May I have your permission?

by Lee Hopkins on August 28, 2012 · 0 comments

in marketing


Advertising methods have changed dramatically since today’s CEOs were children

The Internet’s tremendous influence on our culture and economy has been a game changer for businesses of all sizes when it comes to marketing goods and services. To help make sense of the ever-changing challenge of advertising to consumers in a complex digital world, Seth Godin introduced the concept of permission marketing, which emphasizes obtaining individuals’ consent before directing advertisements toward them.

Not convinced permission marketing can work for you? The experiences of companies that have embraced the tenets of permission marketing help dispel popular misconceptions about how consumers are drawn to a business.

  Myth # 1: If I maximize the number of ads that are out there to promote my company, thereby communicating my message to a wide audience, my marketing campaign will be successful.

The Reality:
Have you ever had your dinner interrupted with a phone call from a telemarketer? Has your favorite television program ever been interrupted by several back-to-back commercials? When this occurs, your reactions are likely something like this:

With the telemarketer: I generally never even hear what the telemarketer is trying to sell. As soon as I hear a voice I don’t recognize and a scripted message on the other end of the line, I usually tune out until I lose patience, at which point I interject and say, “I’m not interested.” Then, I promptly hang up

With the television commercials: Traditionally, I would take the few minutes of break afforded by TV commercials to discuss the last scene with other viewers in the room, check email, refill on snacks, or go to the restroom. With rare exceptions, I generally did not pay attention to the ads. With the advent of DVR, however, I can safely say that I never pay attention to television commercials anymore. Instead, I fast forward through them all.

Today, when millions of marketing messages are competing for our attention in a vast array of different media formats, companies have to work much harder to capture the public’s attention. In short, those who continue to rely exclusively on traditional “interruption marketing” techniques that give little or no consideration to the audience receiving the message may be wasting their time and money.

  Myth # 2: People detest solicitations, so they won’t volunteer to be targets of my marketing efforts

The Reality:
In one sense, this myth contains some truth: not all people will volunteer to receive your marketing materials. However, that’s the whole point. With permission marketing, the idea is to focus your efforts and resources on individuals who want to do business with you, rather than blindly disseminating ads to the general public in hopes that a few people will be attracted to your brand.

For example, if you are selling high end athletic equipment, sure, sedentary couch potatoes might not be eager to sign up, but you probably don’t want to waste your time and money reaching out to people like that anyway. Their interests and lifestyles simply do not align with your products. On the other hand, why wouldn’t a sports enthusiast grant you permission to market directly to them? After all, granting you that permission might provide them with more predictable updates on new products and special offers. However, if there is any doubt, more skeptical consumers can often be enticed with the promise of a special offer, like a gift or one-time discount.

  Myth # 3: Identifying the right customers to target will be too costly and too time consuming.

The Reality:
One of the first steps in developing a permission marketing strategy is to narrow your audience. Consulting a current customer list can get you started. After that, you should try to build a profile of your company’s typical customer. Depending on the nature of your product or your company’s services, this could be relatively easy, or it could be a complex process of intense research. However, regardless of how much time or money it costs to develop that profile, chances are it will be money and time well spent. After all, the alternative is spending time and money blindly directing ads to a large cross-section of the population, and the vast majority of those individuals will have no interest in your company.

  Myth # 4: The Internet is littered with advertisements; it will be impossible for me to stand out online.

The Reality:
If you approach Internet advertising with outdated methods that cast a wide net and give no regard to your target consumer, that myth may hold true. However, even small companies can make their mark in the vast universe of the Internet.

Social media websites are a great example of an inexpensive, often effective way to gain traction online. In fact, sometimes little effort can yield surprising results on sites like Facebook. After a few people “like” your company’s page, the message can spread quickly.

  Myth # 5: Once I’ve hooked someone and gotten permission to target them, I’m done.

The Reality:
Permission marketing can be a great tool to help build your brand, but it’s not that easy. An effective permission marketing campaign involves a long process, and the foundation is creating relationships with consumers. Making consumers feel like they have benefited by giving you their permission is key. For example, providing exclusive offers to people who have “liked” your Facebook page can communicate your gratitude, make the consumer feel special, and help you stay relevant.

With those myths realized and a healthy belief in the value of permission marketing over traditional scattershot advertising, here’s how to get started on your company’s plan:

1. Identify Your Targets – Think about the customers you currently have. Is your most valuable customer/client the one who came in once and made a quick purchase, or the person who stops in a couple times each week, asks questions, and makes deliberate decisions about their spending? Permission marketing is all about promoting yourself as an expert — think about the customers who look to you for help and advice and consider how you can replicate your answers and that level of service in your outreach.

2. Start Collecting Contact Information – Put an email list at your register, and give customers a discount for signing up. Even 5 percent off at the time of purchase is enough to get an email address or phone number. Do the same thing on your website. Put the sign up link clear and easy to find on the front page.

3. Develop Quality Content – Social media like Facebook and Twitter are just digital permission marketing. People choose to follow or like your page, but they won’t make a return visit if the only thing you churn out is marketing material. On social media and in a monthly e-newsletter, write (or hire a writer) to generate quality content that’s relevant and helps your clients and customers become more informed about your industry. Even if you’re not directly promoting a product you sell, you’re building trust for when it’s time for them to make a purchase.

4. Make it Worthwhile – People are used to 50 percent Groupon deals these days. If your newsletter offers 10 percent off when ‘you mention this ad,’ it won’t draw anybody in. Give people a killer deal, like ‘buy one get one free,’ that’s only available to people that receive your outreach. Once they realize what a bargain you gave them, they’ll be sure to look out for your next newsletter or keep checking your Facebook page.

5. Keep it Up – Permission marketing is all about relationship building, and relationships require maintenance. If you’re sending out a monthly newsletter, plan in advance so that it’s a worthwhile read every month and you don’t miss an issue. At the same time, don’t be overwhelming or annoying. Send out outreach just enough to keep people engaged.


Christopher Wallace is Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Amsterdam Printing, a leading provider of personalized pens and other promotional products such as imprinted apparel, mugs and customized calendars. He regularly contributes to Promo & Marketing Wall blog.


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