A marketing channel, as we all are aware about, is basically a set of practices or activities necessary to transfer the ownership of goods from the point of production to the point of consumption. It is the way products and services get to the consumer; and it is also known as a distribution channel. In today’s time, due to the advancement of technology, transport and communication, businesses have come up with a number of marketing channels. Marketing channels can either be online or offline, depending on the business.
Now, what exactly is a startup and how can we relate it to marketing channels?
A startup is nothing but ‘a beginning’ in layman's terms and it means the commencement of a new idea, innovation and/or creativity, made tangible in case of a product and intangible in case of a service. There is obviously a generation gap, as the startups these days are usually owned by youngsters and they have new and different ideas that will be useful for the people living in the 21st century.
Very few graduates these days look forward to doing a 9-5 job, and yes the ‘very few’ is a large number somehow. But it cannot be denied that almost every student in his/her course of training, goes through some difficult scenario and some among these think about ways to make such scenarios easier and there you go! A new idea is born. Thinking about an idea is not enough to run a business; the knowledge and right use of marketing channels is essential.
As mentioned above, there are two types of marketing channels we usually come across in our day to day lives - online and offline.
Now, what exactly are they?
Online Marketing, as the name suggests has something to do with advertising your product/service on the internet. Internet has become one of our physiological needs these days. If at all there is a change that has to to be made to the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, then internet should definitely be added to the Physiological needs along with food, water, shelter and comfort. In a survey, it was found out that in the year 2005, the world’s population was 6.5 billion, out of which only 16% had access to the internet; but over the last ten years, there has been a drastic change. According to a survey taken in the year 2016, the world population is 7.3 billion and out of that, 47% have an access to the internet. An increase by 31%! This means that people are adapting to this change and this has made life easy to almost everyone now.
Online marketing is not just displaying products/services on the internet. There are a number of ways to do that and a business needs to choose the correct one.
They can be:
TARGETING BLOGS- A blog is basically a website or a webpage that one designs, in order to write informal and conversational-style content and this can be run by an individual or a small group of people. To be a blogger, one needs to have creative writing skills. Now, how is a blog an online marketing channel? A blogging webpage, created for business purposes, will get people to read about it and slowly create an awareness about your business and thus market your business. An example can be the website called ‘Mango People’. This website was started by two youngsters, in the year 2014, to sell products which were not only good to look at, but also have a great design factor and quality. On their website, they also wrote blogs and in two years time, they have achieved quite a success.
SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING (SEM)- Search Engine Marketing is placing advertisements on different and famous search engines such as Google, Yahoo etc. Whenever we look for something on Google, on the right hand side of the page, we also find advertisements of a few websites, especially of the ones you have recently visited. Even on searching something as common as a ‘ball’, you get multiple advertisements of sellers displaying balls and their prices.
SOCIAL AND DISPLAY ADS- Display Ads are the advertisements or the banner ads that one comes across all over the internet and Social ads are the advertisements on social websites such as Facebook, Youtube or Twitter. This is somewhat like Search Engine Marketing but here the advertisements are seen only on social websites and these are again the ads of the websites recently and frequently visited by the viewer.
EMAIL MARKETING- This type of marketing is one of the best ways to attract customers because when a person receives an email by any business, he/she feels ‘special’ in a way as the email is only addressed to him/her. And this in a way, creates some kind of obligation for him/her to reciprocate. Hence, this also attracts customers. Flipkart, Amazon, etc. use this marketing channel. On almost every website there is a ‘subscribe’ button, on clicking which, one gets emails from that website with new updates and recent offers.
These channels are quite essential for a startup company. Targeting Blogs is a new way of attracting customers to your business by creative writing and so is Email Marketing, where a business sends attractive emails to a targeted group of customers which a startup thinks will be the right audience for their business.
There are other types of online marketing channels as well, like, Content Marketing which is somewhat like blogging, Video Marketing which is uploading videos on the websites, Social Media Marketing where webpages about the startup business are created on social media websites and their content is posted on that page, etc.
A startup company must choose an efficient and cost effective marketing channel. Email Marketing and Blogs are ideal as they don’t really cost much. Once people start getting to know about the business and the business starts growing smoothly, a startup company can shift to Search Engine Marketing and Social & Display ads, where the company needs to pay per click i.e. whenever anyone clicks on the advertisement, a certain amount needs to be paid by the startup company to the host.
Now, Offline Marketing is exactly the opposite of online marketing, which means the channels are in no way related to the internet. These channels can include television, radio, newspapers, brochures/posters, etc. Back in time, when the internet was not there or very few people had an access to the internet, Offline Marketing was the only channel available for businesses to market. They are cost efficient.
They can be:
PUBLICITY- It is a way of advertising the business via the traditional media outlets like television, newspapers, magazines, etc. In a city, if a new restaurant is opening, for example, then this channel is used to advertise via magazines or brochures. Offline marketing for such a business makes much more sense initially, as the people who have an access to the restaurant are the people living in that city. Later, they can make use of websites like Zomato, where the restaurant can be advertised. This is pretty cost effective for a startup.
VIRAL MARKETING- It consists of growing customer base for a business by encouraging the existing customers to refer them to other customers by word of mouth. There can be some conditions applied, like ‘Buy 1 Get 1 Free’ which can then be given to other people. Also, some websites which are newly established have offers like first five hundred customers get a 30% discount or so. For example, ‘LENSKART’ has an offer that says that a customer buying from them the first time gets a free frame.
MARKETING AT EVENTS/EXHIBITIONS- Quite frequently there are expos and exhibitions held where new businesses can put up their stalls and the people that visit the exhibitions are then made aware about the upcoming businesses. This can be a little expensive for a startup as the competition is tough and everyone wants to be noticed and obviously want to survive in the market; but if it works, then it gives a new push to the business altogether.
Both, online and offline marketing channels are equally effective.
A business has to decide which option will be suitable for it and also be cost efficient in case of a startup company.