
- Billboards (static and digital)
- Sales collateral
- Trade shows
- Incentive programs
- Direct mail
- Sales call/face-to-face
- Social media – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn
- Email marketing
- Search advertising (SEM)
What marketing channels are best for your company?
Selecting appropriate channels is as important as the content you share. It’s not just what you say, it’s how and where you say it. If the channel doesn’t reach your target audience﹣even if it’s the latest trend﹣you shouldn’t blindly jump on board.
Knowing where your target market “hangs out” is important to ensuring your message is delivered to them using the appropriate marketing strategies and their preferred communications vehicle. If your target market isn’t on Facebook, then how will a Facebook Business Page help your marketing effort? If you’re going to follow one trend, it’s this: be authentic. Don’t just try to “keep up with the Joneses.” Craft a plan to reach your specific audience where they prefer to receive information and where their purchase is most influenced.
Ask yourself the following questions to determine channel fit:
- Does the channel reach my intended audience?
- Is the channel affordable and sustainable given my company’s overall marketing budget?
- Is the channel well received by my target customer?
- Does the channel allow me to provide the message or visual I need to get across?
- Will I be able to measure the channel’s success?
- Do the channels I am considering work together to align my message?
How do you select the right channels?
It’s helpful to also determine how you’re doing with the channels you currently have in place and score potential channels before making an investment. This includes:
- Reviewing performance of channels currently used
- Scoring other potential channels for market fit, customer fit, and potential returns
- Selecting a new mix of channels and put measurements in place to determine appropriateness and ROI
Another thing to consider is allowing for an innovative “off-road” channel or new channel in your plan. With so much of a focus on measurable strategies and quantifiable results, innovation is hurting as well. According to Kissmetrics, only 35% of those surveyed agreed that they reserved a portion of their marketing budgets for more maverick, untested strategies – a sharp downturn from the 46-37% range from the previous few years. If channels aren’t succeeding or aren’t a good fit, go off road. Get creative, break the rules, and create a space for your message that suits your goals. Who knows, if the idea is breakthrough enough, it may result in some publicity as well.
Yes, digital channels are important, but let’s remember that your audience is made up of individuals who engage with the physical world just as much as they do with the digital realm. If you’re not engaging them in their environment, you may be out-of-sight and out-of-mind. This is especially true for the manufacturing industry, which is more physical by nature.
Deciding which channels to use is a critical element of your business strategy, regardless of whether you’re a marketer in B2B or B2C. Get it right and you can reap the rewards of reaching, retaining, and growing your customers. Get it wrong and you could spend a lot of time and money chasing a market that isn’t there.