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After decades with big brands, I realized how much I love marketing small ones. I'm happiest around a table (even a virtual one) with clients, sharing plans that help them reach the right people. I'm a simplifier and a creator. Also, a lover of cute office supplies.

  • Writer's pictureStacy McPhillips

Are these really the 5 MOST effective marketing channels?

Litmus's 2021 State of Email report asked over 400 marketing professionals to rate top marketing channels by effectiveness.

Here's my take on the top five.

#1 Email Marketing*

Agree. I'm putting way more eggs in the email marketing basket in 2022.

Data shows time and time again that conversion is higher in email than in social media.


  • It's the last great one-to-one marketing tactic where you can communicate directly to your audience.

  • You OWN your list.

  • You have a little more control over your audience seeing your content.

  • Great for directing traffic to your website, store, or where ever you want it to go.


  • Building your list is hard. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

  • Even though you own your list, you still have to compel your audience to open and interact with it.

  • Navigating and choosing an email service provider (like Mailchimp or Klaviyo) is getting more complex, and connecting them to your sites can be complicated.

* It's important to note that Litmus is an email marketing tool, so the results of their survey are going to be heavily biased here.


#2 Paid search/ads

(I'm assuming this includes paid digital ads, including Google search and display ads, and paid social media advertising. )

It depends on your business.

A few questions I'd ask first: Have you tapped out your organic marketing opportunities? What are your overall business goals? Is your website compelling once you get your audience there?


  • In the digital advertising space, you can get your message to your audience.

  • Getting people to your website with organic search engine optimization (SEO) is pretty hard. You can just pay for it with Google Search. You still have competition, but it's easier than getting them there organically if you buy the keyword.

  • Great for creating awareness.

  • Super measurable!

  • Pretty affordable.


  • It can be complicated to set up on your own. (Kindred Strategy is my go-to for advertising help.)

  • You need to give it time—at least six months of testing and optimizing. So there's some investment of time and money here. You can't run one ad and then say, "Facebook ads don't work."


#3 Organic search.

Best of luck.

SEO is pretty complex and complicated and includes way more techy stuff than a business owner or general marketer would know. It takes someone dedicated to this area to make it work.

That being said, there are some easier things to do to put your best foot forward here:

  • Make sure you're completing all the meta fields in your website content management system (like Wix or Yoast in WordPress). Some are easier than others.

  • Create your URLs, so they make sense and tell what's on the page.

  • Try to do some light keyword research to get started on your topic.

  • Connect your site to Google Search console.


  • Free (excluding all the time you'll spend.)

  • More websites are making it easier to insert metadata into an SEO section.


  • It's complicated, and there is a ton of competition. Think about how many sites there are on the web competing with your brand.

  • It takes oodles of time to do it right. Spend a ton of time, and you still may not get hits.

  • It's all in the details and gets kind of techy—like adding alt text to images, coding copy to the various heading or H1, H2, etc.


#4 Social Media

Agree with stipulations. I would have put this before SEO, though.

I like some social media. It's hard to group it all into one category.

The trick of social media effectively is:

  • Finding and using the platforms where your target audience lives

  • Creating content targeted to attract the audience you want

  • Making valuable and engaging content without spending 5 hours on one post with a shelf-life of 24 hours.


  • Free (excluding all the time you'll spend.)

  • Great to grow an audience organically (slowly but surely).

  • You can use it to build your email list.


  • SO time-consuming and sometimes life-consuming.

  • No actual guarantee that anyone (even if they're following you) will see your post.

  • You don't own your audience.

  • It can make you feel bad about yourself, your brand, your life.


#5 Events

This one is interesting. I think it depends on your brand.

Events (whether virtual or in-person) are significant to:

  • Educate your audience about your brand topics

  • Engage and provide value to your audience

  • Growing your audience (maybe)

  • Fundraise (if you're a non-profit)


  • High value to your brand when you provide value to your audience.

  • Memorable and allows your audience to get to know your brand.

  • You can use it to build your email list.


  • It's a lot of time to set these up. Even more, if they're in person.

  • It's hard to get people to sign up for events. And even harder to get them to show up for events.

  • Technology. What happens if your internet drops in the middle (like mine's been doing all morning.🤬)?


Here's a quick rundown on the other six marketing channels in the report:

#6 Direct mail | Costly and only good if you can break through the mailbox junk mail. But it could be great if your people are not online.

#7 SMS or push | If you're going to text me, it better be important.

#8 Video | Video is not a channel, so I'm confused why it's on here. Video can be overrated. Great use of video is educational, endearing, or entertaining.

#9 TV or radio | I'm sure this includes streaming these days. Great if you have the money for the ads and high production audio and videos. Most business owners don't.

#10 Outdoor media | Good for awareness, hard to measure, rather pricey. It could be great if there are outdoor media that can help geographically direct traffic to your store.

#11 Podcast/voice | You can create some great content here if you have the time. But who will listen? How will you build your audience?


Final marketing thoughts for 2022

I love email marketing. I loved it before social media. And it's a pretty good marketing channel across industries, so we should all focus efforts here.

Here's my marketing channel focus for 2022:

  1. Ensure my website is continuously updated to attract my target audience.

  2. Build my email list and provide value to that list.

  3. Figure out which social platforms my target audience is on and focus on creating content for the top 2. Use it to build my list.

  4. Test some paid advertising on social media and maybe Google.

Let's make 2022 the year of amazing digital marketing, shall we?!

Oh, and if you're not already, sign up for my emails.


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