I get this question a lot.
“What marketing channel should I focus on?”
There are many make or break decisions in business. This is one of them.
The thing is, I can’t give you a cut and dry answer.
The nature of your business matters. So does the audience that you wish to target.
What I will do instead is give you a method for figuring this out for yourself.
If you’re starting a new business, this decision is critical. Focusing on the wrong marketing channel can set you back months and maybe even years.
If you’re expanding into a new market, selecting the wrong channel can also have massive ramifications.
You’d be putting your existing operations at risk for a new channel that may not pan out.
Just take a look at all the challenges that marketers have to overcome.
You can imagine that each channel comes with a unique set of difficulties.
This speaks to the importance of vetting your marketing plan before you set it in motion.
There’s just too much at stake.
In this article, I’ll show you how you can evaluate your options and narrow down on the best choice quickly.
You don’t need more than three days to get this done.
But first, I have a bit of wisdom to share.
Resist the urge to diversify
You know that voice in your head that says you need to be everywhere at once?
That fear of missing out if you don’t at least try everything?
It’s a diversion. Resist it.
It is imperative that you focus on one marketing channel.
At least in the beginning.
It’s going to shortchange your success if you spread yourself thin.
- You’ll have less impact. If you’re focusing on several channels, it means you’re not doing everything you can to excel in any one of them.
- It will cost you more. Testing and thriving with a multichannel approach costs way more than you may be willing to spend. If you want an organic and cost-effective approach, stick to one channel.
- You’ll never actually know where your strength lies. Jumping from channel to channel means you won’t truly know the impact of one particular strategy on your business.
- You’ll remain at the heels of your competitors. That’s not where you want to be, is it? You want to be ahead, and the way to do that is to establish dominance in your market.
Now, don’t misunderstand me.
I’m not saying that you should go all in on one channel and forget the rest.
But multichannel marketing is complex. Only 30% of marketers are confident that they can deliver on such a strategy.
That’s not a lot.
So what I’m advocating for is starting from a position of dominance.
Put your energy into one strategy until it succeeds. Then, piggyback on that success to achieve wins in other areas.
Does that make sense?
The steps in this article will be geared towards helping you place a bullseye on the ONE channel that will serve you best.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s begin.
Step #1: Know your options
The first thing you want to do is brainstorm all your possible options.
This isn’t something that you have to materialize out of thin air.
There are dozens of ways that you can connect with your target audience and spread your message.
Better yet, each channel has several subsets that you can zone in on.
Here’s a good representation:
Many of these overlap. Some have even morphed into each other.
It can get confusing, quickly.
For example, some people consider SEO to be one marketing channel.
But I can’t imagine a world where SEO and content marketing aren’t intertwined. You can’t do one without the other.
The same thing goes for social media and paid advertising.
They’re different channels. But there’s a convergence.
Let’s imagine you decide to focus on Facebook as your primary social media platform. It would be unwise to not experiment with Facebook Ads.
Considering that Facebook has developed one of the greatest Ad products out there, you’d be underutilizing the full power of the platform.
Marketers agree. Almost 57% plan to increase their social media ad spend.
I say all this to make a simple point.
While you may zone in on one channel, you’ll see lots of overlap that you shouldn’t ignore.
Go where your audience takes you.
Let’s look at some of your options.
This is about creating and promoting material that is relevant to your target audience.
Content marketing is central.
90% of businesses market using this channel.
It means that no matter what strategy you use, content will be a part of it.
You can narrow your content down to blogging, guest blogging, podcasts, webinars, email, etc.
Social media marketing
You can use social media as your platform to get noticed, build authority, and grow a community.
You can also use it to drive traffic to your main site.
Or you can do both. It’s effective either way.
Much of marketing is organic and will take time to generate results.
Paid advertising is one way to accelerate that.
The downside is, you have to pay to play.
Facebook ads, other social media ads, print ads, PPC, and direct response fall into this category.
PR is about building relationships and capitalizing on the optics of your business.
It can be both online and offline. Press releases, conferences, events, interviews, and sponsorships are a few examples.
As you can see, you have no shortage of options when it comes to marketing.
I’ve given an overview of the main ones, but know that you are not limited to these alone.
Step #2: Choose the channels that are aligned with your business goals
You now have an idea of what’s available to you.
It’s time to make a list of all the channels that will serve your business.
Start with your business goals.
Some marketing channels are better suited to achieve a particular goal than others.
Goal setting is a flexible thing. You can make changes as your business evolves.
This means that the marketing channel you use right now may not be viable when your business progresses.
Consider what stage your business is in and what your goal is for the next 90 days.
According to Jay Abraham, there are only three ways to grow a business:
- Increase your number of customers
- Increase the amount that a customer spends on a purchase
- Increase the frequency that a customer buys from you
Your business goals should serve one of these three phases of business.
If you’re still at the first stage, your goals might be brand awareness, lead generation, and customer acquisition.
