With the growth of online marketing over the last decade, the rapid expansion of ever increasing online sales channels means there are now multiple avenues for getting your brand heard online. With so many options available how can you be sure that you are investing your marketing budget into the ideal online sales channel for your business?

This guide shows you the exact steps to identifying the right sales channels, how to prioritise each channel for testing and how to turn each sales channel into profitable moneymakers for your business.

An introduction to online sales channels

A sales channel is a marketing avenue that can be used to attract website visitors, subscribers, or customers to your website. Depending on your individual requirements online sales channels can be bought using channels such as Google Ads, Facebook Ads as well as Retargeting or earned through using channels such as content marketing, organic social media and SEO.

Available online sales channels:

Here you will find a list of options that you can use to find the ideal online sales channel for your business. It’s always best to conduct research into which channels are most commonly used in your industry for marketing. However, most of these channels aren’t stand alone meaning what works well for one sales channel can be beneficial on another sales channel.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is one of the most cost-effective methods for engaging with your target audience, once they have subscribed to your mailing list you have unlimited opportunity to keep them aware of your brand and nurture them from a subscriber to paying customer.

However, with people’s daily lives demanding attention on multiple things at any one-time personalisation is the key. Your emails need to be engaging yet entertaining to ensure the next link they click on your email isn’t the unsubscribe link.

Channel constraints to consider

  • Subscriber lists can time to build, can you afford to wait?
  • Can you provide unique value in each of your emails?
  • Can you write effective sales copy that makes subscribers convert?

Ah yes, the good old days of where organic posts on social media were a profitable market. Unfortunately, with the rise of pay to play models for the major platforms it’s now a lot more difficult to attract high levels of engagement from publishing on Twitter, LinkedIn and Twitter.

That’s not to say it’s a waste of time, there are a number of benefits of publishing your content on social media that will help increase your brand’s awareness. Manually curating and scheduling content can be time-consuming as well, thankfully, there are social media publishing platforms out there Buffer and Hootsuite which remove a lot of the manual workload and keep your social media feeds full for weeks at a time.

Channel constraints to consider

  • Organic reach on some platforms can be as low as 2%
  • Can you varied content for different social media platforms?
  • Can you produce high amounts of content regularly?

Paid Social Media

Due to their ever increasing popularity and large user base, social media platforms now provide businesses with access a huge audience to market to. Social media giants like Facebook, LinkedIn & Instagram allow you to target audiences very specific to your buyers profile.

However, as most social media users may not be within the buyer’s consideration stage if you are looking to convert customers fast you may need to incentivise them in order to get their attention and consider parting way with their money.

Channel constraints to consider

  • Can you incentivise social media users to buy your product?
  • Can you afford additional advertising budget?
  • Is your target audience on social media?

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of ranking your website organically across major search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo for keywords and search phrases that your customers are searching for.

SEO may include on-page optimisation of your current web pages, creating high quality, valuable content, link building with relevant websites within your industry as well as a number of other strategies that can be applied to ensure your website ranks well within search results.

Channel constraints to consider

  • Can you wait for results to come? SEO can take time!
  • Do you have major competitors with large budgets already in this space?
  • Are you able to mass produce high quality, long form content?

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) allows you to place text-based ads at the top of search results and on websites relevant to what your audience is searching for. As these ads are based on a paid model this allows you to attract targeted visitors instantly as opposed to organic SEO which can take months before achieving first page rankings.

With Google’s domination in the search engine market, it’s resulted in their ad costs skyrocketing for certain keywords and search phrases costing in excess of $50 per click. That’s not to say it isn’t a viable option. You may just want to ensure every stage of your sales funnel is running 110% before investing into Google AdWords.

Channel constraints to consider

  • Do you have the budget to support pay per click ads?
  • Is your website optimised to ensure maximum ROI?
  • Are your competitors able to spend more per ad click?

