This week's episode is all about making those tough, top-level marketing choices to ensure you're allocating your resources in a way that'll give you the best ROI.
How do you finalize a marketing channel strategy when there are so many tactics to choose from?
If you've wanted more insight on how to prioritize your marketing tactics, this episode will provide you with the 5 questions you need to be asking yourself to make the most effective decision.
I'm excited to share the current iteration of the show, CASHING IN ON CONTENT MARKETING, with new episodes published weekly!
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Episode 4: How to Craft a Marketing Channel Strategy - Show Notes
This week's question comes from Nigel Stevens from BigCommerce. He asked:
1. What has worked so far?
There are two important reasons to ask yourself this question:
- You can decide what to keep investing in (and potentially expand)
- You can gain insights from why it’s working -- what does the audience appreciate?
If you haven't had thorough analytics set up, now's the time for that implementation. When you don't now what works, you're more likely to invest in the wrong strategies.
2. What has worked for your competitors?
This is especially important when you aren't able to answer question No. 1. When you lack insight into your own strategies' effectiveness (and even when you don't), look to your competitors.
What are they seeing success in: social? email? organic search?
And how are they achieving this success? Are they tapping into audiences you're overlooking? Is their content answering questions that are valuable to their audience?
This insight can help you adjust your own efforts.
3. What levels of the funnel have you been targeting?
When you're low on resources, it's common to prioritize either top-of-the-funnel or bottom-of-the-funnel content. But middle-of-the-funnel content is just as important.
Customers and clients don't dive right into making a purchase; it's called a sales funnel for a reason -- there's a flow to it. A deficit in content for one section of the funnel can lead to a disturbance in the process.
So, once you've established what tactics have been working, label each one with the part of the funnel they target, and consider whether you've been overlooking other parts of the funnel.
4. What are your primary goals?
Once you have a few ideas about what marketing channels you can tackle next, don't move forward just yet.
Always cross-check these plans with your primary marketing goals. What goals did you set for yourself this year? This quarter? this month? Have you achieved these goals, and if not, why?
5. Do you have the resources?
All of your analysis is moot if you don't have the resources to see these plans through. Carefully consider how much time, effort, manpower, and budget will go into each proposed tactic.
Failing is an experience you can learn from, but having to cease efforts in the middle of your strategy because you run out of resources is a waste.
Mentioned Links / Additional Resources:
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Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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Welcome to Ask Amanda About Marketing, a podcast in which I, Amanda, or occasionally a special guest, answers your questions about inbound marketing. Straightforward, right? If you want to submit a question, e-mail me at email@example.com. I'd love to hear from you. Let's get right to it.
Welcome to Episode 4 of Ask Amanda About Marketing. I'm especially excited because we officially launched the podcast. We had had a soft launch for the first three episodes, but now we're officially out there and will continue rolling it one episode per week. Today, I also have the special privilege of hanging out with my sister's Golden Retriever named Tebow who may be barking or sighing or making all kinds of other dog noises in the background. Let's just assume it's not because of the content of this podcast.
So this week's question is from Nigel Stevens from BigCommerce. And his question is:
What's the best way to figure out the number one marketing channel I should pursue?
The reason he submitted that question was that he said he frequently gets it from thousands of stores who run their shops through BigCommerce. So this is something he hears a lot and he thought it might be good to address it on this episode. This is obviously a huge question and one that will come up in every marketer's life, whether you're starting at a new company or it's just about that time that you need to reflect on your marketing strategy so far what's been working, what hasn't, and what might be the best way to move forward.
So I don't think I'll be able to cover everything in 15 minutes. However, what I do hope to do is provide you with a framework for being able to answer these questions yourself and start thinking these things through to determine the best course of action.
So the way I'm going to set this up is by giving you five questions and a little bit of context for each one. These five questions should help you guide your marketing strategy going forward.
So, let's start with question number one, which is: what has worked so far?
