What Is a Marketing Channel? 8 Types to Prioritise in 2024

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn what a marketing channel is, explore examples of marketing channels, and begin prioritising the channels that will best help you reach your business goals.

[Featured Image] A digital marketing expert sits at an office desk and reviews the performance of marketing channels on his desktop monitor.

Marketing channel definition

A marketing channel is one of several tools, platforms, and touchpoints businesses use to communicate with a market segment and guide them along a customer journey. As we’ll explore in later sections of this article, marketing channels can include digital channels, like social media and websites, and offline channels, such as networking events and word of mouth. 

When you develop a solid channel marketing strategy and optimise your methods on every channel, your business can benefit in several ways:

  • Reach new markets 

  • Deliver value to potential customers

  • Build brand equity

  • Generate leads

  • Increase sales 

  • Reduce the cost of doing business 

  • Improve customer experience 

For example, using Facebook’s lead-generation ads as a channel marketing strategy enables potential customers to subscribe to your business right on Facebook without clicking on another page to enter their contact information.  

You will likely come across similar concepts when researching marketing channels, like marketing strategy and distribution channels. While these terms may be used interchangeably, it’s important to note some distinctions: 

  • Distribution channel: The route goods take from producer to consumer, including the people, organisations, and activities involved in this transfer. 

  • Marketing strategy: An overview of how a company will present its value proposition to customers. It can also be considered a long-term vision for the company’s marketing efforts.  

In this article, we focus on marketing channels as places to communicate with potential customers. Continue reading to explore examples of marketing channels and the steps to devise a strategy to reach your target market. 

How to choose your marketing channels

With all the possibilities for channel marketing, choosing the channels that align with your business goals is important. Follow these steps to plan your next business move: 

1. Define your marketing goals

What do you want to achieve through marketing in the next quarter, six months, or year? Set specific and measurable goals for these three increments of time. 

For example, add email marketing to your current marketing efforts. So you’d set up a lead magnet—a landing page with a lead capture form—and an email system like Mailchimp or Constant Contact. Then, your goal might include getting a certain number of people to click on the landing page, a certain number of those people to subscribe, and a certain number to buy products or services you promote through your email sequences. 

2. Conduct market analysis

Conducting a market analysis as part of a comprehensive business plan can help you identify opportunities in your industry to reach a target market, including the best marketing channels for your business.

Market analysis comprises industry research, competitive analysis, identifying gaps, researching a target market or niche market, identifying barriers to entry, and forecasting sales.  

3. Investigate your competition

As part of the market analysis introduced in step two, investigating competing brands in depth can help you decide which marketing channels to use. 

  • What are your brands doing to reach customers in your niche market?

  • What marketing channels are competitors currently not using? 

  • How can you differentiate yourself from the competition and improve their message and approach?

4. Interview existing customers

If you already have paying customers, gleaning wisdom from their feedback is great. If possible, set up a few interviews with loyal customers to discover the following: 

  • How they found your products and services

  • What inspired them to make a purchase

  • Their favourite social media platforms

  • The kinds of events they’re likely to attend

  • How do they search for information, and which sources of information do they trust 

If interviews are not feasible, create a few survey forms customers can fill out quickly and easily. 

5. Determine your marketing budget

Many marketing efforts can be carried out for free or at a nominal cost. These include posting organic content to social media, building search engine optimised (SEO) content on your site, and networking with potential customers at professional events. You can scale your efforts by setting up paid advertising through digital or traditional marketing channels.  

Explore the following questions to help determine a starting budget:

  • What resources are currently available for paid ads?

  • What are your business’s operating costs? 

  • What is the typical conversion cost on the channels you’re interested in?  

  • What are the costs of using different marketing tools, such as landing pages, customer relationship management software, and graphic design programs?

  • How much will you need to spend to generate data about how the ads perform? 

  • What metrics do you need to consider to know which paid ad methods work best?

  • What can you learn from interviewing ad agencies or marketing consultants who can manage ads for you? 

Increase your marketing budget once you generate revenue from ad conversion and have more data. 

6. Market on multiple channels. 

Now it’s time to consider your channels and everything you’ve explored in steps one through five and develop your channel marketing strategy.  

