digital-marketing-channels

Digital Marketing Channels Types And Platforms

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

To build a successful distribution strategy, companies need to leverage on digital channels to reach their potential customers.

Whether a company sells a physical or digital product, digital marketing channels can be an incredible source of continuous growth for the business, thus enabling it to build a viable business model.

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:

Direct

In a direct digital marketing channel, potential customers get directly to your product. Some examples include:

Customer base

An existing set of customers with whom you have direct contact.

Email list

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.

Push notifications

In some instances, websites also collect contacts by enabling push notifications.

In that case, when content is out, it will reach those contacts directly.

Referral

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.

PR campaigns

If a media website features your product, you will gain traffic.

Backlinks

If your content is excellent, other websites might link to it, thus bringing it traffic.

SEO

seo-checklist
SEO or search engine optimization stands for the practice of improving the understanding of your web pages for commercial search engines to enable them to connect you with your core audience, thus bringing organic traffic back to your website. SEO can be done on-page or off-page.
what-is-seo-hacking
SEO hacking is a quick experimentation process aiming to grow the organic traffic of web properties efficiently. Where traditional SEO strategies look at steady growth, SEO hacking finds unconventional ways to gain traction quickly. That process suits small web properties and startups looking to scale up organic traffic against large media outlets.

Search engines like GoogleBingYahoo, or DuckDuckGo, still have a large portion of their listings based on organic results (websites featured without paying on a performance basis).

This is at the core of search engine optimization activities.

amazon-seo
Amazon SEO represents the set of marketing tactics that sellers on Amazon can employ to better rank their products’ pages organically (without paying for placement), thus building a continuous stream of customers on the store. In short, Amazon SEO leverages Amazon’s search capability to rank e-commerce pages and increase sales.

SEM

Search engines like GoogleBingYahoo, or DuckDuckGo make money via advertising revenues.

Thus, companies pay them to be featured on top of their search results (other factors also affect paid rankings).

A search engine marketing strategy looks at sponsoring your content by – usually – paying on a performance basis.

Platforms like Google Ads help with that.

SMO

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.

SMM

The social media platforms we saw above primarily make money via paid advertising.

Companies like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest have built advanced advertising platforms that can segment their audiences in many ways.

How do you build a digital marketing strategy from scratch?

I’ve been building digital businesses for ten years now.

And over the years, I’ve learned to appreciate the importance of marketing and distribution.

whats-distribution
Distribution represents the set of tactics, deals, and strategies that enable a company to make a product and service easily reachable and reached by its potential customers. It also serves as the bridge between product and marketing to create a controlled journey of how potential customers perceive a product before buying it.

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.

growth-strategy
A growth strategy is represented by a set of actions that can help a company gain traction, thus acquiring market share more quickly, and combined with business modeling, it can be a driver for long-term success.

Thus, in an effective growth strategy, you understand that a product must have built-in features that enable marketing and distribution at scale.

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).

This is what makes a successful digital marketing strategy.

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:

distribution-strategy
Distribution is one of the key elements to build a viable business model. Indeed, Distribution enables a product to be available to a potential customer base; it can be direct or indirect, and it can leverage on several channels for growth. Finding the right distribution mix also means balancing between owned and non-owned channels.

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.

Speed

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.

Control

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.

By following the step above, you will build a successful digital marketing strategy.

Key takeaways

  • 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?

Some direct digital marketing channels comprise:

What are some indirect digital marketing channels?

Some indirect marketing channels comprise:

What are some digital amrkeing channels examples?

Visual Marketing Glossary

Account-Based Marketing

account-based-marketing
Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategy where the marketing and sales departments come together to create personalized buying experiences for high-value accounts. Account-based marketing is a business-to-business (B2B) approach in which marketing and sales teams work together to target high-value accounts and turn them into customers.

Ad-Ops

ad-ops
Ad Ops – also known as Digital Ad Operations – refers to systems and processes that support digital advertisements’ delivery and management. The concept describes any process that helps a marketing team manage, run, or optimize ad campaigns, making them an integrating part of the business operations.

AARRR Funnel

pirate-metrics
Venture capitalist, Dave McClure, coined the acronym AARRR which is a simplified model that enables to understand what metrics and channels to look at, at each stage for the users’ path toward becoming customers and referrers of a brand.

Affinity Marketing

affinity-marketing
Affinity marketing involves a partnership between two or more businesses to sell more products. Note that this is a mutually beneficial arrangement where one brand can extend its reach and enhance its credibility in association with the other.

