How to choose Marketing Communication Channels for business

After learning the state of your market, and competitors, defining the target audience, and formulating a suitable value or sale proposition, the next step is developing a marketing strategy – where and how to advertise your product. The biggest struggle, that a business is always facing, is finding the right way to inform potential customers about its product. Creating expressive ads is a huge topic, and we will discuss it in our next articles. Today, in the sixth part of our marketing research stages overview series, we will describe the stage of choosing the right communication channels for marketing campaigns. This article is a part of a long logically connected series, and if you want to read it in order, check the list here

What is the marketing communication channel?

A marketing communication channel (MCC), also known as a media channel, is a method, that a business uses to conduct its proposition to the target audience. TV ads, annoying brochures in your mailbox, no less annoying pop-up, or even shouting of the street merchant – all these are the types of communication channels. Modern marketers usually divide them into traditional and digital categories

Traditional marketing communication channels

As the Internet became the main tool for communication, every pre-internet type of advertising can be classified as traditional. These are the methods of the ancients. 😁 Nonetheless, these methods are still alive and, since we are not in cyberspace, they are still relevant.

Despite the overall digitalization, people are still listening to the radio while driving, for example. People still watching TV. On average, the typical adult citizen of the USA views around three hours of TV every single day. Postal services are still working too, as well as exterior advertising. So, you need to consider these options of advertising, mainly if your business produces a physical product.  

Digital marketing communication channels

Digital communication channels are all about online. The Internet created some sort of an additional layer of reality with an analog of each traditional communication channel. The Internet erased borders, allowed to faster reach much wider audiences, and digital options are often significantly cheaper. Also, unlike the traditional ones, digital communication channels work fast in both ways – the Internet allows getting feedback on your advertising campaign instantly and implementing changes in marketing strategy just as fast.


How to choose the right marketing communication channel for your business

We remind you that we are describing the process on the example of the imaginary startup with a high-tech rubber grid pillow. Hence, we already have a big part of the information, we found out in our previous articles, about the market, target audience, and how exactly we will offer our imaginary product to imaginary people. Let’s briefly refresh it: 

  • Example startup is located in some city with 1 million inhabitants;
  • 140,000 people, that fit the description of our buyer persona – adult, sitting worker, white collar, average or above average income;
  • 84,000 of them are, statistically, concerned about the influence of constant sitting at work on their health, and already have some periodical or constant pains in the back, neck, or pelvis. This means they are the most interested in improving health. 
  • Offering our pillow, we offer an accessory, which looks like a common pillow but relieves pain in joints by creating the right position and providing strong support and comfort for long-term sitting

There are many factors, which affect the selection of communication channels. Foremost is financial resources. If you have a ton of money to spend, you can try each option of the communication channel listed above. But, more likely, you will have a limited budget, as our example startup does. So, eventually, you have to find out which marketing communication channels are the most suitable for you, will fit your marketing budget, and will deliver your message to your target audience the most effectively.

What communication channels does your target customer use?

So, we have a pillow, which we plan to sell to adult, financially independent people, who work at the office, drive a car a lot (to work and back), and have an intensive daily routine. 

Let’s imagine the typical work day of our buyer persona Jane Doe, 28 y.o., head of accounting. 

  • 6 a.m. – 8 a.m. – awakening, morning procedures, making breakfast for her child and husband, listening to some music or a light podcast or the news on the radio
  • 8 a.m. – 9 a.m. – driving to work, listening to music, news on the radio, or podcasts
  • 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. – workday, Jane doesn’t distract often herself. She is the head of the department, and she has a lot of responsibilities. She does her work with enthusiasm because she is good at it. So, she opens her social networks only a few times during short breaks.
  • During the lunch break, she either talks to her colleagues or scrolls the feed on her social media
  • After work, at 5 p.m. – driving home or to yoga classes, she listens to the radio or some podcast
  • At home, till 9 p.m. she is busy with a kid and household chores. After the kid goes to bed, Jane has time with her husband, and they watch some movies on TV or on a streaming service. Or, if the husband is busy, she can lie on the couch for a bit and surf the net on her phone or notebook.

What communication channels are the most suitable for your target audience?

There. Now, we can identify which communication channels we can use to advertise our pillow. From the list above, we can conclude, that Jane uses the Internet and social media in particular (we have to note this, because, there are still not so old people, who don’t use the Internet much). So, at this stage, we can say for sure, that all types of digital connection channels suit us. Regarding the traditional connection channels, we can note, that Jane uses the radio and TV for sure, and she is driving around the city, so we can use outdoor advertising. She definitely has a mailbox, so we can use physical mail as well. And phone – we can try to send her an ad by postal services. What else do we have? Printed ads? Yes, sure, Jane can pick some newspaper and see our ad. Themed events? Exhibition of sleeping accessories? Maybe, who knows? Sponsorship? We can participate in every event in the city and our label will be seen by everyone, yes? Well, no matter how it seems that all options are suitable for us, it’s not true. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each option of traditional media channels in that case.

