Marketing channels, and how to think about marketing your WordPress business
Having the right marketing channels for your WordPress business is the difference between having a thriving WordPress business, and a struggling one.
You can make a great product or service, but if you’re not able to effectively get it in front of people who need and will pay for it, that’s not too much use. Despite all the hours that go into making a great product, having it thrive or not can be decided by choosing – or not choosing – the right marketing channels.
Thus, you must have the right set of marketing channels. You must be able to connect your offering with potential customers who can and will pay you.
When I speak to people about this, I often describe getting this wrong vs getting this right as:
- Everything being on fire vs everything being fine
- Random, ad-hoc marketing vs a clear plan
- Unpredictable future vs
But what are marketing channels? What constitutes a “channel”? How do you pick the right channels? This post gets into all of this! We’ll show you the channel-based marketing philosophy, and aim to give you a clear framework on how to think about marketing your WordPress business.
Let’s talk about marketing channels
Marketing channels are categories of marketing activities. This part isn’t complicated: there are around twenty channels which cover the vast majority of marketing work.
Here’s a sample of five of these channels. These apply to every industry, not just WordPress products:
- Content marketing
- Paid search ads
- Sponsoring conferences (like WordCamps!)
- PR stunts!
- TV ads
You get the idea: these are broad categories, and some are more appropriate to certain markets than others (you almost certainly, for example, aren’t going to be buying TV ads to market your WordPress business unless you’re Automattic, in which case test it carefully).
There are a handful of go-to channels for WordPress businesses. Content marketing is a good fit for most WordPress products. Agencies might prefer industry events. Partnerships, community building, and SEO can be good too.
People who make WordPress products often claim they “don’t do marketing”, or they’ve “grown without marketing”. This is never true! Here are some lesser-talked about marketing channels:
- Partnerships or recommendations from related products/services
- “Building in public” / posting transparency reports about what you’re doing
- Speaking at WordCamps or other conferences
- Talking about what you’re doing on Twitter, to clients via email, or even at your co-working space!
You get the idea: these are all marketing channels, and this is all marketing. Let’s now talk about how this channel-based philosophy of marketing works in practice.
Why the channel-based philosophy works so well
The channel-based philosophy of marketing works so well for two reasons:
- It forces you to test and find out what works.
- It forces you to focus on what works, and abandon everything else.
You start off by brainstorming and identifying three, four, or five possible marketing channels. The channels I mentioned above would certainly be a good start, but given getting the channels working is so valuable, you may wish to get a professional opinion (Ellipsis does this!).
Identifying and testing your marketing channels
However you go about getting your initial channels, the process from then onwards is the same:
- You identify your possible channels, doing small tests to see if they work. What constitutes “small tests” depends on which channel you’re trying: paid search ads get results very quickly, so one month might be sufficient. Content marketing can take longer, so you might need to stick with it for three months. If you have a freemium plugin, that may take longer still. Whichever channels you look at, you must set success criteria and a timeframe before you start. Once underway make sure you can track the results from each channel – for example by using UTM codes in your content to track conversions on a post-by-post basis – and make sure you stick to the channel for the duration of the test. By the end, you should have a good idea of what can work and what can’t. One or two working channels is a perfectly good outcome here.
- Once you have one or two working channels, you just focus on these. When it’s clear what’s going to work, double down on what works. Just focus on the one or two marketing channels if you’re just getting started, or three, four, or five if you’re further down the line. You want as few marketing channels as possible, and each channel working as hard for you as it can. This means really focusing on doing everything to maximise your channels!
- Only when a channel is working and “full” do you then turn your attention to new channels. You find your new channels by testing out a couple of ideas again! And, you say no to everything which doesn’t fit in the channels you’re focusing on. This latter part is especially important, as I’ll touch on again in a moment.
This makes for an incredibly efficient marketing strategy! You find what works, and then only focus on those things that work, getting as much value as possible out of them. If a channel wanes or is at maximum capacity, then you can turn to new channels. That’s it. You don’t do anything else.
The channel philosophy makes it easy to say no
Furthermore, the value of being forced to focus on a working marketing channel shouldn’t be underestimated: once you do start getting customers, marketing opportunities will start springing up. You’ll be asked to sponsor content, conferences, and all sorts. A lot of WordPress business owners I speak to have a really difficult time choosing between these opportunities:
- What constitutes a good opportunity?
- Should you copy what other people are doing?
- What sounds like a good idea, and what is a good idea?
With the channel-based marketing philosophy, it’s easy to filter these opportunities: if something fits with the channel you’re focusing on, do it. If not, don’t do it.
The philosophy is also extremely elegant for us when working with clients: it lets the Ellipsis team build a focused marketing strategy from scratch if that’s what the client needs, it lets us tweak and fit into an existing strategy, or it lets us take care of one channel for clients who already have other parts in place.
This works for WordPress businesses of literally all sizes, from startup plugins, to the very biggest SaaS companies. It also intuitively makes sense, so you can certainly get a barebones version of this running for your WordPress business.
Quick case study: Envira Gallery’s marketing channels
Here’s a quick example of this in action, from a WordPress product we have no affiliation with: Envira Gallery. This is a gallery plugin for WordPress which was acquired for multi-million dollars in late 2017. In an interview with The Plugin Economy, owner Nathan Singh mentions the following:
Our continued success has been a healthy mix of Facebook retargeting, laser focused content marketing, industry affiliate relationships, and listening to our customers by delivering updates that matter to them. If you haven’t yet, send surveys to understand what they want.
We’re taking “build a great product” as a given, so if we take that out we see a three-channel marketing strategy:
- Facebook retargeting
- Content marketing
You might even argue that this is a two-channel marketing strategy, with the Facebook retargeting merely increasing the effectiveness of channels the other two channels, which are the ones bringing people to the site.
Envira Gallery is a multi million dollar business, and it’s using two marketing channels; this shows you it really is true that you want as few marketing channels as possible, and you want to get them working as efficiently as possible.
“The number one rule of marketing is to understand your target audience”, says T. Maxwell, Owner of a top digital marketing agency in Los Angeles. “Knowing your target audience means knowing what digital channels they frequent. Nobody is looking for a dentist on Pinterest, but people often look for designers and jewelry on that platform. Successful marketing strategies must leverage the right digital channels.”
Now you’re ready to choose your marketing channels!
Having the right marketing channels for your WordPress business is the difference between having a thriving WordPress business, and a struggling one. This post has shown you how to make use of the channel-based marketing philosophy to build a winning marketing strategy.
It’s conceptually very simple, and that’s part of the beauty: you want to test a couple of channels, choose the one or two that work, and then just focus on them.
There is, of course, more to building a winning marketing strategy than saying “let’s do content marketing”; there are plenty of ways of doing content marketing. Some of these will be good and some of these won’t; you do have to be specific. Note how, for example, Nathan Singh referred to “laser focused content marketing” above. And, whilst this is a simple process, it’s an open-ended one; you always want to be on the look out for new possibilities.
I’ll endeavour to get more into building out winning marketing strategies in a later post. If you can’t wait for that, or if you want an expert opinion from the start, then get in touch with Ellipsis, and we’ll be happy to look into this for you. We do this as the initial work for the vast majority of our clients, and have an excellent track record of uncovering a winning way forwards.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy your winning marketing strategy.