I am often asked what channels organizations should be focusing on when marketing their business. Today’s digital space offers so many opportunities for companies to market who they are and what they do, yet my answer is always the same: it depends. It depends on your market, competition, costs, resources and budget. There is no one omnipotent answer for an industry or given marketplace, and anyone who tells you differently is selling snake oil. Each company has different resources and strengths, and, as a result, different opportunities.
The process of determining which channels are most appropriate is complex, but it can be broken down into a few simple questions. And although such questions beg additional research, the insight gained will give you a better, more complete picture of your marketplace prospects.
- Is there demand for what you offer? Are people looking for your goods and services? Many regard this as an intuitive answer, but the reality is that the only way to understand what the demand is, is to get down in the trenches and do the research. Google provides a great keyword tool that will give you an idea of how many people are trying to answer the questions you have the answers for. This is a good first step toward the necessary reality check.
- If there is demand, what is it going to take to get access? In this stage you seek to understand the competitive nature of the space and where you can realistically win. This isn’t a simple process and it does take some time, often requiring paid search cost analysis, competitive analysis, in-depth keyword analysis, and other investigative research. The goal is to build an understanding of the relative effort and cost required to achieve results. Although not an exact science, it will provide a sufficient picture of where the opportunities for testing lie.
- If there isn’t demand, how do you get access? If there is little or no demand, pat yourself on the back. You are a courageous innovator changing the world. That said, you should know that now is where the hard work starts. You have many options but almost all of them lead back to the same general answer. You are square in the middle of the content marketing universe. Education and creating a platform of expertise will be your greatest asset. There are a number of tactics you can employ for engagement in your content, but I’ll save that for another blog post.
- What can I afford to test? This is one of the most important pieces of marketing and, be forewarned, it requires patience. Often, marketing tactics will not work the first time. But a few small tweaks can make a huge difference in outcomes. It’s vital to acknowledge that data costs money and testing is a cost that needs to be considered. You need to be prepared for something not to work, but you cannot consider it a waste of resources. It is just part of the process. Failure is the road to success.
Answering these questions will get you past square one and a picture of what your mix should be will start to appear. Opportunities will present themselves and you will have a better understanding of where to begin. It is a constant balance of opportunity and resources.
The one thing I would caution against is making assumptions in any direction. A customer of ours once suggested that the paid search option was too expensive and did not want to pursue it. The assumption was that the cost per click was high and they extrapolated the data using industry averages for conversion rate. I pushed hard for a test and they complied. The result was a much higher conversion rate and a significantly higher ROI than expected. Today, 90% of their business is derived from paid search and it accounted for significant growth in their business. If they had gone with their gut instead of testing, there is no doubt that they would be a much smaller company today.