Monday Mornings with Madison

In Search of The Best Marketing Channel

It’s been said that variety is the spice of life.   Different strokes for different folks.  To each his own.   These expressions all communicate the fundamental truth that every individual has their own preferred way of doing things or approaching life.  What resonates with one person may make no sense to someone else.  What one person loves, another may detest.

Take, for instance, how people like their steaks cooked.  Some like their steak cooked ‘medium’ which is pink at the center.  Others like their meat a little less cooked, ‘medium-rare’, which is pink with a little red in the center.  Still others go in the other direction and want a steak ‘well-done,’ cooked through until the meat is gray (which typically offends chefs and gourmands).  At the other extreme, some prefer their steak so rare that it might still ‘moo’ on the table.  So which customer is right?  Is there one best way to cook a steak?  When it comes to the restaurant business, the answer is that there is no single ‘right way’ to cook a steak. While chefs may have an opinion on the optimal temperature to cook meat, restaurateurs understand that they must serve it however the customer prefers.  The customer – who is paying for the food — should get what they want the way they want it… and preferences vary greatly.

Is that also true of marketing?  Is there one best way to deliver a marketing message to customers?  Or do preferences vary greatly?  If you ask most anyone in business about marketing, they likely will tout the virtues of one or two particular marketing channels above all others.  Indeed, company leaders are perpetually in search of the single ‘best’ marketing channel.  And they will argue vehemently in favor of the one they deem is ‘best.’  But is there one marketing channel that is consistently superior over all others?

A Marketing Experiment

Ask the CEO, operations manager and sales director of a company which is ‘the best’ marketing channel to reach customers and each is likely to tout one marketing approach above all others.  The CEO might feel that email marketing is the most effective way to reach customers.  The operations manager at the same company might think print advertising is ‘the best’ marketing channel to reach their prospective audience.  Meanwhile, that company’s sales director might be of the opinion that trade shows provide the best opportunities to connect with clients.  Each may push to ramp up the amount of marketing dollars spent pursuing that single channel.  When asked, each will minimize any benefit derived from other channels, despite what marketing data says.

What is a marketing director to do?  Which marketing channels should be the focus of the company’s efforts… and dollars?   Just as with meat, there is no ‘best’ approach when it comes to marketing.  People prefer to receive their marketing messages in a variety of ways, much like their steaks.  Different strokes for different folks.  What appeals to one person may not necessarily resonate with another.  But unlike with steaks, it is impossible, or at least improbable, for a company to ask its customers from which marketing channel they would prefer to receive marketing.

Keep An Open Mind

The first step is to keep an open mind to all marketing opportunities.   According to Ernst and Young, one of the big four accounting firms, “focus on more traditional marketing channels is seen as the biggest barrier to success.”  This was according to a report by E&Y examining the top 10 risks and opportunities in 2013.  Openness to new marketing channels was viewed as opportunity #8.  Those channels included:

  • Social media
  • Web 2.0
  • Email
  • Mobile marketing
  • Search
  • Apps

An interesting point to note in their findings.  Their report did not conclude or even hint that any single marketing channel (new or traditional) was ‘best’ or even that a particular channel was better for a particular industry.  Indeed, the E&Y Report recommended a variety of new channels for a variety of industries as diverse as banking, healthcare, oil and gas, life sciences, power and utilities, public administration and retail.

No Best; Many Choices

If variety is the spice of life, then marketing has the ultimate spice rack from which to choose.  According to Adele Sweetwood, VP of SAS Americas Marketing, “Marketing has been flooded with channels.  More channels, more opportunities to engage with customers and prospects than ever before: Communication channels, marketing channels, advertising channels, and more. That will continue to grow and evolve.”   To understand, here are just some of the spices in the marketing spice rack today.  Many of these marketing channels have layers of options within the channel.

  • Slogan / Brand
  • Business Cards
  • Traditional websites
  • Mobile websites
  • Blogs / Microsites
  • Networking
  • Sales Sheets / Flyers
  • Brochures
  • Powerpoint presentations
  • CDs / Flash drives with information
  • Voice mail and on-hold messages
  • Newsletters / Ezine
  • Letterhead
  • Free downloads / Offers (White paper; guides; manuals)
  • Direct mail post cards and flyers
  • Thank you cards / gifts
  • Calendars
  • Premiums (logo’d promotional items)
  • Video
  • Reprints of articles
  • Testimonials
  • Video
  • Signage
  • Billboards / Outdoor media
  • Handouts
  • Merchandise displays
  • Product catalogs
  • Auto-responder messages
  • Coupons and discounts
  • E-mail
  • Social media sites (Facebook; Twitter; LinkedIn; Pinterest; etc)
  • Print advertising
  • Online banner ads
  • Paid Search ads (PPC)
  • Speaking Engagements
  • Seminars / Webinars
  • Sweepstakes / Giveaways
  • TV commercials or infomercials
  • Tradeshows
  • Classified Ads
  • Take one boxes
  • Sales letters
  • Mobile apps
  • Gamification (game design to non-game applications)
  • Door hangers
  • Referral programs
  • One page sites / Landing pages
  • Sponsorships
  • Joint Ventures
  • Radio commercials
  • Celebrity Spokesperson
  • Articles
  • Books
  • Live events (Grand openings; ribbon cuttings; etc.)
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Seasonal promotions

A growing selection of channels provides companies with more options to reach customers and potential customers.  More options means more opportunities.  But it can also mean more risk and challenge to figure out which new versus traditional marketing channels to adopt and how best to implement them.  Indeed, the E&Y report indicated that the two most significant barriers to implementing new marketing opportunities were:

  • A decision by senior management to focus on more traditional marketing channels.
  • An absence of necessary technology expertise within the firm.

How does a marketing director choose?  The process involves a combination of inquiry, tracking, analysis, and assessment.  It depends on what and who you ask.  For example, here is a chart by SMB that quantifies the effectiveness of certain marketing channels.

Can this data be trusted?  What is SMB?  Who gathered the data?  Did they have an ulterior motive?  What questions did they ask?  What audience did they survey?  In order to know if this data is reliable, these and many other questions must be answered.

Next week, stay tuned for more about the questions to ask to decide which marketing channels are best for your company.

Quote of the Week

“The secret of happiness is variety, but the secret of variety, like the secret of all spices, is knowing when to use it.”
Daniel Gilbert


© 2013, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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