I recently presented for Google's Get Your Business Online program at the Boston Small Business Expo and found the same question popping up again and again: "What are the best marketing channels for my business?" Every time I heard the question, I'd answer with, "Well, tell me more about YOUR business..." and proceeded to ask several more questions to get a better lay of the land.
Truth be told, there is no one-size-fits-all marketing approach for in business.
Instead, there are countless considerations that come into play and multiple steps to take to identify the best marketing channels for your business.
4 steps to choose the best marketing channels for your business
Take these steps to figure out the best marketing channels for your particular business:
Map the terrain.
Leverage your best marketing channels.
Let’s look at each step in more detail.
1. Map the terrain
At the end of the day, we as small business owners have a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it, so we need to take a thoughtful approach to identifying the best marketing channels for our business. When you map the terrain, you are identifying all of your marketing options — from websites to email marketing to flyers and billboards.
You want to start by making a list of all potential marketing channels that you would entertain if you had an unlimited budget. (It's always better to think big and chisel down.) That list may include marketing channels like:
- Landing pages.
- Email marketing.
- Live chat.
- Whitepapers and success stories.
- Social media.
And quite a few more…
To see your entire list of options on paper is somewhat paralyzing: there are just so many different ways to promote your business. The key to choosing the best marketing channels is drilling down and knowing your audience.
2. Drill down
In essence, drilling down is the same as building a robust buyer persona. A buyer persona is a representation of your ideal client or customer including insights into demographics, geographics, and psychographics. With these insights, you can make more informed marketing decisions to build your awareness, promote engagement, and drive conversion of those customers via the best marketing channels for your situation.
Depending on your industry and product or service scope, you might have only one or 100 buyer personas. Some questions you'll want to ask yourself to begin building your buyer persona:
- What is their education level?
- What is their marital status?
- Do they have children? How many?
- What do they do for work?
- Where do they look for product/service recommendations?
- Do they own a smartphone, a tablet, or both?
- How often do they splurge on something fun or extravagant?
The more questions you ask, the better developed your buyer persona. Once you've drilled down, next you'll want to identify potential marketing pitfalls.
3. Identify pitfalls
It really grinds my gears when I hear that business owners have been taken advantage of. From scams, to snake oil, to opportunities that simply won't benefit your specific business, there are countless marketing pitfalls you'll want to identify, evaluate, and potentially avoid. Unfortunately, uncouth individuals frequent public databases and social networks, and they take advantage of the fact that contact information for new business owners is available.
You start to get emails and phone calls from companies who claim they can build your business. If you're on a social network like LinkedIn, you might receive messages like this:
In this example, the salesperson knows absolutely nothing about what we do or how we operate, but they guarantee our success. As a result they add more noise in the space, create more complexity in the decision-making process, and prevent us from finding our best marketing channels.
To circumnavigate these pitfalls, here are some questions you'll want to ask when a new opportunity presents itself:
- How did they get your information?
- Do they have any references from your industry?
- What do they know about your business? Can they tell you what you do?
- Where are they located?
- How long have they been in business?
If a salesperson stumbles through those questions or can't provide legitimate responses, then they most likely are pushing a scam or snake oil on you. Tell them to hit the road.
4. Leverage your best marketing channels
Now, you find yourself at a point where you have a full list of potential marketing channels, a drilled-down buyer persona to steer your messaging and marketing decisions, and a way to identify potential marketing pitfalls or scams that can hurt instead help your brand. With these three steps completed, you're now ready to choose the best marketing channels for your business.
Ultimately, the marketing channels you choose will be dictated by four considerations:
- How much time can you devote to it?
- What personnel and skills do you have available to manage these marketing channels?
- Do you need to train on it or train your staff?
- What is your budget?
As you look at the list of potential marketing channels you created in step one, use the four considerations above to figure out if they will work for you. For example, let's think about using Facebook:
- Can you devote at least one to two hours per week to develop your content, schedule your posts, and interact with prospects and customers when they ask questions?
- Do you have someone on staff (or do you have the skill set) to manage the Facebook page?
- Do you understand the different intricacies of Facebook? How to post? How to respond? How to cross-promote with other business pages?
- What kind of budget do you have to design and purchase ads on Facebook?
Putting it all together
Like I said, there is no one-size-fits-all marketing approach for in business. Instead, by following the steps above, you should be able to choose the best marketing channels for your business and start driving in new customers in no time.