Now, there are two reasons to ask yourself this question. The first is to decide what to keep investing in and potentially expand. It's possible if it's only working so well, your number one marketing strategy might be to invest more in that channel internally. We found that it's difficult to always know how to attribute where you're getting your traffic or your leads or your sales from. Even though you might use something like last touch attribution, it doesn't necessarily mean that that's the only place they saw you before making the sale or, you know, deciding to purchase something. It's a good indication of what might have propelled them at the very end to go ahead and perform the action. You also have to consider that there are probably other things they saw about you before they got to that point. Maybe they saw blog posts you published. Maybe they saw a mention on an article on another newspaper or maybe they saw you and follow you on social.
So, it's difficult to know one hundred percent which channels are really paying off. So if you're in a position where you are new at a company and they haven't had a lot of analytics set up and you can't really measure this, you have to go in and you have to set up really structured analytics process for yourself and then perhaps run things as they've been going to see how they're performing for you. It's really important to be able to see how things have been doing in order to assess how to move forward.
Here's an example of how my team does this. I'm in the internal marketing team at Fractl meaning we're responsible for getting the agency's name out there, really telling our brand story, and what differentiates us from other agencies.
A lot of how we measure our success is through lead flow and qualified leads. Well, a lot of our strategy is actually doing what we do for our clients, which is creating data-driven content campaigns that marketers would really be interested in that can be actionable for them and then pitching them to marketing publishers. We track which of these publications get us the most relevant leads. We do this by on our contact page by asking where the person heard about us. Just through some simple action like that, we were able to determine what were most effective strategies for who to reach out to.
We've refined who we pitch since then. It's been very helpful and allowed us to be efficient in our efforts. In addition to finding out what's working, it's also important to find out why it's working, because even if you're not going to expand that specific type of marketing channel, knowing why it's successful will help you incorporate that into other marketing channels.
Is it that you're reaching the right target audience? Is that where your audience is and perhaps maybe you can get some insight into where else they may be by knowing that? Is it the way you're communicating? Is it the tone of your content? Is it the depth of your content? There are a lot of different questions to ask yourself about what it is about that channel that's being successful.
So again, for example for Fractl marketing, we were able to determine that certain publications just had audiences that were more likely to be interested in our services. So knowing that information really helped us tailor what kind of content they'll be interested in, just seeing what else that publication talks about. It's a really great insight to take a moment, think about why your channels are working and what that can mean for your other channels.
So the second question you need to ask yourself—and this one is just as important as the first—is what's working and what's not working for your competitors.
This is super important if you're starting at a company that, like I mentioned before, maybe they don't have analytics set up and you're not able to look back and determine what has worked for them already.
This is a way to kind of jump-start that process while you allow analytics to run for a couple of months when you arrive there. So even if you already have analytics set up, it's always good to keep up with competitor analysis because other companies other agencies might be ahead of the game. They might be innovating in a way that you hadn't thought of and it's always good to see if it's working for them.
That just gives you a head start. You don't have to test. You can just see that it's working and try to improve upon their process. So whenever you're in this part of your marketing strategy where you're trying to decide what to invest in going forward, make a list of your competitors and check all of their channels—who’s excelling on social, who has in-depth email lists, and what kind of content are they sending out on those email list.
Who has thorough blogs? What kind of content they posting on those blogs? Are those blogs getting a lot of engagement? Track all of these different types of things and not only see what kind of success they are having. See maybe why they're having that kind of success. Analyze the substance of that content and see how you can apply to your own work, especially if you haven't done what they're doing.
Just to give you some quick tips about how to do this kind of competitive analysis. Obviously, there are a lot of tools out there that can help you, but at the very basic level, you can use Buzzsumo and type in your competitors URL to see what their highest performing content is in terms of social shares and inbound links, which is a highly valuable perspective to have. You can see what's being linked to as a resource, which means that that audience finds it really valuable and also which just really engaging in terms of social sharing.
So that's one thing you can do. Another is to throw the brand name into Google News. See are they doing any kind of traditional PR? Are they mentioned by different publishers because they're probably doing content marketing outreach? That's another way to see maybe what's going on currently with their strategy.
So the third question to ask yourself is: what levels of the funnel have you been targeting or perhaps prioritizing?
