Should I be on Tiktok?

Or join Clubhouse?

Or stick with email marketing?

“Should we be marketing on [channel]?” is a simple question, but one with a more complicated answer. It feels like every few months, a new platform (and sometimes and entirely new channel) gains traction. You hear things like…

“You need to be running Facebook ads. It’s the top funnel traffic to seed everything else.”

“SEO matters more than anything else. Why rent when you can buy?”

“Email > everything”

“Content is king.”

The good news is that you don’t need to market your business on every single channel — just the ones that work for your audience.

What channels are your customers using? How do you find them and then, how do you decide which to focus on?

What to consider when choosing marketing channels

Depending on what you read, there are 50 – 100 marketing channels to choose from. Which channels should you use? Base your decisions on these two factors:

  1. Understanding what you’re best at and where you have a competitive advantage
  2. Understanding where your audience is hanging out online

The overlap between these two points will help you quickly narrow down what marketing channels are best for your business:

Find your competitive advantage

Your competitive advantage is in the channels where you’re most comfortable creating content. To discover where your competitive advantage lies, there are two essential questions you have to answer:

  1. What kind of content do you like to create?
  2. What kind of content do you like to edit?

The magic in content is in the edit. The type of content you like to edit is the type of content you’ll win at over the long-term.

If you like to record podcasts, but detest editing audio, then podcasting may not be the right fit for you (until you can pay somebody to edit it for you).

Similarly, if you truly enjoy the process of editing video content, then creating videos on YouTube will be a competitive advantage for your business.

Discover where your audience is

With a few quick Google and database searches, you can quickly discover five very important things about your audience:

  1. What they watch
  2. What they read
  3. Who they follow
  4. Where they hang out
  5. What they listen to

Image via Sparktoro (a great platform that helps shortcut this process)

What does your audience watch?

Here are three quick searches you can do to find what your audience is watching:

  • YouTube — Search for videos related to your topic on YouTube to surface some of the best educational resources your audience is watching.
  • Google — Complete a Google search for your topic and click the “Videos” tab along the top. Surprisingly, this can be quite valuable as it surfaces videos that are not on YouTube.
  • Instagram — With Instagram becoming more focused on video, searching for your audience on their platform (as well as Tiktok) gives you a better idea of what your audience watches for entertainment.

What does your audience read?

Different audiences get information in different channels, but almost every audience reads. Here’s how to find what your audience is reading:

  • Google — A quick Google search surfaces some of the most authoritative articles that your audience is reading, but “pro” Googlers make sure to dive into pages two and three of the search results to surface even more top content.
  • Amazon — Diving into Amazon and looking at the top books your audience might be reading is beneficial. If you want to dramatically improve your ability to deliver what your audience wants, read the 3-star reviews of all of those books. 3-star reviews tend to be more balanced and surface the kind of things that audience members, that wanted to love the book, wish were included (or excluded).
  • BuzzsumoBuzzsumo quickly gives you a pulse on what written content is getting shared most often on social media.
  • Substack — Substack, the email newsletter platform, has a discovery function that can surface some of the top newsletters your audience may subscribe to. Substack also has a stellar function that allows you to search for writers you already follow on Twitter.

Who does your audience follow?

According to Statista, 79% of Americans have social media accounts. Discovering who they follow on those platforms reveal direct and indirect marketing channels (such as observing where those accounts are sending people off the platform). 

Here’s four places you should look, and how to search for your audience there:

  • Instagram — With nearly 1 billion monthly active users, Instagram still outpaces most other popular social platforms. If your audience is on social media, there’s a good chance they’re following people and brands on Instagram.
  • Twitter — Twitter search is immensely powerful and an underrated discovery channel. Searching for your topic and audience will not only show the top tweets, but also top accounts they are likely following.
  • TikTok — While the TikTok algorithm is fantastic at surfacing content based on what you consume, using the “Discover” tab surfaces the top accounts your audience may be following.
  • YouTube — Search on YouTube for your audience or topic, click the small “Filter” button and select “channels” to discover who your audience follows (and possibly evaluate based on the total number of subscribers).

Where does your audience hang out?

Sometimes, people want to do more than follow. They want to engage. According to Facebook, “over 400 million people are in Facebook groups they find meaningful.” Discovering where they hang out online can be an extremely valuable marketing channel.

  • Google — Google has a set of really interesting search functions called “advanced operators” that allow you to dig deep into their database. To find out where your audience hangs out online, try searching with “forum:[topic]” to surface the top forums your audience may be engaging on.
  • Facebook — Facebook groups are still immensely popular. Searching in the navigation bar for your topic/audience and sorting by “Groups” will quickly show where they are gathering on Facebook.

What does your audience listen to?

According to Edison Research and Nielsen, 44% of people in the US have listened to podcasts and nearly half of those people (45%) have an income over 75k (vs 35% in the general population). Want to find those people? Here’s how:

  • Apple Podcasts — Notorious for horrific discoverability (and total inability to search by keyword), Apple Podcasts can still be valuable by looking at the “Top” charts, as well as “New & Noteworthy” in categories your audience may be interested in.
  • Twitter — Searching for “[top/audience] + podcast” is a great way to surface what your audience is listening to.
  • Listen NotesListen Notes is one of the best podcast search engines and covers all the bases that Apple Podcasts (and other podcast listening platforms) miss.

