How subscriber hierarchies can rebuild your marketing approach: A simple outline for marketing success.

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At the bottom of the hierarchy, you have Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube. Great platforms, but you have little to no control of your audience on them.

I talked about moving up the hierarchy to print subscribers, email subscribers, owned membership sites, and yes, even crypto. It’s your job to move your audience up the hierarchy.

Leverage those social channels, but always treat them like tomorrow they may be gone.

I’ve been enjoying The Tilt articles lately. And their motto is great: “Everything you need to build your own personal content empire. Delivered to you twice a week.”

As I was finishing the above article and nodding my head in agreement, the following popped up from Simon Owens:

I’m pretty sure Twitter recently tweaked something in its algorithm so that posts that contain links receive far less reach.

Every single platform eventually does this. They don’t like sending free traffic to outside websites. It sucks.

Almost in real-time did I see this subscriber (membership?) hierarchy in action.

Which made me think of a line from a previous boss:

If you are the smartest person in the room, you’ve hired wrong.

In today’s creator-/content-focused world, we might swap that to:

If your audience is owned by another platform, you’re doing it wrong.

Naturally, in the end, we don’t really own our audience. We don’t even own the platforms we use. Unless we are running our own internet (not likely) and making our own software with patches and updates (more likely), it’s difficult to say we own our own platform and audience.

However, we can own our contact data and–for the most part–the distribution and engagement with our audience.

It’s why I fully believe in building relationships with current clients (a referral program can bring in net-new clients) through in-person/virtual events coupled with regular updates via email marketing/email newsletters.

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If I were a chief marketing officer (cmo) or virtual chief marketing officer (vcmo), I’d think very carefully in how to build both long-term and short-term messaging, positioning and demand generation.

In fact, I’d try to start as simply as possible:


  • Brand awareness: Email marketing (email newsletters); Partner marketing; Social media
  • Demand generation: Email marketing (email newsletters); Partner marketing
  • Outcome: Stronger relationships


  • Brand awareness: Press or public relations (pr)
  • Demand generation: Partner marketing; In-person or virtual events
  • Outcome: Marketing qualified leads (mql); Customer acquisition; Return on marketing investment (romi / roi)

From refining product positioning to leveraging earned media, this high-level approach will help marketing teams and marketing operations teams get the most out of their budget, their organizations and their relationships with internal and external stakeholders.

(It also focuses our budgets on reinvesting into our business, organization and individual team members.)


How does a cmo/vcmo go about putting this structure in place? And how is it possible to create those outcomes with such a narrow view of marketing and communications?


  • First: Find a consultant or a trusted advisor who is currently freelancing to learn from their success and challenges
  • Next: Start sifting through your analytics to find trends, starting with your email marketing analytics, to better understand what your audience consumes (think time of day, day of week, subject lines, calls to action, length of content, cta placement, etc.)
  • Then: Sit down with your organization’s leadership team and ask them their expectations and success definitions for marketing activities
  • Finally: Outline a plan and share it with your consultant; Include everything you learned from your conversations above; Share with your team and anyone else whose input may provide valuable (think input/output/feedback cycle here); Revise with updates, then create a version one ready for internal distribution


With buy-in likely achieved at this point, your next step is to begin executing on the above plan:

  • First: Set up daily/weekly/monthly reports for specific metrics to be delivered to you automatically
  • Next: Review your marketing technology (martech) stack of applications and data ingestion process; If you want to move quickly, this needs a full understanding of what’s working, what’s not working and a priority list of fixes
  • Then: Test, test, test
  • Finally: Ship your first “project”; Think of the entire process from ideation to campaign brief to internal awareness to execution to reporting and post-project reviews

Make things pretty

Making things seem easy is nirvana for marketing teams.

If we check down the list of skills and expertise needed, there’s a lot of cross-departmental understanding and knowledge that sits within this one team.

I started this article with a focus on audiences and platforms.

Instead of thinking about social media when thinking about audiences and platforms, what if we viewed our marketing teams as both?

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