Ambush Marketing

ambush-marketing
As the name suggests, ambush marketing raises awareness for brands at events in a covert and unexpected fashion. Ambush marketing takes many forms, one common element, the brand advertising their products or services has not paid for the right to do so. Thus, the business doing the ambushing attempts to capitalize on the efforts made by the business sponsoring the event.

Affiliate Marketing

affiliate-marketing
Affiliate marketing describes the process whereby an affiliate earns a commission for selling the products of another person or company. Here, the affiliate is simply an individual who is motivated to promote a particular product through incentivization. The business whose product is being promoted will gain in terms of sales and marketing from affiliates.

Bullseye Framework

bullseye-framework
The bullseye framework is a simple method that enables you to prioritize the marketing channels that will make your company gain traction. The main logic of the bullseye framework is to find the marketing channels that work and prioritize them.

Brand Building

brand-building
Brand building is the set of activities that help companies to build an identity that can be recognized by its audience. Thus, it works as a mechanism of identification through core values that signal trust and that help build long-term relationships between the brand and its key stakeholders.

Brand Dilution

brand-dilution
According to inbound marketing platform HubSpot, brand dilution occurs “when a company’s brand equity diminishes due to an unsuccessful brand extension, which is a new product the company develops in an industry that they don’t have any market share in.” Brand dilution, therefore, occurs when a brand decreases in value after the company releases a product that does not align with its vision, mission, or skillset. 

Brand Essence Wheel

brand-essence-wheel
The brand essence wheel is a templated approach businesses can use to better understand their brand. The brand essence wheel has obvious implications for external brand strategy. However, it is equally important in simplifying brand strategy for employees without a strong marketing background. Although many variations of the brand essence wheel exist, a comprehensive wheel incorporates information from five categories: attributes, benefits, values, personality, brand essence.

Brand Equity

what-is-brand-equity
The brand equity is the premium that a customer is willing to pay for a product that has all the objective characteristics of existing alternatives, thus, making it different in terms of perception. The premium on seemingly equal products and quality is attributable to its brand equity.

Brand Positioning

brand-positioning
Brand positioning is about creating a mental real estate in the mind of the target market. If successful, brand positioning allows a business to gain a competitive advantage. And it also works as a switching cost in favor of the brand. Consumers recognizing a brand might be less prone to switch to another brand.

Business Storytelling

business-storytelling
Business storytelling is a critical part of developing a business model. Indeed, the way you frame the story of your organization will influence its brand in the long-term. That’s because your brand story is tied to your brand identity, and it enables people to identify with a company.

Content Marketing

content-marketing
Content marketing is one of the most powerful commercial activities which focuses on leveraging content production (text, audio, video, or other formats) to attract a targeted audience. Content marketing focuses on building a strong brand, but also to convert part of that targeted audience into potential customers.

Customer Lifetime Value

customer-lifetime-value
One of the first mentions of customer lifetime value was in the 1988 book Database Marketing: Strategy and Implementation written by Robert Shaw and Merlin Stone. Customer lifetime value (CLV) represents the value of a customer to a company over a period of time. It represents a critical business metric, especially for SaaS or recurring revenue-based businesses.

Customer Segmentation

customer-segmentation
Customer segmentation is a marketing method that divides the customers in sub-groups, that share similar characteristics. Thus, product, marketing and engineering teams can center the strategy from go-to-market to product development and communication around each sub-group. Customer segments can be broken down is several ways, such as demographics, geography, psychographics and more.

Developer Marketing

developer-marketing
Developer marketing encompasses tactics designed to grow awareness and adopt software tools, solutions, and SaaS platforms. Developer marketing has become the standard among software companies with a platform component, where developers can build applications on top of the core software or open software. Therefore, engaging developer communities has become a key element of marketing for many digital businesses.

Digital Marketing Channels

digital-marketing-channels
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.

Field Marketing

field-marketing
Field marketing is a general term that encompasses face-to-face marketing activities carried out in the field. These activities may include street promotions, conferences, sales, and various forms of experiential marketing. Field marketing, therefore, refers to any marketing activity that is performed in the field.

Funnel Marketing

funnel-marketing
interaction with a brand until they become a paid customer and beyond. Funnel marketing is modeled after the marketing funnel, a concept that tells the company how it should market to consumers based on their position in the funnel itself. The notion of a customer embarking on a journey when interacting with a brand was first proposed by Elias St. Elmo Lewis in 1898. Funnel marketing typically considers three stages of a non-linear marketing funnel. These are top of the funnel (TOFU), middle of the funnel (MOFU), and bottom of the funnel (BOFU). Particular marketing strategies at each stage are adapted to the level of familiarity the consumer has with a brand.

