B2B marketing is different from the consumer world, in part because it relies on engaging with an audience that wants a lot of information on how best to solve what can be complex and sophisticated business problems. While paid media (including advertising and content syndication) fits well in marketing plans for some businesses, there is a role for earned and owned media in content marketing plans for just about every B2B firm. Buyers rank earned media as their most trusted source of information, and marketers list it as among the most cost-effective tools. Earned and owned media deliver results throughout the entire B2B sales process, from generating awareness, to demonstrating thought leadership, to closing the deal. Here’s an example of how we’ve used earned and owned media in content marketing plans for B2B customers.
To start, let’s get on the same page with terms — Wikipedia has a pretty solid definition for earned and owned media: “Owned media is defined as communication channels that are within one’s control, such as websites, blogs, or email; while paid media refers mostly to traditional advertising. Earned media, on the other hand, is generated when content receives recognition and a following outside of traditional paid advertising, through communication channels such as social media and word of mouth. Earned media often refers specifically to publicity gained through editorial influence.” Some break out shared media as a separate channel, creating the handy PESO acronym: Paid, Earned, Shared, and Owned media.
Now, here is an example of how HMS used one content-driven campaign of earned and owned media to engage people within each step of the marketing funnel. This client’s goal was to generate awareness and increase its presence in a particular vertical market.
• Step One: Earned Media — Goal: Generate Awareness. We developed a series of three articles describing the market changes and opportunities available in its niche, and secured placement in an influential publication that accepts contributed stories from experts. This series reached tens of thousands of readers, introducing the company to a large pool of prospects. More than 75 people shared the pieces on LinkedIn, and another 75+ shared via Twitter, extending our reach. Each piece also delivered valuable back-links to the client’s website, driving traffic and boosting SEO.
• Step Two: Owned Media — Goal: Demonstrate Thought Leadership. We used the pieces to build credibility and demonstrate thought leadership among our own list. We sent an email out to the company’s current customers and prospects with a short summary of each article and a link to the piece. Even if customers didn’t click through to read the full article, they knew that the client had a piece published in an influential magazine. Many did click through, increasing our shares via LinkedIn and other social channels, boosting awareness along with building credibility. We also shared the piece on our social channels, primarily LinkedIn and Twitter, further extending our reach and the value of the content.
• Step Three: Owned Media — Goal: Drive Leads. After this first round of sharing and engagement, we repurposed the content as a lead-generation tool. We assembled the three pieces into an e-book, and offered it as a gated download to net new visitors to the site via a custom landing page on the blog. The sales team also used it in their emails to prospects as a complimentary offering to build engagement.
That example was driven by the earned media placement; we flipped the equation for another customer, developing a custom e-book with case studies in a specific market niche. We made this available via the client’s site as gated copy, and drove visitors to it via email to our list and via sales outreach. After the download stats started to level out, we repurposed a segment of the content into a bylined article for an influential publication. This, in turn, drove more downloads and generated further awareness.
Developing earned pieces is more costly than creating a short blog post — is it worth it? According to Louis Gray, program manager for Google Analytics in an article in B2B News Network, this type of marketing spend can deliver high ROI as long as companies focus on sales-oriented activities. “Revenue solves all problems,” Gray is quoted in the article. “Make sure your activity is driving leads.”
These are just two of many examples of how to use earned and owned media in content marketing. B2B can have a relatively long sales cycle, requiring marketers to generate more ways to connect with the customer along their buying journey. Earned and owned media offer an ideal source of connection, building awareness, driving leads, and building engagement.