Marketing is among the most important things companies need to take care of and it can be among the costliest of processes.

Complete Comparison of the Major Marketing Channels

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In this guide, we’ll look at the different marketing channels and compare traditional with modern channels. You’ll learn about some of the most common marketing tactics and the different ways to use them.


Before we examine the different marketing channels in detail, it’s auspicious to brush up on the definitions. Marketing is essentially the process, which is used for highlighting a specific content to potential customers in order to convert them from potential customers into paying customers.

Marketing is done through different marketing campaigns, which are co-ordinated steps for promoting the product using a number of different marketing mediums.

There are four major types of marketing mediums in use:

  • Broadcast. Television and radio are the two most traditional marketing mediums. Television offers the visual marketing opportunities and a wide reach, but its downside is often the high cost associated with it. Radio on the other hand is an effective tool for localized marketing, but there’s no visual element to the campaign.
  • Print. Newspapers and magazines have been another stalwart of marketing mediums. Furthermore, print also includes the marketing channels of brochure and catalogue marketing. Print marketing tends to be affordable and there’s plenty of visual and innovative potential available. But the effectiveness can sometime be questioned.
  • Digital and interactive. The new marketing medium refers to the digital and interactive medium, which includes channels such as the Internet, email and mobile marketing. Digital and interactive marketing has opened many innovative doors and it is generally thought to be a cheaper marketing channel to use. The reach can also be immensely wide, but mastering digital and interactive marketing takes some knowledge.
  • Social media. Finally, social media has become a marketing medium of its own in the 21st The channel offers low-cost marketing opportunities for businesses, often relying on increased customer engagement. The marketing medium can take time to master and it can be quite time consuming.

Selecting the right medium to use refers to drafting a marketing strategy. This means picking the communication channel, the potential customers are more likely to engage and find attractive.

Choosing the right marketing channel for your marketing strategy is not always easy. As we’ve seen, the choices are varied and you need to have a proper understanding of the benefits and downsides to each marketing channel before making the decision.


We discussed above how marketing channels are often divided into four of the most common marketing mediums. But there are a number of marketing channels within and outside of these four mediums.

Therefore, marketing channels are often divided into two main categories: traditional and new marketing channels. The new marketing channels were born from the digital revolution and the marketers in the modern era have used many of the traditional methods, but combined them with the digital technology.

The traditional marketing channels

The traditional marketing channels follow a traditional marketing strategy of:

  • Finding potential customers
  • Creating a message to reach out to customers
  • Finding the right channel of contact
  • Converting as many potentials to customers as possible

The marketing channels are therefore focused on the so-called four Ps: product, price, placement, and promotion. Furthermore, the channels often rely on interruptive marketing, which means the marketing message interrupts another action the potential customer is doing. For example, TV advertising happens when the customer is engaged with something else, mainly the TV show they are watching.

Let’s examine some of the most common traditional marketing channels.

TV, radio and print marketing

The most common traditional marketing channels include broadcasting, such as TV and radio, and print marketing. As mentioned above, these channels can be great for targeting localized and national markets, with a far-reaching impact. All these mediums allow the creation of innovative campaigns.

The downside to TV, radio and print marketing is the cost. All these channels come with a high cost, although people who enjoy ads often prefer these traditional channels to some of the below channels.

Learn more about broadcast marketing and how you use it to reach potential customers.

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Direct mail and sales

Direct mail and sales are another popular, traditional marketing channels. The aim is to contact the customer directly through methods such as postcards, fliers, cold calling and door-to-door sales. The marketing is typically targeted to a specific target market and therefore, involves plenty of market research.

Direct mail and sales tends to be a good method for reaching out to the target market and therefore, can often have a good rate of turning potentials into customers. But the downside is that direct marketing campaigns like these tend to have high costs associated with them.

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Banner ads, billboards, display ads

Traditional marketing can also be conducted through roadside banners, sales banners in stores and other such display ads found in traditional spaces. These can be an effective medium to reach a wider audience and effective in enhancing brand image.

But banner ads and billboards tend to come with extremely high costs. It is often considered an alternative to bigger companies in this specific region.

Some very creative billboard marketing campaigns for your inspiration.


Face-to-face marketing has always been an important part of marketing, especially in terms of companies who are selling to other businesses.

