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Today's Leading Digital Marketing Channels: Pros and Cons

Today's Leading Digital Marketing Channels: Pros and Cons

By Karen TaylorJun 5 /2018

Digital marketing is opening windows of opportunities for B2B marketers to promote their companies on a wide range of channels—including websites, email, social media, organic search, paid search, mobile and display ads, for example. With so many options, a common question B2B marketers ask is: Which digital channels should I use? Before planning an effective digital marketing strategy, marketers need to understand the different channels, including the pros and cons. With this insight, they can identify which channels are most likely to work best for their businesses.

A 2017 Digital Marketing Plans study found that B2B marketers find seven digital channels to be most effective: websites and blogs, email, social media, organic search, paid search, mobile and display ads.

Most Effective Inbound Marketing Channels

 

To help you answer the question—Which digital channels should I use?—we’ve prepared an overview of the pros and cons of each of these seven channels, along with tips on how to optimize their marketing value.

1—Website Marketing and Blogging

Websites and blogs aren’t just nice-to-have marketing tools. They are essential digital channels for every company operating today. They are workhorses for communicating and selling to prospects and customers. Prospects today expect companies’ websites and blogs to provide copious amounts of content that answer their specific questions. Also, when they care about a brand, they expect to receive regular blog posts that provide them with news, insight, offers and more.

Pros

  • Flexible platforms with multimedia capabilities for distributing content in a variety of formats
  • Low barrier to entry with minimal technical or IT skills required
  • Attracts new prospects, while engaging with existing customers
  • Excellent for brand awareness, authority building, storytelling and passive sales messaging
  • Provides the ability to measure and track performance
  • Boosts SEO

Cons

  • Creating sites that attract and retain visitors requires strategic, design and content creation expertise
  • Creating relevant content on a regular basis can be challenging and time consuming
  • Requires a publisher mindset from brands possibly not used to this model
  • Requires planning, organization and editorial control, particularly if there are multiple authors

Tips

  • Create websites and content that serve your prospects’ and customers’ needs and answer their questions
  • Understand your audience by creating detailed buyer personas
  • Give away your knowledge
  • Deliver a compelling call-to-action throughout the customer journey
  • Consistently publish new content
  • Be true to your company’s voice and tone

2—Email Marketing

B2B email marketing is an effective way to build and maintain rapport with potential clients and maintain relationships with existing customers. As the prospects progress through the sales funnel, companies can focus on helping them solve specific problems and achieve specific goals, rather than abruptly pushing them toward sales. Some companies send a weekly or monthly email newsletter to keep their businesses top-of-mind, so that prospects and customers will look to them when they’re ready to buy.

Pros

  • Cost-effective way of engaging an audience on an ongoing basis
  • Helps build relationships by regularly sharing valuable information
  • Can be customized and tailored to specific buyer personas
  • Relatively fast to create and send
  • Allows consumers to grow into their decision to make a purchase
  • Provides many segmentation options
  • Companies retain complete control over the content prospects and customers receive
  • Can micro-track and analyze everything from open rate to click-throughs

Cons

  • Building a customer email database can take time
  • Risk irritating customers by sending too many emails
  • Customers can easily unsubscribe or mark emails as spam
  • So saturated that many people ignore emails
  • Spam filters kill some emails
  • Competing with other email marketers

Tips

  • Track what works well and what doesn’t to improve your email results
  • Find the right balance for sending emails to prospects and customers
  • Invest in a good inbound marketing application to manage email operations

3—Social Media Marketing (Organic)

Social media has grown from being merely a digital channel for socializing into one of the most powerful digital marketing tools for brands and businesses. All forms of social media, from Facebook to LinkedIn to YouTube, have built large networks and communities by allowing users to interact with each other, share opinions, participate in discussions and engage in real time. Today, businesses can leverage social media platforms to create brand awareness organically (versus advertising) for their products and services. Also, they can reach out to highly targeted potential customers through person-to-person engagement.

Pros

  • A social media presence makes your company more accessible and keeps your clients in the loop with your business
  • Allows you to react or respond in real-time to relevant news or conversations
  • Nurtures brand loyalty through targeting and consistent, relevant presence
  • Great for customer service, including praise, suggestions and complaints
  • Can be inexpensive if managed well

Cons

  • It’s hard to break through the noise and get your potential customers to focus on your posts
  • Takes a large time commitment to grow and maintain a following
  • Must engage in continuous communication to keep customers’ and prospects’ attention
  • Attracts spammers, scammers, trolls and all other sorts of malicious individuals
  • Reach is declining on many platforms due to changing algorithms
  • ROI for organic social media efforts is hard to measure

Tips

  • Identify your company’s goals and targeted audience before you get started
  • Choose the right platforms for your industry, company and consumers
  • Regularly post links to new content, articles, company events, industry awards, etc.
  • Observe your consumers’ pain points, and address them in real-time
  • Always think and review content before posting

4—Organic SEO

Every day millions of people use search engines to hunt for information about brands, products, services and the pain points they experience. It still rules as one of the best B2B marketing channels, because it’s the most popular medium for locating any and all information.

Marketing masters understand that SEO is the lifeblood of a thriving, effective digital marketing strategy. SEO involves several activities to boost rankings, including keyword research, making use of both on-page and off-page optimization, linkable asset creation, organic link building and more. Optimizing SEO in your content will dramatically improve your search rank and make it that much easier for customers to find you. For example, you can publish original content related to your industry and include the keywords in strategic places like your title tags, headings and content.

