Future Proof Your Company Growth With The Audience You Own
A few years ago, I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the largest traditional publishers in the country. Since the plight of the industry has been well documented, I won’t go into too much detail on that. What was fascinating to me was their obsession with Facebook likes as one of the KPIs to constantly monitor. These publishers were shaking in their boots when they talked about the hold Google and Facebook had on their industry and, yet, they were fixated on those very same platforms.
Of course, right around this time Facebook started making it more difficult for companies to reach out to their audiences organically and Google was in the process of rolling out their Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project. Both initiatives made it even more difficult for publishers to “own” their audiences on those platforms.
Companies like Google and Facebook are amazing organizations but they are ultimately responsible for maximizing shareholder value. When boiled down, their business model is to charge you for access to their user base. Even if you’re not in publishing, the key lesson still stands – you need to build your own audience. How in the world do you do that, you may ask?!
Email Is Still King
The last time email was sexy was when Netscape and Hotmail were cutting-edge. However, unlike social media, email remains one of the most reliable ways to talk to your prospects without paying for the privilege.
While social media continues to hold most of marketers’ attention, it almost never drives real sales. When asked how effective was email for their marketing efforts, one in four marketing execs surveyed said it drove over 25% of their sales. Most rated email as one of the highest ROI channels as well. In other words, if your email marketing efforts are not driving at least 25-30% of your revenue, you are not building a strong enough audience of your own.
Need More Proof?
Here are two more real-life examples from my own experience:
- In one of my previous roles, I’ve worked with an Australian company that was in the business of selling wine online. It was a regular e-commerce operation, not a subscription business model. At the time, they were doing millions of dollars in revenue annually but what blew me away was what I saw in their Google Analytics source/medium report. Guess where 90% (!!!) of their revenue was consistently coming from? You got it. It was email. They had successfully built their own audience and each email blast was converting at roughly 10%! Amazing!
- One of my current clients has built a large email list over several years. The actual promotional segment of that list was continuously trimmed but many of the leads have been on this list of over a year. This past spring they launched a number of new products and we decided to extend a special pre-order offer to the entire list as well as to all of their existing customers. I think you know where I’m going with this. People pre-ordered hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of products, sight unseen, because they had a relationship with the brand. My client had their best sales month ever in the history of the company.
Start Building Your Audience Today
So how do you build your own email audience without doing something silly, like buying a third party list? Here are a few options to grow your email list organically by providing value to your website visitors in exchange for their contact information:
- Give a discount / special offer – This is probably the most popular option, especially for ecommerce websites. Show an entrance or an exit interstitial with a discount offer and ask for an email address in return. Just be careful with how you execute this on mobile devices since Google now penalizes sites for full screen interstitials on those. If done correctly, this is a very effective way to grow your list but it could also be expensive. Carefully measure the LTV of your email lead to understand how much you can afford to pay for each lead.
- Run a pre-launch campaign – Exclusivity works. Leverage it by offering early access, new product sneak peek and other perks in exchange for an email address. This approach is also great for major sales events. You could have members-only early access to Labor Day or Black Friday deals. One of the good examples of that is Harry’s pre-launch campaign, which generated 100,000 emails in one week!
- Personalize the experience – This one could be tricky, especially for ecommerce websites, since there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Offering to customize or personalize the experience is a good option. Offer to recommend a product through a quiz and email the final results to the prospect, with your prospects sharing their contact information as a logical step in that process.
- Run a joint special event or give away a prize with a partner – It could be an industry publication or some other organization that is complementary to your business. Both of you will get the list of those who register and you can nurture those leads from there.
These are just a few of the options to grow the audience that you own. While Google and other ESPs do have some ability to restrict access to your mailing list, email has withstood the rise and fall of many alternative platforms. Even in the age of social media and sharing economy, when it comes to ecommerce, ownership is still the way to go.