How to Justify an Investment in Owned Media to Your CFO

How to Justify an Investment in Owned Media to Your CFO

Anthony Kennada 5 min

Everyone is talking about efficient growth. While efficiency has surely become the buzzword of 2023 — only to be outdone by Generative AI — the truth is that marketing and sales teams have less resources this year, and yet, expectations on performance are as high as ever.

This is problematic on both sides of the transaction. Marketers have less resources to reach an audience of would be prospects who have less resources to actually buy their products.

Welcome to the ’roaring twenties’ everyone. Amirite?

But there is some good news here hidden amidst the trials of our economic realities. The one thing that you can count on from CEOs/CFOs is a belief that the tactics that worked in the last chapter of B2B marketing will not work in the next. We can’t afford to keep funding the same programs and now somehow expect a different result.

That means there is indeed an appetite for funding new projects, so long as initial costs are low and the payback period is fast.

Enter owned media.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about how owned media is the most efficient marketing strategy for driving growth in 2023. I won’t spend time underscoring that truth within this article. What I will do instead is arm you to have a conversation with your leadership team about how to get an owned media project approved.

I’m writing this not only as an entrepreneur who has a vested interest in the success of this category, but also as a former CMO who has built many-a-business-case to my CEO and CFO around new initiatives that I believed in. It doesn’t matter how good your Google Slides might look, unless you can be willing to speak in the language of your executive team, the proposal may be dead on arrival.

Here are six things to consider when building an internal business case for owned media.

  1. Connect Owned Media to a Strategic Initiative. Projects won’t get funded in isolation this year. You have to be able to connect owned media to a strategic initiative that your company has already planned for 2023. Chances are efficient growth is one of them, but if not, what are some other projects that marketing is on the hook to deliver? A lot of work has gone into company planning ahead of a year like this one, and your executive team is working hard to operationalize the business around the strategic plan. It’s likely how progress is reported up to the board and communicated in company all hands. Starting your proposal by anchoring on your strategic plan will surely bring leadership to the table to hear your ideas.

  2. Show that Owned Media is Not an Expensive Experiment to Fund. Even if you’ve discovered the silver bullet, executives are pretty risk-averse in terms of making any marketing investments this year. The good news is that owned media doesn’t require a ton of upfront capital to operate. All you need to get started is production equipment and software (anywhere from $1k to $25k), an owned media platform like AudiencePlus, and typically, some post-production contractors for design or editing. While I appreciate that may sound like a lot for early-stage businesses, you can probably do a lot of damage with the equipment alone. Medium to large-scale companies may choose to engage with agencies who can help scale production. As part of your justification proposal, compare the cost of owned media to your paid media budget (either before or after the red pen came out). I imagine you’ll find owned media to be a lot cheaper to operate.

  3. Explain that You’ll Learn Pretty Quickly if it Is or Isn’t Working. You’ll find that many executives will hear owned media and think organic — which by nature takes time. Organic, typically short for organic search, does indeed take a while to drive results since marketers are beholden to rented algorithms (like Google) to index and rank their written blog content. But owned media is more than organic search. By producing content that is relevant for what your audience is going through today, in the formats they care about, promoted in the channels they are most active in, your brand can instantly pierce through the noise and capture the attention of your audience. Turning attention into subscribers will make distribution easier and audience growth compound. This is an important leading indicator to present to your executive team — that we’ll measure initial success by our ability to build an owned audience of subscribers who care about what our brand has to say.

  4. Show How Owned Media Will Impact More than Pipeline. Marketing is traditionally measured by pipeline, and as such, you can draw a linear connection between audience engagement and pipeline creation. But the value of owned media extends beyond pipeline and into critical KPIs later in the funnel. By focusing some audience building tactics on existing pipeline, we can help sales improve win-rate and close deals faster. By building an audience within our customers — a mission critical imperative especially in recessionary environments — we can improve retention and help drive expansion motions. An example here would be to start a weekly live broadcast exclusive to customers where your CEO shares practical best practices. Invite high-value prospects to listen into those streams as a preview of what awaits them on the other side of contract signature. These types of programs take very little planning bandwidth to execute, and yet, their impact can be felt across the business.

  5. Prove that Revenue Driven by Owned Media is “Healthier” Than Other Sources. One of my biggest learnings as a CMO is that customer acquisition tactics that are more transactional in nature — think Google PPC, outbound cold calling, even some PLG motions — may be effective early in the lead cycle, but are often not the cohort of leads that have the highest propensity to convert. I’ve seen several companies boast about their self-serve growth engine but struggle to get their highest value customers to even email them back. It turns out that acquisition channels that are more relational in nature tend to have the highest propensity of conversion. If your executive team is focused on not just growth, but the right kind of growth that leads to adoption, renewal, and advocacy, use historical performance data to quantify the impact to Closed Won and beyond it.

  6. We Can Easily Scale Owned Media if it Works. As you start developing content and media across a variety of formats, you have two levers that can be unlocked to scale — more shows, or more distribution. You’ll probably have an easier time framing the discussion around scaling distribution — using paid dollars to syndicate your content in partner channels, or amplifying content in rented channels. By doing so, you’re driving an increase in engagement from qualified audiences that results in growing your own audience. By thinking about paid media as a distribution lever for owned, you’re signaling to leadership the ability to be more strategic with paid dollars than pouring more into search marketing and hoping for the best.

Every company will have their own nuances, but the tactics I’ve walked through above are a great start to communicating the value of owned media that’s relevant to an executive team operating in THIS economy.

What I love about owned media is not only will this practice address some of our short term pain around efficient growth, but also, they will build a strong foundation from which we can accelerate growth as we come out of this economic season.

Creating value for our audience is recession-proof — relevant in both bull and bear markets. CEOs and CFOs understand this more than anyone else. Marketing needs to communicate ALL priorities within that context in order to get their projects approved.


Anthony Kennada | About the Author

Founder and CEO, AudiencePlus

Prior to founding AudiencePlus, Anthony served as the CMO of incredible companies like Hopin and Front. He was the founding CMO of Gainsight where he and his team are credited with creating the Customer Success category -- a novel business imperative, profession and software category that helps subscription companies grow sustainably by becoming customer obsessed. By focusing on human first community building, content marketing, live events and creative activations, they developed a new playbook for B2B marketing that built the Gainsight brand and fueled the company’s growth from $0 to $100M+ ARR, and eventual acquisition by Vista Equity at a $1.1B valuation. You can follow him here.

Anthony Kennada 5 min

How to Justify an Investment in Owned Media to Your CFO

There is some good news here hidden amidst the trials of our economic realities. The one thing that you can count on from CEOs/CFOs is a belief that the tactics that worked in the last chapter of B2B marketing will not work in the next.

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