Using email marketing as an "owned" platform

By Patti Rowlson
Contributing writer

Experts have predicted that 2015 may be a good year for businesses to ramp up the use of “owned marketing platforms,” especially if Facebook has been their main marketing tool in recent years. That prediction has small business owners and marketing professionals wondering if, when and how they should increase the use of owned platforms.

What is an owned platform? It’s a marketing tool that allows users to fully control the distribution of content. Users get to deliver content when they want, and to whom they want so delivery is predictable. Owned platforms, like email marketing, are a good thing for many industries, as long as marketers have access to a generous database of email addresses to deliver their content to.

Other marketing platforms, like Facebook, allow someone else to control the distribution of a content. Users may be able to quickly reach a large audience, but the powers that be at Facebook decide if and when user content will be shared, and they decide who it will be shown to. They also control how much it will cost to deliver that content (which can change at any time). Since the user does not control distribution, and delivery may not be predictable, Facebook is not a platform that is owned by the user. Make sense?

Email marketing is a solid example of an owned platform, but it may not be right for every business, so let’s dig a bit deeper.

Is email marketing right for your business?

First and foremost it’s important to think about how easy it would be to collect email addresses from consumers to develop a distribution list. Building a distribution list can be a real challenge for some, and it can be naturally easy for others, mainly based on their industry.

An example of a business where email marketing can work well would be a clothing consignment store where a consignor agreement is signed by each and every person that drops off merchandise.

On that form, consignors provide their email address and check a box that gives permission for the store to send them emails about sales and events (obtaining permission is very important!). The sign-up process is easy and it can be seamlessly integrated into a regular business activity—it feels like a natural extension of the business.

With this type of retail business, the store has the potential to collect dozens of email addresses from consumers each week. Those contacts can then be added to an email marketing tool like MailChimp (free) or Constant Contact (very affordable). Emails can then be sent out to encourage existing customers to return again and again to shop or consign more items at the store.

Health clubs, art studios, membership organizations and tourism companies are also examples of industries where email marketing would make sense. They typically have access to a generous number of consumers each week and those consumers usually fill out paperwork to sign up for programs. It’s possible to easily integrate email marketing permissions into that process.

Not a new concept, but worth a second look.

Email marketing is definitely not a new concept, but if you feel like this owned marketing platform has been nudged to the sidelines while your business focused time and resources on other options, it may be worth a second look as you’re making plans for 2015. With increasing ease of use and integrated features like social share buttons and analytics, email marketing can be a great way to reach out to your customers while maintaining control over content and distribution.


Patti Rowlson is a marketing consultant and social media manager at PR Consulting, Inc. She helps Whatcom County small businesses identify, implement and consistently maintain marketing-related programs. Learn more about small-business marketing by connecting with PR Consulting on social media sites or by visiting


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