Tradeshows rely on the direct contact with the customer and immediate sale. The cost of tradeshow marketing can depend on factors such as location, product on sale, popularity of tradeshow, but generally, the method has high costs associated with it.

But creating impact might not be as hard with tradeshows, as one study shows tradeshow participants are 34% more likely to buy a product than people who hear about the product through other channels.

This is how you can make trade shows work for your business.

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Referral marketing

Finally, referral marketing, which is also known as word-of-mouth marketing, is another traditional marketing channel. The aim of this method is to leverage your existing customers to spread the word about your business and therefore, generate new leads to your business. Companies typically offer specific referral bonuses to customers who refer a new customer for the business. The bonuses can range from monetary benefit to a small gift.

Referral marketing is relatively cost effective, since you often don’t need to provide an extensive bonus for the referral program to work. It does, however, require good customer relations, as you need to actively encourage customers to advocate your business. Since your business relies on customers for marketing, the results can vary greatly and the impact can be relatively small.

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The new marketing channels

The new marketing channels and tactics have largely been driven by the technological revolution. While these channels often use similar tactics to traditional channels, they tend to rely on digital technology in the delivery.

Furthermore, the strategy used by new marketing channels adds more emphasis on the cultivation of relations after the potential customer has been turned into a paying customer.

The strategy looks more like:

  • Finding potential customers
  • Creating a message to reach out to customers
  • Finding the right channel of contact
  • Converting the customer into a loyal customer
  • Cultivating the relationship with the customers

The new marketing channels emphasize the six Cs: contact, connect, conversation, consideration, consumption, and community.

The strategy calls for a permission-based marketing. This means that instead of interrupting the potential consumer with a marketing message, marketers often ask for permission. For instance, a website can have a box for subscribing to an email newsletter, which allows the customer to see premium content or receive extra offers. The decision to subscribe is on the hands of the customer.

So, what are some of the most common new marketing channels?

Search engine marketing

Search engine marketing is among the most common new marketing channels. It’s divided into two methods:

  • Search engine optimisation (SEO) – An organic marketing strategy that uses different optimisation tactics to improve the ranking on search engines like Google. The aim is to guarantee the company is among the top of the lists when customers are searching for relevant keywords. Usually the focus is on optimizing the company website, creating organic links with other website’s and improving social media presence.
  • Pay-per-click (PPC) – A paid marketing strategy, where the company runs ad campaigns online. The ad is often a banner displayed either in search engines or on different websites. By clicking the ad the potential customer is directed to a company website.

Search engine marketing can guarantee the company better online visibility and it can be relatively cost effective when done correctly. But search engine marketing can have higher costs if the company needs plenty of help setting up the marketing strategy and it can ineffective when harmful strategies are used.

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Email marketing

Email marketing is similar to direct mail in the sense that it focuses on marketing to the target market. It can be effective in reaching the desired audience and it’s especially powerful when the customer signs up to the email marketing voluntarily.

Email marketing does require good planning and design optimisation, as people tend to overlook many of the marketing emails they receive. It therefore requires quite good understanding of how the target market consumes emails.

Email marketing can be quite cost effective, as you won’t need to worry about the costs associated with printing and distributing costs of the marketing ‘leaflet’.

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Inbound marketing

Inbound marketing focuses on fostering relationships with your prospective customers and it relies heavily on building networks with customers. The aim is to create content, which appeals to customers, and content that causes the customer to interact with the content.

Different methods of inbound marketing include e-books, newsletters and blogs. Video marketing is also a popular form of inbound marketing. The method is gaining in popularity, as consumers often favour it. Inbound marketing is not as disruptive as traditional advertising methods and it can add more value to the product.

While the costs of inbound marketing can vary, it is generally more time-consuming than some other forms of marketing. It also requires plenty of attention to the quality of the message.

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Content marketing

Content marketing is very similar to inbound marketing, as both channels are focused on the creation of content. Content marketing also involves the creation of e-books, video tutorials, how-to guides, and blogging in general. The difference to inbound marketing is in the strategies after the content is released. Content marketing doesn’t often focus on the promotion of the content or the engagement with the user afterwards, whereas this is an essential part of inbound marketing.

In terms of the costs, content marketing can either be relatively cheap or cost quite a bit. Nonetheless, it is often an essential aspect of search engine marketing, as it can be an organic part of SEO strategies.

