As a fractional CMO with more than 20 years of marketing experience I’ve seen firsthand the incredible impact that different types of media can have on a company’s growth and success. In today’s digital landscape, it’s crucial for small businesses to strike the right balance between earned, paid, leased, and owned media. However, I want to shed some light on the importance of owned media for small businesses and how it can give you the competitive edge you need to thrive.
In this blog post, I’ll provide a quick overview of each type of media, using analogies to help you understand their nuances. Finally, I’ll dive deep into owned media and explain why it should be a top priority for your small business.
Earned media is the recognition and publicity your business gains from external sources without directly paying for it. Think of it as word-of-mouth marketing in the digital era. Positive mentions in reputable publications like The New York Times, WIRED, or even a well-known industry blog can build credibility and increase your brand’s visibility. To maximize earned media, focus on creating high-quality, shareable content and nurturing relationships with influencers, journalists, and other industry thought leaders.
Paid media includes advertising channels like Google Ads, paid promotions on social media, and sponsored content. While paid media can help you reach a wider audience, it can also be expensive and may not always deliver the desired results. Small businesses should strategically invest in paid media, focusing on the channels and target audience that best align with their brand and objectives.
I like to think of paid media in terms of gasoline and fire, as long as you are pouring your advertising dollars on the fire it can flare up quickly. But once you stop pouring, it dies down just as fast.
Leased media refers to the organic content you create and share on platforms that you don’t control, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Note that this only refers to organic posts, any advertising spend on social media would fall under paid media. While leased media can help you engage with your audience and expand your reach, it comes with some important limitations that are often overlooked or downplayed:
- Platform constraints: Your followers are tied to the platform, and you don’t have full access to their data.
- Limited control: Social media platforms control the user experience and analytics data, often providing limited insight into your audience’s behavior.
- Changing rules: Algorithm changes can impact your content’s visibility, making it difficult to maintain consistent engagement and growth.
Owned media includes all the channels and content that your business has full control over. I think of owned media like an oak tree. Once planted it must be regularly watered and nurtured with fresh content. It can take longer show results, but when it has grown, not even the strong winds of business change can easily tear it down.
Still not sure which channels are owned? Here are some of the primary owned media channels and their benefits:
Your website is your digital storefront, where you can showcase your products or services, tell your brand story, and convert visitors into customers. A well-designed, user-friendly website helps build credibility and trust with your audience.
A blog is a powerful tool for sharing valuable content, establishing your business as an industry thought leader, and driving organic traffic to your website. Consistently publishing high-quality, informative articles can help you attract and retain your target audience.
An email list allows you to communicate directly with your subscribers, fostering a more personal connection and increasing customer loyalty. Email marketing is highly effective for nurturing leads, promoting special offers, and keeping your audience informed about your business.
A self-hosted podcast is an excellent platform for sharing your expertise, connecting with industry influencers, and engaging with your target audience. Podcasting allows you to delve deeper into topics that matter to your audience and can help establish your business as an authority in your industry.
Big Benefits of Owned Media
Now that you understand what owned media channels are, let’s consider why owned media is so critical for small businesses by considering the three following benefits as compared with other media channels.
- Portability: You can easily move your email subscribers between different email marketing platforms, giving you the flexibility to adapt as your business grows. You can’t do that with leased (social) media!
- Customization: Your website experience can be fully tailored to your audience, and you have full access to the analytics data, allowing you to optimize your marketing efforts based on your unique audience insights.
- Control: With owned media, you’re in charge of your content and its visibility. Your content won’t be suddenly hidden or affected by algorithm changes on social media platforms.
Let’s explore each of these points in more detail.
Owned media offers a level of portability not possible with the other types of media. This constitutes a significant advantage, as it allows you to adapt and evolve as your business grows and the digital landscape changes. Let’s take a closer look at how portability manifests in different aspects of owned media:
When you build an email list, you have full ownership of your subscribers’ data, such as their email addresses and other relevant information. This ownership enables you to easily transfer your email list between different email marketing platforms, ensuring that you can take advantage of the best tools and features available to support your marketing efforts. This flexibility is not possible with leased media, where your followers are tied to a specific platform.
The content you create for your owned media channels, such as your blog posts, podcasts, and downloadable resources, can be repurposed and shared across different platforms as your marketing strategy evolves. This repurposing allows you to extend the lifespan of your content and maximize its value, without being limited by platform constraints.
