Nobody likes being a member of a captive audience.
We all know what it’s like to receive an email we didn’t sign up for from a company we’ve never heard of. As marketers, it’s our responsibility to ethically handle personal information and data we receive from consumers. Marketing and consumer data is very valuable, and knowing the right way to handle that information has become a business necessity.
This information can give you incredible insights, but only so long as you have the trust of your consumers. Without an established trust between your brand and a potential customer, It’s no secret that the right way to accomplish this is using a reliable technique known as permission marketing.
What is permission marketing?
Permission marketing refers to anytime a consumer opts into receiving marketing messages, offers, and announcements from your company. The concept of permission marketing was coined by Seth Godin in his 1999 book of the same name.
Many digital marketing best practices involve the use of consumer data. And as marketers rely more heavily on landing pages, sign-up forms, RSS feeds, and opt-in emails, there needs to be a strategy for ensuring that the data collected from leads, prospects, and customers is only used the way the customer asked.
Permission marketing makes it easy to differentiate between what you should and shouldn’t send consumers by asking them to sit in the driver's seat. Allowing them to opt-into your marketing funnel is a guaranteed way to reach customers when they are ready to talk to you. This strategy allows customers to tell you what they want you to receive from your company and eliminate the guesswork. All of these things make permission marketing perfect for creating a personalized marketing experience for your customers.
Types of permission marketing
In his book, Godin talks about turning strangers into friends and friends into customers by using his permission marketing method. He splits permission marketing interactions into two separate categories: express-permission marketing and implied-permission marketing.
Many marketers make the false assumption that once a prospect gives you their email address, it’s fair game. Permission marketing is built on explicit customer permission. Some may say it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission, but when it comes to permission marketing, it’s always best to check first.
Express-permission marketing refers to any situation where a consumer opts into receiving marketing communications from a company. The trick with express-permission marketing is limiting your marketing activities solely to what the consumer opted in to.
Under express-permission marketing, if a consumer signs up for your free monthly webinar, you would only send them emails regarding that specific webinar. Taking that person's email address or phone number from the webinar sign-up and then using it to sign them up for your monthly newsletter without their permission would be in violation of express-permission marketing.
Implied-permission marketing refers to any situation where a consumer has an existing relationship with a company (current customer, frequent visitor, brand partner) and communication with that consumer is implied.
In this situation, the business has a pre-existing relationship with the consumer, and therefore, marketing communications can be more frequent. That’s not to say that you should open the floodgates and spam your customers with marketing content. Keep your focus on the quality of what you’re sending your customers.
Non-permission based marketing
Non-permission based marketing refers to any situation where a consumer did NOT opt in to receiving marketing communications from a business. This often happens when companies engage in practices like buying email lists or exploiting things like conference attendee email lists.
While some consumers might still recognize your brand or find value in your offering, this is a poor strategy to employ. Sending unsolicited marketing emails and offers to consumers who didn’t sign up for them can result in privacy violations, social media backlash, and negative online reviews. Permission marketing allows you to instead build brand trust and authority by nurturing your long-term relationship with consumers over time.
Focus on delivering what was promised to a prospective customer instead of assuming you have the right to sell them more. This approach helps build trust between your brand and new consumers.
Permission marketing best practices
Did you know only 25% of consumers believe companies handle sensitive data responsibly? It’s no wonder that marketers find it tricky to get consumers to hand over things like email addresses and personal information. Permission marketing is an easy solution to this problem that easily integrates into your existing marketing campaigns. It won’t take months of revamping your processes – all you need is a little common sense and a few easy-to-follow steps.
In general, most privacy policies cover the following topics:
An overview of consumer data privacy rights
Types of information collected by a business
Methodology and reason for collecting the data
Policy on data storage, security, and protection
How the company shares your data (if they do)
Make it easy to opt in (and opt out) of communications
There will come a time when people are tired of receiving emails from your business – don’t punish them for that. Permission marketing is all about consumer choice. Provide customers with an easy-to-locate unsubscribe option in the footer of all of your email communications.
The harder you make it to find the unsubscribe button, the harder it is to get that person back on your email list later. Focus instead on finding out why that person left. This will help you create a smarter content marketing and email strategy for people who still receive your newsletter. It also shows the person who unsubscribed that you’re willing to take feedback.
When a consumer tells you something is no longer relevant to them, stop trying to force it on them. Instead, find a better way to deliver the same content in a format that fits the consumer better. Some people prefer white papers, some prefer emails. Permission marketing is about finding the right way to make that connection with prospects.
