It seems ludicrous, doesn’t it?

You’d, of course, be smarter than that. No one would invest all of that money to build a house on someone else’s land, even if you could get a long-term lease.

And yet, many organizations make this same mistake when it comes to their marketing. How much time and money have you invested in building a presence on:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest
  • A private forum or website based on the industry
  • Discussion boards you don’t own

You put in the time. You build the audience. You create value and connections. And then the channel owner changes the rules, and all of a sudden, you are either not able to continue to participate, it shifts the audience, or it becomes pay to play. Or, in extreme cases, like Google+, it goes away.

If you’ve been working on your company’s online presence for more than a couple of years, you’ve seen this play out, time and time again. Remember when Facebook used to show all our posts to people that liked our business page until they didn’t anymore. Can we buy what we used to get for free? Absolutely. What’s that phrase – “if the platform is free, you’re the product?”

I’m not suggesting for one minute that you don’t invest time and energy to build an online presence that includes rented land. But you should not build your house there. In today’s marketing environment, for 99% of the organizations out there, your most valuable properties are your own website and your own email list. Everything should live there in terms of information, content and points of contact.

When you post on social or in a discussion forum, you want to invite that audience back to your home base. You want to meet them wherever they hang out, but you want to ask them to come to hang out at your place.

The key to this is the invitation. It can’t be a sales message. It has to be an opportunity for you to be even more helpful to them. Start with incredibly valuable, ungated content that they don’t need to provide an email address to access.

Think of this as how you’d welcome a first-time visitor to your home. You’d want to have something to offer them, to make them feel welcome and demonstrate how glad you are that they came. It doesn’t have to be fancy or too elaborate. It should be helpful and aligned with who and how you are as a brand. It should give me a sense of your expertise and how you might be even more helpful to me down the road.

As you think about mapping your marketing efforts, put your website in the center of the page and build as many offshoots as you can. Again, for ninety-nine percent of you, your website is your marketing workhorse and should be thought of as your hub. There can be a mix of owned and rented properties, as long as your home base is something you own and have total control over.

The goal with marketing is to take advantage of the cumulative effects. That’s tough to do if you build it on shaky ground!

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.