Retargeting

You have more than likely visited a website before and then later seen an ad displayed on another website or on your social media feed encouraging you to come back to the website. That’s retargeting. Retargeting allows you to track a visitor’s activities on your website through the use of a tracking pixel or cookie and then re-engage with them through a targeted ad encouraging them to return to your website to complete a specific action.

As they have already visited your website they are now familiar with your brand and are more likely to return to your website than if you were advertising to them for the first time.

Channel constraints to consider

  • Do you have a current or existing audience to retarget?
  • Can you support additional budget to entice visitors to return?

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing involves engaging with third party websites to promote your product, brand or service and drive traffic to your website using their existing user base. The seller then pays the affiliate marketer a commission in exchange for sales attributed to their advertising.

Although affiliate marketing has received its fair amount of backlash in the past by itself affiliate marketing is a huge industry and there have been empires built around it. As with channel, this has been proven to work for some businesses but may not work for every business.

Channel constraints to consider

  • Can you provide attractive commission rates to marketers?
  • Do you have sufficient infrastructure to support affiliates?
  • Are there enough affiliate marketers in your industry?

Referral Marketing

Referral marketing is the process of reaching out to current and existing customers, and requesting that they recommend your product or service to family, friends, colleagues or your preferred audience. At times, the referee may receive a commission or incentive in exchange for each successful new customer or client that signs up as a result.

Referral marketing is built mostly on trust for your brand so it’s best to start with your most loyal customers who adore your product as they are more than likely to bring more referrals than customers who have limited experience with your product or service.

Channel constraints to consider

  • Do you currently have a high customer user base?
  • Can you provide an incentive in exchange for referrals?
  • Do you have a reputable product people know and trust?

Online Community Building

Online community building is a great way to build trust and engagement amongst your brand while helping position yourself as an industry thought leader. Online community building may come in the form of creating a Facebook group, building a help or resources centre specific to your industry or providing a free educational related to your product or service.

While community building may not directly attribute to creating sales it will help you create an audience of followers who can then recommend your product or services to potential customers.

Channel constraints to consider

  • Do you have an audience who are looking for support?
  • Are there already large community support groups for your audience?

Content Marketing

In the world of organic marketing, good content is the key to success. Your audience wants to be engaged, informed and educated before they are sold too and creating high-value content is not only good for your readers but also aids your overall marketing strategy as the content your produce (blog posts, case studies, eBooks, whitepapers) can be republished and repurposed across as many channels as you want for extra exposure.

Channel constraints to consider

  • Do you have the capacity to create high quality, long form content?
  • Are you able to create content relevant to your product or service?

Viral Marketing

Viral marketing allows you to attract additional exposure by incentivising current visitors or customers to share your product with someone they know in exchange for receiving added bonuses themselves. A great example of this is Dropbox’s campaign which incentivised customers to invite their friends and family in exchange for added storage for their own account.

A good viral marketing campaign can produce an infinite return on investment if done correctly so before running a viral marketing campaign think about what can you offer that your users can’t refuse to say no to.

Channel constraints to consider

  • Do you have a unique, shareworthy product?
  • Are you able to incentivise current and new customers?

Webinars

What better way to engage your website visitors than by hosting your very own webinar? Webinars allow you to create a personalised experience for your audience that no one else can offer while providing free value and keeping your them engaged for long periods of time.

Webinars are one of the most cost-effective ways to promote your brand as well as capture leads, but, they need to be jam packed with value from start to finish.

Channel constraints to consider

  • Are you a strong public speaker?
  • Can you produce high quality, engaging content?
  • Do you have a large user base who are interested?

Guest Blogging

Guest Blogging is the process of reaching out to established bloggers within your industry and delivering something of value in order incentivise them to write about your product or service. This may involve giving away products for testing, collaborating with them in producing content or providing your services to them to prove your worth.

Generally speaking, if they have a larger audience it can be less labour intensive and offer a faster return on investment than trying to establish your own blog from scratch.

