A digital channel is a marketing channel, part of a distribution strategy, helping an organization to reach its potential customers via electronic means. There are several digital marketing channels, usually divided into organic and paid channels. Some organic channels are SEO, SMO, email marketing. And some paid channels comprise SEM, SMM, and display advertising.
- Quick intro do digital marketing channels
- Digital marketing channels
- How do you build a digital marketing strategy from scratch?
- Key takeaways
- How can digital marketing channels be classified?
- What are some direct digital marketing channels?
- What are some indirect digital marketing channels?
- What are some digital amrkeing channels examples?
- Visual Marketing Glossary
Quick intro do digital marketing channels
To build a successful distribution strategy, companies need to leverage on digital channels to reach their potential customers.
However, each channel type will require an understanding of the underlying platform, the kind of incentives created for users on those platforms, and how users interact.
Organic vs. paid
The first distinction is between organic vs. paid channels. Organic channels are those that do not require to pay for attention.
That doesn’t mean organic channels are less expensive. Indeed, a way to grow organically is through content development.
Producing great content can be quite expansive.
Therefore, organic simply means you can gain visibility and interest from potential customers without paying a third-party platform to be featured.
An example is SEO, or search engine optimization, where a platform like Google ranks your content because it perceives it as high quality.
Thus, enabling users to get through to you continuously through that content.
A paid channel, instead, requires a budget to enable a third-party platform to feature that content to users.
When the budget is over so the content will run out of visibility.
An example is search engine marketing. You pay Google on a pay-per-click basis to feature your content on top of its listings.
Direct vs. indirect
A direct digital marketing channel enables potential customers to reach you without middlemen.
One example is people who directly type your website name on their browser, thus coming to your site.
An indirect channel example is someone finding you through a social media post, which is featured by Facebook’s algorithms on the users’ feed. If Facebook pushes down the reach of that same post, none will find you anymore.
In the former case, potential customers get direct access to your brand. In the latter, users get to know you via a third-party platform.
Digital marketing channels
Let’s look now at some of the key digital marketing channels:
In a direct digital marketing channel, potential customers get directly to your product. Some examples include:
An existing set of customers with whom you have direct contact.
A list of contacts built over the years which you can contact directly.
Website direct traffic
A portion of website traffic comes from people directly young (or having your site saved as a favorite), thus bypassing search engines.
In some instances, websites also collect contacts by enabling push notifications.
In that case, when content is out, it will reach those contacts directly.
Referrals are channels to bring visibility to your business beyond search, or social media.
Some examples include:
Affiliate, parters’ websites
By structuring partnerships or revenue share, you can incentivize other websites and partners to bring traffic or conversions back to your business.
If a media website features your product, you will gain traffic.
If your content is excellent, other websites might link to it, thus bringing it traffic.
This is at the core of search engine optimization activities.
Thus, companies pay them to be featured on top of their search results (other factors also affect paid rankings).
Platforms like Google Ads help with that.
In social media optimization companies curate their pages and content on social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat) to gain organic (unpaid) visibility by building a loyal audience over time.
The social media platforms we saw above primarily make money via paid advertising.
How do you build a digital marketing strategy from scratch?
I’ve been building digital businesses for ten years now.
In short, one of the core lessons we learned from the new digital playbook is that you must wreck off the walls between product/engineering and marketing/distribution to build a valuable business.
Those elements should work for hand in hand as a whole, which becomes our growth strategy.
As a great example, take the case of Spotify Wrapped:
Spotify Wrapped is an annual tradition for Spotify users, in which the music streaming service compiles a personalized year-in-review summary for each user.
The summary includes information such as the user’s most listened-to songs, artists, and genres, as well as their listening habits and trends.
This is not only a showcase of what Spotify can do, but it’s an incredible distribution and viral growth loop, as Wrapped, for instance, in 2022, as it was released, ended up trending across the Internet.
Wrapped combines engineering (which is the backend that enables the service to be provided), marketing (as the UX of it is pretty polished, and it has features that make it easy to share the wrapped experience), and distribution (where new users are prompted to register to Spotify and they end up in the company’s sales funnel).
However, oftentimes, when you start from scratch, you might have to rely on third-party (not owned) channels to gain momentum.
And over time, you might want to channel this faster traffic acquired via not-owned channels toward owned channels.
As I show you in the matrix below:
The digital marketing mix matrix will help you in going through this process.
The key thing to understand is to balance and create a proper distribution mix for your company by looking at two factors: speed and control.
How fast can the distribution channel you’re using grow? In short, is it a multiplicative channel? Or is it additive?
For instance, if you are adding customers but they will not reference your service or have the ability to talk to other potential customers, the channel you’re using is additive.
Instead, if there is a viral component where existing users and customers can talk easily to each other, the channel is potentially multiplicative.
For instance, if you are selling your service one-to-one, that won’t scale, as before you gain other customers through word of mouth, it will require years.
That doesn’t mean you should not do that. As we’ll see at the end of this paragraph, initially, it makes perfect sense to use this approach.
Do you own that channel? Or can it be taken away from you?
One example, if you have built your success on top of a platform, if that platform changes the rules, the next day, your distribution has gone, even if it took years to build.
For instance, if you get traffic from Google and you gain rankings.
A change in the algorithms might affect your whole digital presence.
The same applies to other platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Amazon.
It takes once for them to change the rules, and this might impact your whole distribution strategy.
For the sake of building a successful distribution strategy, then, in the short-term, if you’re starting from scratch, it makes sense to be more aggressive in pursuing potential customers, thus also relying on channels that initially don’t scale (one-on-one sales) and that you do not control (SEO, SMO).
Yet over time, this mix will need to be pushed toward building alternative partnerships and distribution channels, scaling the customer base, which will be your direct contact, and other direct channels.
- Digital marketing channels are electronic ways to reach potential customers.
- There are different digital channels (organic vs. paid, or direct vs. indirect) and they also change according to the ever-evolving digital landscape.
- An organic channel is usually earned through developing quality content that gets a continuous flow of traffic. Paid channels enable companies to push their products via third-party platforms.
- Direct channels enable companies to reach directly their existing or potential customers. Indirect channels instead enable an organization to reach potential customers via a third-party distribution platform.
- Some of the digital marketing channels comprise SEO, SEM, SMO, and SMM.
How can digital marketing channels be classified?
Digital marketing channels can be classified into two major categories:
- Organic vs. paid: where with organic, you gain continuous streams of traffic (SEO, SMO); with paid, you get traffic based on the budget you have invested in paid ad platforms (SEM through Google Ads or SMM through Meta Ads, TikTok Ads).
- Direct vs. indirect: wherein a direct traffic scenario, you acquire users who search directly for your brand or through channels that you control (newsletter, blog, podcast). In an indirect traffic scenario, you acquire users from channels you don’t control directly (SEO, SEM, SMM).
What are some direct digital marketing channels?
What are some indirect digital marketing channels?
What are some digital amrkeing channels examples?
Visual Marketing Glossary