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There’s no marketing channel that’s a silver bullet for everyone. The marketing channels you choose as part of your marketing strategy depend on the resources you have and the products you sell. 

Ahead, you’ll learn what a marketing channel is, and see examples of different channels and a framework for choosing the right ones for your business.

What is a marketing channel? 

A marketing channel is a place where you attract new customers to your business. It can be an online platform or an offline channel, like a billboard. Some marketing channels are free, while others are paid. 

The mix of marketing channels you choose helps comprise the overall marketing strategy for your business. Most channels are digital marketing channels, which means they reach people who are browsing online. Other channels aim to catch people in person, whether that’s through hosting live events or sending out direct mail. 

Marketing channels vs. strategies vs. content 

A marketing strategy is the high-level vision of marketing that aligns with your business objectives. It outlines how you plan to position yourself in the market, who your target audience is, and how you plan to reach them.

Your marketing channels are how you reach your target audience with your messages. They can be digital, like social media or email. Or traditional, like radio or print ads. 

Content is the actual material you create to communicate with your audience. This includes blog posts, videos, podcasts, emails, webinars, and more. Content aligns with your overall marketing strategy and is tailored for the specific channel you’re using. 

Types of marketing channels


Free marketing channels are places where you create and share content without paying to show it to people. They rely on organic reach and word-of-mouth to spread your message. 

Free channels are used by brands both large and small, but are important for businesses with limited budgets. Most of the time, you can create the content yourself without significant investment. 

Common free channels you probably already know are:

  • Social media platforms (like Facebook, TikTok, Instagram)
  • SEO (search engine optimization)
  • Content marketing (blogs, videos)
  • Email marketing
  • Networking events


Paid marketing channels are places where you spend money to show advertisements to potential customers. These channels give you more control over who you reach with your content. 

For example, you can’t control who sees an Instagram post. But, you can input ad targeting criteria for an Instagram ad and guarantee specific groups will see it. 

Popular paid channels include:

  • Google Ads
  • Social media ads
  • TV and radio commercials
  • Direct mail 
  • Print ads (magazines and newspapers)


Digital marketing channels are online platforms where you promote your products. These days, they are the most efficient channels for reaching an audience, considering everyone lives their lives on the internet. Some estimates say the global market for digital advertising and marketing is over half a billion dollars, and growing every year.

Digital marketing tactics span across many different channels, but at a high level, the most popular are:

  • Social media marketing
  • Influencer marketing
  • Email marketing 
  • Content marketing
  • Mobile marketing (apps, SMS)


Digital marketing may be more popular than traditional channels, but that doesn’t mean brands aren’t using traditional marketing anymore. 

This channel is great for getting out a mass message to specific audiences and older demographics. It’s considered a credible form of marketing. Think about it: If a brand can afford to put a billboard up in West Hollywood or Times Square, they must be selling a successful product.

Besides billboards, other traditional channels include:

  • Newspapers and magazines
  • TV and radio
  • Telemarketing
  • Direct mail 

Below are examples of the different types of marketing channels you can leverage as an ecommerce business.

13 most effective marketing channels

  1. Email marketing 
  2. Paid ads
  3. Social media marketing 
  4. Affiliate marketing
  5. SMS
  6. Content marketing
  7. Organic search
  8. Paid search engine marketing (SEM) 
  9. Referral marketing
  10. Event marketing
  11. Public relations
  12. Partnership marketing
  13. Direct-mail marketing

1. Email marketing 

Using email to engage with customers is called email marketing. You can send a one-off email to alert people to a promotion or sale, undergo a full-fledged email campaign, or send a series of emails focused around a central topic during key moments for prospective customers, such as when they first join your email list or when you’re promoting a new product launch

Before you email prospective customers, you’ll need to build an email list. Many businesses offer a one-time discount for first-time customers. For example, skin care brand Beneath Your Mask offers $15 off and free shipping for new subscribers to its email list. 

