4 reasons why you might want to use fewer marketing channels

You have a lot of marketing channels to promote your business. The list is ever-growing and ever-evolving. And the default action of many entrepreneurs is to use as many of those marketing channels as possible to get the word out about your business.

Unfortunately, no entrepreneur has unlimited time, money, and effort to promote their business in all available marketing channels (or even a bunch of them). Instead, you need to choose just a few.

Here’s why:

  1. Focus: By working with only a few marketing channels, you can pour more of your attention into the people you connect with there. You can invest more into those few channels to achieve a meaningful impact.
  2. Effectiveness: You can build better relationships because have the time and attention to pay to the people in that channel. You’ll have the time to listen and respond.
  3. Easier to measure: Measuring the effectiveness of your marketing channels helps you to know which marketing channels are having the biggest impact on your sales funnel so you know where to invest even more time and money and effort. Too many channels makes it too difficult to measure. A few channels is much easier to pay attention to the numbers.
  4. Consistency: Consistent results from marketing efforts are preferable to inconsistent results. (Check out this blog post about the entrepreneur’s dilemma of consistent sales versus frequent sales. The same principle holds true here.

With just a few marketing channels, you can create a more focused, effective, measurable, and consistent return for your marketing efforts.

What’s the right number of marketing channels? How many is too many? That’s not easy to tell — it depends on a lot of factors. But with the overload of marketing channels available today, there’s a good chance that you need to think carefully about the number of channels you’re using.

Consistent sales versus frequent sales: Are you focusing on the wrong one?

If you ask a new entrepreneur what they should be striving for, they’ll probably tell you that one of their goals is to sell with as much frequency as possible.

And at first glance, it might make sense to an entrepreneur to try to get as many sales as possible to rake in that money. However, at this stage in the life of a new business, frequency of sales is not nearly as important as consistency of sales. That is: You shouldn’t be striving to make a whole bunch of sales tomorrow. Rather, it’s better to make a consistent, predictable drip of sales every day (or week or month or whatever).

When you focus on frequency, you end up with bulges in your sales funnel; you end up with a boom/bust business that suffers from inventory shortages and overages. You create a business that is unpredictable and ultimately wasteful as it reacts to one problem after another. You sometimes end up with more costly inventory than you can afford to keep (and a resulting lack of cash flow, and perhaps the need to sell at unprofitable prices) and you sometimes end up with no inventory at all (and a resulting lack of cash flow from upset buyers who desperately want what you have to sell… and who will take their business to the competition).

Frequency, at least in the very beginning stages of a business, is not a preferred goal.

The better choice is to focus on making consistent sales (even if they aren’t very frequent in the beginning). The goal shouldn’t be to get as many sales as soon as possible but to get as predictable as possible. Rather than trying to get 100 sales tomorrow (and then worrying tomorrow about what you’ll do the next day), try to get 3 sales a day for the rest of the month.

By doing this, you’ll generate a smoother flow of cash into your business, as well as a smoother flow of your inventory out of your business. You’ll wake up with the confidence each day that you know what is going to happen. That kind of predictability is invaluable for any business because it allows you to plan, to invest, and to grow in a way that makes sense. You’ll gain an understanding of the efforts required to bring in a certain amount of income each and every month. And, consistency can help you grow profitably: When you know that you will generally make so many sales in a given period, you can work to increase it slowly, without risking your inventory.

If you’re starting out in business and you’re hoping to be around next year at this time, work on consistent sales.

The liberation of limitations

I recently came across an article in Copyblogger that really resonated with me. (If you’re a regular reader of Copyblogger, you’ll probably say: “Don’t all their posts do that?).

This particular post was about how email design limitations may see problematic at first but are actually liberating. In the post, the writer talks about learning guitar and how his guitar teacher forced him to practice using only two fingers. At first he found it to be frustrating but then it became freeing. The limitation ultimately liberated him.

