ContentsWhat Is a Marketing Channel?What Are the Marketing Channels (and Why Are They Important)?What Are the Direct Marketing Channels?What Are the Social Marketing Channels?What Are the Content Marketing Channels?What Are Other Online Marketing Channels?What Are Offline Marketing Channels?What Is the Easiest Marketing Channel?What Marketing Channels Work Best for You?
The marketing world is brimming with countless channels marketers can use to bring success to their businesses.
So many channels. So many strategies. So many opportunities.
The trouble is that you usually can’t use everything.
You’ll have to pick and choose your channels based on what you think will be the most successful.
But what exactly are the marketing channels? How do you know which ones to use?
This guide will go over 20+ of the most popular channels and will help walk you through which ones may be the most effective for your business.
Before that, we’ll dig a little bit into what a marketing channel actually is and why it’s important to find the right one.
A marketing channel is the specific means by which you communicate your marketing message. It is not a strategy in and of itself, but is the avenue by which you implement your marketing strategy.
For example, you may have a “content marketing” strategy. To implement your content marketing strategy, you may use the channels of blog posts and podcasts.
Or you may have a strategy of targeting a very specific audience. To implement your strategy, you may use email and SMS.
The marketing channel(s) that you use will depend on several factors, including but not limited to:
The right marketing channel can make or break your marketing strategy.
Here’s an example…
When I’m writing an automated marketing sequence, I’ve sometimes done a series of emails and SMS within the same journey.
At each step of the journey, I’ll have to decide if an SMS is appropriate at that particular time or if an email would be more effective.
When I’m making that decision, I’ll have to keep in mind that people are more tolerant of receiving a larger quantity of emails but also that they’re more likely to actually open a text message. If I send a text message every day, people might get annoyed and unsubscribe. But if I don’t send any text messages, I might be missing out on opportunities to engage with my audience.
So I need to evaluate which channel works best not only for each marketing strategy but also for each stage within that marketing strategy. In my example of an automated campaign using a combination of SMS and email, it may be best to save the SMS for the messages that require the most urgency—a one-day promo, for example.
This concept can apply to any type of messaging strategy you employ and any type of channel you consider.
Another example: If you have a “1 hour only” promo and all that you do to advertise it is make a quick post on Facebook, you’re not likely to get many takers (unless you have a major Facebook following, of course).
So make sure you’re doing an evaluation of your marketing channels and how you can best reach your marketing goals.
Direct marketing is one of the most (if not the most) popular marketing approaches today. It involves connecting with prospects and customers directly, rather than relying on a third party.
3 of the best direct marketing channels are…
Email is one of the most effective and least expensive marketing channels out there. As such, almost every business should be using email marketing at least to some extent.
Email service providers allow you to send emails en masse while still personalizing them for each individual recipient. Or, depending on your approach, you can email leads or customers directly from your own email and track the contacts in a CRM.
Although email is inexpensive, scalable while also personable, and effective, it does present some challenges.
For one, you need a list of prospects/customers to email, which can present a problem if you’re starting from scratch.
Also, despite being more effective than many other types of marketing, it’s by no means guaranteed that people will actually open your email (the open rate is around 20–25%). In fact, emails sometimes (often?) go to recipients' “Promotions” tab or, even worse, “Spam.”
Despite these challenges, email is a versatile tool that works with almost any marketing strategy. As with any marketing channel, you just might not want to depend on it as your only channel.
SMS, like email, is a universally-used communication channel. Unlike email, it hasn’t been inundated with as much spam, so people don’t ignore their messages as much.
SMS holds many of the same challenges and benefits as email. But one major benefit of SMS is that everyone texts and most people actually read their texts.
I’ve seen this in my own life, and you may have too—I read every single one of my text messages. Emails? Not so much.
Now, one downside of texts is that people are less tolerant of receiving a lot of marketing messages, so texts should generally be used sparingly and only for content that your audience is absolutely sure to actually care about. (But this should generally be true about your marketing content anyway, no matter what channel you use.)
So SMS works for most campaigns (unless perhaps the campaign is more of a cold outreach) as long as it’s not overused. And it can actually be more effective than emails, since people are much more likely to actually read your messages.
Although at one time one of the most popular direct marketing channels, phone calls have faded from popularity in the age of digital marketing.
However, phone calls can still be an effective form of direct marketing in the right circumstances.
