Before the Internet became a popular marketing communications channel, traditional media channels, such as newspaper, magazines, radio, television, direct mail and the old favorite, the Yellow Pages were the only options. Developing a marketing communications channel strategy for your business was simpler then. It was probably based on your marketing budget and what your business could afford.
When the Internet became a viable marketing communications channel, it leveled the playing field for smaller businesses to compete in a much larger market. We now can reach our ideal customers in a bigger geography and in more ways for a much smaller cost.
However, choosing the right marketing channel strategy to distribute your messages to your target audience and create a stronger relationship with them is now more complicated. With all of these choices, what’s important is to focus on selecting the right media channels for your business, both online and traditional.
What is a marketing communications channel?
A marketing communications channel, also sometimes referred to as a media channel, is a delivery vehicle to your customers for your message or offer. It is just one element of a successful marketing campaign, albeit an important one. Combined with your messaging and the right creative for the channel, it can resonate with your ideal customers and encourage them to do business with you.
All media channels can work. All can fail as well. It depends on how well you integrate and deliver the important pieces of the marketing campaign.
Examples of marketing communications channels
Traditional media channels include:
- Print publications
- US Postal Service
Digital marketing channels include:
- Social media
- Local listings and directories
Marketing strategies for communications
Marketing strategies are the types of communication you do to get your message in front of your target market using the most appropriate channel. For traditional media channels you could choose:
- Paid advertising
- Direct marketing
- Word of mouth
- Public relations
- Partnerships and joint ventures
For digital marketing, these are example strategies you could invest in:
- Inbound marketing
- Content marketing
- Email marketing
- Search engine optimization
- Local search
- Social media
- Paid advertising
- Mobile marketing
- Affiliate marketing
Combining a selection of these strategies across multiple online and offline channels, referred to as multi-channel marketing, can help all businesses build brand awareness and reach more of your ideal clients.
How to determine the best marketing communication channels
For most small businesses, choosing the best channels will be dictated by your marketing budget. The good news is a lot of online marketing can be done with a smaller, more reasonable budget. For what some businesses used to pay for an ad in the Yellow Pages, you can implement a lot of online marketing.
Every business benefits from a multi-channel marketing strategy to increase their visibility to their target audience. Although these are all viable options in your marketing plan, not all of these strategies will necessarily apply to your business.
Inbound marketing can be very effective to build awareness, generate leads and convert those leads into paying customers. This combination of search, social and content marketing should be in the marketing plan for most small businesses.
PPC can drive conversions depending on what you are selling. The best use for small businesses is to generate leads. Most people who click on an ad in the search results are researching and looking to buy. If you do choose to run PPC ads on Google Ads, Facebook or other social media platforms, make sure you work with someone who knows what they are doing. A poorly designed campaign can cost you a lot of money with little to no results.
Videos via YouTube can appeal to many researching how to solutions. You can build a quality channel with many educational videos that can help you become the expert in your field. Videos can also be used on Facebook and other social platforms to engage and educate your audience. You can create some quality videos using your phone or tools like Zoom.us.
Email marketing campaigns can deliver high ROI for those businesses who take time to build and segment their in-house lists. For email marketing to deliver this high ROI, you must create a campaign strategy to ensure you manage and segment your list, create a compelling email with a call-to-action, include a landing page specifically for the campaign, test to make sure it works and analyze the results.
Events can be held in person or virtually via webinars. The cost of web conferencing has made webinars and virtual events possible for all businesses. Again, with tools like Zoom.us, you can record your webinars and make them available as lead magnets within your content strategy.
Word of Mouth / Referral / Reputation Management
Most businesses benefit from a word of mouth strategy, using in-person networking events and social media. Online reviews and recommendations can help businesses get more local online visibility. Develop a referral strategy that includes having your customers leave reviews on Google and other review platforms. Make sure you heed the terms of service of each review platform.
The success of direct marketing using postcards, letters, telephone or email will vary from business to business, but controlled postcards and letter campaigns do work for businesses trying to reach homeowners for services that the may forget they need. Telemarketing is pretty much ineffective in most cases these days.
Successful marketing campaigns will usually employ strategies across multiple channels to ensure the message reaches your ideal client. But note that not all channels carry the same weight when it comes to how valuable the connection is to your business. For example, someone who subscribes to your email list is more valuable than someone who likes your Facebook page or follows you on Twitter. Therefore, it is important to know what the goal of your marketing activity is in order to choose the best channel for your needs.
Why is this important to understand?
It is important to know which channel is best to reach your target audience. Choosing the right channels help you deliver your message to them using the right marketing strategies and their preferred communications vehicle.
For a business to develop a quality marketing communications plan, you need to understand the:
- Goal of your campaign (i.e. brand awareness, leads, sales)
- Target audience you wish to reach
- Value your product or service provides
- Message you want to communicate
- Best communication channel (the media) that makes the most sense for your particular target audience.
Successful marketing happens when you send the right message to the right market using their marketing communication channel (medium) of choice. Picking the right channel for your message will contribute significantly to the success of your message reaching your market,