Should We Launch a New Channel? Use Your ARM to Work it Out.

If you’re reading this post I guess you fall into one of three categories:

  1. You’ve seen / heard me promote it on my social channels or podcast.
  2. Someone has blurted out “why don’t we have a TikTok account?” in a meeting and now it’s your problem.
  3. You’re in a management position in a business and not sure why your marketing team has launched on TikTok when they struggle to manage the existing workload.

If you’re from group 1, thanks for coming. It means a lot, honestly it does. Please feel free to share the post when you’ve finished reading.

If you’re in group 2 or group 3, then grab a brew on dive in – I’m about to make your life easier.

Before we go any further, I should point out that I’m using TikTok as an example here because it’s current, at the time of writing. I’ve no real idea how TikTok works and I’m not commenting on the merits of it as a platform for your business.

It’s a proxy for any new channel. My first dabble into social media was with a MySpace account for an event in mid noughties, so I’ve run this race a few times.

My first MySpace page is still online. Sadly it didn’t survive the migration to the new platform very well.

As the rest of the post will highlight, I honestly don’t care if you use TikTok or not and, this is important, you shouldn’t either. A channel is a conduit to your audience – it’s a way of getting your message to the group of people with money you’re trying to reach.

The channel itself isn’t relevant. TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, blogs, TV… it doesn’t matter. All that matters is reaching your audience and if it helps, use it. If it doesn’t, don’t.

A Framework for Launch

Before you dive into launching a new channel there are three tests you need to pass. If you can answer these questions sensibly, then you should be in a good place to launch.

But, before I explain them, let me share some not so good reasons to launch on a new channel. Actually, I’m being polite, these are shite reasons.

  • A competitor is doing it
  • The MD’s daughter uses it
  • It will make us look cool
  • The marketing team think it looks fun
  • Someone on the board saw it on Newsnight
  • We’ll look dated if we don’t do it
  • It’s free

This list isn’t made up. These are all reasons I’ve had given to me by clients in the last 10 years. Hell, I may have even used one of them a few years ago.

The fact is marketers get excited about new things. Business leaders obsess over competitors and want to copy them. We all believe that what happens in our bubble is the reality for the rest of the world. And we’re all, occasionally, very, very, stupid.

Before launching a new channel, you need to be clear it’s going to work for your audience and your business. It really doesn’t matter if your MD’s daughter will watch your content or not – she was never going to pay for your products anyway.

So how do you decide if you’re going to launch on a new channel? You use your ARM.

ARM stands for audience, resource and metrics and I’ll explain the tests I use in each of these sections.

launching a new social channel? Check your ARM

May be a pic of the author*

Audience

Step 1 is always to ask if your audience is on the channel you’re talking about.

This should be a really easy step but far too many marketers worry about what they think rather than what their audience thinks.

A marketer may love TikTok, or Instagram, or Snap or whatever and believe it’s the place to be. But if your audience isn’t there, it’s a vanity project and nothing else.

And a vanity project that’s about to become a sink for time and money.

Let’s be clear about this: no one cares what you think.

You shouldn’t too.

In marketing you should spend all your time obsessing about your customers. Without customers, you have no business, so ask yourself if they are using that platform.

If the answer isn’t yes, stop right where you are and move on to something else. Anything else.

Even punching yourself in the head will be more useful.

If you’re asking “but how do we know if our audience uses the channel”? Then I like you a lot.

Misinformed hunches, guesswork and “none of my friends do” are not the basis for good decision making. This approach leads you to making statements like “Facebook shouldn’t be used for B2B” or “Instagram is only for female audiences” and other bum gravy like that.

Luckily there’s a better way to find out if your audience uses a certain platform. Most tech companies are money hungry and sell ads. To sell ads they want you to target a relevant audience. To target a relevant audience they give you the data about their users.

So head to their ad platform and see if you can find a good overlap between your users and their users.

There are flaws in this method.

Obviously you’ll need to know who your customers are before you can do this. Stop laughing at the back, I’ve worked with many companies who couldn’t answer this question – but a rant about targeting is for another day.

Another flaw is that some new platforms don’t share that level of info with everyone. Sometimes it’s hard to see the data at the geographic level you need.

If all else fails, ask your customers what platforms they use most frequently (I could write another blog about asking bad questions in research. To shortcut the process, check out Ofcom’s Communications Market Report – a superb piece of research – and see how they ask the questions.)

To repeat, if your audience isn’t on the platform you want to launch, then just pack up and move on. You don’t even need to read the rest of this post.

If you believe they are on the new platform, you can move on to question 2, which is…

Resource

I’m trying to think of a time when I last sat in a business where the marketing team, hell, any team, looked at me and said “Andi, we’re not really busy enough”.

Everyone is busy. Very busy. My general observation is everyone is much busier than 10 years ago, but that’s a gut feeling.

Launching a new channel, with no fans, followers or subscribers can be daunting. To get it off the ground takes effort, time, money and planning.

All of these resources, sadly, are finite.

