How Many Marketing Channels is Too Many?

Marketers are fond of selling multiple marketing channels to their clients…

Many of them, however, don’t have a clue about how many marketing channels their clients actually need. It’s actually worse than that. Many agencies are split up with their clients. Sometimes this is by design. Often its because of old silos that refuse to die. Or because the client’s marketing budget is split up for political reasons, necessitating the need for micro-agencies within agencies.

Sadly, this leads to the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing.

Each micro-agency launches projects without regard for the entire strategy. Microsites are built by the marketing group that are in direct contradiction to the strategy group’s research. Keywords and URLs are purchased without following the SEO team’s recommendations. Features are forced into the dotcom despite warnings from the Information Architects. Hashtags pop up randomly with little regard for strategy or longevity.

These same agencies brag about creating your ideal marketing mix; agency-speak for “highly expensive and likely unmanageable”. So how do you wade through the claims and decide how many marketing channels is too many and how many is just right?

It starts with your marketing goals. If your agency can’t tell you which marketing goal is supported by [X-channel], then it’s probably a waste of your budget. They should not only tell you which goal it’s hitting, but also how they will measure it.

For measurement, there’s two things to watch out for:

  1. If everything is going to “awareness”, they aren’t listening to you
  2. If they tell you digital (especially social media) can’t be measured like other media, they don’t know what they are talking about. Start looking for an agency that does.

So you know which goals are being supported. Excellent! Next question.

Are all the goals you’ve contracted them for covered? If not, why not? Are they pushing you toward something that sounds cool, but doesn’t further your leads and sales? That means their Creative Directors are looking for a portfolio piece. Call them out on that and see how quickly they make excuses.

Assume all your marketing goals are covered and you have an honest agency that cares about your business success and delivers (FTW!).The next thing to look at is overlap.

For example, if one of your goals is blogger outreach, you shouldn’t have more than three channels to meet that: blogs, email and probably Twitter. Are you strong on all three? If not, pick the one that you’re best at and put your money there. Better to be excellent at one than spread out thin on three.

That’s a key point. Why spread yourself thin? You don’t have to be on every social media channel. Believe me. I’ve worked in social media for 18 years. Don’t try to be on all of them. You’ll be great at a few and terrible on the rest. Worst of all, your CFO will only see the under-performers and claim social media isn’t working. Better to trim the fat (in this case, goal overlap).

In short, work with the least number of marketing channels that can meet your goals.

I find it helpful to visually map out all the channels (using their logos as icons) and group into them clusters by goal. Use arrows to show direction (push vs. pull marketing). My next post will cover in detail how to create one of these marketing ecosystems and how on one page, your marketing strategy can be visually depicted along with how it achieves your goals. Follow this blog; you won’t want to miss that post.

Below is an example of a fictitious company’s goals and channels. You can quickly see how much easier it is to gestalt the marketing strategy when it’s diagrammed this way.

Ecosystem showing marketing channels

How many marketing channels does your company have? Do you think you have too many? Not enough? Let us know in the comments.