Marketing Channels: How to Choose the Best for Your Business

The term Marketing Channel refers to avenues that you can use to direct people, who may be interested in your product, into the very top of your Sales Funnel (link to funnel).
From here, various sales activities take over to ideally convert a number of these "Leads" to actual buyers of your product. This is an introductory article to assist you to begin to shortlist suitable Marketing channels. Yellow Belt.

A Marketing Channel can be any avenue that you use to identify people who may at some point buy your product.

The Marketing Channels are at the very start of your Sales Funnel.
Go to the article: Sales Funnel

Following, is a list of a range of Marketing Channels, that you could potentially use to sell your product, with an indication of the usefulness of each of them.
Resources that can provide you with more direct information on each of those channels are referenced.
The goal, here, is not to cover them all; simply to begin you on a path to selecting the best for your business.

Because not all leads will convert to Sales, you will need to produce a lot more leads than you will finally require. This will allow for the attrition/wastage of these leads as you move them down the Sales Funnel towards converting to a buyer. This attrition of leads will cause you to reflect on how to reduce this in future. Waste of leads will be costing you money.
More is written on this in the articles on "Buyers Journey" (sue in for typing so maybe a place holder link to for now)

If you have been in business for a length of time, you will be using channels. You might not have given a great deal of "scientific" thought to what these channels are.

The advent of things like Facebook and Google Adwords has led to a somewhat "sexy" image of these channels. Business owners often rush straight to those avenues without giving thought to the other alternatives that might be available to them.

Other factors will also come to bear on your choice of channels:

  • If you are a very small business, you are probably doing the marketing yourself and will not have a great deal of time to focus on this aspect. 
  • Not focusing sufficiently on Marketing, and its close relative Sales, may be bad news for your business.
  • You may be very good at the technical aspects of your business (say being an Accountant or Chef) but if you cannot get clients and buyers in the door, all of your technical expertise will go to waste and your business will probably suffer.

In this article, we undertake the following tasks:

  • Introduce you to a selection of candidate Marketing Channels.
  • Suggest ways of reducing this rather large number to a smaller set that you can work on more intensely; at least in the short term.
  • Introduce some of the issues to do with Leadership and Staffing for the part of your business responsible for Marketing Channels.
  • Introduce types of Software that may assist in this process once you get to any size.

Candidate Marketing Channels

When considering Marketing Channels, you will automatically fall back to the ones you already understand and/or which are common in your industry.
Consequently, these sorts of channels are heavily overused. The use of less common channels may lead to a better result than "treading the path often trod"

Note that this article is an overview of alternative Channels.
Many will be clear to you already. This article is a means of narrowing down the very wide range of channels to options you want to research further. You may be able to do this with intuition, regarding what is likely to work for you, rather than any 'scientific' process.

Contents:

1. Blogs
2. Publicity
3. Ambush PR 
4. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
5. Social Media Advertising
6. Traditional Advertising
7. Direct Marketing 
8. Email Marketing
9. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) 
10. Website Content Marketing
11. Drip Email Marketing 
12. Widgets
13. Referral and Viral Marketing
14. Business Development Marketing
15. Direct Sales
16. Affiliate Programs
17. Franchises
18. Trade Shows
19. Public Speaking
What Next
Choosing Marketing Channels
Startup Business
Existing Businesses
Selecting New Channels

1. Blogs

These are short articles written about your subject matter, which you make available on your website and/or to other parties. Their purpose is to demonstrate your expertise and consequently draw people to purchase your product.

Blogs can be a powerful tool if you feel confident about writing. They have the advantage of being Search Engine "candy", the Search Engines like fresh material and material that is heavily skewed towards one topic. This makes you look like an "Expert" on that particular topic.

You can do your own blogging from your own website. Try to share your blogs with other bloggers who have a large audience of followers. There is a large amount of material on how to Blog and how to get Blogs picked up by others when you search.

