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Underestimated Founders Need Email Marketing More Than Anyone

Dear underestimated founders and Black women business owners,

Building your business on social media is sharecropping. And it doesn’t usually work out for us. 

I said what I said. 

Sharecropping is a system where the landlord/planter allows a tenant to use the land in exchange for a share of the crop. This encouraged tenants to work to produce the biggest harvest that they could, and ensured they would remain tied to the land and unlikely to leave for other opportunities.

That is from the pbs.org page from the documentary Slavery by Another Name. That should tell you something. 

It saddens me to see how many business owners are overly reliant on social media and other platforms they don’t own. It’s especially tragic when those founders are underestimated and marginalized in some way. 

Black women, women of color, queer or trans business owners and underestimated founders outside the dominant culture that systems of patriarchy and white supremacy are set up to uphold are playing a losing game by setting up marketing systems that rely heavily on platforms over which they will never have ownership or control. 

Email is More Likely to Be Seen and Read

An Indigenous woman posted on Threads about her concern that most of the money she earns from Patreon comes from her followers on Instagram and her IG account was being shadow banned (posts suppressed from being seen by the people who follow her). 

When I asked if she had an email list, she said, “I don’t, do people actually read them?” 

My heart broke a little. 

Let’s forget for the moment that ROI from email marketing has an average return of $42 for every $1 spent (source

Marketing aside, if you need to communicate your message to your audience and you’re relying on social media platforms to do it, you’re lucky if 10% of your audience actually sees that message and that’s being generous. 

And if you support a free Palestine or a woman’s right to control her body or any other ‘spicy’ opinions and you post about it, you’re more likely to be censored on social platforms.

Email is a Direct Channel to Your Audience

Someone inviting you into their inbox is personal. It means the majority of messages you send will at least get to the inbox (if you’ve validated properly). 

More importantly, you ‘own’ your email audience because it’s simply a list of email addresses from people who have said, “Yes, I want to hear from you until I change my mind.” 

If Instagram or Patreon or Twitter shut down your account, your audience is gone. 

If your email service provider shuts down your account, you can take that list of email addresses and upload it to a different one. 

Backing up your contacts at the point of capture is just one of the things we do for our CRM to Sales clients to protect their list and their business.

Marginalized Business Owners Underutilize Email as a Communication Channel

I had the pleasure of attending Pitch Black this year. Pitch Black is a competition that gives Black entrepreneurs a platform to connect with the broader startup ecosystem — while also awarding them with cash prizes to help their concepts flourish.

The founders who graced the stage this year had some truly phenomenal businesses and projects. 

I was actively looking people up as they pitched and I saw every level of marketing from Flourish Spices & African Food who was ready with a Pitch Black specific deal to founders who have zero web presence for their ideas.

When I spoke to one founder with no web presence, he said he’s waiting to find the right people to help with his web presence and that he needed branding before he felt comfortable getting online.  

I have watched so many business owners who thought they needed a fully formed brand or product before sharing anything about what they are doing. I was one of them (hello DIY website course that almost no one wanted). 

We work in the shadows thinking the attention will be there when our project is ‘ready’ and it’s just not true. Unless you already have a huge audience who loves everything you do, you may bring that fully formed project into the world only to find out it’s not what the world wanted or needed. 

Even if your idea is amazing and needed, if you wait until you’re ‘ready’ to tell anyone about it, you’re wasting valuable time that could be spent building a community that might support you on your journey.

So many successful companies have been started with just a landing page and an email list.

People love to follow other people’s journey and root for causes they believe in. 

One of my early mentors used to say, R = I/T - “Relationships equals interactions over time.” 

By allowing people in early, you give them time to get to know you and build a stronger relationship. And who knows, those early audience members might even contribute to your cause via money, introductions, or helping to spread the word. 

Underestimated Founders Need to Own their Assets and Data in 2024

2024 is an Election Year in the U.S. and in many ways it feels like our democracy is hanging in the balance. 

If you have a business or a cause or a message that needs to get out, I’m not suggesting that you abandon social media– but I would love to see more business owners be more diligent about owning as much of their assets and their data as possible. 

I know that it’s easier to rely on hosted platforms like Patreon, Squarespace, or Wix but if you have the goal of divesting your livelihood from these kinds of platforms here are three key areas to focus on: 

Own Your Website Platform

WordPress has been vilified as being hard to use and maintain but these issues have largely been solved with drag and drop page builders and low cost maintenance companies. 

If you’re willing to pay for car insurance, you should be willing to pay for someone else to deal with keeping your site up-to-date and doing day to day tasks. Access WP is a company I have recommended to clients for years and they will keep your site backed up and perform unlimited 30-minute update tasks for under $200 / month. 

Create a Direct Communication Line to Your Audience and Customers

I’ve already talked about why email is important so I won’t rehash it here. If you have the ability to build texting into your marketing, it has even higher open and engagement rates than email. 

Get Paid Directly from Your Customers

Platforms like Patreon or Substack make it easier to get paid, but make it a goal to become independent from these platforms by creating direct ways for your customers to pay you.

As a bonus, if you build your own payment system, you won’t have to share your email platform with Nazis

Thrivecart is an extremely versatile cart software that links directly to payment gateways like Stripe and PayPal and allows you to set up subscriptions. Is it easy? Not necessarily, especially if you’re not technically savvy. But that’s why documentation, YouTube and freelancers exist. 

Most things worth doing are challenging. If you’re just looking for the easy button, this article isn’t for you. 

How to Get Help Owning Your Digital Assets

If this prospect feels daunting, there two ways I can help you. 

First, educate yourself. Listen to my podcast episode on Choosing Your Tech Stack to understand what kinds of choices you have for technology to support your business. 

Second, join Automation Club. This is our low-cost membership designed to help you automate one new thing per month in your business. 

Most businesses we work with don’t have even the basic automation of a simple email welcome sequence that will tell new subscribers about you and your business and a sales sequence that shares your offers and invites them to buy. 

This is a huge asset that, when done well, can act as a digital sales person that helps you build relationships at scale and save your time and energy for following up with people who engage and take action from your emails.

Automation Club includes access to my technology recommendations for building these assets and links to trusted referral partners you can hire if you don’t want to or don’t have the skills to do it yourself. 

Don’t Let Your Bad Experiences with Email Hold You Back

Many people I talk with about email marketing have negative feelings about it because of how much bad marketing is flooding their own inboxes. 

Just because the majority of people do something badly, doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing well. In fact, taking the time to use email well as a channel to build relationships will automatically make you stand out to your audience. 

If nothing else, I hope this article has helped you see that email is just another communication channel and it can be used well or badly, like any other tool. If you’re looking to grow an audience that isn’t controlled by the vagaries of algorithms you can’t control, and can scale as your business scales, the effort and investment to build your email foundation is well worth it. 

If you’re an established business with a proven offer and you want to utilize email more effectively to drive sales, check out CRM to Sales and book a call to chat about how we can help. 

About the author 

Kronda Adair

Kronda is the CEO of Karvel Digital, a digital marketing agency that helps mission-driven service-based business owners how to use content to sell so they can automate their marketing and scale without burnout. She loves empowering small business owners to not be intimidated by all this tech stuff. She's often covered in cats.

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