Pros

  • Practically everyone uses a search engine to explore products and services before buying
  • Supports a cost-effective marketing strategy
  • Ranking well for your chosen niche can pay off for years to come
  • Scales up over time for the maximum reach of a niche
  • Delivers a continuous flow of targeted traffic
  • Gives businesses exposure to people actively looking for solutions
  • Generates traffic that has a good chance of converting
  • Supports making you an authority in your niche

Cons

  • Can take years to match the scale of your competitors
  • Requires a big investment for a competitive niche
  • No control over search engine algorithms’ updates and changes
  • Potential for penalties if you stray into gray or black hat arena

Tips

  • Rank better in the search results by being the first one there
  • Reach out to other reputable websites to earn links to your content
  • Know your keywords and incorporate them into high-quality, engaging content
  • Work with your tech team to ensure your website is high-functioning, fast-loading and delivers the quality content your customers are seeking

5—Paid Search (aka Pay Per Click Advertising)

Paid search is like SEO except companies pay for it. There are two key differences when considering SEO or paid search. The first is that paid ads appear at the top of the page, above the organic listings. The second is that traffic from organic is free, whereas traffic from paid search has a cost for each click. Essentially, paid search dominates above-the-fold. With typically four ads on desktop and three on mobile, users will always see the paid search ads, even if they choose to scroll past them. Ads can be targeted by search keywords, time of day, day of the week, geography, language, device and audiences based on previous visits. Some of the options for creating ads are calls-to-action, locations, site links, pricing and bullet points.

Pros

  • Laser-targeted visibility
  • Fast deployment and results
  • Testable and trackable
  • Granular control, including budgets
  • Unrestricted access to keyword data, which can inform all advertising
  • Easy to conduct AB tests on ads, landing pages and call-to-action buttons to find the best results

Cons

  • Requires constant investment, so costs can quickly add up
  • No staying power, unlike good inbound marketing
  • Poor management can deliver poor results
  • Requires ongoing work to test results and continually optimize ads
  • Competitive keywords are expensive
  • Lots of competition and keyword bidding wars with other advertisers
  • Easy for competitors to copy your strategy

Tips

  • Learn more about your audience
  • Focus on quality keywords
  • Create landing pages that match your ads’ visuals and content
  • Focus on the ads’ images
  • Optimize ads for mobile
  • Set up conversion tracking

6—Mobile Marketing

In the B2B marketplace, mobile is growing rapidly. More and more buyers are using smartphones, and mobile’s influence is reshaping the B2B purchase pathway. Effective mobile advertising means understanding your mobile audience, designing content with mobile platforms in mind and making strategic use of email marketing, mobile apps and geofencing advertising using GPS and radio frequency identifiers.

This is creating substantial opportunities for marketers who get it right, while companies that aren’t engaging customers on their smartphones risk losing sales and market share. However, many B2B marketers are dissatisfied with their current mobile marketing strategy, hampered by a lack of data, ineffective measurement and inadequate mobile capabilities, skills and tools.

Pros

  • Speeds up sales, which both accelerates revenue and reduces costs
  • Positive mobile user experiences build customer loyalty
  • Impact extends beyond the smartphone to the desktop or laptop, tablet and offline sales
  • Provides a treasure of data to build comprehensive views of customers

Cons

  • Lack of direct evidence of mobile’s impact
  • Insufficient customer insight, marketing performance measurement and conversion rates
  • Aggressive companies are establishing customer relationships that will be difficult for latecomers to dislodge
  • Slow-moving companies are in danger of being eliminated from consideration
  • Difficulty of tracking its impact across channels and devices

Tips

  • Take a test-and-learn approach to expanding mobile marketing, adjusting your strategy as you go
  • Invest substantial time to understand customers’ purchase behaviors and the role that mobile plays
  • Develop mobile-friendly experiences designed expressly for smartphone users, i.e., less text and more graphics
  • Take advantage of the unique capabilities and features of smartphones, such as location data, camera and phone

7—Display Advertising

This channel involves designing graphical ads and placing them next to content on websites, emails and other digital formats. Display ads help promote new products or offers, increase online presence and reach out to customers to help drive leads and increase brand awareness. Ads can be banners, boxes, interactive ads, video ads, overlays and other similar ads that are linked to a landing page or website. They can include text, images, audio or video clips, animation or other interactive content.

Pros

  • Extremely targeted and flexible
  • Pay only for relevant impressions received
  • Choose from a large number of advertising options
  • Target ads according to consumer behavior, demographics or geographic location
  • Create brand awareness as well as highly targeted traffic that may convert into leads or sales
  • Track everything from numbers reached, clicks, action and conversion ratios
  • Easy to manage budgets

Cons

  • Difficult to reach the right demographics without detailed targeting
  • Fewer people click on display ads than in the past

Tips

  • Create display ads to emulate magazine and billboard ads, including eye-catching visuals and concise content
  • Make your ads relevant to what your buyer personas are looking for

Clearly, digital marketing channels offer today’s marketers multiple opportunities to get their names and messages out in front of a larger targeted audience in ways that build brands, create conversions and boost profits. However, the vast number of options can also be overwhelming, leading to poor choices and wasted investments. By studying the opportunities, and the pros and cons of each channel, before making a time and budget commitment, companies will ultimately find their best answer to the key question: Which digital channels should I use?

Download How to Create a Digital Marketing Strategy

Karen Taylor
The Author

Karen Taylor

Karen Taylor is a professional content marketing writer with experience writing for over 100 companies and publications. Her experience includes the full range of content marketing projects — from blogs, to white papers, to ebooks. She has a particular knack for creating content that clarifies and strengthens a company’s marketing message, and delivers optimum impact and maximum results. Learn more at KarenTaylorWrites.com.
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