Use the same blog material on several media. This will enable you to reach as many people as possible via their preferred media.
Example:
Create the blog live to video and list on Youtube.
The soundtrack for this video can easily be converted to a podcast and made available to those that like to listen.
A transcript of the podcast can be generated automatically turning the same material into text for search engines and people who like to read.
Each of these media versions of your blog can be attached to emails and sent out to those who have subscribed to your website.

2. Publicity

Publicity is the use of Media Channels such as newspapers, radio and television to circulate press releases on your services. 
This will raise your professional credibility and bring business inquiries.

In the past, Publicity was one of the very few channels available. It was comparatively powerful when you were able to get traction with it.

Most experts these days suggest that you use Publicity wherever possible, but don't rely upon it as a steady source of leads. You have little control over when your publicity material will be published. Often, once it is published, it disappears very quickly from people's radars once they have read through their media or watched TV.

If you do want to send out Public Relations material, there are websites devoted to the dissemination of Press Releases that you may be able to use.

If you advertise in regional or suburban newsletters, try to get 'advertorials' or write-ups for free.

3. Ambush PR

This type of Public Relations, also sometimes referred to as "Unconventional Public Relations", is a Marketing Channel that relies upon stunts or stealing other peoples thunder to make the point.

Sir Richard Branson is famous for doing such things as dressing in drag as an Airline Hostess or driving a tank down the street. These outrageous stunts get him personally, and of course his business, a great deal of media recognition.

Other instances relate to having your brand appear in association with an event that is sponsored by another.

Example:
People using this Channel might arrange for a group of people at a Sports Stadium to hold up signs with their brand name on it every time a goal is scored at a football match.
Less aggressively, sponsor a local sports team and get signage on the sport's ground in return.

Its effectiveness may be reasonably successful in getting your brand name out. But, unless you continue it, and continue to build your brand name recognition in the minds of your targets, people are unlikely to remember you when it comes time to purchase.

4. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

With the enormous reliance on Search Engines as a way of finding things, your ability to market in a Search Engine is mission critical.

There are various methods of taking advantage of Search Engines. Some of these will be detailed below and in specialist articles.

Example:
This examples stresses the importance of "Passive" Search Engine Marketing.
Your website pages should always have a Description meta tagKeywords meta tag and use H1 Headings that describe your product.
Your website should have a carefully thought out menu structure that is not so much aimed at the human consumer but at the Search Engine. Anything that appears in the menu is likely to be considered by a Search Engine as something that you consider important in explaining what you do, it will give it some priority.
(see article on H1 tags and meta tags and link)

If you want a quick audit of your website's SEO, there are several free tools like SemRush and UberSuggest that will help.

5. Social Media Advertising

It is possible to self-promote on Social Media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
If your paid and unpaid advertising on these Social Media platforms is skilfully done, it can take on something of a viral nature. People will "Like" what you have offered them and send links on to their fellow users of that Social platform.

This is a method of raising awareness of your product, but, because any advertising may only have a very short window, it may not necessarily bring inquiries for very long after it is distributed.
Ideally, you should try to collect an email address via a registration form attached to a "Call to Action" (CTA). Such contacts can be used for later email marketing.

6. Traditional Advertising

The range of traditional, or offline, advertising includes things like TV spots, Radio commercials, billboards and other signage. This includes passing trade, infomercials, magazines, newspaper and magazine ads.
The success of these various Channels will largely depend on what the Channel is and how many people get to see it.

They can be very expensive. Many of them, like radio commercials and advertisements, only last a few seconds and then are "gone" forever. They need to be particularly memorable.
While they can be used for Brand awareness they are probably more useful for marketing a particular immediate advantage; like a heavily discounted sale on your products.

7. Direct Marketing

Direct Marketing refers to any method that sends a targeted message on a one-to-one basis to a candidate customer.