Phone calls allow you to have more of a direct conversation with your prospect or customer than email or SMS. You get immediate feedback, so that you can address any questions or concerns someone has immediately.
But there are a few obvious challenges. Phone calls aren’t as scalable as email or SMS, since you’re limited in how many calls you can make. They’re also more intrusive, so people may not appreciate being called and may get irritated at your brand.
Furthermore, many people simply don’t answer their phones, so it’s very likely you’ll get a lot of unanswered calls.
Phone calls don’t work for every type of marketing campaign. (Based on our experience, they haven’t been effective for marketing our own service.) But calls could be effective if you sell a product or service that’s highly desirable, especially if you already have an existing relationship with the person you’re calling.
Social media marketing is another key player in the marketing world today, and involves both paid and organic marketing.
The potential benefits for any social media channel include:
However, any social marketing channel also includes several challenges:
The trick with social media marketing is finding the right channels (if any) that will work as far as connecting with your business’s target audience. And due to the unpredictability of social media, it’s best to not rely on it as your sole or primary source of marketing. But it could be a good supplement for your campaigns.
Facebook as a social media platform is still the most popular platform overall, although it is not popular among the upcoming younger crowd.
Hence, most businesses would do well to default to Facebook as a channel for their social marketing efforts. But just keep in mind that the teenage demographic in particular gravitates toward other social media platforms.
Owned by Meta (the same company that owns Facebook), Instagram is a social media platform that focuses primarily on visual content.
Although not as popular as Facebook, it is still one of the most widely used social platforms out there right now.
With Instagram, the majority of users (over 60%) are young adults ages 18–34. If ages 13–44 are included, the percentage of users goes up to a whopping 84.8%.
In other words, Instagram is a good place to reach young people and not so good of a place to reach older people. You also need to have good visual content, which is both a benefit and a challenge.
Note that one quirk of Instagram is that you’re unable to share clickable links when creating posts, so that’s something to keep in mind too.
YouTube dominates the social video sharing platform market—and is one of the kings of social media in general. Case in point: 81% of internet users use YouTube, the most of any social platform (the second being Facebook at 69% – although Facebook has more net active users worldwide).
It’s clear that YouTube is a goldmine for users wanting to share video content.
But its inherent strength of being the go-to social video platform is also it’s downfall as a marketing channel—if you don’t have engaging video content, you won’t be successful.
The bottom line is that if you have video content to share, you should be using YouTube to some extent.
X (formerly Twitter) has had a tumultuous couple of years. But it’s still going strong under the leadership of Elon Musk at 666 million users.
Twitter users tend to be young (the largest demographic being 25–34) and male, though this is obviously not true across the board.
The uniqueness of X primarily rests on the limited 160 character counter it imposes on posts. This forces marketers to be concise, which can be good but can also limit your possibilities.
LinkedIn is another popular social media choice, particularly for professionals.
As with many other social media channels, LinkedIn is most popular among young people—primarily the Millennial crowd. Gen Z and Baby Boomers do have a presence on LinkedIn, but the presence is not prominent.
As mentioned, LinkedIn is known for being the place for professional connections, so when considering it as a marketing channel, it may work best for B2B marketing when the target profile is young professionals (particularly Millennial men).
TikTok is a video sharing platform that emphasizes short-form content (as opposed to YouTube, which tends to have more of a focus on longform video content, although in recent years it has introduced a “short-form” element).
TikTok has taken the world by storm. It got massively popular, became the subject of controversy and even bans, and remains a towering social media force—currently having 102.3 million users in the U.S. alone and 1.7 billion users worldwide.
According to Statista, TikTok is very popular among young adults in the U.S., with 67% of 18–19 years old using it. By some reports, the distribution of TikTok user demographics is pretty close across the ages of 10–49 (with the 10–19 age group having the most users). TikTok does not appear to be popular with people ages 50+.
The social platform appears to appeal primarily, although not solely, to female audiences (with a female user base of 60% by some accounts).
With its massive popularity, TikTok holds a lot of opportunities for businesses to reach girls and women ages 10–49 with engaging short-form video content.
Content marketing channels allow you to create engaging content that will provide value to your audience—without coming across as salesy.
Content marketing allows you to bring in new audiences, as well as nurture current leads and customers. It’s not typically hyper sales-focused and is instead more concerned with guiding your audience along their journey.
