This article by Marketing CoPilot was recently featured on Startup Grind.

Thanks to the internet, there’s a thousand different ways for you to reach your customer

And at all hours of the day. So how do you make sure you’re capturing their attention in the right places? There are three customer acquisition channels you need to win to build a successful digital selling strategy:

1. Owned space
2. Rented space
3. Paid space

All of these channels are important in their own right, but it’s the combination of the three that helps you win online. How much of a percentage you allot to each is dependent on who your customers are and where they are.

Understanding where your customers are and why they’re there is integral to creating a connection with them. In order to do this, you must understand how to successfully take advantage of each space and what digital selling strategy will work best with your customers in each one.

1. Owned space—Content you control

This is a channel that you have complete control over. It’s your website, your newsletter, your blog—all things where you can control the story.

You can manage the vision, and you can select which stories you want to tell. You own this space. It’s a space people expect you to have.

In order to be relevant, you have to have a website. When people are looking for you (or for companies like you), they’re going to see what you have on your website and if it’s intriguing or appealing. If it is, they might sign up for your newsletter. You control the entire process.

Unfortunately, this is a space that many companies neglect.

When I go to a website with bad content navigation, I feel as if it’s screaming at me, “We don’t want your business!” As a customer, it’s hard to trust a business that doesn’t get their owned space right.

How to win in this space

There are a few key digital selling strategy tips we can learn from companies that create a good customer service experience via their website.

First and foremost, they’ve made choices. They haven’t tried to be all things to all people, and they orient you pretty quickly as to whether or not this site is for you, or whether or not their product is for you. They do a good job of creating that singular moment that either propels you to continue or turns you away.

The second thing they do is tell a story bigger than themselves. They connect with customers and they make their story matter.
Third, they’ve built robust metadata to ensure that their website and all of their content has been optimized for search. Obviously, you aren’t looking at their metadata as a customer (unless you’re one of those people), but if you’re finding them through Google, that’s a good sign.

Good email content starts with developing a value proposition spectrum that spans your business, from your company’s overall purpose to the problem you solve for your customer.

A value proposition is a primary reason somebody buys from you (you can read more in How to Ignore Vanity Metrics by Focusing on your Value Proposition). This is what builds a brand and ultimately leads to a sale. Compelling and clearly stated values move a person quickly from simply doing research about you to becoming a customer.

Some business owners think everything that the company does needs to be somewhere on the home page. They want to crowd the site with information—with everything they think is relevant—rather than only the things the customer needs.

When creating a website for your business, you have to always keep the customer in mind. Go through the process of mapping out their buyer journey, determine what it is they need from you and then serve that to them as clearly as possible.

2. Rented space—Social media

This channel has some level of ownership, but not entirely. This is where social media falls.

You may be able to create the Twitter account and have control over what you post, but you have no way to control what others say about you on this site. There are some pretty big limitations to what you can do here.

A lot of companies today think that in order to be relevant to their customers, they need to be on social media. If you’ve set up a social media account just because you think you “have to,” then you have the wrong idea.

Without a plan and an understanding of how social media can be used as a tool, for a lot of businesses, it just winds up being filler — an empty attempt to appear current that actually has the inverse effect, and can deteriorate your digital selling strategy.

How to win in this space

First, choose which channels make the most sense for your company. If your business doesn’t lend itself to pictures, then maybe Pinterest and Instagram aren’t for you. If you can’t produce decent-quality videos regularly, then YouTube probably isn’t your thing. This is the way you should be thinking about social media rather than trying to join every available network in the hopes that simply being there will be enough.

Social media should be a place to learn, get educated, and share. You have to look at the spectrum of tools available to you and be realistic about the purpose of each or else your digital selling strategy will fail. 

In its simplest sense, social media is for companies to be noticed. It is a great way to communicate directly with your customer base, to listen to what they’re saying, and to get feedback in real time.

For customers, it’s a way to find out more about you, to get a sense of what you’re all about, and to see what others are saying about you, or with you.

Use social media as a way to communicate with your customers and to consistently deliver useful content that they will connect with—content that helps them along their buyer journey and makes you a thought leader in your field.

And remember: social media is not just a place to speak, it’s also a place to listen. Respond to comments, reply to Tweets, and interact with followers and fans. This will help you build a meaningful rapport and make your business relatable—and human.

3. Paid space – Advertising

In this channel, you can be very specific about where you want to be by using things like AdWords or sponsored links on Google, other sponsored content, or even ad targeting.

There are a lot of new ways to pay for placement online, but people know and can see that you’ve paid for that placement. And so it can feel inauthentic.

In the same way people don’t like commercials on TV — they wish they could just get back to their TV show—they’ve accepted that they’re there and that companies are paying to be there.

There are some moments when paid channels are a good thing, especially when it blurs the lines between editorial and advertorial and is done in a way that looks more like a conversation rather than just pure advertising.

How to win in this space

The key to winning in the paid space is first winning in the owned and rented spaces. You can have the best ad in the world, the most intriguing tagline and the most captivating 30-second spot, but if your website is a mess then you’ve still lost.

When a potential customer is inspired to visit your website, or look you up on social media because of your ads, make sure that you’re supplying them with what they need. If they love your ad but notice that you haven’t updated your Facebook page in three years, then what does that say to your relationship with them? It leads to distrust.

No one will want to engage with you on social media if you’re not maintaining your accounts.

Serve up ads that clearly communicate what you’re all about and show why your product matters. It’s not about what you sell — it’s about how it will make your customers’ lives better.

If you have a little more money to spend, consider running a branded content campaign — a sponsored post that’s authored by you, but that runs within an editorial shell on a publisher’s site.

Write the content in such a way that feels authentic and natural — and don’t push your company or your product. Instead, focus on serving up information that your customer would want, answer a common question they might have, or seek to alleviate the fears that may stand in the way of a purchase.

When you win so do your customers

When all three spaces are working together, your digital selling strategy will win every time.

Just being on social media isn’t going to be enough—the same way that just being on paid search or just having a website isn’t going to be enough either.

The times have changed, people! And in order to stay relevant and alive, you’ve got to change with them.

View this blog on Startup Grind here.

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