We are continuing our deep dive on digital marketing. If you’re in business, you need to make sure your clients know what you have to offer. The most valuable pile of gold bars hidden in the middle of the Sahara desert is worthless if nobody knows about it. As real estate investors, too often the importance of marketing is overlooked or outright ignored.

Let’s start with a few definitions. I’m going to make a distinction between advertising, marketing, and publicity. They sound similar, but they have vastly different meanings in my world.

The purpose of marketing is to generate interest, to tap into curiosity. It’s not to manipulate or convince, or even sell. In my world, the most preferred form of marketing today is educational marketing. People are willing to be educated. Very few people want to be subjected to a sales pitch.

Advertising is similar to marketing, but the main distinction is that it’s paid for. With advertising you pay a platform owner for the right to present your stuff to their audience. The platform might be something like Facebook, or it might be the conference organizer giving you the right to include your material in the conference registration kit.

Publicity is the by-product of getting visibility in the media. That could be radio, TV, a podcast, or a magazine article. Generally speaking, publicity is free. If you’re paying for publicity, I call that advertising and it’s very distinct from publicity. So with those definitions,

This podcast is a form of marketing. When I appear as a guest on someone else’s show, then it’s considered publicity. The purpose of the podcast is to generate interest, to trigger curiosity, to start a conversation. For a subset of you, that conversation may somewhere in the distant future translate into doing business together in some fashion. I truly have no idea what that will ultimately look like.

Google remains at the top of the heap as the most visited website. Its position as the search king is well established. Number two is Youtube, and Facebook is number three. 73% of Americans use Youtube on a monthly basis, 68% use Facebook, and 35% use Instagram. However, it’s important to know that less than 50% of millennials actively use Facebook and the vast majority are on instagram. LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, and Pinterest are all hovering between 25%-30% penetration of the US population.

Each of these platforms serves a different purpose and has a different target audience. Too often we tend to use the tools that are interesting to us. But that may not be where your customers are hanging out. For example, if I’m looking to advertise student housing, then Google and Instagram are the platforms of choice. I would not waste any time with Facebook.

Conversely, Facebook once gave me the option of including Instagram users in an advertisement for one of our RV Parks. When I said yes, I didn’t expect 96% of the ad revenue to be spent on Instagram and only 4% on Facebook. That week’s worth of ad spending was completely wasted. Fortunately, I ran it as a small experiment.

If your content has a “how to” element, then Youtube can be the preferred search engine. If your customer is searching for how to market student rentals, then a video that speaks directly to that topic might be the perfect piece of content.

Successful businesses invest somewhere between 12%-20% of their resources, that’s both time and money on marketing.