Marketing Channels: Expand Your Business Reach Beyond Google

Learn how to select and utilize the best marketing channels for your B2B business.

In the ever-shifting realm of B2B marketing, success hinges on mastering the art and science of marketing channel optimization. While Google has long been a powerhouse for online visibility through search engine optimization (SEO), brands must venture beyond search to drive sustained growth. An effective approach involves a nuanced understanding of a variety of marketing channels, the pathways through which businesses engage with their target audience.

Marketing channels aren't just conduits for communication – they're dynamic avenues for expanding reach, nurturing customer and partner relationships and driving business objectives. From brand awareness to lead generation and beyond, marketing channels serve as the connective tissue between businesses and their audience. Savvy marketing professionals recognize that success lies in harnessing the full spectrum of available avenues using a blend of creativity and data-driven precision. 

Strategic channel optimization is playing the long game – the key to staying ahead in the competitive B2B arena. For an expert’s perspective on best practices, we spoke with Jessie Tracy, a managing director of Velocity Partners, a marketing agency that specializes in crafting strategy, performance marketing and creative for B2B tech companies.

Exploring different types of marketing channels for B2B

How do marketing channels work? Traditional marketing channels – like television advertising, print advertising, direct mail, or billboards – have long been stalwarts in the industry, while an array of newer digital marketing channels – from social media platforms to email marketing campaigns – have emerged more recently.  

Owned channels, a subset of digital marketing channels, are platforms controlled and managed by the brand itself, like a company website where articles are published to drive traffic through search engine optimization (like this article!) Leveraging these owned channels allows brands to establish themselves as authorities in their fields, engaging with their audiences directly to provide valuable content that resonates with their interests and needs. This is also called content marketing.

While organic search, word of mouth marketing, organic social media and owned channels offer avenues for free marketing, there is value in investing in paid channels as well. By allocating resources to targeted advertising campaigns on platforms like Google Ads or social media ads, businesses can amplify their reach and ensure their message reaches the exact right audience segments (their ICP). 

A successful marketing strategy requires using multiple marketing channels. Tracy advises her B2B clients to strike a balance between paid and free marketing channels, leveraging the latter to build awareness and supplementing with paid efforts to maximize impact and efficiency. 

Related: How partners can help enable the six GTM motions you need in 2024.

Lesser-known traffic sources 

There are some lesser known marketing channels that are potentially lucrative. Over-the-top (OTT) advertising – ads on streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu – is one such category growing in popularity. By utilizing demographic data, OTT ads allow buyers to target more precise audience segments than traditional marketing, like TV ads or print advertising, at a fraction of the cost. An OTT advertisement, Tracy says, can reach a group as specific as B2B product marketers in a certain geographic region. 

Another digital marketing channel that may be overlooked is digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertising. DOOH campaigns utilize digital screens to display advertisements in public locations such as malls, transit stations and airports. These are more interactive and flexible than traditional marketing, like billboards, but also have the reach and impact of traditional out-of-home advertising.

A smart phone with a push notification

Push notifications are also a marketing channel ripe with potential. Desktop and mobile apps typically send push notifications for utility reasons, like informing customers that it’s time to update their software. But Tracy has seen some SaaS brands drive consumer engagement by using push notifications in more innovative ways, like promoting a company event or inviting users to take a survey about the product. “We've always seen good engagement with surveys and people wanting to contribute,” she says. “And that kind of aid serves as data collection for the company. They can get people engaged, but it also gives an instant feedback loop.”

Strategies for selecting the right marketing channels

Two key questions should drive which marketing channels are right for your business right now:

  1. Who is your target audience? 
  2. What is your goal with this round of outreach?

If a business is looking for broad outreach with the goal of building brand awareness, for example, programmatic advertising – such as an ad before a YouTube video – or paid social are two marketing channels that cast a wide net.

If a business is looking to home in on a specific group of consumers with the goal of closing deals, it might favor paid search and OTT advertising, two marketing channels where the buyer is able to target certain demographics. 