Go-To-Market Strategy

go-to-market-strategy
A go-to-market strategy represents how companies market their new products to reach target customers in a scalable and repeatable way. It starts with how new products/services get developed to how these organizations target potential customers (via sales and marketing models) to enable their value proposition to be delivered to create a competitive advantage.

Greenwashing

greenwashing
The term “greenwashing” was first coined by environmentalist Jay Westerveld in 1986 at a time when most consumers received their news from television, radio, and print media. Some companies took advantage of limited public access to information by portraying themselves as environmental stewards – even when their actions proved otherwise. Greenwashing is a deceptive marketing practice where a company makes unsubstantiated claims about an environmentally-friendly product or service.

Grassroots Marketing

grassroots-marketing
Grassroots marketing involves a brand creating highly targeted content for a particular niche or audience. When an organization engages in grassroots marketing, it focuses on a small group of people with the hope that its marketing message is shared with a progressively larger audience.

Growth Marketing

growth-marketing
Growth marketing is a process of rapid experimentation, which in a way has to be “scientific” by keeping in mind that it is used by startups to grow, quickly. Thus, the “scientific” here is not meant in the academic sense. Growth marketing is expected to unlock growth, quickly and with an often limited budget.

Guerrilla Marketing

guerrilla-marketing
Guerrilla marketing is an advertising strategy that seeks to utilize low-cost and sometimes unconventional tactics that are high impact. First coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book of the same title, guerrilla marketing works best on existing customers who are familiar with a brand or product and its particular characteristics.

Hunger Marketing

hunger-marketing
Hunger marketing is a marketing strategy focused on manipulating consumer emotions. By bringing products to market with an attractive price point and restricted supply, consumers have a stronger desire to make a purchase.

Integrated Communication

integrated-marketing-communication
Integrated marketing communication (IMC) is an approach used by businesses to coordinate and brand their communication strategies. Integrated marketing communication takes separate marketing functions and combines them into one, interconnected approach with a core brand message that is consistent across various channels. These encompass owned, earned, and paid media. Integrated marketing communication has been used to great effect by companies such as Snapchat, Snickers, and Domino’s.

Inbound Marketing

inbound-marketing
Inbound marketing is a marketing strategy designed to attract customers to a brand with content and experiences that they derive value from. Inbound marketing utilizes blogs, events, SEO, and social media to create brand awareness and attract targeted consumers. By attracting or “drawing in” a targeted audience, inbound marketing differs from outbound marketing which actively pushes a brand onto consumers who may have no interest in what is being offered.

Integrated Marketing

integrated-marketing
Integrated marketing describes the process of delivering consistent and relevant content to a target audience across all marketing channels. It is a cohesive, unified, and immersive marketing strategy that is cost-effective and relies on brand identity and storytelling to amplify the brand to a wider and wider audience.

Marketing Mix

marketing-mix
The marketing mix is a term to describe the multi-faceted approach to a complete and effective marketing plan. Traditionally, this plan included the four Ps of marketing: price, product, promotion, and place. But the exact makeup of a marketing mix has undergone various changes in response to new technologies and ways of thinking. Additions to the four Ps include physical evidence, people, process, and even politics.

Marketing Myopia

marketing-myopia
Marketing myopia is the nearsighted focus on selling goods and services at the expense of consumer needs. Marketing myopia was coined by Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt in 1960. Originally, Levitt described the concept in the context of organizations in high-growth industries that become complacent in their belief that such industries never fail.

Marketing Personas

marketing-personas
Marketing personas give businesses a general overview of key segments of their target audience and how these segments interact with their brand. Marketing personas are based on the data of an ideal, fictional customer whose characteristics, needs, and motivations are representative of a broader market segment.

Meme Marketing

meme-marketing
Meme marketing is any marketing strategy that uses memes to promote a brand. The term “meme” itself was popularized by author Richard Dawkins over 50 years later in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene. In the book, Dawkins described how ideas evolved and were shared across different cultures. The internet has enabled this exchange to occur at an exponential rate, with the first modern memes emerging in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Microtargeting

microtargeting
Microtargeting is a marketing strategy that utilizes consumer demographic data to identify the interests of a very specific group of individuals. Like most marketing strategies, the goal of microtargeting is to positively influence consumer behavior.

Multi-Channel Marketing

multichannel-marketing
Multichannel marketing executes a marketing strategy across multiple platforms to reach as many consumers as possible. Here, a platform may refer to product packaging, word-of-mouth advertising, mobile apps, email, websites, or promotional events, and all the other channels that can help amplify the brand to reach as many consumers as possible.

