Finding the Right Channels

Marketing communications refers to the promotion of our product, brand, or service. Although promotion is not necessarily complicated, it does require tact and diplomacy to send the appropriate message to our targeted audience. If that isn't enough to consider, channels continue to multiply, not all traditional channels are viable options, and all new channels are not right for every company.

Traditional modes of communication include face-to-face, direct/snail mail, tele-marketing, radio, and television. Some modes are antiquated (tele-marketing), some are expensive (t.v.), and then some are always a good choice when feasible (face-to-face) but non-intrusive (door-to-door). Studies also show that both old and young continue to respond positively to direct mail as it is the old standard with implicit credibility. So the only options we are really throwing out are tele-marketing and door-to-door marketing.

SEE: 5 Keys to An Effective Social Media Program

As for radio, commercials, DJ recommendations, and “shout outs” are beneficial. Even with the introduction of dj and commercial free satellite radio, internet radio, and mp3 vehicle capability, traditional radio remains a viable channel. Newer commercial free options account for approximately 8% of the market; and although significant, the percentage is relatively low because the cost for access is still comparatively high.

Social Networks
Here is where we encounter continued growth and increased difficulty in choice. There is no one right answer; studies are ongoing to attempt to “nail it down” to a science. In general, if you are a niche type company you may benefit from engaging in established forums for that niche. However, if your company is not so defined and serves overlapping markets your choices increase exponentially and it may not be feasible to engage in every possible social network. The solution for the multi-dynamism is to engage in at least one of the big 4: facebook, twitter, linkedin, google+.

SEE: Integrated Marketing Part I

So which of the big 4 is best for which business type? If only it were that easy. There’s no definitive answer or solid basis for making recommendations; however, preliminary studies suggest that B2C (business to community and business to consumer) do well on facebook and twitter while B2B (business to business) do well on twitter and linkedin. For google+ no such trend is identified by business type; however, it is noted that the google+ audience is largely male, technical, and single, engaging somewhat but not as often as facebook or twitter. 

Email, a step between traditional and non-traditional methods, it’s a good channel for sending special messages to your audience. A coupon, an event, or an update are all generally good reasons to send a fancy yet informative email to customers willing to receive, open, and perhaps respond in some matter. Email has been around for approximately 40 years and although Generation Z does not yet find it useful, Generations X and Y grew up with it and gen the Baby Boomers adapted to it although many still prefer the telephone. Since it appears to be a happy medium that is well suited for business, email is likely to remain viable. Also, for our marketing communication purposes, customers generally “opt in”, most platforms, (e.g. mailchimp and constant contact) prohibit spamming, and they encourage reporting of abuse; therefore the communication is more welcomed due to “pre-screening”. The ability to accommodate any business type also makes this a desirable channel for communication.

SEE: The Right Metrics

From the consumer’s perspective, it is a welcomed replacement for tele-marketing and door-to-door sales. Consumers can scan their email at will, engage when they desire without annoyance or intrusion that may be elicited by other methods, and they still get the best deals. Think win-win.

Mobile is the newest communication channel and the most integrative mode since email as it includes phone, networks, text, email, books, music, games, and transactions. For many organizations the mobile explosion is not really a direct concern because platforms provide consumers access to their social networks and email via their mobile apparatus. However, for organizations that offer electronic based services, the mobile app offers a terrific opportunity to provide customers specialized mobile services.

The cost to develop an app continues to decline. Some companies allow you to begin building an app for free or at a low cost, such as appcelerator and magmito. Hiring a developer will still cost a pretty penny. However, if you are a transaction intensive business, the benefit that you gain from provision of convenience to your consumers will far outweigh the upfront costs over time.

SEE: ConsumerChannel Preference Study

Technically Savvy Dilemma
The problem with being technically savvy is two-fold 1) the right mix is a constant moving target and 2) the art of communication is often lost in translation. The first issue is readily dealt with by staying current on industry news. However, the second issue is more difficult to discern.

With technology, the receiver of a message cannot see the sender’s face or body language for the emotional or behavioral cues that add meaning to communication. This can leave the communication open to interpretation which depends mainly on the viewer’s mood and comprehension. I could write a whole post on this point alone. So let's suffice it to say that no matter the channel of choice, we must create succinct communications, we must remember the receiver's disadvantage, and we must be willing to communicate to understanding. If we complete this with a little compassion we will have delivered a memorable service or product, made a customer happy, or successfully expanded brand awareness - all of which are admirable business goals.

About the Author

Maisha Smart, MBA founded Finance and Marketing to help small businesses excel, by bridging the gap between finance and marketing processes. Some of her favorite activities include fine arts, a good debate, and social engagement.

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