Why Owned Media is the Most Efficient Way to Drive Growth

Why Owned Media is the Most Efficient Way to Drive Growth


The economic outlook for 2023 is anything but optimistic.

With investors taking their cues from economists, and CEOs taking theirs from investors, we are now entering a new phase of company-building that prioritizes efficiency over growth at all costs.

I was recently interviewed by OnlyCFO for his newsletter where he shared his point of view that “every CFO is trying to cut costs and become more efficient right now. Companies are looking for efficient and durable growth. The marketing department receives a disproportionate amount of scrutiny when spending cuts are needed, which makes sense given it usually has the largest amount of discretionary spending.”

Now, many of us have been here before – and as OnlyCFO insinuates, when the red pen comes out to start slashing budget the conversation usually starts with marketing. I suppose that does make sense.

But despite all the budget headwinds, we still have a pipeline target to hit.

So how can marketing achieve our goals with less resources? Having done this a few times, I’m now convinced that owned media is the most sustainable way for marketing to impact growth for SaaS businesses.


Short and Long Term Impact

We’ve been on the record believing that we are about to experience a once-in-a-generation industry transition from transactional to relational marketing. We see evidence of this with companies like HubSpot making a case for community-led growth. While no marketing leader would push back on this long term evolution, we are all focused on dealing with the economic realities of today. Can a responsible CMO start planning for this aspirational future when so much is at stake this year to just stay alive?

Believe it or not, I believe that the answer is yes. Here’s why.

The headwinds that marketing faces to hit their pipeline targets in 2023 are the same headwinds preventing industry-wide transformation of relational marketing practices like community-led growth:

  • Consumer Attention is Scarce: Consumers are engaging with video, podcasts, live streams, and other editorial mediums beyond the traditional blog posts in order to be educated, entertained, and inspired. This tension is putting pressure on content marketing teams to go beyond publishing SEO / performance content alone in order to break through the noise.

  • Paid Media is Inefficient: Paid advertising programs (such as Google PPC) are more competitive than ever before, driving up the budget required to drive impact. Also, in my experience, leads acquired through paid channels end up being the lowest converting cohort of pipeline in the marketing funnel.

  • Rented Algorithms Lack Control: Our relationship with “rented” channels like social media, content networks, and search is changing as brands realize that their organic reach is beholden to an algorithm that they can’t control.

  • First-Party Data is Existential: With the end of third-party cookies around the corner, companies need to start building an owned audience that creates a first-party dataset to understand and engage their audience.

I spoke about this topic recently on CMO Office Hours with Joe Chernov, Chief Marketing Officer at Pendo, who believes that marketing leaders in 2023 need to make some type of bet in order to have any shot of success in this economic climate. Running the same tired revenue marketing playbook in 2023 just won’t work.

Owned media is the most efficient and relational way to go-to-market in 2023. You’ll be able to hit your short term revenue targets by navigating the headwinds that we’ve inherited from running transactional marketing programs for so long. But also, you’ll be setting your team up for success as we accelerate out of the coming recession and into a community-led future for our industry.

Let’s talk about why.


Why Owned Media is More Efficient than Traditional Marketing Practices

If you’re still tuned in, I may have convinced you that owned media is more effective long term, but how is it more efficient short term? Here are a few reasons.

1. Paid budget is the easiest to “give back” to the business. The truth is that paid media is the anti-hero (sorry, had to) of the efficient growth equation. Not only is it typically the most expensive line-item in the marketing budget, it also bears the lowest converting cohort of pipeline within the marketing mix. That’s because these leads are being acquired transactionally rather than the relational promise of owned media. Many companies are transitioning spend away from paid to owned media and are seeing even more growth as a result – Airbnb most famously.

2. Most of your execution resources are in-house. You can do a lot of damage in owned media without breaking the bank on agencies and contractors (although if you do have the production budget to go bigger, rock on). Having a small but mighty content marketing team can get you a long way in terms of creating high-quality editorial blog posts, newsletters, and for high caliber teams, the ability to stretch into audio and video production as well. Since distribution is primarily through owned channels, you can keep costs there extremely low.

3. Impact with owned media is measurable. There’s that famous John Wanamaker quote, that “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” With owned media, your marketing team is sitting on a treasure trove of first-party engagement data about your content and audience, and more interestingly, how all of that engagement correlates to business outcomes like pipeline creation and revenue.

4. Owned media stresses real value creation for your audience. The underlying premise of owned media is that the content you are creating is inherently valuable to your audience, and not just a thinly veiled attempt at a sales conversion. By focusing on what actually resonates, you will likely create a ton of engagement that builds trust and relationship with your audience. That equity will yield much higher converting pipeline when pulled into your funnel compared to a Google PPC ad.

These are the reasons why the owned media vision is resonating with so many marketers in 2023. In each conversation I have with CEOs, CMOs, and revenue marketing leaders, I’ve found this to be true.

They say that the strongest steel is forged by the fires of hell. I’m convinced that not only will this season of budget pressure on marketers lead to a zero-to-one movement in owned media, but will leave us with a more solid foundation from which to build when good times are here again.


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.


Why Owned Media is the Most Efficient Way to Drive Growth

How can marketing achieve our goals with less resources? Having done this a few times, I'm now convinced that owned media is the most sustainable way for marketing to impact growth for SaaS businesses.

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