If you already have a list of buyers, your goal might be to increase sales.
What if you already have a reliable stream of sales?
There’s no such thing as too many sales, but your goal at this point might be to maximize profits and retain customers.
Here’s what most businesses are prioritizing:
These may or may not apply to you. Just focus on what your business needs at the moment.
This way, you don’t make goals that aren’t yet attainable.
By extension, it ensures that you don’t waste time and resources on a marketing channel that won’t serve your business well.
How do you select a channel that’s right for your business goals?
Before you even start testing, do some elimination.
I’ll give you a few examples, and you’ll have to use your judgment.
Let’s say that your goal is brand awareness.
PR, social media, content marketing, and even paid advertising can be used for this purpose.
The easy solution?
Eliminate the channels that would be less efficient.
For instance, paid advertising won’t be the most useful for brand awareness.
But for sales or lead generation? It can crush it! (If you know what you’re doing, that is).
Take a look at some of the business goals that apply to the content marketing channel. It will give you an idea of what to aim for.
It’s also important to take into consideration what feels the most organic for your business.
If you’re selling something like hoverboards or bicycles, would blog posts serve you the best?
These products are lifestyle-based. You’d be better off using a visual channel that will allow you to provide an experience to potential customers.
Immediately, social media comes to mind.
Then you begin to narrow it down to Instagram or Youtube.
This is a logical process that won’t take you more than an hour to figure out.
You don’t have to find that one channel yet. Just eliminate what won’t work and rank your remaining options.
Step #3: Narrow down the list by going where your audience is
You’ve got a few options.
It’s time to prioritize.
This one is easy. Find your potential customers.
A marketing channel can serve your goal, but there are many platforms you can focus on.
If your customers are not hanging out there, you’ll be wasting your time.
The point of this article is not to find you a slam dunk marketing channel right away.
That would take testing and experimentation.
The goal here is to help you validate your chosen channel. This way, you know it’s viable before you start testing it.
Here’s my best advice for finding out where the attention is.
- SEO is a great place to start.
- Competitive research is a must.
- You can’t go wrong with social media.
Let’s look at each of these.
Online is where most of the magic happens.
And a majority of online interactions begin with a search engine (mostly Google).
So the first step is to evaluate the SEO landscape by searching for keywords in your industry.
You’ll find out what your audience is searching for and how often.
This is not just essential for finding out what’s happening online. Let’s say that there aren’t that many monthly searches for your keywords.
You may want to focus on an offline channel.
Or you may decide that this is a gap that you can take advantage of.
You won’t know until you do some basic keyword research.
A simple tool like the Google Keyword Planner will work.
Type in your keyword and get search volume data.
If you want to know where your customers hang out, find your competitors.
First, identify who those competitors are.
A simple google search will do the trick. The biggest players are those who rank on the first page of search.
Once you’ve got a solid list, use a tool like SimilarWeb for your research.
Enter your competitor’s website and press enter.
You’ll find a range of data. Pay attention to “Traffic sources.”
For Quick Sprout, the highest traffic source is search.
Naturally, my primary marketing channel would be SEO and blogging.
Direct is a close second, but it’s a bit trickier to figure out.
It represents the people who type in your URL directly into their search bar. It doesn’t tell you where these people first came into contact with your business.
The next step is to check out the individual breakdown of each traffic source.
You can see where referrals are coming from.
Since SEO is my dominant traffic source, I’ll pay particular attention to my top organic keywords.
You can also see which social media platform is the most popular. Mine is Facebook.
I like to take social media research a bit further.
The tool to use is BuzzSumo.
Type in your competitor’s domain. You can also search for a keyword.
You’ll see all the top performing content on the site and which social platform generated the most shares.
Using SimilarWeb, we saw that Facebook was Quick Sprout’s top platform.
BuzzSumo tells the same story.
If you want to take this a bit further, you can go to these individual platforms and do some sleuthing.
Check out the groups with the most members, listen in on the conversations, and a get a feel for where your audience is focusing their attention.
When you go through this process, you may find that you have 2 or 3 reliable options.
Which do you select?
I have three criteria.
Cheap. Fast. Easy.
You want to pick a channel that won’t cost you too much, if anything, to get started.
You also want a channel that doesn’t have a steep learning curve. Otherwise, you may spend too much time and money trying to figure it out.
Lastly, pick the channel that will allow you to make the most headway, quickly.
You must pick one, so use these criteria as the final litmus test.
Selecting a new marketing channel is a tall order.
It’s important that you take some time to validate a potential channel before you focus on it.
Marketing requires time that can easily be wasted on ineffective strategies.
It also requires cash.
It means that you’d want to see a solid return on both your time and money investment.
The surest way to secure an attractive ROI is to vet potential marketing channels first.
You can then test and double down on what’s working.
Most people don’t go through this process of validation and testing.
So as long as you keep experimenting and tweaking your strategy based on your results, you’ll have a significant advantage over competitors.
What is your most effective marketing channel?