This article was great for two reasons:

First, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to increase readership, click-throughs, and sales in some of the email newsletters I work on and I came away with a couple of really actionable ideas I will be implementing immediately. If you do email marketing, check the article out for yourself and let it inspire you to re-think how limiting email really is.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, it got me thinking about the value of limitations. Limitations are good. No limits are actually very difficult to work with. I’ll use the example of my own business. Here on AaronHoos.com, I can write about anything I want because this site is really just my brain online. It’s the stuff I think about and am paying attention to right now. I don’t really focus on a particular category (well, I write about business, finance, and real estate but also about other things so it’s pretty wide open). Compare that to a couple of other brands I run (like Real Estate Investing Copywriter, for example). On my “anything goes” site, my readership is okay (consistent but not stellar) and I have a huge list of potential topics to write about but frequently think “what should I write about today?”; meanwhile, the real estate investing copywriter site, my readership is skyrocketing in a very short time and I’m frequently thinking trying to narrow the topic that I am writing on because there is so much to talk about in that category. That’s the power of limitation.

I also see this same thing happening with a client for whom I do a bit of technical writing. They have fairly rigorously defined restrictions on the type of technical documents and how the information is communicated. And sometimes it seems to be very difficult to make some of their topics fit within the confines of the style guide. And yet, once we have the limits set, we can get creative and the information fits in… perfectly! I’m constantly amazed at how often that happens (even though I shouldn’t be amazed by it at this point).

You see it when you practice something over and over: Your practice of a particular action or technique or system actually creates limitations (perhaps unconsciously) that allow you to flourish. To draw from a totally non-business example, you see it among martial artists, too: Their very controlled katas are just self-imposed limitations they use. Or in my daily workout regime: My workouts became better (more consistent, more effective, with better form… and even more fun) when I stopped trying to do ANYTHING and just picked one workout circuit that I do over and over.

What is it about limitations that make us better? I’m not exactly sure but I think it has to do with our brains: I think they’re agoraphobic. They need to know boundaries. Without boundaries, they become overwhelmed with choice. With boundaries, our brains narrow and focus and we can become more creative within the confines of those boundaries.

If you’re an email marketer, or someone who is wondering if a bit of limiting boundaries can help your business or life, check out this excellent article:

How email design limitations can actually be liberating

Are you using both types of marketing in your business?

I was putting together a marketing plan for a client recently and I was listing all of the places where they had already been marketing. Just in social media alone they were marketing on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, YouTube, a blog, Tumblr, Storify, Disqus, Quora, plus a couple of other industry-specific channels.

On top of that, there were other media channels as well: Multiple websites, print and display advertising, banner ads, and the list goes on and on. And they were looking to add more marketing methods to the mix.

It was turning into an awful lot of effort for my client. And there was a high cost. And the worst part was: There was very little understanding of what the results from each channel were. She was becoming overwhelmed at how many different media channels she needed to juggle and how much of that was eating into her bottom line.

And, like all business owners, she was tempted to adopt even more media channels to promote her business, because she wanted to grow. As I reviewed the channels she was currently using, I realized that “turning up the volume” on her marketing wasn’t necessarily going to help her.

And the same is true for your business, too. More marketing doesn’t necessarily turn into more clients. Here’s why…

Think of your marketing in these two different ways:

  • You’ve got the marketing that directly pushes people into your sales funnel, and further along in your sales funnel, until you are ready to ask them to buy from you.
  • And, you’ve got the marketing that doesn’t necessarily move people forward directly but it helps to support your credibility if and when they research you online.

Let’s call the first one “sales funnel marketing” and the second one “credibility marketing“.

Sales funnel marketing drives people into your sales funnel. Credibility marketing may have that impact but it does so indirectly. Rather, it acts as a promoter, credibility-builder, and helps to lock up your search results on Google.

Both types of marketing are necessary, but not in equal amounts. Unfortunately, a lot of business owners don’t differentiate between one type of marketing and the other and so they take the shotgun approach to marketing, just trying whatever channels they can get their hands on, and then doing more and more and more and more.

Here’s what should happen instead:

Your sales funnel marketing should receive the largest portion of your investment and it should also be the most measurable. And if you are going to overwhelm the market with one type of marketing, this sales funnel marketing should be the one you choose. The reason should be clear: This type of marketing pushes more and more prospective buyers toward a sale. It is directly responsible for the revenue you earn and the profit you keep. And it should be as measurable as possible. You need to pay attention to the numbers — how many people does it drive into your funnel with every deployment? What is the cost of deployment versus the return?