This can include such things as letters in the mail, letter box drops, flyers handed out at rallies, emails directly to potential buyers.

Direct Mail has historically been a very successful Marketing Channel for many years and has become increasingly cheap. Access to "free" email has made it practical to reach very large audiences at very little cost on a very personalised basis. (see next item).
It has comparatively low success rates (say 1% to 3%), but its sheer ability to reach a lot of people can lead to a steady stream of leads into your Sales Funnel.

8. Email Marketing

Emails are probably one of the more powerful marketing techniques available today and a huge amount of information on how to use them is readily available.

Advantages:

  • They are cheap to do.
  • They are very measurable so that you can get quick feedback on what works and what does not work.

Historically, email direct marketing has been associated with "spam", but the internet world has been largely successful in removing this.
There are techniques available to the online marketer for reducing the probability of being caught in any of the spam filters.

Email Marketing is the younger sibling of the older and venerable Direct Marketing, which has been very successful for many businesses for many years.

9. Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Search Engine Marketing refers to the use of paid advertising or product placement in Internet searches.

The best known example of this is Google Adwords.

Although this can be an expensive way to get leads, it can be used with laser like precision to market to a particular group of people whom you want to reach.

  • It is quite feasible, for example, to market to just "families wanting to stay at the Gold Coast on Mother's Day".
  • Such a precise advertisement will be more likely to provide leads interested only in that, at a cost that is more affordable than a shotgun ad that says "stay at our holiday resort".
  • That will get you a lot of viewers but very little click throughs on the adverts.

A great use of the laser like precision of highly targeted Adwords is to test your Minimum Viable Product. Particularly when you are looking at a Start Up or a new product.
Running an Adword for your MVP, and checking on the response rate, gives you a very quick indication of how many people might be interested in that product or service.
You can market your MVP even before you have it. If nobody responds, chances are nobody is interested.

However, if there is an acceptable level of response you can go ahead and start to build that product or service. You will have reasonable confidence that people will be interested once you have gone to the trouble and expense of developing the product.

Go to the article: How to Feasibility Test Your Start Up 
Scroll to the section "Bolt together your MVP"

10. Website Content Marketing

You can use your website, like you might use a Blog, to demonstrate to readers that you are competent in a particular area.
By giving away free information on your website, people may become more comfortable about contacting you to further use your services.

Very often this is a 2 step process.

  1. Get people to come to your website, and read material there, with the view to attracting their interest in what you have to offer.
  2. Then offer them additional services (often free), such as a survey or eBook (or other Calls To Action) that encourages them to provide you with an email address.
    Once you have this email address you can follow up with them, to a greater extent, and over time convert them to a customer.

11. Drip Email Marketing

A valuable extension of Email Marketing is the use of a series of emails to build an impression in the recipient's mind.

It is often said that someone needs to see an advertisement on TV 3 to 5 times before it registers. This is why we see the same ad regularly repeated on a Television show or movie.
Drip Marketing does much the same thing, but more intelligently.

Some time after an initial expression of interest in your product, start the people on a series of emails sent at a controllable interval. 
Use a Drip Marketing tool like Hubspot, Mailchimp, Zoho Campaign or Infusion Soft etc.

These tools are smart enough to see which of the emails you send are opened by the recipient. They make the assessment that the ones they open are the ones they are most interested in and divert the subsequent stream of Drip Marketing emails more towards that topic.
At some point, the person responding to Drip Emails scores enough "points" to warrant a personal contact.

12. Widgets

In the digital age, many businesses offer what are referred to as widgets, to attract customers.

Examples: 

  • Apps for smart phones - highly specialised micro sites designed to be search engine friendly and offer highly focused information.
  • Various other free tools.
  • You may have a widget, given free to other websites, that provides a service to that website (such as a count down timer). Behind the scenes, the widget links to your website.
  • A search engine crawling over your widget on the other sites sees lots of links from these websites back to yours. Therefore, it considers your website to be important in the minds of the websites using you; otherwise why would that website bother to link to you. In turn, this improves your search engine ranking.

