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Finding the Right Channels

(updated 2020)

Promotion of a brand, product, or service is not necessarily complicated; but, it does require tact and diplomacy to send the appropriate message to a targeted audience. And as if that isn't complicated enough, marketing communication channels continue to multiply: print media, televised commercials, search advertisements, social networks, email, and mobile applications. But, not all traditional marketing channels are viable options, and all new channels are not the right choice for every company.

Traditional modes of communication include face-to-face, direct/snail mail, tele-marketing, radio, and television. Some modes are antiquated (tele-marketing), some are expensive (t.v.), and then some are always a good choice when feasible (face-to-face) but non-intrusive (door-to-door). Studies also show that both old and young continue to respond positively to direct mail as it is the old standard with implicit credibility. So the only options we are really throwing out are tele-marketing and door-to-door marketing.

As for radio, commercials, DJ recommendations, and “shout outs” are beneficial. Even with the introduction of commercial free satellite radio, internet radio, and mp3 vehicle capability, traditional radio remains a viable channel.

Newer streaming options are becoming increasingly attractive as barriers to access decline.

With YouTube and other options with sponsored advertisement, streaming is no longer limited to costly satellite radio. Less restriction has driven usage up to 89%.

Social Networks
Here’s another area of exponential growth that complicates decision-making. There is no one right answer or proven formula, although there are lots of studies in an ongoing attempt to “nail it down” to a science. In general, if you are a niche type company you may benefit from engaging in established forums for that niche. However, if your company is not so defined and serves overlapping markets your choices increase exponentially and it may not be feasible to engage in every possible social network. The solution for the multi-dynamic organization is to engage in at least one of the big 4: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

So, which of the big 4 is best for which business type? If only it were that easy. There’s no definitive answer or solid basis for making recommendations. However, preliminary studies suggest that B2C (business to community and business to consumer) do well on Facebook and Twitter. Facebook is great for service focused businesses. People of all ages use the platform; but the largest audience is between 25 and 49 years old. B2B (business to business) do well on Twitter and LinkedIn. Twitter is perfect for news, politics, and entertainment oriented businesses and individuals. LinkedIn is great for networking, as ninety-five percent of businesses and recruiters include LinkedIn in their social media mix. For Instagram, B2C influencers, coaches, products, and services do well. The audience is youngish, (e.g. ≤ 35), and split ~ 50/50 between male and female audiences.

B2B companies are benefitting from employing content marketing as a strategy. Social media increases leads and conversions over traditional marketing methods; however, content marketing generates the greatest increase in leads. Social Media Trends Overview II

Email, a step between traditional and non-traditional methods, it’s a good channel for sending special messages to your audience. A coupon, an event, or an update are all good reasons to send a fancy yet informative email to customers willing to receive, open, and perhaps respond in some matter. Email has been around for approximately 50 years, and although Generation Z may not favor this channel, Generations X and Y grew up with it, and Baby Boomers are the pioneers that made it a corporate staple. Since it appears to be a happy medium that is well suited for business, email is likely to remain viable. For our marketing communication purposes, platforms such as mailchimp and constant contact require customers to “opt in” to prohibit spamming. They also encourage customers to report abuse, so that emailed marketing campaigns are more welcomed due to “pre-screening”. The ability to accommodate any business type also makes this a desirable channel for communication.

From the consumer’s perspective, email is a welcomed replacement for tele-marketing and door-to-door sales. Consumers can scan their email at will, engage when they desire without annoyance or intrusion that may be elicited by other methods, and they still get the best deals. Think win-win.

Mobile is the newest communication channel and the most integrative mode since email, as it includes phone, networks, text, email, books, music, games, and transactions. For many organizations the mobile explosion is not really a direct concern because platforms provide consumers access to their social networks and email via their mobile apparatus. However, for organizations that offer electronic based services, the mobile app offers a terrific opportunity to provide customers specialized mobile services.

The cost to develop an app continues to decline. Some companies allow you to begin building an app for free or at a low cost, such as appcelerator and magmito  Hiring a developer will still cost a pretty penny. However, if you are a transaction intensive business, the benefit that you gain from provision of convenience to your consumers will far outweigh the upfront costs over time.

Technically Savvy Dilemma
The problem with being technically savvy is two-fold 1) the right mix is a constant moving target and 2) the art of communication is often lost in translation. The first issue is readily dealt with by staying current on industry news. However, the second issue is more difficult to discern.

With technology, the receiver of a message cannot see the sender’s face or body language for the emotional or behavioral cues that add meaning to communication. This can leave the communication open to interpretation which depends mainly on the viewer’s mood and comprehension. I could write a whole post on this point alone. So let's suffice it to say that no matter the channel of choice, we must create succinct communications, we must remember the receiver's disadvantage, and we must be willing to communicate to understanding. If we complete this with a little compassion we will have delivered a memorable service or product, made a customer happy, or successfully expanded brand awareness - all of which are admirable business goals.