Your credibility marketing is where you can probably cut back. Choose a couple of different channels that you enjoy using, that have reasonable time/money/effort costs, that you can excel at. Don’t try to take on every marketing opportunity imaginable. Just pick a few things and do them well. Build a voice and an audience and a brand. Establish yourself in a few channels and you’ll gain more credibility that way than if you spread yourself thinly over several channels.

Now you’re going to ask me which channels are sales funnel marketing channels and which ones are credibility marketing channels. Unfortunately, I can’t answer that for you. It’s different for every business (and the answer is influenced by the target market and the industry and your skill in using that channel). For example: Twitter is a good credibility builder for some businesses but other businesses use it really well to as a sales funnel marketing channel. It really depends on how you use the channel and, again, on which channels that your target market is interested in.

So, if you are counting the cost of your marketing and trying to decide how you’ll possibly squeeze in ANOTHER marketing channel, first consider the role it plays. Is it a sales funnel marketing channel or a credibility marketing channel? Determine this, invest more of your time and money in the sales funnel marketing channels, and you’ll have a far greater return on your marketing effort.

The 5 steps to identify your sales funnel… This is the starting point of a more profitable business!

I frequently assert that your sales funnel is the most important asset in your business. It’s the structure around which you build your business, it’s the pathway that prospective buyers follow on their way to giving you money, and it’s a strategic tool you can use to grow your business.

The starting point for you to master your sales funnel and take control of your business is to draw out your sales funnel. Draw it out, add notes to yourself, and the document becomes the useful tool you can refer to daily in your business to help you make decisions and work on your business.

Here’s how to draw out your sales funnel…

1. IDENTIFY YOUR TARGET MARKET

You need a narrowly defined target market — one that is large enough to to market to, has enough money to pay you for your product or service, but small enough that you can establish yourself as an expert. (Note: “Everyone” is NOT your target market). Take some time to research your target market and learn about them. When researching, dig beyond the point where your target market’s needs intersect with your solution. Learn everything you can about your target market and you’ll uncover new ways to market to them and new opportunities to add value. To get you started, use this tool I created: 55 questions to answer when defining your sales funnel’s target market.

2. IDENTIFY YOUR TARGET MARKET’S MINDSETS

People buy a product or service to solve a problem or fulfill a need. They never rush out and buy the very first solution the millisecond they discover their problem or need. There’s a progression in their thinking:

  1. At first they discover their problem or need.
  2. Then they realize they have to do something about it.
  3. Then they seek out some solutions.
  4. Then they weigh those their solution options.
  5. Then they decide whether the solutions are worth the cost.
  6. Then they buy.

Those steps I’ve just outlined are an over-simplification of the “evolution of mindsets” that people go through before buying from you. For small purchases (like an impulse item in a grocery store check-out line), these evolutions are measured in seconds. For major purchases (like a house), these evolutions are measured in weeks, months, or sometimes even years. After researching your target market, write out the mindset evolutions that they are most likely going through. (Use the list above as a starting point but then make adjustments according to your knowledge of your target market).

3. OUTLINE THE ACTIVITIES

Once you know what your target market is thinking on their way to buying from you, you can craft marketing and sales messages around those thought processes with the goal of moving them from one step to the next. Activities are comprised of two things: The message you want to communicate and the action you want your target market to take.

Pro tip: Don’t try to get your target market to move from their current mindset to the point of sale. Just get them to move to the next mindset in their mindset evolution.

4. DEPLOY TO CHANNELS

Once you know who your target market is, you know where they like to spend their time and attention. Once you know what mindsets they have, you know what it takes to sell to them. Now you can use this information to put your sales funnel to work. Create marketing and sales messages (see Outline the Activities, above), and then put those messages in the channels (media) where your target market will notice them.

5. ADD PAYGATES AND DELIVERY

Your entire sales funnel “points” to a sale. And that can look very different from one business to another. Some businesses charge up-front and then deliver the product or service; some businesses deliver first and then charge. And there are other paygate/delivery configurations as well. (Check out my blog post Sales funnel paygates for more information and for a list of other blog posts on this topic). Select a paygate and delivery model that will encourage the most purchases from your customers but will also ensure consistent cash flow and manageable accounts receivables for you.

A FEW CLOSING THOUGHTS

This really simple step-by-step method to crafting your sales funnel is useful for new and existing businesses that need to optimize performance and improve profitability. It’s also just a starting point. Check out some of my other blog posts about sales funnels.