I rob banks ‘cause that’s where the money’s at. – Slick Willie Sutton

I buy lists on social media because that’s where the people are. – Nearly every CMO these days

On the surface, these two quotes make a lot of sense. But, only one does.

Slick Willie had it right.

CMOs just might be shooting themselves in the foot. See “The Tale of the Wasted $46 Billion. How to Avoid Being a Victim” for more details.

But, what choice do CMOs have? We need results and we need them now.

We need an accurate ROI on everything.

Everybody says we need our own in-house lists.

Building an in-house list takes time. That’s time we just don’t have. We need a whole freaking team to make it work.

Don’t we?

We need a massive commitment in CRM. Everything needs to integrate. We need to track every little bit of data.

Don’t we?

Besides, we use the public platforms just to get initial engagement. We migrate them over to our in-house list later.

Really? That’s a good idea. How’s it working out for you?

Good idea, or not, it rarely works in practice.

It’s often just a simple question of inertia. It’s faster and easier to just buy impressions rather than build a true following. Yet, every marketer knows they need to build one anyway. He or she plans to start soon, very soon.

Soon rarely comes. If it does, it is eventually supplanted by something else, something with a more immediate payback.

The best time to start building your in-house list was last year. The second best is right now. (tweet)

You don’t need a huge team and a massive commitment of resources to get started.

You don’t need to pitch the Board.

You can start with a pittance. You can start on just your say so. (tweet)

At a certain point, the engagement wave will crest and you will need to add resources. By then, it will be a solid truth, not a speculative maybe. Executive buy-in will be easy.

In a minute, I’ll show an example of what I mean. Bear with me just a little longer so we can look at ROI in its simplest form, perhaps overly so.

Return on Investment is simple division. How much profit do we get from a given amount invested? There are two sides to it. The more we need to invest, the greater the return must be to make it worthwhile. The less we invest the less return we need to make that investment worthwhile.

What if we only dedicated bits and pieces of spare time? What if that time would otherwise be wasted? What if we built an active following using that time?

Wouldn’t the “I” in ROI be next to zero? (tweet)

What if your new following started driving numbers? “R” would be off the charts. Maybe its effect wouldn’t be blatant on the bottom line. It would still be proof of concept.

With proof of concept in hand, you could plan how to expand it in an intelligent fashion. You would also handle inevitable missteps on a small scale, fine-tuning as you go.

I realize every person reading this post will have a different scenario to face. Most of them will be complex issues. For now, let’s just use another, simpler example to illustrate the importance of building owned lists.

Meet Nick Stephenson.

NickStephensonNick is not a corporate CMO, he’s a writer. He writes the Leopold Blake Private Eye and Crime Thriller novellas and sells them on Amazon as eBooks. He also sells them on his website, www.nickstephensonbooks.com.

Why should you care?

Nick has built up a tidy business. He doesn’t depend on paid impressions. He doesn’t have a huge Twitter following (4,721). Nick only has 8,865 Facebook likes.

Nick earns more than me, you, and several of our friends — combined.

He did it by building and owning his own lists. Nick focuses on email lists and gets great results. I shudder to think what he could accomplish with the better-performing SMS route.

Selling eBooks on Amazon is structurally and logistically much simpler than what you do. Let’s use Nick as an example of what is possible. You’ll be able to draw parallels.

Step One: Free is a good price or The Bait

Nick offers a selected book free on Amazon. You don’t even have to give him your email. Just download and read it.

Seriously, it’s true.  You can pick one up here. 

Nick is not crazy. Or if he is, he’s crazy like a fox. That Bait book has only two purposes. One is to make you like his writing.  The other is to get you to see two announcements/ads inside.

In this first book, you’ll find two full pages offering you another free book. Yes, a second free one.

All you need to do is go to Nick’s website and download it.

Step Two: Free is still a good price or The Hook

That second free book is behind an email paywall. You need to provide your name and a valid email address in return for the book. You also agree to get no more than one email a week from Nick.

Personally, I think Nick should start transitioning to cell numbers instead of emails. Email generally has a horrid open rate. Nick claims a 25%+ open rate.

I still think he should consider a migration to SMS. It should be easy enough to add an SMS subscription offer after he proves he’s not a spammer.

So does it work?

It sure does. Most of it is automated. That’s why he has such relatively tiny followings on social media. Nick can spend most of his time writing while his server builds his lists.

In fact, it works so well, Nick also says that the demand for eBooks is actually greater than his ability to write enough of them. Nick often resorts to promoting other authors’ books rather than skip a scheduled contact.

His income is in the seven figures. Consider that his most expensive book costs about three bucks. That’s unbelievable.

And, he is just one man. He spends most of his time writing not building his audience.

What ideas can you draw from this for your business? (tweet)

What can you use for Bait?

What’s your Hook? (tweet)

It’s food for thought.

About the Author

Peter Pinfold

Peter Pinfold is a co-founder, and CMO of MobileXCo, a mobile technology and customer experience solution provider.

MobileXCo simplifies the world of mobile marketing.  Do you want to connect, identify, and build 1:1 relationships with your customers? Ask me about the Tether™ Experience Management Platform!

 

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