13. Referral and Viral Marketing

Referral Marketing means that you successfully encourage someone, seeing your material, to refer it to other people.

The simplest method for this is via some of the Social Media platforms which specialise in it. However, more sophisticated forms of referral are also available.

Referral Marketing is particularly powerful. Something sent to you by a friend is more likely to be read than something from someone you have never heard of. If your product gets an endorsement from a friend of the recipient it is clearly more important than a cold contact.

A subset of Referral Marketing is Viral Marketing. You can't necessarily control whether something goes viral but you can certainly set out to help it go viral.

Example:

  • You can offer an incentive to a person to refer your product to several of their friends.
  • In return to referring, to (say) 5 other people, they get (say) 1 month's free use of your product.
  • The same offer is made to each of the 5 initial recipients and (hopefully) some percentage of them will forward the offer on to others; and so on.

Properly managed, Viral Marketing can be tremendously powerful and lies behind the success of (e.g.) Facebook, Instagram and Drop Box.

14. Business Development Marketing

This type of marketing focuses on providing an attractive, initial, service to a client that may cause them to take you on for a longer period and/or a deeper engagement.

It is often a long process of slowly warming a potential client up to what you have to offer.
Because it is often labour intensive and of long duration, it is one of the more expensive forms of lead generation.

15. Direct Sales

Of course the ultimate goal of your marketing campaign is to sell something. However, sometimes this can be turned around and work in the other direction.

If you can make a quick sale of something to a buyer and get their contact information in return, as would be normal, you then have the opportunity to continue to sell more product, or more of the same product, to them in the future.

You might consider heavily discounting the first item that you sell them in order to get them to "put up their hand" as being interested in your product. Then make your Profit on future Sales.

16 Affiliate Programs

A number of very successful businesses have developed Affiliate Programs.

They do their best to get people to buy directly from them, but have also leveraged the address books of many other people to send business to them.

A company like Amazon, for example, is a large affiliate business that pays people to send them buyers of books in return for a commission.

17 Franchises

In a similar fashion, you can get marketing leads by nesting yourself under a successful brand name. This is the way that franchising works.

The chances of you opening and operating a famous hamburger shop of your own are quite limited. But if you buy a McDonald's franchise, you immediately get consumer leads by virtue of their over-arching brand name recognition.

There are a large number of franchising opportunities available, in almost any industry, that allow you to take this route, if you so choose. It is an interesting approach if you are not confident about marketing, or do not want to engage in marketing. Essentially, you are outsourcing marketing to the franchisor.

18 Trade Shows

Trade Shows, and any other sort of demonstration venue, allow you to display what you have on offer to people who attend the shows.

They may work very successfully, in some avenues, but have some natural disadvantages:

  • The expense occurred in paying for a site at the show.
  • They are also geographically limited in how far you can reach.

However, if you are able to distribute a large number of business cards and get the business cards of others in return, you may well get a good supply of leads.

A modern version of the trade show is the webinar.
You either run your own, or use the contact list of someone else, to invite people to a live video show. By giving away free information in the webinar, you get people's registration emails and can continue to market to them after the webinar.

19 Public Speaking

Depending on how confident you feel about public speaking, you may be able to promote your business by offering your services as a public speaker.

Providing you are able to give information that your listeners consider to be valuable, you may be successful. It is important that you do not make it too obvious that it is a marketing effort on your part; perhaps limiting the mention of further services to "meet me after the meeting".

Speaking opportunities vary enormously from substantial conferences down to such things as your local Lions and Rotary Club events.

What Next

Now that you have seen a candidate list of Marketing Channels, next is to work through them and decide which ones are best suited to you.

If you already have other Channels in mind, add them to the list for consideration.

Choosing Marketing Channels

It is not possible for 12Faces to tell you which are the most appropriate Marketing Channels for you business.

