Editor’s note: For a more complete guide to B2B marketing channels download OpenView’s free eBook, Discovery Channel: A Guide to Identifying and Prioritizing Optimal Marketing Channels
By our definition, marketing channels are distinct conduits through which a company’s message can reach its target prospects. Generally speaking, channels can include people, events, technology, and organizations, provided those outlets offer a medium for connecting a business with its prospective customers. Marketing channels are not to be confused with the content deployed through them. For instance, while the artwork and copy displayed on a billboard can employ a range of tactics and take many shapes and forms, the billboard itself is the marketing channel.
Fortunately for growing B2B businesses, traditional advertising mediums such as newspapers, TV, and radio are no longer the only options available. Today, marketers have at their disposal a host of new channels to fit their audience and budget. Some of the more popular channels include:
- Your company’s website
- Word of Mouth
- Partner Marketing
- User Groups
- Social Media
- Paid search
- Display advertising
The challenge for many businesses – especially expansion-stage companies with limited resources – is narrowing down the field to identify the channels that are most appropriate and effective for reaching their target buyers.
To do that, it can be helpful to categorize marketing channels by specific type of media, but it can also be useful to classify them by content focus. Doing so will make the discovery and prioritization process much simpler and ensure that you are delivering the right messages to the right audience. The following are four categories of content focus you can group potential marketing channels into to determine which best suit your various needs (please note that some channels may fall into multiple categories):
|Product-Specific||Marketing channels that are relevant to your product’s direct market, which include mediums where that product — or similar competing products — are normally advertised, reviewed, or discussed. Good examples are product comparison websites such as CRM.com. Product-specific marketing channels are most suitable for targeted demand generation campaigns.|
|Competitor||Marketing channels where your competitors are not only present, but also active. Applicable channels include those used directly or indirectly by competitors to advertise, sell, or promote their products, along with channels that frequently mention or review competing solutions. There are various types of competitors (including direct pure play competitors, indirect competitors, and substitutes), all of which are germane to this category. An example would be a functional event or association where your competitors are actively marketing.|
|Behavioral||Marketing channels that are relevant to a customer’s buying behavior (i.e., his or her pain points, thoughts, intentions, trusted sources and advisors, and buying preferences both online and off). For example, you might include online communities and discussion forums frequented by your target prospects as well as the active experts in those communities whose recommendations influence buyer behaviors.|
|Industry||Marketing channels that are used by the industry as a whole. In other words, they are the mediums that your industry’s buyers, vendors, partners, analysts, and journalists use to exchange pertinent information. Typically, this group covers a broader range of topics and content than the previous categories and is particularly useful for general market presence and brand-building efforts.|
There may be a plethora of options for marketers to consider, but that doesn’t excuse smaller B2B companies from having to research and identify the marketing channels that are most appropriate for their business goals. In fact, because of the complexity of their products, the sophistication of their customers, and, in most cases, the competition in their markets, it’s more important than ever for those companies to leverage multiple channels to engage their target customer segments.
Discovery Channel: A Guide to Identifying and Prioritizing Optimal Marketing Channels provides a high-level overview of a marketing channel selection process for expansion-stage companies. It is intended for senior executives and project managers who, after reading the eBook, will be able to make sense of the wide and complex range of marketing channels that help bring their message to their customers and pinpoint the ones that are most effective at engaging those customers. Those insights will allow your company to strike the right mix of marketing channels and optimize your marketing dollars so that they have maximum impact.