Analytics and data
With owned media, you have full access to the analytics data generated by your website, email campaigns, and other digital assets. This data provides valuable insights into your audience’s behavior, preferences, and engagement with your content. As you grow and adapt your marketing strategy, you can easily transfer and integrate this data into new tools and platforms, ensuring that your decision-making remains data-driven and agile.
Customization is a critical aspect of owned media, allowing businesses to tailor their marketing efforts to their unique brand, audience, and objectives. By leveraging the customization opportunities offered by owned media channels, small businesses can create a more engaging, relevant, and effective marketing experience for their audience. Let’s explore examples for how customization impacts different owned channels:
Your website is the digital representation of your business, and customization is key to crafting a memorable, engaging user experience. From the layout and design to the navigation and content, every aspect of your website can be customized to reflect your brand’s identity and values. Customization also allows you to optimize your website for search engines, user accessibility, and mobile devices, ensuring that your site is both functional and visually appealing.
A blog is a powerful platform for sharing your expertise and connecting with your target audience. By customizing your blog’s content, you can address the specific needs, interests, and pain points of your audience, ensuring that your articles resonate and provide value. Customization can also include tailoring your blog’s tone, style, and format to your brand and audience, creating a cohesive and consistent content experience.
Customization is a cornerstone of effective email marketing, allowing you to deliver personalized, relevant content to your subscribers. From segmenting your email list based on demographic or behavioral data to tailoring the design, content, and messaging of your email campaigns, customization ensures that your marketing efforts resonate with your audience. Additionally, customization can include using marketing automation tools to deliver timely, targeted content based on specific triggers, further enhancing the relevance and effectiveness of your email marketing.
A self-hosted podcast offers ample opportunities for customization, from the choice of topics and guests to the format and production quality. By tailoring your podcast to your brand’s voice and audience’s preferences, you can create an engaging, informative listening experience that positions your business as an industry authority. Customization can also extend to the promotion and distribution of your podcast, allowing you to reach and engage with your target audience across various platforms.
Full control over channels that your business owns is a significant advantage, particularly for small businesses looking to establish a strong brand presence and build lasting relationships with their audience. This control comes in various forms, each contributing to the effectiveness and success of your marketing efforts:
With owned media, you have complete authority over the content you create, publish, and share. This control enables you to craft a consistent brand message, tailor content to your target audience’s needs and preferences, and ensure that your marketing efforts align with your overall business objectives. You don’t have to worry about adhering to the guidelines or restrictions imposed by third-party platforms, giving you the freedom to communicate your brand’s unique value proposition in the most effective way.
Design and user experience
Your website and other owned media channels offer the opportunity to create a fully customized user experience. You can design every aspect of your site and content to reflect your brand’s identity, making it easy for your audience to identify and engage with your business. You also have the ability to optimize the user experience, based on your audience’s behavior and feedback, ensuring that your owned media channels are as effective and user-friendly as possible.
Leased media platforms like social media networks are notorious for frequently changing their algorithms, which can impact the visibility and reach of your content. With owned media, you are in control of your content’s visibility and not subject to the whims of third-party platforms. This control ensures that your marketing efforts remain effective and consistent, even in the face of algorithm changes or platform updates. SEO is the one major caveat to the algorithm immunity argument, but I’ll cover that exception in another post.
Direct audience relationship
Owned media allows you to build and maintain direct relationships with your audience, without any intermediaries. You can communicate with your subscribers, customers, and followers through channels like email marketing and website interactions, fostering a sense of trust, loyalty, and community around your brand. This direct relationship also provides valuable insights into your audience’s preferences, needs, and behaviors, enabling you to refine your marketing strategy and better serve your customers.
Wrapping it all up
Owned media is vital for businesses of all sizes, but especially for small businesses. It provides you with control, flexibility, and the opportunity to build a strong, lasting relationship with your audience. While it’s essential to leverage all four types of media, prioritizing owned media will give your small business the foundation it needs to succeed in today’s competitive digital landscape.
- Earned media helps build credibility and brand visibility through unpaid, organic recognition from external sources.
- Paid media can expand your reach, but it’s essential for small businesses to invest strategically to maximize return on investment.
- Leased media offers audience engagement and reach but comes with platform constraints, limited control, and changing rules.
- Owned media is vital for small businesses, providing control, flexibility, and the opportunity to build lasting relationships with your audience.
- Prioritizing owned media creates a solid foundation for small businesses to succeed in the competitive digital landscape.