Traditional MCCs

First, TV. It’s a powerful tool to advertise since nearly 60% of people in the world are watching TV every day. But, our example business is located in a large city with a 1 million population. Even in the USA, there are only 10 cities with more than a million inhabitants. On the one hand, it’s good – in such a large city, everyone is watching TV in some way. But on the other hand, in big cities, prices are always higher. A broadcast of a 30-second clip at the appropriate time (but not in prime time) can cost more than $100,000 per month. It’s a very expensive and risky option. Nobody knows, maybe it is worth it to spend. Potentially your product will become so popular that you will not have time to produce it and such expensive advertising will pay off very quickly. But putting that kind of money at stake with the risk of being left without an advertising budget is at least unreasonable.

Second, radio. Radio advertising is much cheaper. But even then, in the big city on the popular radio station, the prime-time ads can cost up to $5,000 per month. Is it affordable for such a business as our start-up? Possibly. But is it worth it? We are offering a physical product with form, color, and texture. These are visible traits. And perhaps, advertising a product without showing it to the customer is ineffective. Via radio, by repeating the same message, it may be possible to create an association between the problem “Are you suffering from back pain because of the constant sitting at work?” and the brand name. The main thing is that a potential buyer won’t forget to google the brand name after hearing it. In a summary, radio ads for middle-sized business is a controversial option. Much more effective can be ads in sound streaming services like Spotify. They become a digital substitute for the radio and have a “pay-per-click” option for advertising.

The next option is physical mail. What could be more irritating than the spam in your mailbox? Rhetorical question. Unwanted letters from the busy person’s mailbox typically go straight into the trash box. There is a tiny possibility that our Jane will be relaxed enough to read the brochure. But tiny one. So, again, controversial option. It is not as expensive, as TV and radio, so you can test it. Yes, it costs money, but who knows, maybe in your city (or its suburbia, where our Jane lives), direct mail will be effective. Especially if you created some brochure with info and assortment for your showroom. Just print more and put it in the mailboxes.

Speaking of brochures, printed ads are still pretty popular. Advertising booklets, flyers with discounts, catalogs, and ads in newspapers and magazines. All that stuff is still relevant. But, in a million-plus city, there can be hundreds if not thousands of periodicals. Eventually, 95% of these papers will end in the trash box, so you need to choose the format of your ad properly. Prices of such ads can vary drastically from $20 for a hundred flyers to $500,000 for an ad in national-wide magazines. In our example, Jane doesn’t read magazines much, but she can occasionally take some flyers on the street or flip through a magazine or newspaper while waiting somewhere. We do not claim to be 100% correct, in real life everything could be absolutely different. But in our example, we would print some simple flyers for putting in some malls, in office centers lobbies, or hand them out on the street. Next, the brochures with detailed info about products for the offline shop and maybe some ad in the local magazine if it’s not too expensive.

Speaking of telemarketing – the art of cold calls sale is a difficult art. How do you usually react to phone calls from an unknown number when you are busy? People usually don’t even pick up the phone or if do, they actively resist spontaneous offers from unknown callers. To use it efficiently you need to find a truly talented salesperson. So, if you want to use telemarketing as a start communication channel, maybe it’s not the best decision.

Outdoor advertising on billboards (casual or digital), banners, and citylights is also expensive. It can cost you from $1,500 up to $15,000 per month for one board. Very unreliable and costly option. Maybe, if do it with creativity, it can pay off. But again, it’s a 50/50 chance with high prices. For example, with our pillow, we can put one billboard with a catchy message about aching back and brand somewhere near the big office center.

Events and sponsorship – these options are pricey without any possibility of accurately predicting a quantifiable positive outcome. Maybe in some industries, participation in some big event will guarantee you success and customer flow. But, in the case of the cervical pillow, it’s not an option.

Digital MCCs

So, traditional media channels typically cost a tangible amount of money and have unpredictable results. The risk is high. What can you do to lower risk? To choose an option with a more predictable outcome or with a lower price to make a possible mistake less painful. And now we return to digital marketing connection channels. As we said, modern digital ways of advertising are the analogs of traditional ones in the physical world, but way cheaper. Hence, it’s a good option to start without substantial expenses. Let’s briefly go through them one by one.

Email advertising – one of the most popular digital ways to advertise, appeared before social media. Most of the popular automated mailing services cost nearly $50 per month. Coming up with a compelling letter isn’t easy, but it’s doable. The biggest deal is to get an email database. If to collect it fairly, it takes time or money for collecting services. But, by all means, it’s worth spending your time.

Search Engine Advertising – those 2-4 top lines in the list of the research query, that the user sees the first.  To be honest, when one says Search Engine Ads, it means “Google Ads“, because Google has an overwhelming superiority among search engines – more than 90% of the market share. Of course, you have to know how to set up the ad campaign correctly or hire a specialist, but in general Google Ads is worth spending money on. It provides a cost-effective method to reach a virtually unlimited targeted audience with extremely flexible control tools – you can start, stop, pause, or even adjust your campaigns at any time. It’s cheap – the average cost per click (CPC) is $1-2. And what is the best trait of SEA, is that you pay only for results. Definitely worth placing on the budget list.