This is a good way to step back, see what you've done so far, and maybe look at the levels of the funnel you've been neglecting. Even though it's always good to have top of the funnel, you want to make sure that your brand name is out there, that people have heard of you. Obviously, the bottom of the funnel because you want people to convert. A lot of the times middle of the funnel is overlooked. How do you get those people who vaguely heard about you to take the next step to understand why you're competitive to understand, what your value proposition is. Why do they need you while you make their lives easier? So consider where you've been delegating a lot of your resources. Have you been doing too much maybe in one of the other?
This is something that ties back to what's worked so far. Once you decide what has worked, mark off which level of the funnel that corresponds to and where you still need more work to be done. Because at the end of the day, it's a funnel for a reason. Every level is important. You can't just have the top and the bottom or just the bottom. You have to make sure it's a smooth process for potential customers and clients who were becoming acclimated with your brand. It's like actually meeting somebody, you know, you don't say hi and then immediately ask to marry them, right? You have to foster that relationship.
So an example of this for Fractl marketing—just because I have that direct perspective since this is what I've been working on—is for that middle of the funnel content a lot of the times we find success through case studies. They also probably have overlap with the bottom of the funnel, but I'd say it's mostly middle of the funnel content. By now, people have landed on our page. They understand that we do content marketing and growth marketing. That we can get them results in increased organic traffic, building links, etc.
But the case study is when they truly start to understand what it is we've done for our past clients and how that can apply to them. It's a way of taking kind of this vague idea and making it more tangible for people. That's how they're going to start to see and imagine what it's like to work with Fractl. I understand what they can do for me and that's how important middle of the funnel content is. At that point, they may be more likely to click on the contact page or the learn more button or whatever it is that you're using to generate leads.
Once you figure that out, on to question number four, which is what are your primary goals?
So all of this interlinks - you need to know who you're targeting, what level of the funnel they’re at, what's been working. But, you also need to always keep in mind what your primary goals are as a marketing department. What are you trying to achieve right now that's more important than everything else? Ultimately, that is how you decide what to pursue next.
Maybe your lead flow is great. Maybe you get all kinds of quality leads coming every week and you don’t really need to tweak that process too much, whatever you already have in place. So maybe your objective now is to increase general awareness. Maybe you're not as well known as you'd like to be and maybe getting your name out there is going to help bolster the authority of all the content you've already produced.
So think about it that when you're considering what's already been working. Consider how that is impacting your goals. Tie everything back to the goals you set for yourself, for your department and how moving forward, you're going to be able to address the goals you have not met yet that you might have set at the beginning of the year or the beginning of the quarter or what have you.
So aside from generating leads and increasing general brand awareness, some other examples of marketing goals might be increasing niche brand awareness or becoming more authoritative within your industry.
Or perhaps your marketing goals are more SEO driven. Maybe you want to see better rankings for certain keywords and maybe that means you need to increase the quality of your blog content. Or maybe you need to increase the quality of your backlink portfolio and you need to run some content marketing initiatives in order to achieve that. There are a lot of different ways you can go, and again, it comes back to what are you trying to achieve at this moment and supplement the things that have already been working.
The final question is an important one to not skip over once you've determined all of these things which is: do I have the resources?
It's great to come up with a big grand scheme of things. Maybe they end up being a little bit too lofty sometimes and while it's something you might be able to achieve in a year or five years, you have to consider what you can do now. If you do have plans like that, how you can build up the resources that you're ready at a later time.
So when I talk about resources, I'm talking about time and effort and also budget. So whenever you come up with ideas of how you can improve your marketing plan, make sure you're sitting down and you're considering how long is this going to take, how many people do I need, are these people are going to be in-house, do I have people who are trained to perform these tasks or do I need to hire an agency or freelancers? And if so, what kind of budget do I have for that, etc.
There's a lot to consider and it's important to do that before you actually launch any new initiatives. The worst way to spend your time is diving into something and then not being able to actually complete it because then you don't know if it worked or not. It wasn't even a failure. Failure is more valuable than a non-attempt. A failure you can learn from but not completing a task is just a waste of time and resources. So make sure you're considering that before you finalize your plan.
So those are the five questions you need to ask yourself.
What is working so far? What's working for my competitors? What levels of the funnel have we been targeting? What are our primary goals? And do I have the resources to accomplish what I'm hoping to achieve?
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