By Sherry Bonelli/Guest Column

If you run a business, leads are the lifeblood of your company. (OK, clients are really the lifeblood, but without leads you won’t have clients.)

Digital marketing, like social media, search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click, reputation marketing, inbound marketing, CRMs, etc. have made it even easier to get leads, but it can be overwhelming. With so many digital and traditional channels, how do you decide which channels your business should be active on?

First, you need to find the right mix of channels that will bring in qualified leads. Many people think that they need their business on every channel. Not true. What you need to do is find out who your customers are, what channels your potential customers are active on and carefully select a few channels you want to use to reach your prospects and then master those channels.

Over the years, the Internet has given you many more marketing channel options. Here are just a few of the marketing channels you can choose from:

Referral marketing – This includes your happy customers referring your business to people they know.

Public relations – This includes writing and submitting press releases or hiring a PR firm to help get the word out about your business. Note: If you’re sending out a press release, it must be newsworthy.

Email marketing – This includes using an email marketing tool like Constant Contact or MailChimp to reach out to your existing customer email list or by adding a lead capture form on your site so you can capture new potential customers’ email addresses to add to your email list.

Offline advertising – This includes placing advertisements in magazines, newspapers, TV commercials and radio spots.

Online advertising – This includes pay-per-click (PPC) platforms (like Google AdWords), social media networks, targeted display ads and retargeting.

Online and offline events – This includes giving workshops – online through a webinar or giving a presentation to your local community.

Content marketing – This includes creating unique content that will attract the search engines – like Google – but also engage potential customers who are searching for and interested in what you have to say.

Search engine optimization (SEO) – This includes on-page and off-page search engine optimization strategies that can help your site’s pages rank higher in the organic search engine results.

Partner marketing – This includes collaborating and partnering with like-minded or complementary businesses and doing co-marketing with them.

Social media marketing – This includes creating and building brand advocates and leads on social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and others. The goal is not just to create “followers” but to convert those followers into customers.

Creating a buyer persona is an important part of your marketing strategy. Your buyer personas should guide every marketing decision you make. You need to know your audience and creating these will help you do that.

Basically, a buyer persona is a profile of your target audience and customers. You want to take a hard look at who buys your products or services and who you want to purchase from you. Identify their demographics, interests, pain points, marital status, political party affiliation, religion, interests, dislikes, education, gender, where they work, what do they buy, what their day is like, etc. You should even give each buyer persona a real name and find a photo of what that person might look like.

If you think everyone is your customer – you’re wrong. Create several detailed buyer personas and make sure everyone on your sales and marketing team has a copy of them and that all advertising and marketing efforts – online and offline – will appeal to these buyers.

Once you have your buyer personas created, you can then determine what marketing channels you should focus on. Does your ideal buyer rely on emails for information? Do they use Facebook to keep in touch with their friends and family and get their news? Are they professionals who are looking to continually learn and develop their industry knowledge?

By identifying who your target audience is, you can then select a few marketing channels to focus on – and you will have targeted your marketing efforts to reach your ideal potential customers.

Sherry Bonelli, digital marketer and presenter/speaker, has been a digital marketing professional since 1998. She is currently the owner of early bird digital marketing, a full-service digital marketing agency Cedar Rapids. She can be reached at http://earlybirddigitalmarketing.com or (319) 409-3287.