Less than a decade ago, there were six or eight marketing “channels,” or activities through which business owners and marketers could distribute their messaging to key audiences. As various new opportunities have emerged, largely fueled by technology and the explosion of digital and social media, we have more than twice tha--at least 16 by my count.

Some might argue that more opportunity to get the word out is a good thing, and in many ways, it is. But, with more choice comes more confusion and the potential for a seriously scattered approach to marketing and growth.

The real job for business owners and marketers, depending upon where they are in terms of their growth goals, is to identify which channels work best for their target audiences and get very, very good at using them. Trying to master them all is the fastest way to get stuck in the “idea of the week” rut.

A business just getting going may need to root around in marketing channel test mode to figure out which channels can produce sustainable growth, while a more entrenched business may be better served finding ways to cut back and optimize the channels that are already working.

Here are the channels to choose from:

  1. Referral marketing includes intentional word-of-mouth activities and intentional referral generation. Viral sharing campaigns would also fit in this category.
  1. Publicity activities are aimed at receiving coverage in traditional media outlets such as press releases or media interviews.
  1. Online advertising encompasses a wide array of paid, online marketing activities that include pay-per-click platforms, social networks, display ads, and retargeting.
  1. Offline advertising is what we traditionally think of when we think of “advertising.” These vehicles may be print, outdoor, or broadcast outlets such as TV and radio, among others.
  1. Content marketing uses publishing targeted stories, case studies, white papers, or other information pieces to educate your audience and draw search traffic, links, and subscribers.
  1. Sales playbooks cover specific actions aimed at mining, generating, nurturing, and converting leads.
  1. Email marketing includes the use of targeted and automated email campaigns to send out content, promotions, or other messaging to a list of prospects, customers, or other stakeholders.
  1. Utility marketing includes the creation of useful tools that stimulate traffic, sharing, and brand awareness.
  1. Influencer marketing uses the practice of building relationships with individuals and outlets that can influence pre-established communities.
  1. Search engine optimization (SEO) includes website and other optimization activities aimed at generating organic search engine traffic.
  1. Partner marketing includes co-marketing activities run in collaboration with strategic marketing partners.
  1. Social media marketing includes the act of building engagement on established platforms and networks such Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as well as targeted industry platforms.
  1. Online events, such as webinars, demonstrations, and workshops, are conducted using online tools.
  1. Offline events, such as workshops, demonstrations, seminars, trade shows, showcases, and customer appreciation events, give you the opportunity to interact directly with your audience.
  1. Speaking engagements include the appearance of company representatives in sponsored speaking engagements at events such as industry conferences.
  1. Community-building is the intentional act of building and facilitating a community around a shared interest or topic related to the organization’s industry.

Which channel do you use most in your marketing efforts? Where have you seen the most growth? Target that channel and continue to grow your efforts in that realm, and you’ll see more successful growth results.