How to find scalable channels to market for your business?
One of a business owner’s main jobs to be done is to find repeatable, reliable and scalable channels to market. If you don’t prove your channel marketing mix quickly enough you’re setting yourself up for failure. According to the Telegraph, 20% of new ventures fail within their first year, with that stat rising to 60% within the first three years. There are a plethora of reasons for failing, but not being able to reach and sell to your target audience is one of the most common.
The way you reach your target audience is through your channel marketing strategy. This strategy generally comprises between four and six channels out of the possible 20 different growth channels. Generally speaking, there will be a mix between organic, direct, content, viral and paid channels.
I’ve summarised how to quickly validate channels to market using a five step process. So without further ado, here you go:
- Build a hypothesised channel strategy
One of my favourite channel selection frameworks is called the Bullseye Framework, created by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares. It’s a framework I use to help 10-15 startups per month build their marketing strategy with. Over time I’ve actually added an additional channel and updated the framework a little, I’ve summarised the framework and how I use it in this article I wrote.
When you run the Bullseye Framework, the first exercise involves going through each of the 20 channels to market in turn. At each channel you should be assessing:
- Is your target audience reachable through this channel?
- Has my business, or similar businesses, seen success in reaching your target audience through this channel?
- Is this channel affordable in terms of estimated cost per acquisition?
Of course, you might not immediately be able to answer all these questions. You might have to do some customer interviews to find answers to point A. For point B, you might need to do market and competitor research, this article dives into some ways to do this. For point C you’ll likely need to do some research using some marketing tools to understand the potential behind a channel (for instance using Google AdWords Planner to find estimated search volumes and cost per click on your key terms).
Once you’ve researched and thought through each of the 20 channels, it’s time to select 4-6 channels that have the highest potential to hit your growth targets that fit within your budget.
- Build your Martech infrastructure
With your hypothesised channel strategy in place, it’s time to ensure you have the right tools and systems in place that will enable you to start running these channels. It’s time to build your Martech Stack.
A Martech Stack is a combination of marketing tools, that are generally integrated to form a ‘stack’ that enables your marketing activity and analytics across your customer funnel. For each channel, you’ll likely have a specific tool used for execution.
Your Martech Stack will generally include channel-specific tools, a CRM system, analytics tools and a centralised reporting set-up. See this article on how to build an effective Martech Stack.
- Build your team of channel experts
Now you have your channel strategy and your Martech infrastructure in place, it’s time to build your team to execute the strategy.
It’s very common for startup founders in their early stages of growth to allocate all channel execution responsibilities to either themselves or a “generalist marketer”. Most of the time meaning execution is down to a non-expert. This is a dangerous path to take which leads to lots of wasted marketing spend and slow (or no!) learnings.
Now, you might be thinking, “but I can’t hire 4-6 channel-specific experts!”. And, you’d be absolutely correct to assume that you shouldn’t go and hire 4-6 new full-time growth team members. Why would you hire 4-6 new people when you’ve only got a hypothetical, unproven channel strategy in place? You wouldn’t…
At this point it’s time to go and find freelance, channel-specific growth experts who can come into your business on flexible terms to start running growth experiments. By using experts you can guarantee they can come in and quickly start validating or invalidating your investment in the channel. They know the best practices that will enable them to quickly make the channel work.
- Start running growth experiments
The aim of this step is to validate your channel marketing strategy. Your team of experts is coming in to run experiments within the channel to make incremental improvements in the channel’s performance. They are essentially testing out the hypothesis you set that each of these channels are ones that will enable you to grow.
But how do you know when a channel is validated? And how long is this going to take? Well… good questions. Each channel will have slightly different criteria for what “success” looks like. And each channel will have its own key performance indicators (KPIs) associated with it. This article goes into some of the key marketing metrics you should know.
The important thing is to make sure before you start running a channel, that you define the purpose of that channel and what success looks like, with a specific metric associated with it.
Once your team find consistency within a channel and are constantly hitting or surpassing your measure of success for the channel, it’s a proven channel to market. This takes this channel into the centre of the Bullseye diagram, making up your proven channel strategy.
- Re-run the Bullseye Framework
Generally, it’s best practice to run a channel for at least three months to give your expert a channel to validate it as a channel for growth. However, having said this, some channels take much longer to prove themselves than others, such as SEO. And some channels total spend is more important than time, for instance with paid ads. So, it’s worth considering these factors when you are setting your strategy and building your “what does success look like?” criteria.
We’d recommend assessing your channel selection every 3 months, swapping out channels that aren’t performing well and re-investing that budget into ones that are doing well, or into testing new channels. Then it’s a good idea to completely re-run the Bullseye Framework I talked through in Step 1 every 6 months. In these sessions, you can assess your current channels as well as think strategically about investing in new channels to test.
Furthermore, at this point in time, you might consider hiring some of the key, proven channel roles in-house. As you’ve validated the channel and can be more certain about the channel’s impact on your bottom line you can hire with more certainty in the role.
Building a marketing strategy isn’t just about sitting down with a pen and paper and coming up with ideas. It’s a continuous process of experimentation and validation of initial hypotheses. You need to make sure you make some well-founded assumptions upfront and then have the right tools and experts in place that will enable you to test these assumptions