Channel constraints to consider

  • Can you provide something of high value to your potential blogger?
  • Do they have a large audience that you can target directly?
  • Are you able to produce content their audience will love?

Evaluate, Identify, Test and Improve

Now that you have an understanding of the available sales channels it’s time to evaluate, identify, test and improve to determine which is the ideal online sales channel for your business.

The below framework for doing this is based upon the book Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers which details how to find the ideal growth channel no matter what business, stage or industry you’re in and has been used to build some of the world’s leading startups.

Evaluating your options

Your first step in finding the ideal online sales channel for your business is to evaluate your options and determine which you see the most opportunity in making a success. You’ve more than likely had experience in at least one of these channels before and this can be used as a starting point for deciding which channels you are going to use.

It’s always good to be open to trying new ideas, you may find that one channel is not used by your competitors and may offer more room for you to capitalise on. For example, your competitors may dominate social media but not have any form of email marketing in place. This stage is for thinking outside of the box so leave all options open.

Some questions you can ask when evaluating your options are:

  1. How long will it take to run each test?
  2. What is the expected cost per conversion for each channel?
  3. What is the expected traffic rate for each channel?
  4. How likely is it that the idea will work?

Your ideal take away after evaluating your sales channels should be 3-5 preferred options that you can use for creating your first tests.

Identifying your channel constraints

As with any hypothesis, there will always be certain constraints that you will have to consider before running your tests. It’s also important to consider that what has worked for one business may not work for another as every business is unique.

Your business may be at a different stage in terms of objectives, size and value. Each individual channel has different constraints as well, including, timeframes, budget and time investment.

Some questions to ask when identifying you channel constraints are:

  1. What can you afford to pay per visitor, lead, or conversions?
  2. How many leads, visitors or conversions are you looking to get?
  3. Who is your ideal target audience?

The key performance indicator you are looking for here is at what point do you consider this campaign a success? For example, your business may be only able to support X amount of new customers before you can scale to support additional customers.

Once you have identified these constraints you will have a much clearer vision of what is the most appropriate sales channel for your business based upon your current business objectives.

Prioritising your ideal channels

Now that you have determined which channels are most likely to work for you review your list and choose your top 3 preferred channels, ideally you want to begin by testing each channel at scale. You can find many examples of best practices online to begin, you may also want to split test certain campaigns to ensure you get maximum results.

If you are running 2-3 tests, you can multiple tests at the same time to shorten your test time period. This stage is all about trial and error and you don’t need to be perfect the first time.

Some questions to ask when prioritising your ideal channels are:

  1. How many customers do you expect to acquire through each channel?
  2. Is the channel attracting the right visitors and customers you want?
  3. What is the cost per acquired lead for each channel?

Results will take time and these questions are focused on determining which channels are best for generating results sooner. If you see that one channel is performing better than another, it’s time to move onto the next step. If not, analyse the performance of each channel and return to the identification stage to determine your next channel to test.

Making your sales channels profitable

As soon as you have identified the channels that are generating the best results it’s now time to focus on making your sales channels profitable.

Your objective here is to test and improve as much as you can. Try to identify every stage of the sales funnel for your channel and how you can continuously optimise it.

Some tests you can run to increase your performance are:

  • Different headings
  • Different ad copy
  • Different call to actions
  • Different landing page design

Over time, each channel may see increased competition so it’s important to scale as fast as possible while maintaining the profitability of your channel.

Rinse and Repeat

Now that you’ve created a successful sales channel it’s time to rinse and repeat. Take what you have learned from your test and apply it to other sales channels.

Bare in mind, what worked for one sales channel may not be repeatable across others due to channel constraints or other variables including target audience or investment vs ROI that’s why it’s always important to test at scale before determining whether it’s a viable option.

 

And there you have it, a complete list of proven sales channels as well as a proven system to work off, the only thing left to do is put it into action.

 

 

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