A lot of businesses use third-party platforms as key tactics in their marketing strategy to drive traffic, awareness, and engage with potential customers.
… and why not?
Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Google have millions of daily visitors. Google accounts for over 90% of the search market and the Facebook / Instagram combo accounts for over 75% of the social market.
On top of that, they make it really easy for anyone with internet access to create advertising campaigns targeted at specific users.
All of these factors make it a no-brainer for businesses to place the bulk of their marketing focus and budgets into these solutions.
Stop and think for a moment.
What might happen if this all changed?
What if one of these sites went down for an extended period of time?
What if they decide to change their algorithms suppressing content that once reached your audiences organically and began to force you to pay for that same level of exposure?
What if new privacy measures were put into place that limited the effectiveness of targeting specific users?
All of these “what ifs” have already happened and there’s no reason to think more changes are not coming.
The key item you need to consider is you do not have control of these platforms.
You have to play by their rules.
You have to pay the prices they command.
If they change, you have to live with it.
They own the audiences and you are only renting them.
The moment you stop feeding money into their advertising machine, it all comes to a screeching halt.
This is why you need to own your audience, and you can do this by building a comprehensive list of email addresses you collect in exchange for value-rich content.
It's Time to Take Ownership of Your Marketing
You need to take ownership of your marketing and limit the impact these inevitable changes will have on your overall marketing strategy.
Am I telling you to stop using Google, Facebook, and Instagram?
Not at all.
In fact, they are fantastic tools for reaching people you would never reach without them.
Your focus should be turning as much of the audience they own into an audience you own.
Chances are, you already have some of the tools in place. You’re simply not using them as much as you should.
I’m talking about growing your email database.
When someone opts in to receive emails from your company, they are giving you permission to directly send communications to their inbox.
You own this list.
There’s nothing that Google, Facebook, Instagram, or any other third-party platform can change that will take that away from you.
Too much attention and money are wasted on finding new people to talk to rather than building trust with an audience you own.
Sure, that low-hanging fruit of people ready to buy now is tough to ignore but how many more conversions could you see if you began interacting with people on a regular basis?
People buy from brands they like and trust.
Most people do not make a purchase in the first interaction with a brand.
It takes multiple interactions and being present at the right time to get a customer to buy from you.
Do you want to solely rely on pumping coins into a traffic machine that changes the rules or would you rather have control of your marketing while also getting a bigger return on your spending?
Don’t give away ownership of your marketing.
There's no better time than right now to begin building your email database.
Steps to Begin Owning Your Marketing
As mentioned earlier, there's a strong chance you already have some, if not all, of the tools in place to begin building your email database. Once you have an organized tool for housing the details about your audience, you'll need to determine ways to segment these contacts to make it easy to group them together based on similarities. This will allow you to create targeted marketing messages that align best with their pain points to generate the most engagement.
Finding the Right Email Database Solution
Determining which email database solution is right for you really depends on how sophisticated you want it to be and the budget you have. There are simple solutions that do the trick but offer little in the way of functionality other than storage, and there are complex tools that can automate a lot of tasks making your life so much easier.
Let's explore some options to help figure out which might be right for you.
Yes, we're talking about Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, or Apple Numbers.
Chances are, you've used one of these programs before.
Each is a very simplistic version of a database by housing values in rows and columns.
Google Sheets can be accessed for free through any Gmail account. Microsoft Excel and Apple Numbers do require a nominal fee for use.
While these are low-cost tools, their functionality is limited to storing data. You cannot communicate with your contacts using these tools.
Tip: If you are just getting started, use a spreadsheet to begin building your initial list of contacts. More advanced tools (below) have an import feature that will allow you to move data from your spreadsheet to their platform saving you from all that time-sucking manual data entry.
Email Marketing Software
Email marketing software is nothing new to the marketing world. Tools like ConstantContact and MailChimp are a couple of household names among the countless email marketing platforms on the market.
The email server you use for everyday communication is not configured to send emails to large amounts of people without limitations.
These email marketing platforms have servers set up to allow you to deliver email messages to large groups of contacts in a single delivery using servers specialized for this very purpose.
These platforms do require that the contacts you are sending to have given their permission to receive emails from you and your organization. This means you cannot send spam through their servers. They can quickly identify unwanted email recipients and suspend your account if they suspect any sort of spamming activity. Simply put, do not send emails through any platform to people who have not given you permission to send to them.
Beyond being a graduated version of a spreadsheet, these email marketing platforms also have user-friendly interfaces to build visually appealing emails that include images and links to create more engaging messages.
Most platforms provide advanced features like the ability to create forms to collect contact information, segment contacts into groups, and automation tools that allow you to set up rules to automatically send additional email messages based on the actions your contacts do or do not make.
The costs of these email marketing platforms depend on the number of contacts and the frequency you send email messages. Most offer a free version with limited contacts and functionality and basic plans that start as low as $20 per month.