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Social media marketing

Social media marketing has been among the most popular methods in recent years. The channel focuses on promoting the business on social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

There are two routes to social media marketing: the organic and free marketing, and the paid marketing strategies. The free method involves with the creation of engaging content and encouraging people to share your content. On the other hand, paid strategies involve the purchase of ad space on these networks.

Social media marketing is highly popular, but it isn’t necessarily for all businesses. The method requires a lot of planning and careful focus on the execution. Bad social media mishaps can do plenty of damage to a brand image, so a business has to know what they are doing.

Depending on the tactic, social media can be cost effective and consumers are more likely to engage in financial transactions with companies they interact with on social media.

Mobile marketing

Mobile marketing is a newcomer in marketing channels and it’s quickly gaining in importance. The focus is on creating marketing campaigns, which target the consumer directly through mobile devices.

The different mobile marketing strategies include:

  • Text message marketing – The customer is directly engaged via text message. This can be effective in reaching the target audience, but it can be considered disruptive and annoying.
  • Multimedia message marketing – The method is similar to the above, with the difference being a more interactive messaging.
  • Push notification marketing – The customer is targeted through apps, which leave notifications to the customer. These can be offers or simple reminders. Often a good way of engaging with the customer, as they will give permission for the notifications.
  • In-game marketing – Certain companies might benefit from paying to advertise on mobile games. The tactic is rather niche and would only benefit companies, which are related to the game and its message.
  • QR codes – A newer strategy, which uses the latest smartphone technology. It’s an innovative and fun way of engaging a customer. The method uses a code (which can be in print media, on street ads, or product packaging), which the customer can scan with a smartphone. This ad then leads to the company website, for example.

Mobile marketing can be an effective and engaging method of marketing. It’s increasingly important to keep in mind, as consumers are more engaged with their phones. Depending on the method of advertising, it can also be relatively cost effective.

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One of the aspects of selecting the right marketing campaigns involves the cost of the marketing channel. As we’ve briefly discussed in the above examples, the cost of marketing campaigns can vary a lot. The key is to measure the success in terms of the cost of running the campaign and the gains you make from the campaign.

Different marketing channels for well in different situations and the right channel can even depend on the audience you’re trying to reach, as well as the industry you operate it. The key to picking the right marketing medium starts by understanding the following aspects:

  • The goal of the marketing campaign. What is the objective of your campaign? The purpose of marketing can vary slightly. For example, you might be most interested in improving brand awareness or you might be aiming to increase the amount of leads your business gets.
  • The target market. What is the target market? The way you convey your message will depend greatly on the target audience, as different groups are interested in different message and respond differently to specific messaging. For example, if you were targeting new mothers, you would talk to them differently than to single men.
  • The core message. You should also consider the message you are sending out before selecting the right marketing channel.
  • The marketing channel most associated with your target market. Different groups are looking for a different type of marketing messaging and use different mediums to engage with brands. For instance, older generations are still more likely to engage with mediums such as broadcasting, especially radio. On the other hand, younger generations are more engaged with digital and social media.

Once you’ve chosen the marketing channel, you need to focus on identifying the ways to measure performance. First, you must identify the objectives you are looking to measure. This means defining the primary objective of your marketing campaign.

The objective would typically be one of the following:

  • Generating leads
  • Increasing sales
  • Increasing customer advocacy rates
  • Improving brand value
  • Raise awareness of the product
  • Qualify the pipeline

You then need to set performance metrics that enable the measuring of the above objective. The metrics will differ whether you are using a traditional marketing method or using a newer, digital marketing channel.

The traditional metrics include:

  • Response rate (customers reacting to the ad)
  • Conversation rates
  • Cost per ad (such as direct mail)
  • Call tracking
  • Customer satisfaction rate

The digital marketing metrics include:

  • Cost per lead
  • Total visits to website or social media profile
  • Unique visitors
  • Average visit duration
  • Conversation rate
  • Bouncebacks
  • Shares and likes on social media
  • Customer satisfaction rate

Once you’ve selected the preferred marketing channel, you can use the above metrics to focusing on the cost effectiveness of the campaign. The most important thing to remember is to plan your marketing operations carefully and use a few different channels to find out which one is the most efficient for your needs.

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