But what if you still can’t find your audience? It’s not unusual to discover that most of the places your audience are spending time online lack the level of rich discussion, or just appear not to exist at all.

Alex Hillman presents a smart framework for diving even deeper when you can’t seem to find your audience:

  1. Brainstorm how your audiences describe themselves — Spend time Googling for additional terms that your audience may use to describe themselves. For example, a professional blogger may describe themselves as a content marketer, editor, writer, or copywriter.
  2. Dig deeper with industry-specific jargon, tools, and techniques — Dig deep into conferences, hardware, software, events, to discover jargon and tools that you may not be familiar with. For example, if you’re unfamiliar with email marketing, you may not know what a “welcome series” is or how important it is to email marketers.
  3. The “lateral” search — Instead of searching for your audience directly, search for them laterally. This works best in situations when your audience is defined by a latent characteristic, or one they don’t openly discuss online. For example, if you are a financial advisor whose audience is the uber wealthy, you’ll unlikely find many places where they openly discuss how much money they have. However, you will find places devoted to services they use, people they uniquely hire, and travel destinations.

Hillman goes on to confess that this process is difficult and “you’ll feel lost up until the moment where you don’t feel lost anymore.”

Once you have an idea where your audience is, and the overlap with your competitive advantage, it’s time to consider how channels overlap with one another, including channels you may already be using.

The 15 common marketing channels you (might) already use

When you look for “marketing channels,” you’ll probably find a long list with more ideas than you could ever possibly use, such as:

  • Email marketing
  • Social Media
  • Online Communities
  • Digital Advertising (Facebook, LinkedIn)
  • PPC (Google and BIng)
  • Video marketing
  • Organic SEO
  • Live events
  • Content marketing
  • Influencer marketing
  • Giveaways
  • Direct marketing
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Digital PR
  • Review marketing

Within each of these channels, there are dozens of strategies. For example, within social media, there are a half dozen platforms:

  1. Facebook 
  2. Instagram
  3. Tiktok
  4. LinkedIn
  5. Twitter
  6. Snapchat

Within each platform, there are even more tacticals ways to market your business. There are at least 8 tactics within Facebook alone!

  1. Paid advertising
  2. Live video
  3. Stories
  4. Organic posts
  5. Business pages
  6. Personal
  7. Messenger
  8. Communities

Overwhelming, right?

If you’re trying to use every single marketing channel, and leverage every single platform within each channel, you’ll be buried by a flood of options.

Maybe it’s time to try something new?

3 marketing channels you haven’t tried yet (but should)

Unlike even a few years ago, customers expect a seamless experience across multiple channels. This is true not only of your marketing message, but also in how channels interact with each other. 

The ability to send a text based on a customer interacting with a Facebook ad, or email them based on an interaction with your livechat, is no longer optional.

It’s table stakes.

Here are three marketing channels that will grow your business in 2021:

1. SMS (text) marketing

People “check” their social media notifications, but they “get” text messages.

With SMS marketing, you can:

  • Automatically send appointment reminders
  • Message attendees of live events (online or in-person)
  • Confirm deliveries
  • Deliver time-based promotions and coupons
  • Improve customer experience (and loyalty) by immediately sending personalized rewards based on actions your customer is taking
  • Build a deeper connection than is possible on social media

The key to winning with SMS marketing is treating it the same way you would treat customer success or social media: it’s a conversation. Use the channel to pull people in as much (if not more) than you push out marketing messages.

2. Conversational marketing

In addition to the text messaging conversations you’re having with your audience, chatting with them on your website (or on other messaging platforms like Facebook) can prove to be a strong marketing channel.

You can increase the power of this channel by improving the customer experience by allowing you (or your team) to reply to all of your messages in one place:

For example, ActiveCampaign’s conversational marketing software, you can manage all of your conversations in one place.

3. Podcasts

The barrier to entry with podcasts can feel high. But there’s a ton of opportunity compared to other channels. As of 2021, there are currently:

  • 600 million blogs
  • 60 million Facebook business pages
  • 37 million YouTube channels
  • 1.8 million podcasts

Podcasting may be an ideal marketing channel for you specifically for that reason: so few people are doing it.
There is no platform more immediate and intimate than a podcast. Despite some podcaster’s sharing an obsession with podcasting “gear,” becoming the authority is not much further away than a smartphone to record into.

The top marketing channel you MUST be using in 2021

The most important marketing channel you’ll be using in 2021?

Email marketing (+ targeting).

While there are big opportunities in SMS, conversational marketing, and podcasting, nothing compared to email marketing.

According to Statista, 254 million people use email at least once per month in the United States (3.7 billion worldwide). As a channel, email continues to drive the most consistent revenue for businesses:

If you want to take your email marketing to the next level, read these three guides:

  1. How to collect emails
  2. Create an email welcome series
  3. Guide to targeted email marketing

Conclusion: Are there other marketing channels?

But what about other marketing channels? Aren’t there others you should consider?

What matters most is finding the channels that overlap between your competitive advantage and where your customers are.

You only have a limited amount of time so choosing the right channels (such as SMS, conversational marketing, podcasts and email for 2021) is crucial.