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Permission Marketing: In or Out?

by Shonali Burke on July 2, 2010

Of All the Nerve!

I was attending a networking event and handed out my business card to another attendee who had asked for it. No problem. We said good bye and went our separate ways.

Two days later I was receiving emails from that very person – and they were the kind that I didn’t need – or want. Feeling angry, and slightly violated, I sent a polite email asking to be removed from the list.

Why? It wasn’t the quality or the marketing tactics of that business, it was because the content, product or service didn’t meet my needs.

(Truth be told, I sometimes stay on these types of mailing lists because promote services or products I do use. It’s an inherent risk with interruption marketing tactics.)

New Rules Needed

Permission based marketing has become extremely commonplace, thanks mostly to social networking and the ease of finding information about potential clients on the internet. Growth is good, but as the way we market changes, so do the rules.

But what are those rules?

How do you receive permission from new contacts so you can send them marketing emails or place them on your newsletter list?

What should you include, and not include, in these messages?

Where are the boundaries?

Image: Roo Reynolds, Creative Commons

Permission Granted

The great guru of marketing, Seth Godin, coined the phrase permission marketing to describe the new age of electronic advertising. This simple term defined an entirely new method of marketing: consumers chose the advertisers, not the other way around.

Permission based marketing can be an excellent tool for conducting a campaign designed to target one specific audience.

The problem, and annoyance, occurs when permission-based marketers forget that one tiny detail: the consumer’s permission!

Getting this permission has become easier with the advent of social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter – and businesses of all shapes and sizes have taken notice. Ford Motor Company kicked off a campaign that asked interested consumers to click the “Like” button on the company’s Facebook page for the chance to win a new car.

Talk about incentive.

Doing It the Right Way

So how can you use permission marketing to build an audience while not annoying anyone? The first thing you have to consider, whether you’re handing someone a business card or creating a website, is that you have to ask their permission.

It doesn’t have to be awkward or tense, a simple question will suffice. “Thanks for the card. Do you mind if I send you a link to my [insert marketing tool here]?” or “I think my website could help you out, would you mind if I send you a link?”

What Is Your Message Worth?

Once you receive their permission, there’s another hurdle: what you send to that audience has to have some kind of value to it. That’s the least we can do as marketers.

Coupons and giveaways are one form of value, but audiences expect to receive information that can help them in their daily lives.

They want to know “What’s in it for me?” Blogs, white papers, links to reliable resources – this is the type of value that audiences appreciate.

In order for that information to be valuable, you have to know that you’ve earned the attention and consent of your audience.

You need to learn what their hot buttons are – and how to push them correctly. Otherwise, you’re left with a database full of people who will completely ignore your marketing message.

Talk About It

So what do you prefer: a message blasted out to millions of potential consumers who receive it whether they like it or not? Or, a permission-based campaign that speaks to a smaller audience who has opted in?

What has worked for your business?

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Regular contributor Terri Holley is the owner of Creative Blog Solutions and a social media strategist, plus a certified life/business coach. A forward-thinker and relationship-centric gal, Terri supports small businesses who understand the value of using social technologies to build deeper relationships with prospects and customers.

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