What is marketing channel strategy? Channel surfing for the digital era
Could a channel strategy get you more leads and customers? Before you can answer that question, you need to understand the modern buyer journey.
Today’s consumers are more empowered, informed and demanding than ever before. They want their favourite brands to understand their needs, deliver unforgettable experiences, and provide consistency from one avenue to the next. In other words, they want the perfect channel strategy.
As the touch-points companies use to connect with their clients, channels are constantly changing and evolving. For the most part, the average organisation won’t have enough time or budget to be present on every channel. This means that brands need to focus on choosing the right types of channel strategy for their identity and their audience.
That old saying, “if you built it, they will come,” just don’t work anymore.
The good news?
Choose the right channels, and you can do a lot more than just connect with your ideal customers. A strong marketing channel strategy means that you’re always ready to engage your audience on the platforms they visit most.
So, how do you create a channel strategy template?
Let’s find out!
Define channel strategy marketing: What is channel strategy?
Let’s start simple by discussing the question, “What is channel marketing strategy?”
In the modern business world, there are many different avenues, platforms, and campaigns that companies use to connect with their target audience. Your “channels” are the routes that you pick when you’re looking for the best way to speak to your customers in the places and environments that they frequent most.
Channel strategy is about finding the best way to expose your services, products and brand identity to possible customers. For instance, if you’re a local company with a simple set of products that require very little support to use – such as a regional bakery, you might use direct marketing and a few digital channels like social media to drive attention to your organisation. On the other hand, if you’re a sophisticated technology company with customers that need support implementing your products, you may work with value-added resellers and partners to boost your sales channel strategy.
There are many different types of channel strategy to consider depending on the kind of business that you run, and the customers you need to serve. One of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether you’re a B2B or B2C business.
B2B brands typically use a “direct” or “indirect” sales channel strategy to build revenue. Direct sales are the simplest approach because they allow the vendor to sell to the customer directly.
On the other hand, indirect sales involve using “channel partners” and intermediaries to support sales. An indirect sales channel strategy may include using retail to sell through an online or offline store. Additionally, some B2B vendors also sell through “value-added resellers” to improve their access to new customers.
In the world of consumer sales, the question “what is channel strategy?” often leads to different answers. Most B2C, or business to consumer companies will use various direct and indirect marketing strategies both online and offline, including social media, SEO, and content marketing. Much of the time, these channels are connected through either a multi-channel strategy or omni-channel strategy – we’ll discuss those soon.
Importantly, there’s no one-size-fits-all for marketing channel strategy. Though avenues like social media and email marketing strategy started as consumer-based solutions, many B2B companies now use these methodologies too.
Types of channel strategy for the modern marketer
Channels in the average marketing plan serve a range of functions. On the one hand, channels are all about finding new ways to sell to your preferred customer. On the other hand, when you choose the right channel, like social media, you can also create experiences for your audience that build your brand reputation.
Channel strategy marketing asks brands to consider a selection of factors, including the competitive brand environment, consumer habits, and more. The critical thing to remember is that not all channels will be relevant to every brand or business. Since most companies only have a certain amount of resources that they can use, it’s important to find the right selection of channels to drive results. Some common additions to a channel strategy template include:
1. Retail or eCommerce
Perhaps one of the most traditional marketing channel strategy options, retail involves either opening local physical locations that your customers can visit or creating a website through which people can buy your goods and services. Many modern businesses now combine their eCommerce and retail operations for a two-factor approach. For instance, retail locations can offer additional customer service for online orders, while eCommerce channels can provide additional support for local stores.
2. Digital sales and SEM
For companies who are selling directly to customers and other brands, search engine marketing and SEO have become common components of a strong marketing channel strategy. “SEM” or search engine marketing is a combination of pay-per-click advertising and search engine optimisation intended to drive attention for your company. SEM and SEO are all about getting a brand in front of their customers using digital channels, rather than speaking directly to customers or partners.
3. Social media marketing and personal selling
Although search engine campaigns are designed to suit the specific preferences and language of your target audience, they’re not as personal or intimate as some channel strategy options. Social media marketing is one of the many ways that today’s companies are adapting their channel marketing strategy to suit customers that want to form deeper connections with brands. Through social campaigns and personal selling, brands can actively promote themselves and engage with consumers at the same time.
4. Email marketing and direct mail
Rather than waiting for your consumers to find you through content that you post online, or in-person store advertisements, you can always take the right information to them. Email marketing and direct mail marketing are standard parts of many channel strategy template designs. So much more than just sending messages to your contacts, mail-based marketing is about nurturing your audience and maintaining relationships through valuable, ongoing interactions. These campaigns take place over a period to build your brand awareness and trust.
