May I Have your Permission

After my last post on email marketing, I thought it would be fitting to write about one of the most important words in marketing called “permission.” Marketers who conform to permission marketing stay focused on the customer and relationship building—the yellow brick road for generating customers for life.

The production of high value content is key and goes hand in hand with  respect for a customer’s time. There has to be a good reason for someone agreeing to receive a vendor’s communications on an ongoing basis.

Savvy marketers always seek permission.  Customers who grant permission are more likely to be an appropriate target for tailored offers and messaging; often sent via email and in the form of an e-newsletter.

There are many reasons to embrace email marketing—it’s cost effective, measurable, and provides a great return on investment. According to email marketing software firm Exact Target, 42% of subscribers are more likely to buy from a company after subscribing to their emails.

Check out cloud-based email service providers such as Constant Contact, MailChimp and VerticalResponse.  They all offer excellent templates for newsletter creation, editing tools, and metrics reporting, along with good education resources.

Permission marketing originated in the 90’s with the growth of the Internet and the attractiveness (I mean cost-effectiveness) of email and digital newsletters  The concept of permission marketing was popularized by bestselling author Seth Godin who offers an interesting definition:

“Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.”

Godin writes that customer respect is at the heart of permission marketing: “It recognizes the new power of the best consumers to ignore marketing. It realizes that treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention.”

We return to the word “respect” again.  IDC appropriately terms this concept as Relationship ROI—the time spent by a customer interacting with a company, including reading a vendor’s content must always provide high value.

The permission process typically starts soon after the point of initial contact where names may be collected from a number of sources, including marketing programs, events, and corporate websites.  We have all seen an opt-in or a subscriber form, where a person is asked to sign up to receive regular information on a specific topic or product of interest.

The online form should always be easy to fill out (not too many fields please) and address the “what’s in it for me” question.  The value proposition needs to be strong, emphasizing all the reasons customers will benefit from ongoing communications.

I believe in the double opt-in process over the single one. Once a subscriber has filled out a form and has explicitly asked (checked off a box) for ongoing communications, vendors who provide an email request for confirmation (click here to activate subscription) are more likely to have better results with their email marketing programs.

Don’t get caught up in growing a customer database list and sacrificing its quality.  The worst thing marketers can do is not use any formal opt-in or qualification process. For instance, when simply using names collected from a trade show fish bowl for a mass email blast—corporate credibility is lost forever!

Marketers who embrace customer permission techniques are able to move prospects faster and deeper into the sales funnel, a cornerstone of good lead nurturing practices.  The end result is more long standing customer relationships, translating into higher revenues.

So ask for permission—your customers will be glad you did so. I welcome hearing your thoughts on permission and email marketing.

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