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Marketing cloud: developing proprietary audiences as assets

Jeff Rohrs Profile picture for user jrohrs February 19, 2014
In today’s marketing environment audiences don’t magically appear. Rather, it is a ruthless competition for consumer attention across an unprecedented number of channels, devices, and locations.

Jeff Rohrs_headshot
Jeff Rohrs

Tell me if this sounds familiar.

Your marketing team has a great idea for a website, video, mobile app or other piece of groundbreaking—dare I say, potentially viral—content. You love the idea, give it the green light, and a lot of people spend a lot of time and money getting it just right. The team gathers to celebrate the launch and watch the sales, leads, clicks, and social sharing roll on in. Only that doesn’t happen because your team made an all too common assumption – namely, that if you build it, they will come.

Unfortunately, in today’s marketing environment audiences don’t magically appear. Rather, it is a ruthless competition for consumer attention across an unprecedented number of channels, devices, and locations. And while search engines and social networks may continue to deliver some “free” traffic to your doorstep, Google’s past year of algorithmic changes (with cheeky code names like Panda and Penguin) and Facebook’s adjustments to its News Feed clearly demonstrate that over-reliance on any one channel puts your brand at the mercy of gatekeepers who can change the rules at will.

Diversify for direct

So what’s a brand to do? You need to build and diversify your own proprietary audiences – direct audiences that you alone can access on demand.

The good news is that your marketing team is probably already doing this to some degree. Somewhere you have a database of email subscribers. On Facebook, you’ve got fans. On Twitter, you’ve amassed some followers. And quite possibly, you have other proprietary audiences strewn across Instagram, mobile apps, SMS, and YouTube.
Each of these direct, proprietary audiences is a business asset with measurable value.

For instance, take your email subscribers. If you have one million subscribers and determine that their Lifetime Customer Value (LCV) is £30 more per year than your non-email subscribers, guess what? You’re sitting on a £30 million asset. Do you know who on your team is managing that asset? Whether it’s appreciating or depreciating? Or whether you’re investing in its growth?

Can you think of any other asset of such value in your company that receives such little attention, let alone acclaim?

It’s high time that you develop an asset-based mentality when it comes to your proprietary audiences. These are the folks that you can message with the push of a button in order to generate sales, build loyalty, and increase awareness of that great product, content or app your team just built. They are also on-demand sources of consumer attention that your competitors can’t access.

Simply put, your proprietary audiences across email, mobile, and social channels are a source of both economic value and competitive advantage that smart companies will seek to grow both in terms of size and engagement in the years to come. Now email, SMS, YouTube and Mobile app subscribers, as well as Facebook fans, Twitter followers and Instagram followers are all business assets.

Practical steps

So what can you do as a leader to make sure you’re putting the right amount of emphasis on the development of your proprietary audiences?

  • Audit your current proprietary audiences and document who manages them.
  • Detail how you currently leverage each audience and the types of messages they are sent.
  • Determine the lifetime value of each audience versus customers who aren’t audience members.
  • Prioritise your audience development efforts based on the value they deliver to your organisation.
  • Designate a Director of Audience Development to optimise the growth and health of your audiences across three key metrics – size, engagement, and value.
  • Empower that Director to improve the manner in which your paid, owned, and earned media contribute to the growth of your audiences.
  • Regularly monitor your efforts to ensure you’re increasing the size, engagement, and value of your proprietary audiences in ways that positively impact the bottom line.

Done right, your focus on proprietary audience development will help you demonstrate to your C-Suite that marketing is more than an overhead; rather, it is an asset generator that produces measurable returns for the company.

So if you’re ready to reduce your dependency on paid media, increase your ability to reach consumers directly as needed, and ensure that you’re never again in a situation where you “build it” and they don’t come, it’s time to embrace the proprietary audience development. It’s time to distance yourself from the competition.


Jeff Rohrs is VP, Marketing Insights for Salesforce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud, and author of AUDIENCE: Marketing in the Age of Subscribers, Fans, and Followers



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