Quick: What would you say is the most valuable tool or asset for your digital marketing program? Your social media audience? An awesome video? Great collateral? The stash of Five Hour Energy in your desk drawer to power through the Monday doldrums?
I would argue that the answer is, in fact, none of the above. Rather, I firmly believe that your most valuable asset as a marketer is your email list.
Let’s think about that for a moment, using social media as a comparative example. Obviously, lots and lots of digital marketers love their Facebook Pages and the audiences they’ve built through them. Lots and lots of digital marketers love Twitter and their followers. A certain subset of the marketing population loves Google+ (though, as we’ve learned more and more recently, marketers who ignore Google+ do so at their own peril, given its significant impact upon search rankings). But here’s the thing about all of those channels: You don’t own them.
Allow me to repeat that: You don’t own those channels. Your Facebook Page isn’t yours. Your Twitter profile isn’t yours. Your Google+ page isn’t yours. They can be turned off at a moment’s notice, with little to no reasoning or advance notice. Your use of a Facebook Page or a Twitter profile is essentially the same as at-will employment: It can end at any time, with or without cause. And while those 20,000 Twitter followers and those 30,000 fans on Facebook are great and congratulations to you for building those audiences … the moment your Page gets turned off, those 30,000 fans are gone. You’ve lost them, forever, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
But your email list … that’s something else entirely. That list is yours (assuming it has been built organically through proper methods), and you can take it with you wherever you want in perpetuity. You can switch email service providers six times in a year — although we certainly would not recommend that — and that list will still come with you wherever you go.
And that’s why your email list is your most valuable asset: That list is a database of people who have proactively told you, “Yes, I want to receive your communications. Please send it to me until I tell you otherwise.” And, provided you’ve been employing techniques such as progressive profiling and gathering as much information as you can about the members of your list, you are able to send them targeted, personalized, smart messages, based upon information such as industry / vertical, geography, affinity, interests, behavioral patterns and more. You can’t do that with a social audience. You can’t do that with a direct mail audience. You can, however, do that with email.
There is one thing to keep in mind with this idea, however. Because your email list is your most valuable asset, you need to treat those subscribers with respect: They’re valuable, so treat them as such. The best way to do that, of course, is to ensure that all of the communications you’re sending are timely, targeted, relevant and, to be blunt, don’t suck — the greatest sin of an email marketer is to send emails that have no value.