5. PR and marketing partners
Speaking of raising brand awareness, when you’re new to an industry or niche, one of the best ways to upgrade your marketing channel strategy is to work with partners. Marketing affiliates, ambassadors, and even PR partners help to drive attention towards your company by securing media coverage through a range of outlets. The more partners you build in the right environments, the easier it will be to reach customers.
What is omni channel strategy and multi-channel strategy?
When you begin developing your channel strategy marketing campaigns, you’ll realise that not all platforms necessarily reach the same kinds of audience. Many potential channels like social media have “subcategories” within them that you need to consider too. For instance, some brands will benefit from a social media campaign that uses visual platforms like Instagram, while others will be better suited to professional channels like LinkedIn.
Since target audiences are rarely made up of one single type of customer, the best option is often to combine multiple channels to reach a broader selection of customers. Utilising multiple channels at once can be a powerful strategy if those channels complement each other. As consumers continue to demand more from their favourite brands, you may choose an omni channel strategy or a multi-channel strategy.
What is a multi-channel strategy for marketing?
A multi-channel strategy for marketing involves providing both existing and potential customers with a range of avenues they can use to connect with you. For instance, if you’ve got a brick and mortar store, an eCommerce shop, a social media campaign and an email marketing strategy, then you’re providing your audience with various ways to reach out to your brand.
The crucial part of multi-channel marketing is figuring out where your audience spends most of their time so that you can connect with them on their preferred platforms.
What is an omni channel strategy for marketing?
An omni channel strategy is like multi-channel marketing, but it takes your cross-platform interactions to the next level. Rather than just giving your audience various avenues to choose from, omni channel also ensures that you can provide the same consistent experience wherever you speak to your audience.
Omni-channel marketing provides a seamless experience across a multitude of platforms so that your customer gets a better all-around buyer journey. Since Google research suggests that 90% of people with multiple devices switch between those devices at least 3 times per day, it makes sense to help customers complete their purchasing tasks wherever they are.
Case study: One of the best channel strategy examples
One of the best channel strategy examples in the omni-channel arena comes from Disney. Not only does the company have an exceptional online store where you can buy products, but it also offers a fantastic offline experience too. To combine both its product-selling strategy and theme parks, Disney even provides the “My Disney Experience” portal, so that consumers can plan their itinerary in offline locations, through their smartphone or computer.
Disney has become so adept at integrating various online and offline channels that you no longer need to worry about carrying cash in a Disney theme park. If you want to buy an item or a piece of food, you can simply show off your “Magic Band” – a Disney accessory attached to your credit or debit card. The whole experience is designed to anticipate consumer desires and keep them connected wherever they go.
All the while, Disney isn’t just delighting its customers, it’s also gathering useful data on how it can enhance the experience for audience members in the years to come.
Creating a channel strategy template for success
Like any strong brand-building effort, the best marketing channel strategy will always begin with an effective plan.
Creating a channel strategy template means deciding what kind of channels or channel you’re going to use to speak to your audience, and what sort of partners you may need to cultivate to help you. For instance, some companies will elevate their channel strategy with the support of influencers that already have sway with their intended audience. Other organisations may rely on their employees to act as advocates for their brand.
Here are some of the ways you can start building your channel strategy template.
1. Research the competition
It’s important to keep a close eye on everything that’s happening in your industry when you’re designing your channel strategy marketing campaigns. If you know what your competitors are doing with their advertising strategies, you can learn from their successes and mistakes.
Tools like Google Trends will help you to examine what other people in your industry are talking about, while Google Alerts will allow you to monitor specific keywords. It’s also worth spending some time watching other companies in your space so you can get an idea of the planning that goes into the types of channel strategy they use.
Competitive analysis doesn’t just show you what other companies are doing; it can also give you more information that you can use to differentiate yourself from those brands.
2. Know your audience
As valuable as knowing your competition can be, there are few things more important in a marketing channel strategy than understanding your audience. The more you know about your target customers, the easier it will be for you to expand and extend your market reach.
Remember that in today’s highly transformative digital era, the types of channel strategy you use are likely to transform and expand over time. This means that you’ll need to update your buyer personas periodically to make sure that you’re still reaching them on the right platforms.
Listen into industry conversations to see what people are saying about your niche and your brand. Another option is to regularly speak to your customers through polls, questionnaires, and feedback to get a better insight into what they need.
