It’s no surprise that screen times increased during the pandemic. However, according to research by We Are Social and Hootsuite, our daily usage continues to climb year after year. Increasing from 5 hours 28 minutes in 2020 to 6 hours 26 minutes in 2021, Britons now use the internet for a full day more each month than they did a year ago.
This might be music to the ears of marketers. There’s seemingly more opportunity than ever before to reach their target customers with product messaging. Unfortunately, though, it’s not quite so simple. Here’s where things get complicated. According to the usage report for We Are Social and Hootsuite, search behaviours have been evolving right alongside screen time; while 98% of UK internet users aged 16-64 still use a conventional search engine, 31% are now using voice searches and commands to find products. And to complicate things even further, 28% actually use social media to search for brand information.
With so many moving parts to consider, businesses need a tactical approach that captures customer attention at every touchpoint. That’s where your channel marketing strategy steps in. But in order to develop an approach that will actually see results, we’ve got to ensure we’re setting off on the right foot. And that means taking things from the top…
What is a channel marketing strategy?
A channel marketing strategy is a plan for delivering product messaging along every stage of the customer journey. The idea is to catch them at their chosen touchpoint with a timely marketing message, before delivering them a positive experience that encourages them to purchase.
So where do you start?
Step-by-step guide to creating a channel marketing strategy
Step 1. The four Ps of your marketing mix
Before you start getting into tools and tactics of channel marketing, it’s important to think about the four Ps that will define your approach: product, price, place and promotion.
To ensure you’re filling a demand in the marketplace and meeting the needs of your customers, it makes sense to look at your product offering first. Ask yourself:
- What is your product?
- What does it do? E.g. Does it solve a problem or provide a novel experience?
- Who is the target audience?
- How will it solve/satisfy their needs?
- Finally, how does it differ from what others offer?
This leads us to the next P.
In a competitive landscape, the importance of price just can’t be overstated. However, this doesn’t mean giving your products away. In fact, this could actually damage perceptions of a luxury brand. PWC suggests that 86% of buyers are actually willing to pay more if a brand offers a great customer experience; something that’s achievable with a sound channel marketing strategy. Before you create any campaigns around cutting your costs, ask yourself:
- What’s the price range of your product’s competitors?
- What price best fits your target market? Are you economy, luxury or somewhere in between?
- What is the price range of your target audience? Find the sweet spot between being too expensive and overly cheap.
Without a doubt, finding the right price for your products is a crucial part of the puzzle. But it won’t amount to much if they’re advertised in the wrong place.
Your ideal customer might be a zoomer who searches mostly on TikTok and does the bulk of their shopping on Insta. But it’s not always so simple. With that in mind, ask yourself some questions such like:
- Where does your target demographic search for products?
- Where does your target audience shop?
- Then, consequently, what distribution channels do you need to use in order to reach them?
According to a 2022 survey by Statista, 26% of UK B2C marketers said social media was their primary marketing channel. This was followed by website (21%) and email (13%). But it’s important to do the research so you don’t end up guessing - or putting all your eggs in one basket. This leads us to our final P.
It’s not just as important to think about the messaging behind your marketing as it is about the channels you push it out on. Especially considering your average consumer is exposed to anywhere between 6,000 to 10,000 ads every day, estimates Lunio. So first think about why your ideal customer should pay attention and what you’re trying to say - then ask yourself:
- What is the best time to reach your target audience?
- What marketing channels are most effective for your messaging?
- What advertising approaches will be most persuasive to your target audience?
Once you’ve gathered this insight you’ll be well-placed to move forward with planning your channel marketing strategy. So what’s next?
Step 2. Formalise objectives and metrics so you can measure
You need to get your objectives and metrics set before getting started - otherwise it will be impossible to know what “success” looks like. The SMART framework is a tried-and-tested process for establishing clearly defined goals:
- Specific - set reasons, resources, deadlines and objectives for each goal.
- Measurable - outline what KPIs and metrics you’ll use to measure success.
- Achievable - be ambitious but realistic in what you can achieve.
- Relevant - ensure your goals fit within the bigger picture of the company’s vision.
- Time-bound - define a clear timeline for accomplishing each goal - and stick to it.
But meaningful measurement also means tracking the ROI of your channel marketing strategy. And how you do this really depends on where you are allocating your resources. If you’re running ads, Google recommends taking the revenue from your ads and listings, subtracting your overheads and then dividing it by your overall costs: ROI = (Revenue - Cost of goods sold) / Cost of goods sold.
So what else can you track?
Average conversion rates can be determined by taking the number of visitors on your website who made a purchase and dividing that by the total amount of visitors. Or what about tracking your online cart abandonment rate? Doing so can help you spot any problems with the website’s UX and also give you the insight you need for retargeting campaigns.
