What Is Channel Strategy?

BrandMuscle | October 8, 2021

When reaching your customers effectively, a precise and targeted approach to marketing is critical. You may be unfamiliar with the term “channel strategy.” Still, it holds the secret to selling and succeeding in the competitive market. It’s time to debunk the mysteries and unleash the potential of channel strategy to connect with your customers where they are and drive positive brand experiences.

Demystifying Channel Strategy

Channel strategy is the unique approach companies employ to reach their target audiences at specific touchpoints throughout their customers’ path to purchase. It’s a comprehensive marketing plan tailored to deliver impactful messages to existing and potential customers, enticing them to buy while fostering a positive perception of your brand.

Channels are the online and offline platforms where businesses intersect with their customers. These channels include where customers shop, conduct market research, seek recommendations, and stumble upon marketing messages during their daily activities. These touchpoints also serve as avenues for third parties, such as channel partners and influencers, to deliver marketing on behalf of your brand.

By identifying the proper channels, you can engage your customers effectively. Channel strategy revolves around exposure, contact, and customer experience, focusing on precision.

Exploring Types of Channels in Channel Strategy

Channels surround us as consumers, even if we’re unaware of the term itself. Whether at a local coffee shop where print ads hang on the wall, scrolling through Instagram while waiting for a cup of Joe, or encountering banner ads on our laptops while working remotely, our exposure to marketing messages is constant. These physical and digital channels play a crucial role in delivering these messages.

Some examples of channels include:

  • Email
  • Social media platforms
  • Websites
  • Content marketing
  • SEO
  • Direct mail
  • TV ads
  • Print ads
  • Pay-per-click (PPC) ads
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Influencers
  • Brand ambassadors
  • Word-of-mouth

These channels consistently transmit marketing messages. However, cutting through the noise and capturing your audience’s attention requires a sophisticated marketing plan that speaks their language and stands out amidst competing channel marketers.

Crafting a Strong Channel Strategy

Developing an effective channel strategy begins with understanding your products, customer preferences, communication style, values, and where they spend their time. By aligning these factors, you can determine the channels worth investing in.

Here’s a step-by-step approach to building a robust channel strategy:

1. Understand What You Sell

Consider whether your business offers tractors, lumber, baked goods, software, or experiential services like cooking lessons. The nature of your products or services will shape your channel strategy. For businesses selling directly to customers through ecommerce or brick-and-mortar stores, face-to-face interactions become vital to your direct marketing efforts.

If you sell indirectly through a network of dealers, vendors, agents, and partners, equipping them with the right incentives, branded assets, and cooperative programs becomes crucial to reach customers with brand-compliant messages effectively.

2. Define Your Target Audience

Study your customers’ habits and determine their preferred touchpoints. Which social media platforms do they use for communication? Are there specific channels where your brand’s niche is part of the discussion? Distinguish between prospects and existing clients — their behaviors will influence your strategy. Additionally, understanding generational differences and the unique shopping habits and values of millennials, baby boomers, Gen Z, and Gen X will help you engage with them effectively.

Identify where your customers go for online reviews and recommendations before purchasing. Is it through influencers on Instagram, family, friends, or traditional media celebrities? Creating buyer personas will guide your channel selection and help position your brand authentically, catering to your audience’s needs and values.

3. Prioritize the Customer Experience

Consider how your products shape the customer journey and how consumers perceive your business. A channel strategy goes beyond selling products — it aims to deliver a memorable experience. Consider your customers’ habits, cost constraints, and your product’s capabilities. What do customers need to feel satisfied and appreciated?

For example, businesses offering simple, self-installable products may utilize direct retail and e-commerce sales as a channel strategy. On the other hand, selling complex items like software or insurance necessitates a more intricate approach. Insurance companies benefit from agents who can answer questions, explain policy details, and build customer trust. Software companies may require trained specialists to handle installation and customer support.

In both cases, expert assistance enhances the customer experience, increasing the likelihood of sales and fostering positive relationships. Strive to leave customers happy, satisfied, and eager to spread the word about your brand.

Leverage social media by encouraging customers to share their experiences as brand ambassadors. Engage customers at coffee shops through enticing, sensory-based Instagram posts or direct marketing, and empower them to become part of your marketing strategy.

4. Set Goals and Measure Your Channels

Once you’ve invested in specific channels, establish measurable goals to assess the success of your strategy. Each channel can have different purposes based on its position along the customer journey. Track the number of leads generated directly and measure the sales influenced by each channel.

For example, you should evaluate email campaigns through click-through rates. At the same time, you should measure SEO and content marketing effectiveness by website traffic. Referral programs can help track the volume of word-of-mouth leads, and social media campaigns can indicate the success of influencer programs. These analytics enable you to determine the return on investment (ROI) and optimize your strategy, making adjustments to increase effectiveness, improve ROI, and support your case for a larger marketing budget.

Multi-Channel vs. Through-Channel Strategy

While channel strategy is about targeting and precision, different approaches suit various types of businesses.

Multi-Channel Strategy

In a multi-channel strategy, businesses simultaneously focus on multiple marketing channels to engage potential and current customers. This approach involves direct channels like email campaigns, direct mail campaigns, digital catalogs, social media, PPC ads, and your website to attract prospects.

Remember, even though most marketing strategies involve multiple channels, you must be highly selective about which ones you invest in. Choose the channels your target audience frequents the most, ensuring your efforts are focused and effective.

Through-Channel Strategy

Through-channel strategy empowers brands to scale their advertising programs across multiple channels and drive local sales by managing brand assets and marketing resources with channel sales partners. In today’s landscape, where significant world trade flows indirectly through channels, alliances become essential.

A through-channel marketing automation (TCMA) platform bridges the gap between a brand’s corporate marketing efforts and the unique needs of local partners. It enables partners to create brand-compliant marketing materials and manage co-op dollars across a distributed network of dealers, agents, franchisees, sales reps, and retailers. Since local partners significantly impact selling products and services in specific areas, a through-channel strategy ensures cohesive marketing campaigns at scale.

Best Practices for Channel Strategy

To ensure the success of your channel strategy, keep these best practices in mind:

  1. Define your business objectives.
  2. Determine ideal ROI and KPIs.
  3. Segment your portfolio.
  4. Understand your channel partner ecosystem.
  5. Carefully choose your software.

Ready to Discover the Best Touchpoints in Your Customers’ Journeys?

Contact BrandMuscle today to discuss creating or improving your channel strategy. Unleash the true potential of targeted marketing and drive remarkable results for your business.

Book a demo of our best-in-class channel marketing platform today.

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