I often have clients who ask, “Should I be on this platform? Should I be doing that event?” Nine times out of ten, they’re asking because they saw someone else getting results from that channel, but often what's not realized is that some channels don't make sense for their brand.
I love seeing clients get involved in their marketing strategies, wanting to explore their options and learning what makes the most sense for their business. But that last point is key. Whatever new thing you want to try must make sense for your business if you want to see growth. So what's the best way to go about determining the next channel to launch in to? Let's talk about it!
One thing to think through — if you’re a team of 4-5 in a startup environment, generally a focused approach is better than trying to spread efforts across a number of channels without the right resources to dedicated the effort a channel requires.
You might fall on the other side of the spectrum where you have developed well established channels and you have a team capable of managing new channel initiatives. Or you’re working with an agency to start to develop other channels providing the capacity and infrastructure to start exploring and building out several channels.
No matter which category you fit into, or if you’re somewhere in between, there are a few key considerations to work through so you can make informed decisions about launching into a new marketing channel. In this article, I'll cover:
- Defining your target market and personas
- Doing research to refine your goal of the channel
- Assessing your budget
- Cross-platform engagement
- Measuring Your Effectiveness in Marketing Channels
Defining Your Target Market and Personas
The first step to choosing the best marketing channels for your business is identifying your target market. This means taking the time to research your audience demographic, understanding their age distribution, finding out where they live, discovering what their interests are, in addition to other data.
If you’ve already done this work for your business, great! Skip right on ahead to the next section. If you’re still working on identifying and defining your target market, here are some helpful tips.
First, let’s cover the why. Why do you need to know who you’re selling to? Your target audience / market allows you to develop a better understanding of what types of marketing channels might play into their lives and how they’d interact with them. With this information, you can more effectively evaluate if a channel is worth pursuing.
It may be overwhelming to think through all the data points of a larger market or audience. An easy way to get started, is drafting one or two personas to help give you a reference point if you ever find yourself in stormy marketing seas trying to decide which channels to pursue. Personas are a great way to hone in on specific buyers versus a general group and provides a narrower approach by thinking, “What would Pilates-taking, long-walks-on-the-beach-loving, Acai-bowl-eating Paula want to see in this campaign?”
I love real-world context, so let’s walk through at an example. Say you’re trying to determine if your next marketing campaign should focus on sending direct mailers to advertise a new local farm’s organic grocery delivery program. To decide if this is the right approach, you’ll have to consider your buyer persona. If you’re hoping to reach “Earth-conscious Katie” whose goal is to reduce waste and support local farmers, then this program is easy-peasy! There’s just one problem — direct mailers would go against her goal of reducing waste. Sure a small detail but an important detail if you're wanting to establish trust and brand loyalty.
In this scenario, the brand would want to focus on digital marketing channels, like email marketing or social media marketing, to more effectively reach “Earth-conscious Katie.”
You may have already established several personas for your brand, which is great! In this situation, take some time to revisit and revise them if you can. You might find that your existing personas don’t quite fit some of the marketing channels you’re evaluating. If you find yourself trying to create new personas based on a channel, stop right there! Trying to force relevance to an audience and / or create a persona just to make a channel work, should be your immediate sign that channel might not be the best to pursue at this current point in time. That doesn't mean you can't revisit it in the future!
In either situation—emerging or established—there are some great quick and easy tools to help brands create buyer personas. One of those is HubSpot’s Persona building tool, which walks you through each step of building a persona and explains the value of each component.
Doing the Research to Refine Your Goal
Buyer personas can start you on a good path, but if you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve, you’ll end up wandering in the woods forever. That’s why having a goal/s is key. Brands should have a general understanding of what they’re hoping to achieve in engaging with particular marketing channels. In some scenarios they may also inform future channels you may use.
So, what is it? Are you aiming for exposure and brand awareness? Trying to create a positive customer experience? Do you want to attract retailers, wholesalers or partners to help you expand your brand? Is this channel strictly for lead generation?
Of course, you may not be clear on what your goal is with the channel. That’s where my favorite word comes into play: research!
The key to choosing an effective marketing channel is making sure it aligns with your established goal. So before you hop into a new space, you want to find the answers to two questions:
- How will this channel help me achieve my goal?
- What are my competitors doing in this channel that might impact my goal?
Let’s look at a real life example. Say you own a business that manufactures state-of-the-art headphones, and your marketing goal is to sell those headphones. You know you want to start bringing your brand to events, so it’s time to consider which events will help you meet your sales goal.
If you’re looking to sell to companies or distributors, a trade show might be a good option. But if you’re focused more on direct-to-consumer sales, then you might consider music festivals or concerts. In both scenarios, the marketing channel (events) will help you reach your goal (more sales) by placing you in the middle of your target audience.
Now for the second question. Where do your competitors fit in these channels? This is where your research has to go one step further and you have to look at the whole picture. Maybe you’ve picked out a music festival with a reliably large turnout and tons of booths for vendors, but most of them are filled by your top competitors. This could mean your brand will be drowned out by all the other options, and it’ll be more difficult to secure the sales you were hoping for.