Multi-Level Marketing

multilevel-marketing
Multi-level marketing (MLM), otherwise known as network or referral marketing, is a strategy in which businesses sell their products through person-to-person sales. When consumers join MLM programs, they act as distributors. Distributors make money by selling the product directly to other consumers. They earn a small percentage of sales from those that they recruit to do the same – often referred to as their “downline”.

Net Promoter Score

net-promoter-score
The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a measure of the ability of a product or service to attract word-of-mouth advertising. NPS is a crucial part of any marketing strategy since attracting and then retaining customers means they are more likely to recommend a business to others.

Neuromarketing

neuromarketing
Neuromarketing information is collected by measuring brain activity related to specific brain functions using sophisticated and expensive technology such as MRI machines. Some businesses also choose to make inferences of neurological responses by analyzing biometric and heart-rate data. Neuromarketing is the domain of large companies with similarly large budgets or subsidies. These include Frito-Lay, Google, and The Weather Channel.

Newsjacking

newsjacking
Newsjacking as a marketing strategy was popularised by David Meerman Scott in his book Newsjacking: How to Inject Your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage. Newsjacking describes the practice of aligning a brand with a current event to generate media attention and increase brand exposure.

Niche Marketing

microniche
A microniche is a subset of potential customers within a niche. In the era of dominating digital super-platforms, identifying a microniche can kick off the strategy of digital businesses to prevent competition against large platforms. As the microniche becomes a niche, then a market, scale becomes an option.

Push vs. Pull Marketing

push-vs-pull-marketing
We can define pull and push marketing from the perspective of the target audience or customers. In push marketing, as the name suggests, you’re promoting a product so that consumers can see it. In a pull strategy, consumers might look for your product or service drawn by its brand.

Real-Time Marketing

real-time-marketing
Real-time marketing is as exactly as it sounds. It involves in-the-moment marketing to customers across any channel based on how that customer is interacting with the brand.

Relationship Marketing

relationship-marketing
Relationship marketing involves businesses and their brands forming long-term relationships with customers. The focus of relationship marketing is to increase customer loyalty and engagement through high-quality products and services. It differs from short-term processes focused solely on customer acquisition and individual sales.

Reverse Marketing

reverse-marketing
Reverse marketing describes any marketing strategy that encourages consumers to seek out a product or company on their own. This approach differs from a traditional marketing strategy where marketers seek out the consumer.

Remarketing

remarketing
Remarketing involves the creation of personalized and targeted ads for consumers who have already visited a company’s website. The process works in this way: as users visit a brand’s website, they are tagged with cookies that follow the users, and as they land on advertising platforms where retargeting is an option (like social media platforms) they get served ads based on their navigation.

Sensory Marketing

sensory-marketing
Sensory marketing describes any marketing campaign designed to appeal to the five human senses of touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are enabling marketers to design fun, interactive, and immersive sensory marketing brand experiences. Long term, businesses must develop sensory marketing campaigns that are relevant and effective in eCommerce.

Services Marketing

services-marketing
Services marketing originated as a separate field of study during the 1980s. Researchers realized that the unique characteristics of services required different marketing strategies to those used in the promotion of physical goods. Services marketing is a specialized branch of marketing that promotes the intangible benefits delivered by a company to create customer value.

Sustainable Marketing

sustainable-marketing-green-marketing
Sustainable marketing describes how a business will invest in social and environmental initiatives as part of its marketing strategy. Also known as green marketing, it is often used to counteract public criticism around wastage, misleading advertising, and poor quality or unsafe products.

Word-of-Mouth Marketing

word-of-mouth-marketing
Word-of-mouth marketing is a marketing strategy skewed toward offering a great experience to existing customers and incentivizing them to share it with other potential customers. That is one of the most effective forms of marketing as it enables a company to gain traction based on existing customers’ referrals. When repeat customers become a key enabler for the brand this is one of the best organic and sustainable growth marketing strategies.

360 Marketing

360-marketing
360 marketing is a marketing campaign that utilizes all available mediums, channels, and consumer touchpoints. 360 marketing requires the business to maintain a consistent presence across multiple online and offline channels. This ensures it does not miss potentially lucrative customer segments. By its very nature, 360 marketing describes any number of different marketing strategies. However, a broad and holistic marketing strategy should incorporate a website, SEO, PPC, email marketing, social media, public relations, in-store relations, and traditional forms of advertising such as television.

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