4 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Digital Marketing Channel

2015-12-03-1449174832-5180286-RyanWilson.pngRyan Wilson is the founder of FiveFifty, a digital marketing trade desk focusing on programmatic media buying. FiveFifty brings its clients a decade of media buying experience and a commitment to marketing performance across nearly every website on the Internet.

As an entrepreneur, you're constantly faced with decisions that have the potential to make or break your business. With digital marketing now at around 33 percent of ad spend in the United States and projected to grow, it's a place you'll probably want to play. But with your limited advertising budget, how do you choose where to spend your marketing dollars?

You could build a new website, or optimize the one you currently have to show up higher in organic search. You could pay for digital advertising, invest in marketing automation software, or spend all your time posting pictures to Instagram.

At my company FiveFifty, we ask our clients questions like those below to narrow down their available options and get them focused on the digital marketing channels that are most likely to produce tangible results.

Is your sales cycle long or short?

In a short sales cycle, simply generating traffic is the most important thing. Paid search is valuable because it puts your ads in front of people right when they're searching and most likely to buy. This often works best for B2C companies -- for example, if you offer a consumer product or a local service.

Longer sales cycles need some nurturing. Retargeting keeps your brand at the forefront and continues to drive past site visitors to the website, time and time again.

Email drip campaigns and marketing automation are also worthwhile in longer sales cycles, as they effectively move potential customers down the funnel. Our technology and B2B clients have found success with lead nurturing through marketing automation.

Is your product/service already well known?

If you're selling something that people are likely to search for by name, like "shower curtains" or "accident lawyer," you can target those terms easily through paid search. It may not be the most affordable route, however, since you may have a lot of competition doing the very same thing.

SEO and effective content marketing may be better approaches if your website has a chance to rank organically for high-value search terms. These tactics work most effectively if you already have a sizable network, whether that's a vast social media presence or friendly connections with media outlets where your content has a chance to be seen and shared.

If you need to teach people about your product or service because it isn't widely known or searched for, consider email or social media advertising to capture interest from consumers with the problem your product/service solves.

Do you rely on repeat business?

When consumer loyalty is important to your business, social media and email are the primary ways to stay in touch with your customers and keep your brand top-of-mind. If you don't already have a CRM, consider implementing one to help you track customer behavior and order history so you can target them with the right messaging at the moment they're likely to repurchase.

On the other hand, if your product/service is usually bought once or seasonally, you'll want to constantly seek out new sales through advertising channels like paid search and/or social media.

Is your budget reasonably large or small?

This factor typically depends on the answers to some other questions, but generally if you have a small or one-time budget, certain digital marketing channels are probably out of your reach. These could include an entirely new website to replace a dated one, brand new marketing automation software or a fancy new customer relationship management tool.

Paid search, on the other hand, can be as big or small as your budget allows in most cases. SEO is typically done on an hourly basis so you can contract an SEO consultant for fewer hours to accommodate your smaller budget. Retargeting also tends to be an inexpensive tactic.

Ultimately, the digital marketing channel you choose is up to you, but asking yourself these questions and having an understanding of the different tools at your disposal will enable you to make the best decision.