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Create Your Marketing Strategy Part Two: Channels

In part one of this series, you built the foundation of your marketing strategy and identified attainable marketing goals. Now you’re ready to take the next step to plan out the specific tactics you’ll deploy to reach your goals. Let’s jump in.

Select your channels

With your marketing goals in mind, it’s time to determine how you’re going to reach your audience (i.e. which tactics you’ll use to market your brand).

Nowadays the options you can choose from to market your brand are endless. There are a ton of channels you could be active on. It can be overwhelming to evaluate the choices. To help bring some structure to your planning, we recommend doing the following:

1. Begin with an audit if possible

If you have existing data to work with from past marketing campaigns, review that first. Make the most of your past data by seeing which channels or content types worked or didn’t work, and use that to inform your priorities for future marketing efforts. Doing more of what’s already working is an effective (and easier) approach to see better results faster.

2. Use insights from your target audience

Your target audience segments should give you a pretty good idea of which channels to focus on. Consider where your target clients are spending the most time. What do they care about most? Where do they go to be informed or entertained? How do they prefer to interact with branded content? Use this to identify where you can position your brand to best reach them.

It can be tempting to want to try everything, but you shouldn’t. Throwing everything against a wall to see what sticks will probably waste your time and money. More isn’t always better.

Instead, we recommend using the info you already have (your past data and target audience insights) to narrow your focus. Choose a few channels to start. Especially if you have limited resources, it’ll be much easier for you to maintain a smaller number of channels for the long run. That way you can avoid launching on a bunch of channels at once, then realizing a couple of weeks in that it’s unsustainable and you end up abandoning some. Start small. You can always decide to tack on more channels later as you catch your stride.

Another benefit of choosing fewer channels is that it helps bring clarity to your brand. In Nick Westergaard’s book Brand Now, he talks about this in terms of light switches with dimmers. The most memorable and effective brands don’t have all of their dimmer switches (AKA brand elements, such as marketing channels) up all the way. They turn some of the switches all the way up, while some they turn all the way down. And others they leave partially up or down. The point is these successful brands are strategically choosing which dimmer switches they go all in on and which they don’t. This kind of intentional approach helps them stand out in a crowded market.

If competitors in your niche commonly have the same switches turned up (i.e. they’re focusing on essentially the same marketing channels), you might decide to turn that switch (or switches) down and turn up another switch instead to differentiate your brand. As Westergaard states, “… making something better isn’t always additive. Sometimes you’re subtracting — taking away … elements and standing out as a result.” Simplicity is memorable. Not doing something because it doesn’t hold true for your brand can reduce noise and enhance your brand’s focus.

Choose the channels you want your brand to be known for and go all in.

With that in mind, let’s explore the three categories of common marketing channels. Many brands pull from each of these categories to create their own mix of channels and priorities. A well-balanced marketing strategy like that often provides the most exposure and better ROI.

Owned media

Owned media are the assets your brand has control over. These are assets you create or someone else creates on behalf of your brand. Your brand has ownership over them.

Examples of owned media:

  • Website
  • Blog
  • Social media accounts
  • Email campaigns
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Case studies

When planning what your brand will prioritize for owned media, it’s important to consider the following questions:

1. What owned assets will you produce?

We recommend always starting with your brand’s website. Your website should serve as the cornerstone of all your marketing initiatives. It’s where your audience lands when they want to learn more about what your business does and, eventually, convert.

In addition to a website, brands will often focus on one or more additional owned channels as their main route for delivering longer-form content. If you’re just starting out or have limited time/resources, we recommend limiting the number of channels you use for longer-form content. Most commonly these channels include a blog, YouTube channel, or podcast series. (Though certainly not all at once if you’re just starting — focus on one to begin.) Then this longer-form content is what fuels the shorter pieces of content they distribute through other owned media categories, which we’ll cover later on.

2. What topics will you cover?

The topics covered in your content matters just as much as where the content is distributed. If you create content that speaks directly to your audience’s needs, they’ll want to engage with it. But when you create content they deem irrelevant, they’ll pass over it.

To ensure your content is relevant to your audience, plan to curate content for each step within your sales funnel:

Top of funnel content: Awareness

People at the top of your sales funnel are just discovering they have a problem related to the solution you offer. This is where a majority of your audience will fall.

When creating content for this group of people, a good place to start is listing all of the questions your leads ask that relate to your solution. What do they want to know at this stage? What aren’t they asking about but should be? What immediate problems are they trying to solve? What do they need to know before they get started with your business? Think carefully about their problems or pain points, and how you can speak to those through educational content.

