Email Marketing Isn’t Owned Media—It’s Granted Media
Email marketing has an unfortunate reputation as being owned media. It’s unfortunate because it doesn’t align marketers with their subscribers and inbox providers, who are the true owners of email. And that results in strategies and tactics that invariably end up hurting their email programs and their businesses.
Some of you might be thinking, Wait, but we own our list. We spent a lot of time and money collecting those email addresses.
It’s true that brands have ownership over the email addresses they’ve collected. They can use them to identify customers and prospects across channels, and even sell them to other companies (which we highly discourage). But, beyond owning them as an identifier, brands don’t own email addresses because they don’t own the relationship that makes up the vast majority of each address’s worth.
In my book Email Marketing Rules (3rd Ed.), I say, “Lists are owned only to the extent that someone can own a collection of nonbinding handshake agreements.” Subscribers can nullify most of the value of a brand knowing their email address by withdrawing their permission—either by unsubscribing, reporting the sender’s emails as spam, or simply by ignoring the sender’s emails for a while, at which point their inbox provider will start junking or blocking their emails to the individual.
Permission is where the vast majority of email’s value comes from, and no one can own or sell someone’s permission. Period.
You might concede that point, but be thinking, But for those people who have given me permission, I own that right to reach them via email so long as I maintain their permission.