Finally, you could also track your customer retention rate for a specified period. But whatever your plan is, just make sure you know what you're measuring before getting started. It'll be much easier to do before you’re rushed off your feet and drawing in multiple data sets.
Now it’s time to identify which channels you’ll actually use.
Step 3. Find the right marketing mix for you (and your demographics)
Take a look at your competitors who are likely looking to attract the same kind of customer. Where are they marketing their products and what kind of engagement are they getting? An ideal channel marketing mix might look something like this:
- Social media - whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok or LinkedIn, find the right mix for your business and your demographics. You don't need a presence on all platforms but you do need to fully commit to the ones you are on. You’ll be rewarded if you do as well; according to Statista, today’s customers spend an average of 144 minutes every day on social. For customer engagement, social media marketing isn't a nice-to-have anymore; it's a must.
- Paid and organic - these two disciplines should work in a silo; they should complement each other. Find the right blend of more niche longtail keywords you can compete for organically, e.g. with a regularly updated blog and more competitive pay-per-click (PPC) to drive customers to your product pages you’ll be in good stead.
Focus on those areas and you’ll already have a sound channel marketing strategy. But if you have the resource available, there's still more you can do.
Direct mail is still widely used - especially by SMEs; in fact, 81% use them as their primary acquisition channel. And although the open rate for a welcome email sits at a meagre 8%, a more personalised subject line can generate 50% higher open rates, suggests the latest email marketing statistics.
Add to that the backlink potential of running PR and influencer campaigns - not to mention the additional content marketing opportunities that come from YouTube videos and podcasts. There are plenty of ways to extend your reach, engage your audience and create loyal customers, but don't be intimidated if you don't have the marketing budget - there’s no need to do everything at once.
Step 3. Focus on a few essentials and do them well
When it comes to channel marketing strategies, it’s tempting to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. But having a presence on every channel takes a lot of time and resources. So instead of spreading yourself thinly over multiple social channels, writing a short-form blog post a month and bidding on a couple of overly competitive search terms, focus on the essentials.
Interestingly, research by Capterra suggests that almost 30% of UK consumers use social media to purchase; Facebook was the most popular platform (70%), followed by Instagram (44%). But whether it’s via social or organic search, you likely know where your demographics are online - so double down in those areas.
If you’re not sure, do some digging into Google Analytics, delve into Facebook Insights or check out what’s working for your competitors. There are plenty of helpful marketing tools at your disposal. It's also important to remember that this is an iterative process and you don't have to get it right the first time. Test to see what’s working, analyse the results and tweak things as you go along. And remember, you don’t need to go it alone - so partner up.
Step 4. Integrate a channel incentives programme
Instead of rewarding loyalty, channel incentive programmes motivate your partners (your resellers and distributors) to engage in certain behaviours. Affiliate marketing is a great way to ensure offline channels, e.g. product placement in your partner’s physical stores, are working just as hard as your digital channels. You can do so by offering valuable rewards that help them grow their own business and encourage B2B loyalty.
Our rewards catalogue - including Mastercard® Prepaid Cards and a variety of retailer gift cards, including One4All - provides you and your partners with a robust array of reward cards to choose from. Interested in learning more? We’ve gone into more detail about the different types of channel incentives there are here.
The thing to take away is that channel partners can be a powerful extension of your sales team and, essentially, will market your products for you. But they aren’t the only ones that can be powerful advocates for your brand.
Step 5. Ensure your employees are brand ambassadors
If we’ve said it once we’ve said it a thousand times: your employees are your biggest asset. It’s not hyperbole, though - it’s true. Make sure they’re having a good experience and you can bet they’ll pass this on to your customers too. In fact, 69% of employees would work harder if they felt their efforts were better appreciated. So along with an enticing employee value proposition (EVP), a great way to not only incentivise staff but incorporate them into your strategy is through rewards. These can come in all shapes and sizes, such as employee benefits to help with household spending or gift vouchers so they can splash out on what they like.
You can also get more buy-in from staff by getting them to play a part in shaping your values and vision. One way to do that is to get them to contribute to your voice, sharing their own company success stories online and creating a buzz around your brand in the process.
Wrapping up: the importance of channel marketing
Chief CX Evangelist Esteban Kolsky famously said that while 72% of customers will spread the word of a positive experience with 6 or more people, 13% of them will share their experience with 15 or more if they’re unhappy. The good thing is that a solid channel marketing strategy can do wonders for the entire customer experience. Done well, it can help you determine where and how consumers prefer to purchase their products so you can adjust your offering accordingly. And when more than two-thirds of companies now primarily compete on customer experience, investing in multi-channel marketing is a smart way to stay ahead of the pack.
Whether you’re planning your channel marketing strategy or optimising your current one to create a more consistent experience, Blackhawk Network is here to help. Just click here to get started or call 0203 948 7877.