Middle of funnel content: Consideration

People in the middle of your sales funnel know they have a need related to your solution and they’re exploring your brand. They’re not ready to start doing business with you yet, but they’re looking to gather more info so they can make a final decision down the road.

These people are ready to hear about specific solutions you provide. They want to know they can trust you as an expert in this area. The content you create for this stage should give them a basic understanding of how your solution can help them and the benefit they’d receive as a result.

Bottom of funnel content: Decision

People at the bottom of your sales funnel are at the decision stage. They’re either going to decide to do business with you or they’ll choose someone else. This stage makes up the smallest group of people.

These people are looking for proof that your business is the right fit for them. The content you create for this stage should answer very specific questions about your solution and how you’re uniquely positioned to deliver it for them.

If you’re feeling stuck with content topics for any funnel stage, here are a few suggestions to kickstart your brainstorming:

  • Analytics: If you’ve already produced content, check out the analytics (via Google Analytics or another analytics tool) to understand what’s resonated most with your audience. See if there are opportunities to expand upon the top-performing topics you’ve already used or cover a topic adjacent to them.

  • AnswerThePublic.com: This website is a handy tool for getting insight into what people are searching online related to your niche. Type in a word or phrase related to the solution you offer and use the results to brainstorm potential topics to cover through your content.

  • Your competitors: Check out the content your top competitors are producing and what seems to resonate most with their audience. The goal is not to copy them, but to see what areas they might be missing and how you could differentiate yourself by doing something different. That being said, just because your competitor already wrote a blog article about a certain topic doesn’t mean you can’t write about that topic too. Figure out how to put a spin on it that’s unique to your brand.

3. How will you distribute it?

Distribution is another crucial part of any successful content plan. If you aren’t deliberately placing your content where the right people will see it, it’ll be hard to gain much traction.

As we briefly mentioned earlier, brands will often distribute their longer-form content (e.g. blog articles, videos, podcasts, etc) through other owned media channels, like email or social media. Or they might use another channel category for further distribution (such as paid ads — more on this below). In other words, they repurpose the longer-form content in these other areas to drive more traffic to the original piece of owned content.

Earned media

Earned media is the result of someone else sharing your brand or your content for free. It’s essentially another way of referring to user-generated content (UGC). The key is that the person shared it voluntarily without receiving payment from your brand for giving a reference to your business.

Examples of earned media:

  • Customer reviews
  • Customers recommending your brand to someone else
  • Someone sharing your content on social media
  • Someone mentioning your brand on social media
  • A media outlet featuring your brand in a magazine, newspaper, or on TV

Earned media can overlap with and support your owned media efforts. For example, you might produce a podcast episode (owned media) which you post about on your brand’s Twitter (owned media), then a follower retweets it from their own account. Their retweet would be considered earned media. It’s an opportunity to get in front of a new audience without spending money for that exposure.

Word of mouth marketing like this can be an incredibly effective tactic because consumers trust the opinions of other consumers. Don’t overlook the importance of UGC in your marketing strategy.

Paid media

Paid media is any opportunity where you spend money to get more visibility. This category is most often what comes to mind when thinking about digital marketing. It typically involves paying a third party to reach an audience managed by someone else.

Examples of paid media:

  • Google Ads
  • Facebook/Instagram ads
  • Boosted Facebook posts
  • Twitter ads
  • LinkedIn ads
  • Paid influencer campaigns
  • Sponsored content

Paid media can support your owned media efforts too. Let’s revisit the earlier example. Say you produce a podcast episode (owned media) and promote it on Twitter. You spent money to get access to a wider audience through the promotion, so this would be considered paid media. Paid media can also help you win more earned media if that new audience starts voluntarily resharing your brand’s content from their own accounts.

Determine your next steps

After identifying the channels and tactics you’ll use to reach your audience, it’s time to finalize your strategy so you can put it into action.

Document your strategy

Marketers with a documented strategy are 313% more likely to report success than those without. You don’t need to be a full-time marketer for this to hold true for you too. Whether you’re an agency owner or solopreneur, you’ll be more successful when you write down your strategy. Find a documentation method that works best for you so you can keep it handy as you move forward with the execution.

Make sure it’s actionable

Do a final review of your documented strategy and highlight the sections that are a top priority for you. These should be the areas you start putting into motion first. Write down the actionable steps you can take over the next weeks, months, or quarter to get the ball rolling in those areas. Perhaps you need to assign tasks to your team. Or hire outside help to assist you with the execution. Whatever it looks like for you, start taking those steps now so you can bring your plan to fruition.

If you need help with executing marketing tactics for your business, we offer digital marketing services that can fill the gaps for you. Our services serve as an extension of your brand so you can reach the next level without needing to expand your internal team. See our full list of services here.