With so many different channels to choose from, determining how to allocate marketing budget is enough to make any B2C marketer dizzy with frustration. Will email deliver more value than social media? SEO or paid search? Which are the most effective marketing channels?
For starters, the trends are clear when it comes to online versus offline channels. Forrester notes that by 2019, marketers will spend more than $103 billion on search marketing, display advertising, social media marketing and email marketing — more than on offline channels like broadcast and cable television advertising combined.
That same report states that over the next five years, search will keep the top spot when it comes to distribution channels in marketing, while social media investment will grow faster than any other digital marketing channel.
But when it comes to your own company, how do you know which channels are worth your investment? Here’s your three-step guide!
How to determine the most effective marketing channels for your business
1. Define your objectives and metrics
Before you can figure out which digital marketing channels will make the most sense for your business, you’ll first need to take into consideration your business and marketing objectives.
Do you want to expand your reach? Obtain a specific revenue number, or amount of product sold? Gain a certain level of conversion? Improve customer satisfaction? Elevate the customer experience?
Once you know your objectives, you can then define the metrics you’ll need to help you reach those objectives. For example, if you want to expand your reach, you might look at metrics around growth in email subscribers or social media followers.
If you’re not sure how to align your metrics with your larger objectives, take a step back and ask yourself why you’re using a particular metric. If the answer doesn’t point back to those objectives, it’s time to change your strategy.
Finally, be sure to take a baseline measure of your metrics so that you can accurately monitor progress.
2. Understand the customer journey
Understanding all of the ways in which your customers interact with you will help you determine the value of each interaction, and the channels associated with those interactions. This means looking at your distribution channels, and the revenue associated with each one.
Although this might seem like an obvious step to take, unfortunately, research shows that only 17 percent of companies note that they have the capability to analyze their customer journey.
Let’s take an example of a typical B2C buyer’s journey to help illustrate the importance of knowing how your customers interact with your brand.
A consumer is in the market for a set of wireless headphones. She visits Facebook and sees a post for a brand that interests her. Later, as she visits other websites, she’s served up display advertising for that same brand. She visits the company’s website to read a blog post about the reliability of wireless technology, and downloads a buyer’s guide. The next day, as she passes by a store, a coupon appears on her smartphone, enticing her to enter, try out the headphones and purchase.
As you can see in this scenario, the buyer has used several marketing channels which have moved her closer to conversion. In reality, the touch points are probably much higher, as she likely reads online reviews, consults with her family and friends, and watches demonstration or customer videos on YouTube or the vendor’s site. In fact, research shows that it can take from three to more than seven touches for a B2C lead to convert.
An important concept to wrap your head around here is attribution – knowing which content or channel is driving conversions. Only through attribution can you determine which are the most effective marketing channels to include on your channel list.
Because today’s consumers use a variety of devices, and bounce from channel to channel, attributing a conversion to a single interaction like a first or last click on your site no longer makes sense. Instead, by finding out how each of those touches build pipeline and contribute to revenue, you can get a better picture of the value of each channel, and the content associated with it.
Here’s an example of how you can analyze this type of data using TrackMaven’s attribution capabilities. In the image below, you can see how each item on the list of digital marketing channels contributes to the overall cost and value of marketing efforts.
With data like this, you can find out which programs provide the best leads and quickest conversions, and uncover the most effective marketing channels for your brand.
In addition, because the B2C revenue cycle is relatively short, marketers are affecting revenue more rapidly, making it even more important to understand where the value of those marketing efforts lie in a timely manner.
3. Know which channels others are using
The next step in determining your most effective marketing channels is to research not only how the competition is spending their budget, and where they’re getting the most impact for their dollars, but also to find out which digital channels influencers, thought leaders and other brands are using to reach your audience.
If you want to find out what others in the industry are spending their budgets on, you can take a look at sources like Content Marketing Institute’s annual B2C Content Marketing Trends, or sites like eConsultancy, which regularly publishes industry information regarding marketing spend.
Here’s a great chart from eConsultancy’s Email Marketing Industry Census 2016 that shows which channels marketers believe provide the highest ROI. Here, you can see that email marketing, SEO (organic search) and content marketing are the top three rated channels.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that what works for one company may not work for yours.
You can also use marketing automation software to see which channels others are using, and what kind of value they gain from those channels. In fact, according to research, 52 percent of businesses using cross-channel campaign management tools state they “usually” or “always” hit their financial targets.
For example, using TrackMaven, you can view how customers interact with various channels and brands, and even drill down to specific metrics. Input your competitors, and the platform gathers intelligence and benchmarks around SEO, display ads, social media, earned media, content marketing channels, display ads, and other data to help you understand the most effective marketing channels for you in real-time.