July 9, 2021

Grow Your SaaS Brand Using Earned, Paid and Owned Media

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Whether you're a Sales Manager, CEO or VP of Engineering, media opportunities can seem to be another task added to the to-do list. However, while it’s important to get your items checked off on your list, participating in earned media opportunities and paid campaigns should be a priority as well.

The one thing most successful SaaS companies and startups have in common are that people know they exist.

The three ways that these companies go about gaining recognition are through paid media (advertisements), owned media (content marketing) and earned media (news coverage). While they all differ, the three in unison can generate revenue and brand awareness effectively.

Difference between Earned, Owned and Paid Media

Paid Media

As I had mentioned above, paid media is associated with advertisements. Whether it’s Google Ads, LinkedIn, Facebook or Reddit, a lot of SaaS companies will utilize these outlets to gain awareness of their brand or software solution.

Most SaaS companies on average will spend anywhere from 10 to even 50 percent of their marketing budget on digital advertising. According to WebFX, companies spend anywhere from $6000 to $10,500 per month on digital advertising, or $72,000 to $126,000 annually. 

With digital advertising, generally, you would pay when a user clicks your ad, hence pay-per-click (PPC) or cost-per-click (CPC). Let’s say advertised your latest SaaS solution in a niche industry, and you had a $10,000 budget for a Google Ads campaign. If only 10 people click the link to your solution at $10 a click, you would have paid $100 for your campaign with few impressions. 

Alternatively, you could pay via impressions, which means you pay for visibility. So if you were to take that $10,000 and run a video ad on LinkedIn, you would likely see a large bump in views on your page, which would hopefully generate new leads.

Earned Media

Earned media is associated with news coverage. Whether it’s news articles, radio shows, podcasts, or newsletters, there is not a cost associated with it (unless you hire someone to do it).

Often, journalists would write about your brand, and people who mention the news may share through word of mouth or social media, thus increasing the amount of recognition. 

Earned media does come associated with costs. Many startups will purchase media lists (list of journalist emails to pitch), hire a public relations (PR) firm or purchase a social listening tool to help spread the word on their behalf.

But how do you measure success for earned media?

The most common way is through a metric called advertising value equivalency (AVE).
Simply put, it is the calculation of what it would have costed in advertising spend for your campaign to reach the same number of people.

An example of this can be found in Digiday’s interview with Parachute, where they received the same number of viewers through a $20,000 PR campaign, while it would have cost them $2 million in digital advertising.

Owned Media

Owned media is exactly how it sounds, media channels that are owned by a brand. Whether it’s a blog (like ours), website or social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram), the more owned media channels a brand has, the larger its digital footprint will be.

Most companies will have someone in-house who will manage these channels to inform a brand’s following of any news, product updates, post-sale of a company or customer acquisitions.

Pros and Cons of each

The “unquantifiable” metric that earned media does is that it offers credibility. While your social media presence can show off personality and design chops. At the end of the day, you are self-promoting. Neither provides a stamp of validation from a neutral, third-party source which is where earned media generally comes in.

Paid media generally comes with a high price tag to take full advantage, making it unrealistic for some companies to spend that high amount for little leads.

Although earned media is technically considered “free”, it still has costs associated with it, and it does take time to start featuring in high-tier industry publications as you will have to build relationships with reporters at these publications.

Why you need all three

Since each comes with its pros and cons, it is important to utilize all three to create a well-oiled machine that will support your sales and marketing goals. If you have a blog article that is gaining traction, try to boost it with LinkedIn Ads so that you can capitalize on its popularity to generate leads. 

If you’re planning on sharing some upcoming news (like an announcement or product update), try running all three by creating a piece of blog content to discuss more in-depth on the news, pitch the news to reporters who would be interested in covering and run an advertising campaign to gain more publicity on the news.

Publicity will legitimize your company as a notable player in the industry. By utilizing all three streams of media, you will be able to track more in-depth information and set KPIs that will all influence one another.


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