Choosing, prioritizing, measuring, and optimizing different channels is a major part of any marketing/growth job.
But there is no such thing as the perfect channel that would work for every company and in every situation.
Once in a while, a new channel might emerge and it might perform better than everything else for certain companies for a period of time. But most of the time there are trade-offs to consider.
In this post, I’m sharing a simple visual guide to selecting the most promising starting channels for testing and understanding their inherent trade-offs.
Predictability vs. Cost Trade-off
The performance of some channels is easier to predict before you invest any time or effort. It’s also easier to forecast how they are going to perform in the future. Generally — but not always — these channels tend to cost more as companies are usually willing to pay extra for certainty.
Targeting Precision and Consumer/SMB/Enterprise Focus
One of the most important considerations is how precisely you need to target your prospective customers.
Sometimes you know exactly who your ideal customers are. For example, your product might solve specific problems that only engineering leaders at large healthcare companies face. Or your product might only appeal to teenagers who are into punk rock.
And at other times you’re selling something that’s more like peanut butter. Almost anyone can try it. Well, except people with peanut allergy…
The second consideration is whether you’re in a B2C or a B2B business. And if you’re in a B2B business, it’s to distinguish between channels that are more likely to work for the SMB segment and channels that are more likely to work for the enterprise segments.
Customer Intent and Consumer/SMB/Enterprise Focus
Another important consideration is how aware your prospective customers are about your product category and how actively they are searching for solutions.
For example, a finance manager might actively look for an accounting software solution. Or a suburban parent might look for pizza delivery. These are well-established categories.
However, if you work at an innovative company, you might find yourself with a novel product or product category that customers don’t know they need. In this case, you usually need to educate them about the existence of your product type and what it can do for them.
Additional Axes to Consider
I’ll stop here for now, but here are some additional dimensions to consider:
- Scalability. Even if you can make this channel work, how big can it get?
- Measurability and attribution. How measurable is this channel, how easy is it to attribute new users, customer leads, and revenue to it?
- Product channel fit. Is this a channel where the type of product you’re making is typically researched or sold?
- Audience channel fit. Is this where your audience already is?
After forming a hypothesis about which channels are likely to work well in your situation, define success metrics, and run a series of experiments.
- These are just general guidelines. Each company is unique. Each product is unique. One could easily come up with many exceptions, “refuting” the location of each channel on these maps. The goal is to outline the general patterns in broad strokes and provide a starting place for people who might not know where to start.
- There is no perfect “mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive” framework for marketing/growth channels. They’ll overlap no matter how you slice and dice them. There’s also debate on whether some of these channels should be considered even channels or strategies that reinforce multiple channels. For instance, content can be used across multiple channels — from social and SEO to even outbound sales.
- In reality, each of these bubbles can be both wider and taller. But that would make for a messy chart. For example, take podcasts or PR. You can make them more or less targeted depending on specific tactics and partners you choose. For example, if anyone can be your customer, you might partner with podcasts that cover a wide range of topics and whose subscribers include a wide range of demographics. But if you are targeting a very specific decision-maker at a specific company, you might sponsor a niche podcast. It’s the same with PR. That being said, these channels will still on average allow for less targeting than SEM ads, LinkedIn ads or outbound emails.
I hope you found these coordinate system charts helpful. Please feel free to share with your colleagues or friends and let me know if you have feedback!