“What we'll usually do is reverse engineer how many results we need to fill the pipeline to hit sales goals,” Tracy says. It’s a numbers game – her team determines how many impressions a client needs to produce the number of leads needed to end in a sale. Her team then decides what channels have the highest likelihood of achieving the client’s desired results. 

Email marketing remains a backbone of digital marketing in the B2B space because it provides companies with a direct line to consumers. Investing in quality email marketing is effective for prospecting, customer retention and brand loyalty 

Maximizing channel effectiveness

Businesses must consider how best to stretch their marketing dollars. Tracy thinks that companies should optimize their paid marketing channels for impressions, while experimenting more with their free or owned marketing channels. 

She also suggests that businesses utilize a healthy mix of marketing channels at all times. “What worked really well last quarter might not work really well this quarter, so having a spread, having a bit of diversity, is important as well,” she says.

Tying partners to channel strategies can also be an effective way to reach your marketing goals faster. Partner marketing provides a broader reach to new or adjacent audiences, and the built-in trust can lead to closing deals faster. 

Playing the game well means also understanding that marketing is as much of an art form as it is a science. To stand out in a saturated market, investing resources into producing the best content possible can go a long way. Working with a creative team to refine your brand’s voice can maximize the impact of each campaign. 

Diversifying beyond Google

Other potential traffic sources include influencer marketing, podcast marketing and direct community engagement strategies.

The B2B industry can be somewhat allergic to the idea of influencer marketing, but businesses can strengthen their reputation by partnering with trusted industry voices. These partnerships could be inviting the analyst to speak at an event the company is hosting, featuring the analyst in a case study on the company’s website or even having them write an article to post on the company’s LinkedIn. 

See more: The essential guide to igniting ecosystem success through partnership activations.

LinkedIn has become a feeding ground for business thought leaders. There has been an uptick in recent years of people building personal brands to then represent their companies, which can drive organic search traffic. This content marketing strategy might be worth considering if an executive at your business is a skilled writer and is interested in creating opinionated, learnings-driven content. (This would also make a successful free marketing channel.)

Sponsoring a podcast that covers your industry is also a possibility for driving awareness. Consumer brands have long been podcast sponsors, but B2B has been a bit slower to jump on the trend. “Because you can be so aligned on the content, then you can inherit an audience really quickly and easily,” Tracy explains of podcast marketing. “If they're talking about that niche B2B thing that that audience specifically cares about and I can align my brand to that, that's really interesting.”

Tracy has also noted some creative uses in the realm of DOOH advertising. First, strategically placing advertisements next to the offices of key accounts. Second, buying a three day-long ad timed with a prospect hosting an event nearby.

An image depicting someone on a B2B podcast

Integrating multiple channels 

Creating a cohesive marketing strategy using multiple channels begins with an account-based marketing (ABM) strategy to locate your target audience. From there, you can work backwards to find out how to reach the right people. 

Maintain a mindset of experimentation, perhaps by dedicating a small percentage of your marketing budget each quarter to testing out new channels and partnership opportunities or improving the content that’s already live. The industry evolves quickly, so fine-tuning consistently can help keep brands from falling behind.

Best practices always come back to diversifying one’s marketing channels and being responsive to what sticks. “If you have a few channels in play, you can learn very quickly, not just who's engaging with it, but also who's going to be driving that kind of quality results that you're looking for,” Tracy says. 

You might also like: Effective strategies for managing channel partners.

Harnessing the power of marketing channels is pivotal for a successful overall marketing strategy. From traditional marketing to emerging avenues, businesses have an array of options to connect with their audience and achieve objectives. Solid execution demands adaptability –  a dynamic fusion of innovation, strategy and creativity.

Tracy emphasizes the artistry of it all. Conveying messages with creative excellence and a distinct perspective is key, especially in B2B. “I think one of the things that we've always seen is good creative as a force multiplier,” she says. “How you say things will matter.”

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