Where to start with your marketing channels

In 2021 marketers have more ways to reach and connect with prospective customers than ever before.

While the vast number of advertising platforms and potential audiences allows for increased flexibility and testing, it can also lead to overwhelm and paralysis by analysis; particularly if you’re setting up your marketing channels for the first time or marketing a new business or product.

However, there is good news at hand. Selecting the right marketing channels doesn’t need to be a daunting task. The key lies in targeting the channels and places where your customers hang out and crafting irresistible offers that provide solutions to your potential customer’s problems.

Of course, creating a bespoke marketing strategy that identifies and delivers engaging campaigns on the best channels for your business is part of what an experienced digital marketing agency can do. Which is always a viable option if you’re looking for advice or want to refresh your current efforts?

What is a marketing channel?

A marketing channel is any method used to promote or market a product or service. The idea of a marketing channel is to create a connection between businesses offering products or services, and potential customers.

There are a tone of different marketing channels out there, and while we can’t list every single one, here are some of the most common:

  • Social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.
  • Email marketing.
  • Your website and your SEO efforts.
  • Print channels such as print ads and magazines.
  • Guerilla marketing such as cold calls and cold emails.
  • Word of mouth and referrals.
  • Pay Per Click advertising (PPC).
  • Content marketing, e.g. blogs and videos.
  • In-person and virtual networking events and industry conferences.

Which channels should you focus on?

Deciding on what marketing channels to use requires a fair bit of upfront research into your existing and potential customer base.

While this research can be time-consuming, it’s important you carry it out thoroughly. Doing so helps to ensure you’re making an informed decision with the channels you focus on and reduce the risk of burning through your marketing budget.

To help you get to the decision phase, sit down with your team or colleagues (or just yourself if you’re self-employed) and answer these three questions:

  • Who are your target customers?

This is likely the most important question you’ll have to answer as a new business owner. You probably have some idea who your target customer is, but if you don’t, then you’ll need to start doing some research to decide which prospective customers you want to target.

To get going, start by trying to get as much information as you can about your ideal customers, such as:

  • What age and gender are your ideal customers?
  • What’s their educational background?
  • What purchasing power do they have?
  • What’s their profession? Where are they located?
  • What are their spending habits like?
  • What are their biggest difficulties, problems or desires?
  • What problem does your product or service solve for them?

An example of a target audience could be small business owners aged between 25-45, living in London earning £100,000 a year, working in tech. The more you know about your target audience, the more specific you can get with your offers, and the easier it will be to position your product as the solution to your prospect’s problem.

It’s more than likely that after a bit of research, you’ll start to realise that you have more than one subset of target customers. Once you reach this point, you can start thinking about creating buyer personas.

HubSpot defines buyer personas as ‘semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers based on data and research. These personas help you focus your marketing efforts on prospects who have an interest in your services and products. HubSpot’s guide to creating detailed buyer personas is a great place to start if you’re looking for some guidance on creating your buyer personas.

  • Where can your customers be found/where do they hang out?

After you’ve worked out who you’re targeting, you need to find where they hang out, whether that’s online or in-person. For example, there are 55 million companies on Linkedin, so if you’re targeting small business owners, there’s a strong chance your prospective customers are on the platform.

Whereas if you’ve running a clothing brand targeting millennials, or your product is more visual, you may want to use a platform such as Instagram to showcase your products, engage with your audience and grow your following.

If you’re running a brick and mortar business in your local area, you may start out marketing your business via local channels such as placing ads in local publications, connecting with other local companies in-person and online. Making sure your website is optimised for local SEO or participating in local events with other businesses or potential leads are also excellent options for physical businesses.

  • What marketing channel should you start with to focus on these prospective customers?

Once you know where your customers are, start targeting that channel. For example, if your target customers are on LinkedIn, start creating and posting relevant content from your company and personal page while connecting and building relationships with your prospective customers.

If they’re on Facebook and you have some budget to work with, start placing some ads to see if your target audience engages and acts upon your offer.

The amount of resources you can put towards a certain channel will depend on the size of your business, your budget, the product or service you’re offering and the size of your team. If your budget is small or you’re just getting started with growing your customer base, start with some cost-effective methods.

Methods like cold calling, while time-intensive, is one of the most cost-effective when it comes to promoting your business, particularly if you’re getting your foot in the door into a new industry or searching for your first customers.

Test and optimize

Like with most things in marketing, finding the right channels to promote your business will require some trial and error.

If you’re just getting started, start small and focus on one channel at a time. If you start seeing success with a particular channel, double down on it to drive maximum results before moving onto other marketing channels. This could involve increasing your ad spend if you start to see positive traction with pay per click advertising on platforms like Facebook or Instagram, or investing in SEO if you start to see a build-up of qualified traffic coming to your website.

If your business is more established and you have some budget to work with, you’ll have more room to test out multiple marketing channels at once.

But remember, it’s much easier to spend time carrying out thorough research into your target audience, so you know where your prospective customers are congregating rather than chucking resources at multiple channels to see what works.