The content of this blog post was initially presented as a conference talk at Enterprise Nation's StartUp Show in Jan 2023. It is tailored to be relevant for the conference attendees, i.e. UK-based entrepreneurs and SMEs.
The initial title of the conference talk was How to choose the perfect marketing channel mix, and I found it a little misleading, and I’ll explain why.
My issue is with the “perfect” part. It could imply that once the channels are chosen, that’s all you work on, marketing-wise.
But the “perfect mix” isn’t permanent, and it’s a big mistake to assume otherwise.
In a 2022 HubSpot survey of over 1,200 marketers, more than 80% said that marketing has changed more in the last three years than in the last 50 years.
What worked for your launch campaign or the first year of your business will not necessarily continue working. Change is constant, and it's something that will influence your business strategy as well as your marketing mix.
Algorithms can change: this is a regular hurdle any audience manager goes through if your community is based on an external platform, whether a Slack group or TikTok.
New social media channels pop up, meaning a chunk of your audience might be moving elsewhere. Here's a dilemma – do you follow them and start a new channel or work towards growing the existing channel further?
The audience you knew changes interests. For example, your regular Saturday brunchers that never missed your live stream event are now settled dog owners, shop on Vinted and never miss a Sunday farmers market.
Or, Elon Musk buys the social media channel you relied on for advertising, and now you’re reevaluating your options.
Three key factors that should guide your channel mix selection
As a startup, you don’t want to be pointing in the dark. You don’t want to waste time, resources, or money on doing something that doesn’t bring value or impact. You want to know what channels to pursue.
To determine that, we're going to go through a little exercise: look at these three crucial factors:
Your skills and existing habits
What do you already do well? This will help you uncover hidden talents that might be practical for marketing.
What do you already do on a regular basis? This will help you repurpose existing habits into something meaningful.
What do you enjoy doing? This will reveal activities you will likely stick to doing for longer and even transform into a superpower that will help you stand out from the competition.
Skills like good writing or being great face-to-face with people can be incredibly valuable for your business. If you spend two hours daily on social media, this time can be repurposed to getting to know your audience, engaging with them or even recruiting the right ambassadors to work with your brand.
The objective here is to identify as many useful skills and habits that you can turn into your business superpowers.
Swim with the stream, not against it.
The learning curve for entrepreneurs is already very steep. So look at the potential of your existing skills and the opportunities they present for your business. In some cases, hiring existing expertise, whether part-time or on a project basis, is a much more practical way of getting things done fast. Quite often, they can help get you started, set a strong foundation of best practices, and build up momentum so you can carry on maintaining it after that.
The essence of what your business is about
Take a closer look at the product/solution you’re providing for your customers, this will guide your marketing strategy and channel choices. Two basic examples:
A baking business that makes the most perfect party cupcakes – that’s a very visual offering, so marketing activities and channels you’ll consider are very visual and will most likely involve good photography, animations, and some creative partnerships.
Executive business coach – most likely, you are full of real-life advice and have a great network, so seeking exposure via speaking and guest podcast opportunities to increase your public visibility, regularly sharing industry commentary over Linkedin, writing email newsletters or even contributor articles via business publications could be the best channels to consider.
You know your business best, so really drilling into the WHAT and the WHY of your product offering will help in this exercise.
Your knowledge of your customers
This leads to the most important factor of this exercise – who are your customers? Where do they hang out (online and offline)? What do they read, and how do they consume news or general content? Who do they follow on social media? What do they like? Knowing your customer is the most important thing that will dictate the rest of your marketing plan.
If you’re just starting out, an educated guess based on your business plan is a good place to start. The important stage here is to prove yourself right or wrong – going ahead and starting marketing activities, seeing what's working or not, then reassessing and deciding further actions.
Don't be shy when getting to know your customers – talk to the customers if you can, chat with them online, and ask important questions like how they found your business and why did they choose your brand or product. Open your mind and listen for the cues.
The Good Eggs
I've compiled a list of various brands that are worth learning from:
Website: Oddbox and BorrowMyDoggy do a good job of explaining their concept and process and showcasing customer reviews on their homepage. As a website visitor, you can already understand what they are about and establish brand trust in the first 10 seconds of your visit.
Email marketing: DiversifyTech newsletters are a great example of maximising every email to your community by sending the most valuable and useful content. If you would like to see a good example of an automated lead nurturing email sequence, sign up for Thinkific's email sequence.
Social Media: The GoodShip Illustration does a fantastic range of interesting, entertaining and engaging content via their social media, most famously – their weekly draw along live events.
Event Marketing: Live conferences and events still have strong potential for brand partnerships, especially when you are new to the market. You have a chance to engage and attract a completely new audience aligned with your brand values. This is what I witnessed at the StartUp Show with Monzo Business – it's an event for entrepreneurs and new businesses, and Monzo Business was the spot-on partner to have at the event with valuable and relevant tools and advice, in line with what the audience was looking for.
Public Relations: Pregnant then Screwed charity does an excellent job of regularly sharing survey results for newspapers and magazines to quote when writing about the reality of parenthood in the UK.
Influencer Marketing: #KitriGirls is the brand hashtag that lets the influencer partnerships show up (as well as tons of brand fans add their photos) on the social media of their choice and add to their reach.
Word of Mouth: It's hard to top what Monzo has achieved by turning its customers into brand champions.
Work with your strengths in mind, and you can turn them into superpowers that will help you stand out.
Know your audience. This will dictate the tone of voice, content type, and where to focus your marketing efforts.
Stay tuned with your marketing results – if something isn’t working like it used to, it is time to review and change things.