Spending a chunk of time planning what you’ll do on TikTok means you’re not focusing on something else.

Blowing budget on Facebook ads to build an audience (yes, people still do this) means you have less money to spend elsewhere.

You get the picture. Everything in our working life is a trade off. A compromise. A decision we have to make.

I often describe strategy as what we’re not going to do and I do that for a reason – we have to be ruthless with our resources and decide what we’re not going to do.

Fun fact for you: the suffix ‘cide’ found in decide, regicide, homicide and suicide comes from the Latin, cida, which means to kill.

It’s critical you make a decision about killing things (important: not people) that can suck in our resources before you start, not halfway through.

Before you jump headlong into a new channel, have a really honest discussion about all the resources you’ll need, for the whole length of the project.

Be brutal with your honesty too, because I’m going to translate some common marketing phrases into plain English to help with this process:

  • It will only take 10 minutes to take that photo = about an hour
  • We can write those blogs in an hour = half a day per blog
  • We can spend about £500 promoting that = we need £5,000
  • Our agency can do that in the current retainer = retainer going up by 20%

I’ve got more of these, but you get the picture.

You need to decide if you have the resource in house or the budget to outsource the process to bring the new channel to life. If you don’t have either of them, then stop.

Kill, Kill, Kill

One important point about the resource questions. In fact, it’s crucial.

I’m now assuming your audience is on the new channel, because you got to question 2. This means that this new channel could be a great place for your company.

But if you haven’t got the resource, what do you do? Kill something else.

The trap many companies fall into when I’m talking to them about ARM is they look at resource, decide they don’t have enough, and kill the new channel.

Wrong.

You have to decide where to use your resources.

If you believe the new channels is the right place for your brand, then you have to find a way to free up that resource. Look around for other activity to kill to free up the time and money to invest in it.

If it’s that important, you’ll find it.

Where should you look for your kill list? Everywhere.

And don’t ignore performance marketing when looking for cost savings.

Google Ads and Facebook Ads show brilliant return on investment (ROI) numbers and are often spared the chop because there’s an easy to access number that say if you invest x you’ll 9x in return. Brilliant! Who doesn’t love that?!

So radio gets cut or trade shows get pulled back because they don’t deliver the same ROI. But don’t confuse easy measurement with ROI.

Google and Facebook pump out an easy to see number for ROAS or CPA or whatever, but that doesn’t mean they’re efficient.

Look everywhere, ask everyone, be thorough with your search for efficiency. Because if the channel is important to your company, you’ll need to find the savings to allow you to launch.

Metrics

Congratulations, you’ve made it to the final lap! Your audience is on the new channel and you’ve found the time and money to invest to bring the new channel to life.

But, before you getting your sales team to get their right foot up, left foot slide on your first TikTok, you need to know what’s the point of doing all of this.

If you’re investing time and money into something, you better be certain there’s a good business reason to do it.

Ask this question: how will we know we’ve been a success?

In most cases, the answer needs to have a currency sign before it to be taken seriously.

Marketing is not sales, but, ultimately, if we’re not helping our organisations sell more stuff, then we’re not doing our job right.

So get comfortable with the highly corporate metrics of sales, orders, profitability, margin… whatever it is your organisation values.

Just to be clear on this, I’m not saying that brand awareness isn’t a useful and relevant objective. It is.

But views on social media is not the same as brand awareness. I’d accept that they are a soft measure but unless you’re measuring brand awareness properly (research company with a robust methodology) you could well be wasting your time.

Of course, sometimes these things are done sequentially. You may need to build an audience in year 1 (or quarter 1 – whatever) so you can then start to sell to them in year 2. That sort of objective is fine, just make sure that it’s clearly laid out and agreed by everyone, because this longer term approach looks daft if budget and time is pulled after 6 months because ‘this new channel is not delivering the numbers’

ARM Round Up

Marketing isn’t about the sexy new channels, cute videos of dances, or filters to overlay on your selfies.

I understand why these are fun and why there’s a pressure to launch on everything and have your message everywhere.

I’d even guess there’s Gary Vadar-chuk video somewhere telling you to launch NOW on every channel (deep sigh, see this post for my thoughts on Gary Vee).

Marketing is about the market. It’s about your customers and understanding who they are and why will they buy from you.

Traditional theory of marketing sounds boring by comparison with sexy social media. But the ones who make it work well understand first principles of marketing as well as the secrets to exploiting the algorithm.

To round up, before you start obsessing about content creation and gaming algorithms, ask yourself or get your team to answer these three questions, in order, and get sensible answers before you commit to launching a new channel:

  • Audience: Are our audience on this channel? If yes, move to question 2. If no, relax and do something else.
  • Resource: Do you have the resource to make it happen? This can be the time and skills to do it internally or the budget to outsource or advertise on the platform. It can also mean what do you have to kill to make it happen.
  • Metrics: How will you know this new channel is a success? Be SMART with your objectives too

What’s your process for deciding if you’re going to launch on social media? I’d be interested to hear from you in the comments on on social – I always love a debate!

Andi

 

*it’s not

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