While one channel might strike you as the most appropriate, consider an omnichannel or multi-channel marketing approach to give your business the best chance of reaching audiences and turning them into paying customers. 

Review these definitions as you select your marketing channels: 

  • Multi-channel marketing: When you choose two or more channels to market your business to meet customers where they are likely to be, you can increase your brand’s visibility. However, customer interactions are often siloed between channels, sometimes disrupting their experiences. 

  • Omnichannel marketing: Marketing your business on two or more channels to increase visibility and interact with customers where they are likely to be. Unlike multi-channel, omnichannel marketing has seamless integration between and among channels so customers can continue their journey with your brand, from one device or touchpoint to the next, without disruption. 

8 marketing channel examples 

The examples below include offline and online channels and paid and organic channel strategy opportunities. Review each one to draw inspiration and consider the possibilities for your business. 

Social media 

Social media marketing leverages the power of high-value content, such as instructional videos or inspirational quotes, to attract audiences. You can catch their attention by posting content related to potential customers' interests. At the same time, they engage in regular social media activities, such as scrolling their feeds or messaging contacts on social platforms. 


As a marketing channel, email offers the opportunity to deliver personalised messaging to subscribers’ inboxes, develop relationships with your audience, and convert them into customers. The emails you send can include educational material, product discounts, announcements of new offers or events, gifts and coupons, or surveys and polls.  

Depending on your email system's features, you can measure the effectiveness of email campaigns with metrics such as open rate, click-through rate (CTR), and conversion rate (CVR). By segmenting your subscriber list and automating the delivery of multiple emails, you can lead subscribers along a customer journey without composing every email manually. 


There are several ways to use the web as a marketing channel, as explored below: 

  • Consider a website as an online anchor and powerful marketing channel for your brand. When building a website and driving traffic, optimising the site’s structure, design, content, and calls to action (CTAs) takes time, so visitors are encouraged to subscribe or purchase. 

  • Search engine optimisation (SEO) content marketing refers to content optimised for search engines. Develop long-form content that satisfies an internet searcher’s intent—to find information about a topic or an answer to a question, for example. Once your SEO-friendly content appears on a search results page, internet searchers can click on the page, consume the content, and learn more about your products and services.

SEO content marketing is typically organic in that a piece of content's quality, structure, relevance, and meta-data can attract audiences online without using paid advertising.


  • Paid digital ads can help you scale your efforts beyond the reach of organic online marketing to reach new audiences. Digital ads can include search engine marketing (ads based on keywords that people are searching for online), display ads, native ads (showing audiences ads based on their online activity), and paid social media advertising (promoting posts designed to reach specific audiences). 


Hosting live events, such as classes, performances, or meet and greets, can attract potential customers to your brand and entice them to future events or other products and services. Consider enhancing customer experience by stimulating the five senses with music, lighting, and refreshments and ensuring every interaction with event staff contributes to attendees’ enjoyment. 

Word of mouth 

Word-of-mouth marketing refers to consumer-to-consumer communication around a brand or product through recommendations, testimonials, and referrals. 

As a form of social proof, these communications can be highly effective in driving sales, regardless of your business. Consumers tend to emulate the behaviours and preferences of their peers and trust their endorsements of products and services.

Look for opportunities to leverage the satisfaction of loyal customers and turn them into brand ambassadors:

  • Ask for referrals and offer referral bonuses when new customers purchase.

  • Create an affiliate marketing programme.

  • Make it easy for customers to post their reviews online.

Traditional media

Traditional media, such as print ads, billboards and signs, radio, and direct mail, can still be effective in the digital age, as they can reach audiences offline. These media can also effectively reach audiences in a specific geographic location. Some forms, like direct mail, may have a longer shelf life, as consumers save physical items for later use or share them with others.

Improve your marketing with Coursera

As you test new marketing channels and gauge the results of your efforts, remember the importance of building various marketing skills. Consider taking a course to gain skills you can apply to your business or when applying for marketing jobs with other companies.

With the Facebook Social Media Marketing Professional Certificate or Google Digital Marketing & E-commerce Professional Certificate, you can learn invaluable marketing skills, such as establishing a social media presence, creating engaging content, and setting up paid ad campaigns.

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