Determining Which Channels Are Your Top Performers (and Why the Others Aren’t)

Marketing is a balancing act. You’ll be running campaigns on half a dozen or more channels — digital ads, search, social media, email, and more — and those campaigns will all be feeding into each other, building up awareness for your product or service and converting strangers into customers. It can get overwhelming.

One of the most important parts of any marketing effort will be assessing the success of your marketing, and you can’t do that without constant monitoring and measurement. From startups to Nike, no one’s marketing budget is infinite, and you want to know that you’re spending your money in the right place.

That’s why you should be constantly assessing your marketing channels to determine which ones are doing the most good for your company and which ones are going nowhere fast. So how do you judge one channel against another? We have some ideas.

ROI Isn’t Everything

ROI (return on investment) is talked about constantly in the marketing world. People can’t get enough of articles on how to measure your ROI, how to increase your ROI, what your ROI should be, and so on. But there’s more to marketing channel assessment than pure dollars and cents.

ROI is a simple number. If you spend $1000 on an ad campaign and get $5,000 in sales out of it, you gained $4000 for an ROI of 400 percent. Any ROI over 100 percent is a net gain. Pretty basic stuff, right?

The problem is that no one runs one-dimensional campaigns anymore. Let’s say someone does a web search for a problem they’re having, and one of your blog posts comes up. They read the post and they’re interested, so when a popup appears on your website that invites them to subscribe to your newsletter, they accept. Then they get an email inviting them to follow your Facebook page. On the Facebook page, they see a promotion for your product and make a purchase.

Your SEO, blog, website design, email, and social media channels all had a hand in making that sale, which makes ROI nearly impossible to calculate. You spent different amounts of money on each of those channels, and you can’t possibly assign all the credit to any individual one. Don’t be too focused on putting an ROI number on each channel and look to other metrics instead.

Other KPIs to Consider

Instead of simply laying out every marketing channel by return on investment, take a step back. What are your goals? If you’re a startup, then you’re probably concerned with growth and awareness above all else. If you’re well-established in your field, you might be more interested in reputation or in launching a new product. There might be a specific competitor you’re trying to distinguish yourself from. Every company has different goals.

And just as every company has different goals, so does every channel. Social media is great for spreading awareness and building relationships. Email is great for engaging your current customers, cross-sells, and upsells. Blogs are perfect for establishing expertise in your field and improving your SEO. Here are some other KPIs to consider, depending on your company’s goals and which channel you’re assessing:

  • Sales Revenue — this one is pretty simple. Revenue has to be greater than marketing expenses. If you want a quick-and-dirty way to see if your marketing is working, graph sales revenue over time. If it’s going up, that’s a good sign.
  • Cost per Lead — one of the best ways to judge the quality of a channel is to see how many leads it’s bringing in and how much it cost you to get them. This KPI is especially useful since you can break it down channel by channel. Simply divide the total spend on a channel in a given month or quarter by how many leads came in through that channel.
  • Traffic to Lead Ratio — your website is the hub of all your marketing operations, so you’ll want to know if visitors are actually turning into leads. By looking at total unique visits, the number of MQLs (marketing qualified leads) that come from your website, total conversions per site visit, and conversion rate by source, you can determine how effective your website is.
  • Search Traffic — paid search is all well and good, but are your landing pages and blog posts coming up through organic search as well? When people search for keywords relevant to your business, does your website come up? Part of the inbound marketing philosophy is making sure that people find you when they have a problem that needs solving, and search is a big part of that.

Don’t Be Afraid to Abandon Channels

The fact is, not every marketing channel will work for everyone. Stihl power tools and Behr paint are both consumer products sold in every hardware store, but only Behr has a huge Instagram following. Why? Because Instagram is a visual medium, and interior paint lends itself much better to gorgeous photography than weed trimmers.

If your channels aren’t doing their job — if they’re not bringing in new people, spreading your name to new markets, promoting a new product, or landing new customers — then stop using them. That’s the whole point of doing these assessments in the first place!

Remember, assessing never stops. You never know what will happen to your budget in the future, or when the higher-ups might want an accounting of where your money is going. Besides, people change — consumer sensibilities and habits might switch gears and they’ll suddenly start using one channel more. If you’re keeping an eye on channel performance, you’ll be ready for whatever comes your way.

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