#SMX Liveblog: Email Marketing & The Audience Imperative (#ms5)

Don’t let social media make you blind to the sustainable online marketing power of email. In this 25-minute mini-session Jeff Rohrs, author of “AUDIENCE: Marketing in the Age of Subscribers, Fans & Followers” discusses the future landscape of email marketing and why you need to consider your audience a prime asset.

You may have noticed this session has a special hashtag — #ms5. MS5 means this presentation is the fifth session in today’s 11-part Marketing Summit Track. The Marketing Summit Track is special because in this track attendees hear three 25-minute mini-sessions on three different topics during one 1.5-hour session slot, rather than hearing several speakers share on one topic for the full 1.5 hours (which is the standard SMX session format).

In this 1.5-hour block we have two mini-sessions bundled:

(11:00-11:25) The Display Ad Of The Future: It’s All About You (#ms4)
(11:30-11:55) Email & The Audience Imperative (#ms5)

In this post I’m tackling the latter session, Email & The Audience Imperative. (Click the link above to see the liveblog for session for #ms4.)

// Start liveblog session coverage

Jeff Rohrs starts by saying “If you’re talking email, you’re not talking about a channel – you’re talking about an audience.” When we email, we email to reach people and to get their attention.

Email is low-cost and extremely effective. It’s the original social media.

A hometown example: Melt Bar and Grilled
Using email and Facebook they were able to start a tattoo discount club (seriously) where patrons are given 25% off for tattooing a grilled cheese sandwich on their arms (seriously). This matters to us because it is a great example of audience development. Melt tattoo club members get email notifications first (discounts; notice of important events that may or may not involve famous people); these tattoo discount club members area great example of proprietary audience development.   

grilled cheese

Proprietary audience development

Proprietary audience development is all about building audiences that you and you alone can reach. Remember, your audience is an asset! In fact, Jeff reiterates, it’s “an asset with predictable downstream value” (the best kind; the kind that stakeholders love). 

Don’t get a case of Audience Assumption Disorder where you put 99% of your effort into creating amazing content and apps that people will want to see – and then only 1% into nurturing an audience that will want to see your content.

Publication is not distribution!!

If your content matters – your audience has to matter even more. If you’re building content, you have to also be building audience. Content marketing is inclusive of audience development.

Content marketing includes audience development

 Think of it holistically: Twitter/Instagram/Facebook/Email followers – that’s all audience, and each one of them is an asset.

The problem is that our C-Suite stakeholders don’t think of audience as an asset. They still think of marketing as a cost center. We need to make them understand marketing is an asset hub.

It’s a long-haul objective: We need to use our paid owned and earned media to not only sell in the short term but also to increase the size, engagement, and value of proprietary audiences over time.


There has been a booming channel revolution since the 1990s.

We have more channels and more audience but a consistent number of asset managers. What’s the solution? Hybrid marketers! We need to become multi-facete marketers who use one market to amplify and feed a second market. IE: Paid to feed email. Facebook to feed email.

Remember: No audience is permanent.

No audience is owned. Anyone can unsubscribe/unfollow anything. No brand owns the audience; brands have to strive to get your permission directly and then strive even harder to keep your attention.

It’s not enough to get the download or the opt-in!

We must ABBA! Always Be Building Those Audiences!

We must be ABBA

Red Bull has 3 million+ YouTube subscribers. Every time they publish something it gets pushed out via email to over 3 million people. So many people they need a media department; they become a media company.

Are your emails evolving? Are they personalized; leveraging data you learn from customers; evolving past the HTML newsletter?

Social media opt-in is rising, but email opt-in is not dwindling.

Higher social media opt-in gives you increased diversification opportunities. It’s not just size, its also engagement and value, too! It doesn’t matter how much your audience is if they aren’t engaged; if they’re not listening; if they aren’t converting. Who care how many people get your email if they aren’t listeneing?

Don’t look for one size fits all: Key into what your businesses’ priorities need to be

In all of this it’s really important to understand what is really important to you. What your businesses’ priorities need to be.

Always be working to find the value in your efforts for yourself! Don’t let anyone give you some umbrella number that represents “the worth” of a Facebook like or an email opt in. Your metrics and your value and your priorities cannot be driven by umbrella numbers.

All marketing is now direct thanks to smartphone technology.

Attention is at a premium. When your consumers take a first step, are you taking steps to build external bridges? Do you ask for push notification permissions? An email address? Do you ask and ask again? (Like Facebook does.)

Email is not dying!

Spam is not an email problem, it’s an Internet problem (there’s spam on Facebook, too!). Concerns about Spam don’t have to stop you from creating valuable emails people read and engage with.

Email’s not dying! It’s evolving. Are the ways your business leverages email/content/audience evolving?

You need to focus on the four Rights: Right person, time, message, channel.

Email managers are fine; social managers are fine; but to take it all to the next step we really need to have our departments come together. We need asset managers! 

It’s all about the rise of audience development and a consistency of thought, purpose and action.

Chelsea Adams Brooks is a long-distance cyclist, aspiring cob house builder, schema/analytics/algorithm obsessor, and a former senior content writer at Bruce Clay Inc.

See Chelsea's author page for links to connect on social media.

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