Tip: At a minimum, be sure that you set up a free version of one of these platforms and create a basic landing page to collect email addresses. This setup will take a little bit of time as you figure out the ins and outs but well worth it in the first step towards owning your marketing.
Marketing Automation Platforms
Marketing involves multiple touchpoints, and most marketing strategies involve more tactics than just email marketing. This is where marketing automation platforms like HubSpot, Keap, ActiveCampaign, and SharpSpring shine by combining multiple marketing channels into a single platform that is easy to manage.
The advanced features in these platforms provide the ability to integrate your website, social media profiles, organic search, paid search, and email to give you a comprehensive view of your marketing strategy. The integration process does usually require a certain level of technical know-how and might warrant outside help for the initial setup.
As you might suspect, with advanced features comes a higher monthly cost for use of these platforms in comparison to the previously discussed tools. The cost among these platforms can vary drastically as well so be sure to do your homework while evaluating which one is best for you. Feel free to reach out to the Neon Goldfish team if you want help deciding which fits your needs best or if you feel you lack the technical know-how to get everything set up.
Tip: Unless you’re already utilizing one of the email marketing platforms to their full potential, this is probably something to consider in a phase two implementation of owning your marketing. As mentioned before, many of the email marketing platforms do have some of the tools you’d find in a marketing automation platform already at your fingertips. Be sure to review what you already have in order to determine if the move to something different is necessary at this stage.
Collecting Data Points to Build Your Audience
Now that you’ve selected the tool that fits your needs and budget the best, it is time to begin collecting data points to build your audience and start owning your marketing.
While it is best practice to know as much and collect as many data points about your contact as possible, do not overcomplicate this in the beginning.
At a minimum, you need to collect an email address. Since the main mode of communication is email, the email address is essential.
Other obvious data points you might want to collect include:
- Name – Get their first name for sure. Their full name is a nicety. Make sure you house the first name and last name in separate fields so you can take advantage of using personalization tokens within your emails. This will dynamically input the contact’s first name into the message salutation or subject line to add a level of personalization.
- Company– If you’re in the B2B space, getting a company name is helpful for message personalization.
- Industry – Some B2B companies serve multiple industries. Being able to segment contacts by industry will allow you to send email messages relevant to the pain points they experience within their industry.
- Contact Stage – Grouping your contacts by their current stage in the buying cycle can be very helpful for sending the right message to the right contacts. Contacts could be grouped as prospect/lead, opportunity, customer, or previous customer. This will allow you to send promotional messages to non-customers and support related messages to current customers. This is a data point you will likely have to manually update in whichever tool you use.
- All Other Data Points – The sky is really the limit here. The key is segmentation. Think about what particular data points can best help you create focused groups of contacts. The more fine-tuned you can set up your contacts database, the more targeted you can get with your email messages.
How you collect data on your contacts can vary as well.
The sophistication of the tool you use to manage your contacts database will determine how manual or automated this process can be.
If you are using a simple spreadsheet, just about everything will be manual entry. This might work for a little bit while you determine the best email marketing platform to use.
Once you've graduated to an email marketing or marketing automation platform, it would be best to use an internal form builder tool that will help create custom forms that can be deployed on your website or within landing pages of the platform if available. You need a web page with a unique URL to collect information.
Forms should be short and simple. Do not try to gather every single data point from the first interaction with someone using a long-winded form with an endless amount of fields. Focus on first name and email for people with who you have no relationship. The goal is to gain a new contact. The more fields you include in the form, the lower the conversion rate. Only get the bare essentials to start and gather more information as you build more trust.
Communicating With Your Audience
Finally, the time is here to begin communicating to the audience that you own.
You now have the ability to create audiences within your contacts database via the data points you've collected allowing the delivery of pointed messages aligned with their goals and pain points.
You now have the ability to reach your contacts no matter what unexpected rule changes, privacy updates, or outages happen on third-party platforms.
You have drastically decreased the cost of communicating to your audience since you've gained permission to appear in their inbox.
You will likely also experience an increase in conversions as it usually takes multiple touchpoints over a period of time to build enough trust and catch someone at a moment of taking action.
Here are a couple of tips to help make the most out of communication with your contacts database:
- Bring value with each message you send. Do not show up in their inbox without presenting something they will find valuable. Be helpful and always respect the permission they gave you.
- Be consistent but not overwhelming. No one wants to hear from you 3 times a day but they also might forget who you are if you only show up every couple of months.
- Your channel for connecting with contacts is not limited to email. Open rates for text messages and social media inboxes are usually a lot higher than email open rates. Just be sure you get permission to show up in those channels as well. An invite to the inbox does not mean you can start texting them too.
- Continue building your contacts database. This includes keeping a presence on those third-party platforms. Just because you are building a database you own does not mean those channels are dead moving forward. Keep getting in front of fresh eyeballs using search and social platforms knowing that you've hedged against their control.
Need More Help?
Can you figure all of this out? Of course, you can.
If you get to the point that you need help or just want to chat, we are here. Feel free to contact Neon Goldfish and a member of our team will jump on a call to answer questions or show you how we can help.