Prioritizing your best marketing channels

illustration revealing some of the many marketing channel options available to consumers

Reaching out to others for marketing purposes should be met with the same care as any other communication goal. As we strive to bring value to one another through our talents, be it products or services, it can be dizzying when deciding how best to connect and which marketing channels to choose. This is true of navigating everyday marketing initiatives, but is especially true during times of crisis.

It may be more important than ever to balance emotion and logic when communicating. If we rush forward to communicate something, but have thought only of ourselves and the image or message we want to project about our brand, the connection may fall flat. But if your purpose is connection through a customer-focused mindset, I’ve created a step-by-step guide for prioritizing your best marketing channels — in times of crisis and beyond.

People-process-people

After decades of crafting marketing strategies and tactics — then watching them take flight — I’ve seen a circular pattern of people-process-people. The research begins with an outward focus on people, moves through a process analysis, but ultimately needs the spark of people on the inside to bring it to life. Maybe this is stating the obvious. However, we can get caught up in reactionary patterns or comfortable patterns and sometimes forget to consider other factors. The thought process below guides you through the people-process-people touchpoints — and gives you a concrete, numerical ranking for determining next steps.

Marketing channels

Start by being aware of your channel options.

  • Digital and offline channels: website (blog, landing page, case study, webinar), lead generation tools (microsite, quiz/comparison, widget), social media, email marketing, SMS marketing, digital ads and offline ads (print, outdoor).
  • Relationship-driven channels: media relations, events (physical, virtual, hosting, led by others), business ventures, co-ops and affiliate programs.
  • Organizational channels: sales (calls, emails, visits, special offers), publicity (stunts, props, gifts), referred business triggers and asset creation (photos/videos, brochures).

Ranking system

On a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the strongest, write down an alignment score for a few channels or all of them, as it relates to the factors below. This alignment scoring can be used for an annual or quarterly marketing mix analysis, or toward a single opportunity or challenge.

Download a free spreadsheet template to get started.

People (looking outward)

Audience #1 estimated engagement
Beginning with your primary audience, you’ll focus on their pain points, marketing channel preferences and the content that’s important to them throughout the customer experience. What your audience needs from you will be carried out differently from channel to channel. This aspect alone shouldn’t determine your top channels, but it’s the most important aspect.

Audience #2 estimated engagement
Repeat the step from above if you’re trying to bundle similar audiences together to receive a marketing message. Customizing messages and selecting channels for each unique audience is best, as your resources allow.

Industry
Explore what marketing channels are working well within your industry.

Direct competitors
It’s good to note which channels are generating positive and negative outcomes for your competitors. Your outcomes could differ from theirs; but this step is to help you learn from others, rather than mimic them.

Process

Estimated ROI
Here’s where to consider your projected return on investment. Based on available data, how might a particular marketing channel increase awareness, engagement or sales? How significant is this to your current marketing goals?

Previous success
If you’ve gone through a learning curve and are having great success with a particular marketing channel, that’s fantastic. Keep using it. If success has been low for a particular channel, consider why it’s weak and may need to be omitted from your marketing mix.

Cost-effective
How cost-effective is a particular marketing channel that looks promising? Perhaps you can use less expensive equipment in a more thorough or creative manner without compromising brand quality, or you might borrow quality equipment. Maybe the truth is, the best marketing channel for you costs more than you expected. However, it could cost you two or three times more in the long run to try your fourth best channel first.

Risk-free
Consider how risky a particular channel might be. Perhaps the risk lies in the execution or the risk is high due to industry regulations. Might there be ways to minimize those risks through utilizing experts or reconfiguring the execution for more predictability?

Novelty
Using a novel marketing channel, one that’s new or a change of pace from what’s dominant in the marketplace, can draw attention. This one factor shouldn’t stand alone, but should be considered alongside the strength of other factors listed here.

People (looking inward)

In-house strengths and spark
By hiring people with strong talent and character, your capacity for managing various channels should be greater. The spark is the creative intuition that brings an idea into reality. Do your employees have known or unknown talents that can move your organization forward with a particular channel? Do they have opportunities to innovate beyond their silos and carry new ideas to completion?

Creative partner strengths and spark
How strong is your creative agency support? Should you have trusted creative partners with expertise in a promising channel, explore that with clearly defined benchmarks. Their perspective can be very beneficial if your organization traditionally lacks or is newly developing a customer-first mindset, or if your talent base isn’t proficient with a particular channel.

Intuition
This is the gut-check, so you are less likely to overthink decisions. What is your intuition telling you about a particular channel?

Rank your top marketing channels

Once you’ve assigned an alignment score to each channel, you’ll be able to compare them side-by-side. Now you’ll see where your emotion and logic may be out of sync. Additionally, some of your team members or leadership may have different rankings than you do. This ranking tool provides you with a clear basis for deeper discussions on each marketing channel. If you’re a consultant or agency working with clients, this tool allows you to show them why you’re recommending a certain set of marketing channels.

As you activate and review your top marketing channels, you’ll be able to re-examine the factors and update their scores. This adds depth to your ongoing marketing mix discussions for which channels to keep, drop and introduce next.

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