Beneath Your Mask provides a discount for new email subscribers.
Beneath Your Mask provides a discount for new email subscribers. Beneath Your Mask

If you’re thinking about making email marketing a priority, focus on contacting people at the consideration phase rather than trying to win back abandoned carts. Prioritizing people who are still thinking about making a purchase will give you more bang for your buck than reaching someone who’s already left. 

“Especially if you’re a relatively young and growing brand, hitting those people who are already displaying really high purchase intent with additional messaging and additional touches is not going to drive a huge amount of incremental revenue,” says Alex Greifeld, ecommerce growth adviser. 

2. Paid ads 

Paying to show advertisements on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok can help you grow your business by bringing a stream of visitors to your website. But paid ads, also known as display advertising, come with their own risks. Paid advertising costs have skyrocketed in recent years, and you’ll have to pay to play time after time. 

Incorporating television or radio ads into your paid ads strategy gives you a broader reach than digital platforms. They can engage a diverse audience, especially those who are not on social media. Note, these often have higher production and placement costs, but can build brand awareness and trust. 

While paid ads might work well for your business, they’re not as stable as organic forms of traffic, which grow more steadily over time. Instead, consider using paid content to prove the concept for a new business idea. 

Image of Gymshark Facebook ad on green-blue background
Gymshark uses Facebook to promote ads about its brand.

3. Social media marketing 

Posting content to different social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, or Facebook is called social media marketing. Unlike display or paid advertising, posting content on your own social media channels is a form of organic marketing, because you’re not paying for views.

Social media marketing can be a great way to find, engage, and build relationships with the communities that will buy your products and champion your brand. Establishing a presence on social media can help you grow a following, work with influencers through influencer marketing to expand your reach, and sell products directly within the platform

Rani & Co., a jewelry brand, has seen success on TikTok and Instagram. “I started posting on TikTok at the end of 2020,” Ramona Gohil, the brand’s founder, says, “and that’s when my business really started growing. TikTok has honestly helped me so, so much.” 

Ramona posts a mix of content on her brand’s TikTok channel, from personal stories to how products are designed, like in the TikTok post below. 

4. Affiliate marketing 

Affiliate marketing is where people earn money through commission when they advertise a product or a service on their website. For example, a food blogger might list their favorite baking sheet, stand mixer, or type of flour within a recipe blog post. If a reader clicks through and purchases the item, the blogger gets paid a commission. 

This type of marketing is helpful because it uses an entity your target audience already trusts to talk about your product. This makes people more comfortable making a purchase, because the recommendation is coming from someone they know and like. 

Affiliates of Frankies Bikinis are called ambassadors and are referred to as #Frankiesgirls. It manages its affiliate program using ShareASale, RewardStyle, and Skimlinks. The brand encourages active women with strong social presences to apply.

Frankies Bikinis affiliate program landing page with CTA to apply today
Frankies Bikinis

5. SMS marketing

SMS marketing is when brands send direct text messages to repeat or new customers. This marketing channel often requires a sign-up incentive because of how personal a channel it is. But the direct and immediate nature of SMS is what makes it so effective. The key is to reach out to your audience sparingly, and only when you have something important to say. 

For example, Olipop, a healthy alternative to soda, uses SMS marketing to tell its audience about new flavors and limited edition releases. Its SMS strategy sees great traction: one launch made the brand around $30,000 in 15 minutes.

Screenshot of a text message from Oilpop Caption: Olipop

6. Content marketing

Content marketing can refer to many different marketing channels, but it most often implies creating organic (non-paid) content on your owned channels. These channels include your blog, social media platforms, email, video marketing, and podcast, if you have one. 

Content marketing can drive traffic to your website, as well as build trust with your audience and answer any questions they have about your products. Say you’re selling cooking equipment. Your audience wants to learn how to cook chicken teriyaki. They search on YouTube and find your brand’s video, which gives them a useful recipe that they love. 

