Digital channel identification for start-ups and SMEs

One of the most frequently asked questions is about digital channel selection for startups, even before a brand goes to actual full-scale advertising. This article addresses platform selection under the assumption that data is insufficient. We also assume that the brand has not sufficiently tested all possible scenarios to finalize the channels for use.

The length of time spent advertising has limited influence on selection, and we will highlight this a bit later. Part of the article also assumes that we do not have a list of previous users.

The thumb rule: SEM and Search-based channels are the best to start with.

SEM is unique; an ad is triggered by your prospect. We assume that campaign keywords are accurate, relate to the content of your page, and match your prospect’s needs.

An SEM specialist aims to best categorize the keywords into “brand,” “compete,” and “discovery.” The discovery category may be further broken down into keywords related to your products and your business category.

Discovery keywords are likely to be limited for most new and unique brands. This makes SEM your secondary advertising channel for growth, and it is unlikely to create massive reach for you. This does not imply that SEM should be turned off since search is natively integrated into our customer’s behaviour patterns. At a minimum, a brand must always run Brand campaigns.

p.s. For a mobile app-based advertiser, where acquisition occurs on an app, it is still relevant to advertise using Google’s Universal App campaigns.

2nd channel to consider: display-based advertising channels

 In this category, the messaging is based on a creative copy and may or may not have social elements. These channels, namely, are:

  • Google’s display network
  • Facebook and Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Outbrain

Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter are special types of display-based advertising channels since they contain social elements. Ad viewers can like, comment, share, and so on, thereby giving you more reach.

I have highlighted some target audiences briefed to us by our clients:

  • I want to target moms
    • GDN and Facebook
  • I want to target health freaks
    • Exists on GDN under “Sports and Fitness” and on Facebook under “Fitness and Wellness”
  • I want to target people who want to digitize their business cards
    • This definition cannot be directly mapped onto any platform. Intuitively speaking, we can safely assume that people who often network at live events are likely to carry business cards. They are likely to have sales or business development titles. These assumptions have thus helped us map our users on GDN, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  • I want to target blockchain developers.
    • LinkedIn and, surprisingly, Twitter works great.

The ideas presented above should help us understand the channel selection process, which is valid for most businesses. Once our digital channels have been identified, a campaign manager will be able to estimate audience sizes, cost of execution, and so on using respective platforms.

Undertaking digital transformation and adding digital marketing?

The strategy is slightly different for a traditional business that is transforming into the digitalization era. Be willing to share a list of your past customers. This list can be used across all advertising channels to create a lookalike user audience. In other words, advertising platforms match and find the users listed by you and then find common behaviors and interests in your list. These common behaviours and interests are then used to create a similar type of targetable audience.

If you have managed to map more than two target audiences, then your next step is to structure and launch your campaigns. For more guidance on this, you may read our campaign structure strategy for startups.

Are you an eCommerce store owner?

I am always surprised by the number of stores running solely on Facebook/Instagram. We recommend you try out Google’s platform, and our experience is that, in general, the ROI with the Google tech stack is way better than Social.

If, despite all of this exercise, we are unable to describe and map our target audience, then it is a great time for you to sit with your customers and ask questions (hint: survey).