3. Match customer needs to a channel strategy
Once you know everything, there is to know about your competitors, and your audience you can begin to match end-user requirements to your new distribution strategy. If your end users need a lot of information before they can make a purchase, then you might use content marketing and SEO as channels, combined with a trained salesforce to answer their questions.
Alternatively, if the buying process is relatively straightforward, then your channel strategy template might combine simple social media updates and the occasional email with an online store.
When you’re building an effective marketing and sales channel strategy, the key to success is not just to list possible avenues for customer conversation. You also need to look at how each major touch-point in your strategy fits into the bigger picture of your brand experience. For instance, is your video marketing campaign supporting your online sales by helping your customers learn more about your company?
How to master your marketing channel strategy
Making the most of your channel marketing strategy means knowing how to create an effective plan for reaching your target audience. To some extent, this may mean working with an expert in channel strategy and conducting a promotional audit to see whether your existing campaigns are reaching the right customers.
The more you know about where your brand is today, and where you hope to be in the future, the easier it will be to achieve your goals. Here are some extra tips for your channel strategy to help you get started.
1. Know your goals
More often than not, the best channel strategy examples start with a clear vision of the future. Ask yourself what you’re hoping to achieve from the various channels that you’re bringing into your campaign. For instance, are you using social media to spread awareness, but your online store to gain sales? Do you want your search engine marketing campaigns to deliver additional traffic?
Knowing what you want to accomplish with each channel will allow you to put measurement strategies in place to see how successful each campaign is. For instance, to measure whether your social media strategies are getting you the engagement you need, you might look at the number of likes and comments on each post.
2. Create a set of guidelines
Marketing is a creative process. This is why many companies assume that they can jump head-first into advertising with virtually no strategy. Unfortunately, the only way to figure out what types of channel strategy are right for your business is to measure your performance in various areas and optimise for long-term success.
There are dozens of different marketing channels to choose from, ranging all the way from live in-person events, to digital channels like podcasts, and social media. With a limited budget to work with, it’s crucial to make sure that you choose the channels that will deliver the best ROI.
Creating a strategy begins with placing some strategic bets on channels where you think your customer is most likely to see your message and act. You’ll also need to ensure that you’re engaging consumers at every stage of their buyer journey to deliver the best results.
3. Put your customers first
Knowing where your customer spends most of their time, and where they look for the information that they need to buy something online will help you to focus. You want your customers to feel a sense of comfort and familiarity when they recall your organisation. This means taking the time to visualise your target audience and making sure you’re ready to interact with them wherever they are online.
If you’re a small business without much reach, partnerships could be a great way to get your message heard. Tapping into a partner that already has a large audience will help to give your company better reach when you still don’t have much of a reputation.
Digital marketing is also a powerful strategy, but you’ll need to make sure you know which channels to focus on. Is your ideal customer more likely to read your emails, or follow you on Facebook?
4. Make the most of your data
Collecting data for every part of your marketing channel strategy is crucial to measuring your long-term success. As you gather information, you’ll be able to see where your customers are interacting with your organisation via social, email, and other platforms.
The data that you collect will help you to form unified user profiles while giving you the information you need to ensure a more personalised approach to marketing. Remember, today’s customers don’t want to be just another number in your marketing campaign, they want to make emotional connections.
If you notice any stumbling blocks in the channels you choose, you can also use your data to overcome those problems for your customers.
5. Coordinate between channels
Finally, most of today’s brands can’t afford to focus exclusively on a single channel strategy. No matter how successful your offline direct mail campaign might be, for instance, it still only helps you to reach out to a very specific selection of customers. The best way to reach your entire audience is to combine different types of channel strategy into a single cohesive campaign.
Keep in mind that 72% of customers say that they prefer an integrated approach to marketing. Despite this, many businesses are still reluctant to embrace the power of cross-channel marketing. A comprehensive omni channel or multi-channel strategy will set you apart from your competitors and engage your consumers too!
Time to master channel strategy marketing?
Mastering channel strategy marketing is all about understanding the changing customer journey.
In the past, making a sale was simple. Companies just displayed their products on retail shelves and waited for local people to come browsing. Now that the internet has finally arrived, and consumers demand more cohesive and immersive experiences from their favorite brands, you need to work harder than ever on your channel strategy template.
A channel strategy that combines multiple avenues into the perfect supplement to your customer’s journey will ensure that you always have the best chance of building brand loyalty. Rather than simply waving a flag on one channel and hoping to get your customer’s attention, your strategy should involve actively seeking out and connecting with your consumers.
Find the channels that your customers use the most often and make them a key part of your promotional campaign. If you need help, you can always reach out to the marketing experts right here at Fabrik!
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