No One Washes Their Rental Car

Why it’s critical we own our customer platform before we go out of business

Photo by Adam Griffith on Unsplash

Ownership is a weird, mental shift. Whether it’s the experiment where the professor gave half his class a coffee mug, asked them how much they’d sell it for, then asked the non-mug half (the mug owners valued the mugs much higher, than non-owners), or maybe it’s the idea of borrowing — when we own we value things more.

The same model holds true for your customer list.

Many business owners build their list on the back of social media platforms. It’s easy to get likes, claps, beeps, and blips. So, we take the easy route. There’s a meter. We can watch our ‘friend’ count grow. We must be doing something productive.

We sell a bit.

We become obsessed with growing our social platforms (I did for a while).

If we got a hundred friends this week, maybe we can get two hundred next week by doubling our posting efforts.

Meanwhile, we’ve become collectors, but not servers. We spend less time serving the folks who already believe in us, because we’ve bet our working hours growing our social following.

…but no one washes their rental car.

When we build our customer list on social media, we don’t own the list. Not even close. If you got kicked-off your account, you can’t ask for a printout on your way out the door. You lose the account. You start from zero. You may never recover.

When you bet your audience on social (as they’d like you to do), you don’t play in your backyard. You don’t own the land under your business. You now have a rental car. And you pay for that rental with your free labor (through content creation).

With that rental agreement, comes the weather, the bird poop, and a few parking lot dings. “All cosmetic stuff,” you say. “They’ve got people for that,” you think.

You ignore the core purpose of your customer list as you pull the arm on the social slot machine.

“Come on, no lemons! Maybe I can get fifty new followers today!”

As your audience grows you’ve got to pay more to reach them (and oh will you pay).

Our actions are subconscious

Since we don’t own our social followers, and the barrier to entry to collect them is zero, we don’t wash the rental car. We don’t treat these followers as we should true customers.

This is the same reason we have a different perception of a mall cop versus an actual police officer.

  • We lose a few followers because we over-stepped our bounds on social. Who cares? It’s a rental.
  • We don’t answer our direct messages because we’ve got so many followers we can’t fathom answering their questions. So we answer none. Who cares? It’s a rental.
  • We don’t have time to test our conversion rates, nor can we qualify who should be on our followers’ list or not. Who cares? It’s a rental.

When we use ‘rental thinking’ with our social media interactions this comes through in our writing. Maybe we’re too loose. Maybe we speak our mind before thinking. Maybe we ignore the people who matter most, in exchange for the instant reward of more followers.

Followers don’t equal subscribers

When you build an email list you own it. You’ve got control over who subscribes and who doesn’t. You can test, check, and re-test your assumptions.

You can build measured, automated, sequential relationship-building tools with email.

On social your content is sandwiched between cat videos and incontinence ads. Your posts will show out of order. Most of your ‘fans’ will never see your content.

With email, everyone gets the same experience.

With email you own the car.

With email, you keep the car vacuumed, washed, and waxed.

There’s a mindset shift. You had to earn each person on your email list. One by one. Email lists cost money. You won’t keep people in your tribe if they don’t respond to your content. We tend to our email lists and watch the results like a cat.

Rentals are nice for long trips, when you don’t want to put all those miles on your car. Use your social platforms for play, loose engagement, and concept-testing. Use your email list to build and grow your business.

Social media is important

I realize I dog it a lot, but there’s a purpose for each piece of your marketing plan. Social should remain a lukewarm source of people you can coax to join your actual tribe.

Social should never be your only platform.

I can’t tell you how often I Google a business, only to find they have no website, only a Facebook page, because it was easier to create that page. Those companies are on a permanent lease agreement for their following. And the pile is built on land they don’t own.

I’ve used enough metaphors today. I’m starting to lose track.

If you want to keep your car clean, you better create an email list you own. Tap the link below, and enroll in my Tribe 1K indie email masterclass. I’ll show you how to get your first 1,000 subscribers (and your next 1,000) without spending a hot nickel on ads.

We’re waiting for you.

Enroll in my Free Email Masterclass. Get Your First 1,000 Subscribers

August Birch (AKA the Book Mechanic) is both a fiction and non-fiction author from Michigan, USA. As a self-appointed guardian of writers and creators, August teaches indies how to make work that sells and how to sell more of that work once it’s created. When he’s not writing or thinking about writing, August carries a pocket knife and shaves his head with a safety razor.

Blue-Collar Indie | Marketing & Email Tips for Writer-Creators | Tap for My FREE, Tribe 1K Email Masterclass:

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