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Finding the Right Channels

(updated 2021)

Promotion of a brand, product, or service isn't complicated; but, it does require tact and diplomacy to send the right message to the right 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.

Some traditional modes of communication are antiquated (tele-marketing), some are expensive (television), 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. A lot has changed in the last 50 years, only tele-marketing and door-to-door marketing can be considered completely obsolete and avoided entirely.

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.

Source: Pew Research1

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

Source: Pew Research1

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

Social Networks
Social networking is another area of exponential growth that can complicate the communication channel choice. There is no right answer or proven formula, although there are ongoing studies that attempt to “nail it down” to a science. Despite the uncertainty, there are a few emerging trends:
  • 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.
  • 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.

Email is a step between traditional and non-traditional methods, and a solid 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 it, open it, 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 the foreseeable future.

Email is a welcomed replacement for tele-marketing and door-to-door sales. Customers can scan their email and get the best deals, without the potential annoyance or intrusion elicited by the older methods. 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”.2,3 The ability to tailor preferences, to prohibit undesirable behaviors, and to accommodate any business type helps to maintains the credibility and desirability of email as a channel for communication.

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 unrelated platforms provide consumers access to social networks and email via their mobile device. But, for organizations that offer electronic based services, the mobile app offers a great opportunity to provide customers specialized mobile services.

Not all traditional marketing channels are viable options, and all new channels are not the right choice for every company.
via @finandmrkt (https://bit.ly/RT-channel)

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The cost to develop an app continues to decline, and some companies allow you to begin building an app for free or at a low cost, such as appypie and appsheet. Hiring a developer will still require a significant sum of money for the initial investment.4,5 But, transaction intensive business should recoup those costs quickly.

Achieving the Goal
The problem with being technically savvy is two-fold, first the right mix is a constant moving target and second the art of communication is often lost in translation. The first issue can be addressed readily by staying current on industry news, the second issue is often 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 leaves the communication open to interpretation and dependent 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 messages, remember the receiver's disadvantage, and be willing to communicate to understanding. If we complete this with a little compassion we'll deliver a memorable service or product, make a customer happy, or successfully expand brand awareness - all of which are admirable business goals.

1 Pew Research: https://www.pewresearch.org/journalism/chart/sotnm-radio-online-radio-listenership/iframe/#chart
2 Mailchimp: https://mailchimp.com
3 Constant Contact: https://www.constantcontact.com
4 Appypie: https://www.appypie.com/app-builder/pricing-plan
5 Appsheet: https://www.appsheet.com

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