You want to find marketing channels that give your brand an opportunity to stand out. That doesn’t mean you need a space without competition — there will always be competitors — it just means you need a space that isn’t already saturated with other companies who share your goal. The right channel will be a place that supports your goal and allows your brand to stand out.
Do you have the budget?
Part of finding a slew of great marketing channels is also aligning with what fits within your budget. I know what you’re thinking, “Oh no, my budget is so small there’s no way I can afford any of the marketing channels.”
False! It’s not about the biggest budget or the most impressive budget or the highest-percentage-compared-to-profits budget. It’s about how you use your budget.
With any channel you’re interested in, you’ll have to establish how much money you’re willing to put into it. Do the research to figure out what size budget is most effective in that channel and what the average budget your competitors or the industry recommends. Take Google ads, for example. They’re set up as a pay-per-click (PPC) system where advertisers can place bids to have their ad come up first. If you can only afford to bid $0.10 per click, but Google doesn’t effectively promote anything less than $0.25, then your ads might not reach enough people to make that investment worthwhile.
On a larger scale, we can consider trade shows. Costs for these events can vary widely because of the cost of the event, logistics, high-quality booth design, product giveaways and more. A kitchen and bath company might go to a tradeshow and spend up to $1 million on all these costs. Why? Because if done right, it’s a great place to develop brand awareness, showcase their product inventory and forge new business relationships.
At the end of the day it’s not about spending the most money; it’s about understanding the investment required to see a return and finding what level of investment you’re comfortable with based on your brand’s budget. And if you’re not quite sure where that comfort level falls, there are plenty of agencies and partners with the expertise to help you determine where you can get the biggest bang for your buck.
You’ve made it this far. Honestly, I’m impressed. You’ve determined your target audience and buyer persona, done the research on competitors, outlined your marketing goals and identified a comfortable budget. I’m making you work for it, I know. But trust me, it’s worth it.
So what else is there to consider?
Take a look at your current channels. Your social media platforms, your email list, your video marketing, all of it. Now ask yourself, “Are there connections I can make between these channels and the new channel I’m considering?”
For example, maybe you went through a huge website redesign to create a strong digital presence and focus on SEO. A natural and sensible pairing to this would be paid advertising to help drive people to your website. Because let’s be honest, you didn’t spend all that money to have your page views stay the same, so show off the new site!
These two marketing channels form a natural and cohesive connection while building off of each other. That should be your goal when it comes to cross-platform engagement. Branch into channels that can build off what you’ve already established, which can help save money and time for your internal teams.
So ask yourself: Can you create connections between your identified channels?
Alternatively, if you’re looking to launch a new persona or target market, cross-channel promotion might not be as important of an area to consider.
Think about circling back to your buyer persona when choosing your next channel by considering what would be their natural next step. Where do they go after they view your LinkedIn post or read through your magazine? This can help you clarify which channel will continue to refine your buyer’s journey.
Measuring Your Effectiveness in Marketing Channels
Have you ever bought a piece of furniture for your house without measuring it? How’d that work out for you? If I had to guess, it was probably a little too big or a little too small or just didn’t quite fit in the space the way you thought it would.
What lesson do we learn from that experience? Measuring is important.
So when it comes time to measure the effectiveness of your marketing channels, you have to keep one thing at the forefront of your mind: What are you measuring? What is the purpose of using this channel? (Helpful hint: this relates to your goals.) Are you measuring lead capture, visits from a QR code, purchases, referrals or overall engagement?
Setting up the key metrics for your identified channel allows you to recognize its success and drive development of its assets internally. Let’s look at paid social. If your measurement of success is user engagement with a Facebook ad and you notice your video ads are getting much more engagement than images, this is a performance metric that tells your team to prioritize on additional video creation versus other types of content to drive engagement.
Now we move on to phase two: testing. You want to test, test, test, test, and oh shoot what was the other one...oh yeah, TEST! Testing is an incredibly valuable opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of your initiatives on the end user.
Going back to the paid social example, if your budget allows, run up to four or five variations of the same ad using different creative elements, content and ad goals. Continuous tracking of this campaign allows you to see what type of content and ad strategy performed best and discover what is most engaging for your customers. It’s an incredibly easy way to continuously improve your campaigns and get the biggest bang for your buck.
The “one size fits all” era of marketing is long-past, so make sure you keep that in the back of your mind as you lay out your channel strategy.
Last but not least, is your data. It’s at the heart of all marketing efforts and is often overlooked because by the time the channel is launched, everyone’s just excited that it’s up and running. Just like you mind your P’s and Q’s, mind your data. It’s a great way to continuously evaluate your marketing channel and ensure it’s always evolving and improving.
Take some time to set up a reporting spreadsheet or dashboard and input the goals you originally outlined. (HubSpot’s reporting capabilities continually expand and never cease to impress me. Databox is another tool we use as an agency to create more custom and advanced channel metrics.) Data will always help you form a clearer story and guide you to additional initiatives and channel opportunities for your brand.
Consider this your jumping off point. Each of the topics we covered can lead to an endless rabbit hole, so if you need a true north, feel free to refer to this article to help guide the conversation around new channels. This will ultimately set you, your team and your brand up for success.
👉 Check out this article: Nike's Brand Positioning: Just Do It, But Differently