I've been thinking a lot about what it takes to build a successful marketing strategy in today's ever-changing, ultra-competitive digital world. Every person and company is competing relentlessly for consumer attention. Attention aggregators – namely Facebook and Google – are incentivized to sell that attention to the highest bidder. They make changes that can impact a business that relies on them to connect to customers – seemingly overnight
Facebook is consistently making changes to their newsfeed algorithm to improve "engagement" and increased competition for ad space will continue to drive up costs.
Building a Google-dependent strategy also exposes companies to risks of organic ranking changes. Paid search takes constant gardening and high margin products with lots of searches query to be successful.
But there is one channel that consistently drives results that companies can uniquely own – email.
Email is a direct line to one of the most intimate communication mediums. It allows companies to build a relationship with their customers over time to deliver new product releases, promotions, news and more.
I've seen up close and personal how important email can be to a new company. At Code School, email became the channel for us. We thoughtfully approached each send and that built trust with our users over time. The ability to get the attention of millions of users with one email can't be understated.
Most startups overlook email and view it as supplementary to paid channels that can offer immediate result (for a cost). The problem is, once ad dollars dry up or cost exceeds breakeven for a new user, companies are left flatfooted and unsure where to look next.
My advice for new startups is to immediately think about how you're going to build your email list. There are countless ways to do this, but the general rule of thumb is to give something valuable away for free. This can be a free trial, and free pricing tier, a few introductory courses on a topic related to your product, a piece of data or research, a whitepaper.
Coincidentally, paid channels are a great way to build your list. People love FREE and opening the conversation with a free offer in exchange for their email address is a great opening to a new relationship with a potential customer.
Just look around at some of the top companies if you're in need of inspiration, but don't overlook the importance of email as a foundational piece of any marketing plan.