The world of local marketing can be split into two primary buckets – online and offline. Businesses typically allocate marketing dollars to a mixture of channels that span the digital space and traditional media channels. Depending on the industry, both serve a valuable function when it comes to reaching and engaging potential customers.
Much like the world of real estate, we see the entire marketing landscape being a series of owned, rented and shared experiences. For those with the luxury of huge marketing budgets, spreading out across all of these experiences is well within reach, although huge spends without strategic direction can result in a lot of waste.
For the majority of businesses, a more selective, budget-conscious and targeted approach is critical. It all starts with understanding what it means to own, rent or share marketing real estate and identifying a strategy that diversifies your approach.
Owned Marketing: Websites, Email, Content, Texting/Chat, Data
The channels that you can “own” offer the most opportunities for brand building and allow for better customization and control. When we think about websites in particular, this is arguably one of the few channels that you can own completely. However, many businesses actually “rent” their websites by utilizing a website builder that requires a monthly subscription. The problem here is that when the subscription ends, often the website is no longer live.
With so much of your marketing being subject to the platforms and channels that you are promoting on, it is critical to own as much of your marketing as possible. While it requires an initial up-front investment and on-going management, your work here is foundational and arguably a cost of doing business. After all, any other rented or shared activity will often direct back to your website, content and other owned experiences.
The idea with your owned channels is to drive more people to them. Growing web traffic and collecting valuable customer data (emails, phone numbers, interests, etc.) allow you to own more of your brand experience. The biggest benefit of all is the data derived from them. When you are able to see what kind of content, landing pages, emails and campaigns are driving the most activity, you can really start to refine your strategy and approach.
In the digital space, customer data and web performance analytics are extremely valuable. If you don’t own this data or have access to it, you’re marketing strategy is a guessing game. Own the experience, own the data and you’ll be able to elevate and refine your marketing approach.
Rented Marketing: TV, Print, Radio, Online Ads, Retargeting
Much like a rental home or apartment, with these channels you are simply renting space to promote your business. You can use the channel for as long as you keep putting dollars into them. In other words, you are paying to have your business take up “real estate” for a set period of time.
Traditional media channels (billboards, TV, etc.) offer broad reach but with limited relevance and limited performance data to analyze. Digital channels offer more refined targeting capabilities and the data derived can be extremely valuable. Both, however, stop running when the spend stops.
Rented outlets are a great for both start-ups who want to get the word out and established businesses with deep pockets that could handle an influx of new business. From an expense standpoint, digital ad channels offer much more control, allowing smaller budgets an opportunity to at least be in the game, while traditional channels can have very expensive price points.
Retargeting is one of the more interesting, nuanced “rented” channels. When you drive traffic to your website or your Facebook page, Google, Facebook and others allow you to retarget those visitors on their platforms. Whether it’s through Facebook ads or Google display ads, retargeting combines your “owned” data with these platforms to reach relevant audiences that are already interested in you. However, you’re still renting this space from these platforms.
Shared Marketing: Social, SEO, Reviews, Listings
This is the timeshare aspect of your marketing. While you get some access to the real estate on these channels, you can’t have it all the time. Yes, you are able to have a business presence, reach your target audience and collect some data and insights, but you’re subject to the rules, algorithms and capabilities of the platform you’re working with.
Think of Facebook for example. While you might have a Facebook Business Page with some followers, the amount that your posts and content show in someone’s news feed is increasingly limited. This is because Facebook’s algorithm prioritizes “posts from friends and high-quality news sources.” This leaves your business with minimal reach, forcing you to consider spending ad dollars on the platform.
With Google, it’s the same thing. When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), let’s pretend you’ve optimized your business really well for search engines and you’re ranking very high for some critical keywords. A quick algorithm change could drive you off the first page or a competitor with more traffic, reviews, social engagement, etc., could take your spot. Nothing’s permanent here and the rules always change.
Overall, the important aspect of your “shared” channel strategy is to understand what channels your audience is using to find and engage with businesses in your industry. There are all kinds of industry-specific sites that you need to consider being on, while also having strategies for the most prominent channels (Google, Facebook, etc.).
What’s the best marketing mix?
The challenge for most businesses with limited budgets is determining what mix of channels and outlets to invest in. The key word here is “mix.” We often see businesses not diversifying their marketing efforts in a way that maximizes reach, targets relevant audiences and ultimately drives key actions.
In order to identify the most optimal marketing mix, your business must have an extremely strong understanding of your customer. Make it a point to do the research (or hire someone) so you can answer the following questions:
- Who is my target audience?
- What challenges do they have that my business can solve?
- Where are they geographically?
- What media channels do they use (online and offline)?
- Where am I spending most of my marketing time/dollars?
- Where should I be investing more (owned, rented, shared)?
Once you answer these questions you should start to see a path forward from a marketing perspective. The next, even bigger project will be creating a marketing strategy or roadmap, executing against that strategy, measuring the results, and iterating your approach. Yes, it’s a lot, that’s why agencies exist.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us or submit your comments below.
Joe is the owner and chief digital marketer at Rithm Marketing. He has been building websites and executing digital marketing strategies for about 10 years. Previously Joe was an analyst and director of marketing for a prominent digital marketing trade association.