This type of approach opens the door to new audiences and also helps build your business's authority so that your audiences trust you. Thus, they will theoretically be more likely to convert into paying customers or to be upsold at some point in the future.
Content marketing can also help with SEO and can simply be a gesture of “giving back” to your audience with content they find valuable.
Here are a few of the most popular content marketing channels…
Blog posts are arguably the most popular content marketing channel.
Blog posts give you the freedom to write about a topic you’re interested in, which you can then post on your own blog or as a guest blog on another site.
Note that if you just ask ChatGPT to write a blog post, it’s probably not going to perform very well. It’s best to use AI as a tool to help in your blog post planning and then to do the writing (or at least heavy editing) yourself.
If you want to create a quality blog post that people find valuable, it can be time-consuming—although it doesn’t have to be. You may have a topic you can write about in 500 words that’s highly useful to your audience.
Even if you need to write a longer blog post, it’s not typically as time-consuming as other content initiatives.
It also makes a difference whether you’re just writing something valuable for your audience, or whether you’re writing in order to optimize for SEO (in which case the research can take longer).
Depending on your goals, then, blog posts are a flexible way to create quality content, and, though they do take some time, they don’t take as much time as other content efforts.
In addition to blog posts, videos are a very popular form of content marketing.
People love visuals, so videos can be a good way to really engage with your audience and provide them with content they find helpful or interesting.
Videos, however, are generally more difficult to produce than blog posts (and are expensive to outsource), so you’ll need to have the right resources and tools if you want to fully take advantage of this channel.
Podcasts are growing in popularity.
They give businesses an opportunity to produce quality audio-based content, rather than the typical written or visual content.
A podcast can help a business stand out, but they can be difficult to produce and promote, particularly if you don’t have talented in-house team members that are excited about taking ownership of it.
Ebooks and white papers can be another form of content marketing.
These are more in-depth than blog posts, and therefore are more time- and resource-consuming. But they can be successful in building authority and providing a truly useful resource that gets shared, referred back to, and linked to on other sites.
This type of resource, if it’s well done, can be used as a lead magnet to help convince people to provide their email address and/or phone number so that you can market to them in other ways.
One other popular form of content marketing is webinars.
Webinars take a lot of work to prepare, promote, and execute. But they have good potential for a channel to engage directly with your audience, and the content can be turned into an evergreen video that you can repurpose for your blog, for a lead magnet, for email promotion, or for any other purpose you can think of.
In addition to email, SMS, social, and content marketing, there are a few other channels you can use for digital marketing.
Online ads are a channel to reach people in the digital space.
Online ads often, but not always, follow a PPC (“pay-per-click”) model and can be anything from search engine ads to social media ads to ads hosted on 3rd party websites. With PPC, you’ll pay the ad host based on how many clicks your ad generates.
With online ads, in order to get your desired ROI, you’ll want to make sure the ad is relevant and that it leads to a landing page that will really speak to the audience you’re targeting. (Otherwise, you’ll just be wasting money on unqualified leads.)
Unlike typical online advertising, native advertising tries to make the business promotion fit more naturally into a user experience.
The ad may be in the form of a sponsored blog post, for example.
With this approach, the advertising can feel less “salesy” and more natural, so it has the potential to be more effective than other types of ads. However, you’ll want to be strategic about the sites and formats in which you present your native ads, or you may end up wasting money when few to no one clicks on the ad.
Offline marketing channels have been around for decades (in some cases centuries), and we won’t go too in-depth on them here. But we will mention them below for good measure, because they are still viable options for many businesses.
Some popular offline marketing channels include:
Arguably the easiest marketing channel is one of the oldest and most tried-and-true: referrals.
Referrals are “easy” in the sense that you don’t even have to do the marketing. The marketing is done for you by people who love your product or service.
According to Nielsen, 88% of consumers globally “most trust recommendations from people they know.”
The power of referrals is so strong that there’s an entire business model essentially built off of it (multi-level marketing).
All businesses should be doing what they can to maximize their referrals.
Most businesses can’t pursue every marketing channel.
So you’ll need to evaluate which ones work best for you.
And there are a few channels we would recommend for virtually every business (at least in some capacity):
Use those as a starting point to start implementing and optimizing. Then branch out into some of the other channels that appeal to you and to your situation.
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