Understand what motivates your target audience
A new email address is not permission to spam your audience with useless junk. There is still a battle for the inbox happening every time your team sends out an email. That's why it's important to track customer behavior when choosing the marketing techniques you use to reach them.
People are ruthless when it comes to keeping their inboxes exclusive. Delivering highly-personalized content is the best way to stick around long enough to make an impact. That means always delivering only the most relevant messaging to leads and prospects. If they have a bad experience with your brand and then continue to receive communications bragging about how awesome your brand is, you could lose them forever.
Here are a few ideas of content offerings to use alongside permission-based marketing:
Free shipping offers
Online sweepstakes and giveaways
Pre-launch product offers
Newsletter subscription offers
Exclusive social offers
Customer loyalty offers
Brand ambassador programs
VIP loyalty programs
Landing page sign-ups
One trap that’s easy to fall into is sending customers content that’s unrelated to their interests. It can be a hard pill to swallow, especially if you think you have something special you can offer them. But spamming contacts with these unrelated offerings could cause them to opt out. If a customer signs up for a weekly newsletter about beginner marketing tips, they’re probably not interested in your email series about product announcements.
Be mindful of data privacy regulations
Consumers know there is nothing more valuable than personal consumer data. That’s why so many have become protective of their information. Some even go as far as to create fake email addresses for communicating with brands or signing up for access to websites.
Global privacy laws are catching up to technology, creating very strict rules for how companies are expected to handle consumer data. The United States and the European Union (EU) have some of the toughest data privacy laws in the world. With some of the most expensive data breaches of our time costing in the hundreds of millions, you can’t afford to be lazy.
Here are a few major privacy laws your company needs to consider:
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
The Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC)
Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)
New York SHIELD Act
Nearly all of these laws were put into place to address the issues of implied permission. Many of them state that implied consent is no longer sufficient and that companies must make it explicitly clear what users are signing up to and customers must be able to withdraw this consent at any time.
Depending on your industry, there may be additional data compliance expectations for your marketing team. Always do a little research on your own before building your permission marketing strategy.
Benefits of permission marketing
There are few downsides to a well-developed permission marketing strategy. Permission marketing offers a lot of upsides that can both help your content distribution strategy and cover your bases when it comes to data collection and compliance. Any marketing team that relies heavily on marketing automation, email marketing efforts, or the use of consumer data can benefit from permission marketing.
Permission marketing allows marketing teams to:
Increase engagement and conversion rates
Improve relationships with existing customers
Broaden brand awareness with new consumers and prospects
Provide high-quality marketing qualified leads to sales team
Increase the brand trust between you and your customers
Higher overall lifetime customer value and satisfaction
The biggest advantage that permission marketing is that it eliminates the guesswork regarding what prospects want to receive from your team. People enter the marketing funnel already interested in what your company is offering. It’s just a matter of continuing to deliver value at every stage of the buyer's journey. This leads to higher engagement rates, low costs, and more quality relationships with customers.
Challenges of permission marketing
Nearly every challenge you’ll face with your permission marketing program has to do with your handling of the data. Permission marketing requires both the right resource management software and at least one team member to maintain and handle the processes.
Here are some common permission marketing challenges your team might face:
Lack of formal strategy for attracting new customers to opt-in
Misuse of consumer data can result in privacy violations and fines
Too many emails or too few emails can sway customer sentiments
Lack of resources dedicated to a teams marketing operations strategy
Disorganized or inaccurate customer information
Because of the amount of consumer data handled during the permission marketing process, many teams choose to have marketing operations teams handle this process. This allows your company to limit the amount of people accessing sensitive information and appoints a single point person to manage all things marketing data for the entire marketing organization.
Keep it personal; keep it relevant.
At the end of the day, the key to a successful permission marketing strategy is to communicate openly with your customers. Allow them to guide the conversation and spend your time finding the best ways to bring value to their inboxes. There’s plenty of room in marketing to lead the customer, but this is a situation where letting the customer lead pays off in the end.
Interested in learning more about creating a personalized marketing experience for your prospects? Discover how to implement an impressive customer marketing strategy today!
Lauren is a Content Marketing Manager at G2. You can find her work featured on CNBC, Yahoo Finance, and on the G2 Learning Hub. In her free time, Lauren enjoys watching true crime shows and spending time in the Chicago karaoke scene. (she/her/hers)
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