The world of digital marketing has grown by such a significant margin that these days we have such a plethora of channels to choose from, it is not easy not to get lost in the plentitude of options available to us marketers. Over 7 years ago when I first started working in Digital Marketing the options were far simpler, albeit they were also bountiful and one had to carefully select what to focus on. I will prevent myself from drilling too much into the specifics of each channel, and this will also not be a comprehensive list of channels. Instead, together we will drill more into your ability to select the optimal channels for your business.
This article follows a chronological structure, but each section is individually also relevant. If you want to skip ahead feel free to do so:
I am all for giving credit where credit is due, so with that being said I want to emphasize the incredibly valuable work provided by Justin Mares and Gabriel Weinberg, who in their book “Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers” covered an incredibly important topic, the Bullseye framework. When reading this book back in the day it gave me a solid understanding of what I should focus on when working with clients (or in-house) all the while not getting lost in the weeds.
The first crucial step is to always take a step back in your business and think about your situation. What do you know about your target market? What do you know about other players operating in the market, which channels do they use? Brainstorming and more specifically, dedicated market research is among the most important steps you can take during the entire lifecycle of your business. It always pays to think.
Write down a list of customer-acquisition channels that you know (or copy the list from the book) and put down at least one idea of how you could acquire customers per listed channel. Try to be as open-minded as possible, as at the end of it you will have a stronger list than if you over prioritize certain channels over others. When you are done brainstorming, you will probably have a strong gut feeling in regards to one or two channels, maybe even three. This should form your baseline for moving forward and be the foundation on which you build your channel mix.
It is important to understand that you create an initial list of three channels, and ask yourself questions like:
Having these initial benchmarks helps you build out a more reliable path for your business, and ensures that you know you are indeed doubling down on the channels that are relevant for you.
When Justin Mares and Gabriel Weinberg wrote their book (2014), the world of Digital Marketing looked different than it is right now. We have more options, more channels, more platforms, and an additional 7 years of experience to draw from. That does not mean that their method is outdated, but it does mean that it is worth updating.
For instance, channel number “15. Existing Platforms” briefly refers to Facebook and similar platforms, I would however argue that these platforms have become so fully-fledged and standalone that each of these should be considered an “independent”-channel rather than a category mix. This is why I tend to consult my cheatsheet whenever I am building a channel proposal for my clients, to ensure I never miss anything. Protip: we update this whenever we find new channel opportunities.
Let’s now move away from theory and focus more on the practice. It is incredibly easy to get carried away and want to establish your business everywhere. This is also super common for most businesses I encounter, they will simply start their company and decide to create a profile on each and every platform. Arguing that it is better to be visible and exist than not to. While there is nothing necessarily wrong with this statement, it is certainly not the most ideal scenario. Depending on the size of both your team and media budget there will only be as many channels that you can focus on, that you will simply put have enough resourcing to properly utilize. This is why we use the Bullseye framework to establish our priorities.
While working on Gazetkowo.pl I was tasked with utilizing resourcing as best as I could within the scope of our activities. Having conducted sufficient market research and a lengthy brainstorming session it had become apparent that the primary channels would be Search (SEM) followed by SEO and the rest was far more experimental. The reasoning there was that mot people would find our website (be interested in our offering) if they were already looking for it, trying to create demand using other channels (like Facebook) could work overtime but we were looking for high intent from the get-go, hence SEM and SEO. Without too much ado, I continued on this course, steadily increasing and optimizing our SEM (it giving almost immediate results). As Isaac beautifully explained in his article “SEO vs Paid Search: Strategize on SEM Instead”. All the while working on producing the right articles and optimizing the website and the listings to improve our organic rankings.
Doubling down on your selected channels is important, because it allows you to scale them out to their max capability. At some point you will get negative marginal results, and that is completely fine, that means that the channel you have been utilizing has simply put just plateaued. For you that is the signal that you have maxed out it’s potential, and can now start focusing on a different one. The easiest way to spot that a channel is plateauing is simply when for every additional $1 you put in you start seeing smaller marginal returns – at that point it should be an instant trigger to look elsewhere.
Every channel you operate requires resourcing. Often the most overlooked aspect of resourcing is the time spent on a given platform, versus that actual measurable return that you are getting. While working with InvoiceOcean.com, I initially invested a significant amount of time on Twitter – expecting that this channel would be a potential massive source of new customers as there was some chatter regarding invoicing solutions on the platform, had quickly become a case of a sunk cost fallacy. A problem that could have easily been avoided had I spent more time qualifying the channel and analyzing the potential.
This is why finding expertise and resourcing accordingly is so important when you are building out your channel mix. At HK Digital we offer support for up to 5-paid media channels within a single package to ensure our clients are covered adequately and can scale comfortably. In practice though, we often operate on a mix of two to three channels at the same time to ensure maximum efficiency and due to budget constraints. This is why it is important that you find the right expertise to double-down on your proposed channel mix, after all, experts can help advise on the channel mix and offer alternatives.
Resourcing is not just about the time spent on a channel, but also to a large extent an extension of your actual media budget. Some channels are just far more cost-efficient than others if we consider email marketing as part of our channel mix – here we have almost infinite scaling potential all the while not necessarily having a massive budget constraint. Resourcing, however, should be carefully considered as email can become quite a time sink, which is where having a dedicated email marketing strategy helps out.
First, you start with brainstorming and market research sessions. Determine which landscape your business operates in, what your competitors and other similar companies are doing, and build your channel mix out from there. Use the “Bullseye” framework to help you focus on two/ three primary channels and be sure to double down on these channels, scaling them up until they plateau leaving you with room to move to other channels.
If you are struggling to identify which channels are good for your business, can always start with our Free Growth Audit to get a better idea.
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