However, we can give some suggestions on how to reduce this rather cumbersome candidate set to 2 or 3 Channels you might focus on; at least initially.

Startup Business

If you are a startup business, you may have very little idea about what will work for you.

Perhaps the "quick and dirty" way of doing this is to see what channels your competitors use. Quickly decide whether they may suit you.

The test you might apply to whether they suit you are:

  • Can I afford it?
  • Do I know how to do it?
  • Do I want to use it?
  • Is it likely to produce enough leads who convert into paying customers for my startup to survive?

There is more on experimentation with Channels below.

Existing Businesses

If you have an existing business you already have existing Marketing Channels.

You might spend time giving some thought to the following:

  • How successful are your Marketing Channel/s presently?
  • Do you collect metrics that tell you the results of your marketing and how well the Channels are operating.
    Go to the article: 5 Whys Meets Sales Funnel
  • Can you improve the efficiency of the existing Marketing Channels?
    This might mean a serious review of effort in that Channel and removing any wasted effort.
    Go to the Skills Module introduction: Waste Reduction (Muda)
  • Implement an effective, continuous improvement program.
    Go to the article: How Kaizen Leads to Continuous Incremental Improvement

As you are already using some Channels, and your business is organised to use them, it makes good sense to optimise these prior to rushing off to new Marketing Channels.

Calculate how much it is costing you to acquire a new customer for each of your existing sales channels.
Any new Marketing Channel has to do better than this current benchmark, before you start using it.
Go to the article: How to Improve Performance with A/B Testing

Selecting New Channels

Of the channels identified in this article, you can quickly remove ones that are either inappropriate for your business or that you feel are unlikely to be successful. This will leave you with several new channels that you are able to experiment with.

Channel Experimentation

Because you do not know what will work, you do not want to spend a lot of money, resources and - most importantly - your time testing these out. Therefore, construct a number of "sprints" to quickly test whichever Marketing Channels you think might be viable. You can use outsource services to get them going as quickly as possible, if necessary.

What you are looking for here is a very quick experiment, using the techniques below, to work out what you think is likely to work and how successful you think it is likely to be.

PDCA stands for a Plan Do Check Act cycle.

Essentially, it means:

  • To do a test run with those Marketing Channels you think are likely to succeed.
  • See what happens.
  • Then either do more of the same, modify your approach to be more successful or dump the approach altogether (the Act component).

PDCA is an area of expertise in its own right.
Go to the article: How the Plan/Do/Check/Act (PDCA) Cycle Builds Important Routines

Similar is the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) discussed earlier in this article.

To work out which of the Channels to expand first, you might just use your intuition to score them from 1 to 10 on likely effectiveness (where most effective scores 10) and 1 to 10 on what we call efficiency (where most efficient scores 10). By efficiency, we mean how efficiently it would use money and/or how efficiently it would use your time as the marketing leader in your organisation. Even though something might be very successful, if you do not have the resources to do it properly, it is not likely to be successful.

If you multiply the two numbers together, you get a score. The most efficient and the most effective (10 * 10) scores 100. The others rank lower. Normally you would start with the highest scoring and experiment with it. You can add other things to score on as well if you wish.

Because you do not really know what is likely to work, outsourcing is a way of buying in expertise quickly. You have a perfectly controlled expense to test out the usefulness of the Channel. If the Channel works, you can then take the time and effort to learn more about how to do it yourself, continue to outsource it or hire staff within your business to take advantage of that Channel. On the face of it, outsourcing may cost you more money in the short term. However, because you have not consumed your precious time and possibly wasted money on trials a professional would not have done, a hired specialist can be the most economical approach.

Since you are going to have a lot of things to do in respect to developing your Marketing Channels, you ideally need a structured approach to working out "what to do" and "when". We are fans of using an Agile approach to efficiently structuring a series of tasks (see agile article).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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