Social media become a forerunner of virtual reality. According to fresh statistics, 4.70 billion people around the world now use social media, and 227 million new users have come online within the last 12 months. The average daily time spent using social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter) is 2h 29m. If you have enough visual content or interesting knowledge you can share, social networks can become a good source of free advertisement. Just because people will like and repost your content. The easiest and cheapest option for the e-commerce company. But more than that, in-built tools for advertisement offer fine-tuning of the target audience and display option of your ad. And again, it’s relatively cheap (way cheaper than traditional MCCs) and you pay only if your ad is viewed or clicked on by users.

Mobile apps. According to Statista, the current number of smartphone users in the world today is 6.648 billion, and this means 83.37% of the world’s population owns a smartphone. More people than watch TV. Creating your own app for advertising your product or service through convenience is a good idea. Unfortunately, creating a functional attractive app is very expensive in comparison with other options of advertisement. If you want to find out why click here.

But, you always can buy advertising space in other’s apps, for example, in some marketplace apps. On average, CPM (Cost Per Mille of impressions) is somewhere between $2 – $10. The main thing is to choose the right apps in which you want to advertise your product. Because most often such ads, especially in gaming apps, are terribly annoying.

Advertising through websites. It can be the company’s website, additional landing pages, themed aggregators which are collecting posts and news, and marketplaces for e-commerce companies. The effectiveness of such an advertisement varies depending on the website’s traffic. And the bigger traffic means higher prices for advertising placement if we are talking about third-party websites. Traffic, in its turn, depends on how well the website is set up, does it meet all requirements of search engines, and how well the meta, SEO, and security protocols are set up. You want search engines to see your site as a reliable, secure, and relevant source of information for users. Growing up your personal website’s rating takes time, but if done by the book, it will bring a lot of benefits.

Blogs and Articles. We are talking about entertaining, informative, and advertising articles in your website blog or on some online magazine or themed forums. If you know how something works and you do it well, you have to tell people about it! Basically, this is what we are doing now. 😁 Well-composed revealing the topic article, with links, pictures, infographics, and well-set SEO is not only good, useful content. This article becomes an advertising tool for people and an attention magnet for search machines. The main task is to write it. It takes time if you don’t know how to write or money, to hire a copywriter. But today it’s a sign of good manners to have even a small blog with a couple of articles, describing the benefits of your product. Using our example with the pillow, on the startup’s website necessary to have an article about health benefits with a neat hint on the catalog link.

 Videos. If you have enough things to show, make a clip and show it! Today people more and more tend to watch pictures and videos, then read texts. For our pillow would be great to make several high-quality clips with different types of pillows, and to show what it’s made of. Later, these clips could be conveniently embedded on websites or in social media posts. Maybe a full-fledged vlog won’t be necessary, but a set of short clips in ad format will be useful.

Podcasts. As we mentioned in the paragraph about radio, the ads in audio streaming services like Spotify are relevant. If you can put midroll on YouTube, why not put it in audio? But again, the question arises – will the listener, after he/she heard this ad, stop doing current business and google the name of our pillow? Will he/she remember it? Doubtful. But, we are talking about the physical product. Maybe for some services, it will be useful and way cheaper than radio.

Conclusion

The world become more digitalized, so, digital media channels are a #1 priority. Not all of them, but most of them. Traditional media channels are more favorable only in case if you have enough resources or some cheap option. Below we put a pivot table of MCCs for our example startup with the pillow, taking into account our buyer persona – Jane.

We represent each of the types with three characteristics Price, Complexity, and Risk (P C R); and the level of these characteristics with 3 colors representing low (green), medium (yellow), and high (red) levels.

  • Price:
    • low – when you can easily afford it as a business;
    • medium – fairly affordable, maybe you will need to cut some unnecessary expenses;
    • high – almost unaffordable expense, which requires attracting additional funds and giving up some other ideas.
  • Complexity:
    • low – when you can do it with several clicks of a mouse or a couple phone calls;
    • medium – when you have to make some preparations, for example, create a design, or layout, or when some negotiations or logistics are included;
    • high – when you have to create a separate department or hire a full third-party firm to make it. For example, to film an ad clip for TV you hire a production team and the process takes months of time.
  • Risk:
    • low – in case of failure you will lose nothing or a little;
    • medium – in case of failure your losses are tangible, but not critical;
    • high – in case of failure you lose a lot and will be forced to cut down some other expenses to get funds for new advertisements.

 

“Marketing research” series:

  1. Exploratory research
  2. Study your market  
  3. Competitive analysis
  4. Define your customer – Create a buyer persona
  5. Formulate the unique value proposition 
  6. Define communication channels with a potential client (you are here now)
  7. Define your marketing strategy
  8. Test your product and strategy
  9. Implement PDCA methodology 

If there is no link, it means we’re still working on the article, so stay tuned 🙂