Same goes for podcasts. Maybe they want to learn about famous chefs’ cooking techniques, and upon searching for a good podcast, they find your brand’s podcast. In both cases, it’s a win, because they look to you as a trusted source.

For example, Omsom, a food brand that specializes in Southeast and East Asian sauces and meal kits, uses a blog to share stories about different dishes and recipes, as well as profiles of culinary tastemakers. 

For Omsom, content marketing is a key portion of a channel mix that also includes social media and email marketing. That means that the team can cross-post its content between Instagram, TikTok, its blog, and emails, creating a rich, consistent stream of fun and interesting videos and reads.

Image of Omsom’s blog featuring News
Omsom hosts a blog as part of its content marketing strategy. Omsom

7. Organic search

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of getting a webpage, like a blog post, to show up in search results on a search engine like Google. The higher up in search results a page is, the more eyeballs you’ll drive to your website. 

“If you have a product that really solves a problem, where people are probably searching for it online, that’s a clear use case for search marketing and SEO,” Alex says.

The magic of using SEO as a marketing channel is that it’s a more stable revenue stream because of the intent behind the traffic. For example, a person scrolling through Instagram might come across a paid ad in their feed. But someone actively searching for something like “vintage mid century modern furniture for sale” has the intent to actually make a purchase. 

Vintage furniture store Urban Americana has found success with SEO. Its all-furniture collection page ranks first in search results for that same query. 

Urban Americana’s furniture collection page ranking in Google search.
Urban Americana’s furniture collection page ranks first in search results. Google

8. Paid search engine marketing 

Search engine marketing, or SEM, is where you pay a search engine like Google to show up above all other results and to drive traffic back to your website. 

Because there’s intent behind search traffic, it can be a lucrative way to capture people who are already searching for the types of products you sell. Unlike organic SEO, paid search engine marketing means you’ll top all other organic results for the same search term. 

Image of Printfresh ads being displayed in Google
Printfresh buys paid ad space for the term “best printed pajamas.” Google

9. Referral marketing

People trust a recommendation from a friend or family member way more than a paid ad or blog post. That’s why referral marketing is such a powerful marketing tool: if you can get it going, you’ll turn your best customers into your biggest advocates. 

The idea of “word of mouth” is popular in marketing. It happens when satisfied customers tell others about your brand, product, or service. Because people tend to trust personal recommendations from family, friends, or even online reviews more than direct advertising from brands, word of mouth can be more influential than traditional advertising. 

While you can’t control who’s talking about your brand to whom, you can incentivize the customers that do. For example, athletic apparel brand Girlfriend Collective offers a free pair of leggings to customers who successfully refer a friend. 

Screenshot of Girlfriend Collective’s referral program
Girlfriend Collective

10. Event marketing 

Whether it’s at a local farmers market, craft fair, trade show, or other type of event, getting your product in front of customers in person can help your business grow. Hear real-time feedback, get a better idea of what marketing messaging works, and better understand your target audience. 

Showing up at events can be helpful at any stage of your business, but many find it particularly useful to validate an idea right at the beginning. 

Terri Sammann, one of the founders of eyeglass company Peepers, attended the Chicago Merchandise Mart trade show in 1994. “She took five styles and laid them on a table,” Alec Sammann, Peepers’ current CEO says, “and in three days she did about $35,000 of business. She came back and said, ‘We’ve got something.’”

Image of woman with Peepers sunglasses on
Peepers validated its product idea at a trade show in Chicago back in the 1990s. Peepers

11. Public relations 

PR, or public relations, involves reaching out to established media networks in the hopes that they’ll want to cover your business or product. It’s an approach that Alex says works best when your product is new, unique, and has a great story, citing Haus, a brand specializing in modern aperitifs. 

“The go-to market for that brand was traditional PR- and comms-driven, because the story behind it was so compelling and the product itself was so differentiated,” Alex says.

Image of cocktails with Haus liquor bottles

PR professionals use a variety of tools to shape the public’s perception of your brand, including press releases and sponsored content:

  • Press releases: Your PR person will put out an official statement to media outlets about a particular topic, known as a press release. These are traditional, but effective for announcing new products, company changes, and events. They are typically written in a formal, journalistic style.
  • Sponsored content: In content marketing, businesses pay to create and distribute content to promote their brands and products via sponsored content. They come as articles, videos, podcasts, or social media posts, and often blend in with the publication or platform. 

12. Partnership marketing 

Partnership marketing involves working in collaboration with a different business in order to capture the attention of that business’s audience. For ecommerce stores specifically, this could include product collaborations, where you create a product with another business and both sell it in your shop. This might be a brand or creator whose audience is similar to yours. 

For example, fine jewelry shop Fewer Finer recently partnered with influencer Mally K. Goldman to produce a charm bracelet just like the one Mally wears daily. These collaborations increase exposure to your target market by leveraging the following of a similar business. 

13. Direct-mail marketing

Sending people a physical item through the mail is called direct-mail marketing. Direct mail can vary in style and scope. Some direct-mail campaigns feature a postcard with a coupon code, others might announce a new product or a sale. Many brands still opt to send full catalogs. 

For example, Marine Layer sends colorful catalogs that feature selections from the brand’s new seasonal collections. 

Image of catalog from Marine Layer on rope background  Marine Layer, a San Francisco clothing brand, sends physical catalogs to repeat and potential customers.
Marine Layer

How to prioritize marketing channels

The marketing channels you choose to focus on should depend on your business model, the resources you have, what you’re good at, and what your product is, Alex says.

If you sell a more brand-driven product, you might want to focus on more visual platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok. 

You’ll also want to consider “the unit economics of your product,” Alex says. “Will it work on the channel? If you’re selling a $500 handbag, it might be hard to sell that at scale on Facebook or TikTok, just because of the nature of the channel,” Alex says. Higher price point items might take longer to sell or require more relationship building on the brand side, as opposed to the immediacy of social channels. 

There’s not one marketing channel or a list of marketing channels that will work for every business, but relying on multiple marketing channels is always a good idea. And evaluating those three elements (your business model, resources, and what you’re good at) will help you identify the best ones to start with. “Everything depends on what your objective is for the business,” Alex says. 

Doing market research can also help inform what your channel mix should be. Sit down with current customers or people in your target audience to better understand what motivates them, what they use your product for, where they spend time online, and how they first heard about you. 

Find the right marketing channels for your business

The best marketing channel is one that brings the most customers that spend a lot of money. Do some trial and error over six months to see which channels work best. Don’t just guess and invest in other marketing channels because that’s what everyone is doing.

Coming up with goals and ways to track how different channels perform will help you understand if your marketing strategy is working. Those goals are key to profitable growth and not running out of money at the end of the month. 

Marketing Channels FAQ

What is meant by a marketing channel?

A marketing channel means the outlet you use to communicate with your target audience. It can be a free channel, like social media or email, or a paid channel, like Google and Facebook advertising.

What are some examples of marketing channels?

  1. Email marketing
  2. Direct-mail marketing
  3. Paid ads
  4. Social media marketing
  5. Affiliate marketing
  6. SMS
  7. Content marketing
  8. SEO
  9. Paid search engine marketing (SEM)
  10. Events marketing
  11. PR
  12. Partnership marketing
  13. Referral marketing

What are the 8 types of digital marketing channels?

The 8 common types of digital marketing channels are: SEO, PPC ads, social media marketing, content marketing, affiliate marketing, influencer marketing, mobile marketing, and content marketing.

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شركة النمر هي شركة متخصصة في تصميم وادارة المواقع الالكترونية والارشفة وكتابة المحتوى والتسويق الالكتروني وتقدم العديد من خدمات حلول المواقع الالكترونية والتطبيقات وهي شركة رسمية ومسجلة منذ عام 2015.

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