Permission Marketing

by John Almberg, Identry LLC

You want more customers, but you get a funny feeling that no one is paying attention to your advertising anymore.

It's not your fault! Every business faces the same problem. It's simply impossible for your potential customers to pay attention to all the advertisements directed at them.

Advertisements are everywhere. There's TVs in your favorite restaurant, ads on your kid's T-shirts, and those annoying pop-up ads on the net.

Last year, over $1000 of advertising was directed exclusively at you. But you probably don't rush home to read junk mail, or buy your favorite magazine for the ads, or feel a thrill when you watch the latest SUV commercial.

Is it any wonder, then, that potential clients ignore your advertising?

Traditional Marketing is Dead!

Traditional marketing--magazine ads, unsolicited price lists, spam email--is marketing without permission. It works by interrupting you, demanding your attention, asking you to buy something now, whether you want it or not.

Permission Marketing recognizes the fact that people are never sold, but often buy. Its aim is to patiently turn strangers into friends, friends into customers, and customers into long-term customers.

With Permission Marketing, potential customers agree to listen to your marketing message. In the terminology of the Web, they opt-in. By focusing on potential customers who have agreed to listen to you, you can tell your story calmly and in as much detail as necessary.

In the words of Seth Godin--former Vice President of Direct Marketing for Yahoo and an online marketing pioneer--Permission Marketing works when it is anticipated, personal, and relevant.

  • Your marketing will be anticipated when your potential customers look forward to receiving your next message.
  • It will be personal when they can relate to the message.
  • It will be relevant when the message speaks about something they are interested in.

Imagine 80% of your prospects reading your next email. That's a lot better than the 1% or 2% you got with your last postal mailing, right? Well, that's what happens when you deal with your prospects one at a time, sending them frequent personal messages, with permission, over time.

A few years ago, it would have been cost-prohibitive to send frequent, personal messages to each one of your prospects, but Internet-based automation makes it not only possible, but also inexpensive and reasonably easy to do.

It allows you to take the money you would spend on one magazine advertisement, and spread it out over many personalized messages.

Best of all, it allows you to turn strangers (prospects) into friends, and friends into customers.

Sounds great, right? So how to you get started?

Make them an offer they can't refuse

Offer an incentive for your prospect to agree to receive your marketing messages.

The first--and hardest--step in Permission Marketing is getting the prospect to volunteer in the first place. People have become very cautious about giving out their email address. To make them part with it you must promise something they want or need.

Like what? Suppose someone does a search on your website for a certain collectable. Often times, you won't have it in stock. Instead of displaying an unfriendly message like:

"Your search resulted in 0 results."

Wouldn't it be better to ask them if they wish to be notified when you get that item in stock?

Your website software stores the customer's name, email, and want in your database and when you add a similar item to your inventory, the software automatically sends a friendly email to the customer (or customers) with a link to the item they were looking for.

I'd sign up for that!

While the prospect is signing up to be notified, you can offer him the opportunity to divulge more information that will help you serve him better. For example, his collecting interests (the more detailed, the better), and his address or zip code.

Take it slow!

Using the attention offered by the prospect, educate the prospect over time about your products and services.

Once you've got the prospect's permission to communicate, begin to send the consumer low-key, relevant, and personalized information.

If you don't know much about the prospect, it could be an email with general information about your new arrivals. Or perhaps an interesting article on the financial benefits of investing in coins or stamps.

If you know his collecting interests (collecting them via a form on sign up), you can target the information more carefully. He's interested in commemoratives? Send him an personalized email with details about the new commemoratives in your inventory.

If you know where the prospect lives (if he gave you his address or zip code), you can send him an email about upcoming shows in his area. And not just the shows you will attend, but all of them.

Remember, a prospect is a stranger. The idea here is to turn this stranger into a friend. Then it will be a lot easier to turn that friend into a customer.

Wondering how to send out all these personalized messages? Again, the answer is your database. By storing all this information in your website database, you can almost totally automate your Permission Marketing campaign.

Reinforce the incentive to guarantee the customer maintains the permission.

Even the most powerful incentives wear off over time, so it is important to keep adding on the benefits. Send more useful information. Hold a contest on your website. Improve your website to make it easier for your customer to find what he wants.

You won't be the only one vying for a good customer's permission, so give him a reason for sticking with you.

Or he won't!

  • Offer additional incentives to gain more permission.
  • Offer your prospect good reasons for giving you more information and more permission.

There are many levels of permission, from allowing you to send them an occasional email, right up to allowing you to send them product on approval.

Your goal is to move them up the permission ramp.

The Permission Ramp

Want to find out more about a prospect? Offer him a big discount on his first purchase to fill out an online survey. Not only will you be able to send him more targeted information, but you'll probably convert him from a prospect to a customer.

Even if you lose a small amount on that first purchase, you can use the new information to make future repeat sales to the same customer. Would you spend $100 to 'buy' a customer who will then come back and spend $1,000 on your website over the next year?

I would!

Over time, use permission to turn customers into loyal customers.

It's a cliché, but it's true: it's much cheaper and easier to sell more products to existing customers than it is to find new customers.

Once you've gained your prospect's trust and permission, the goal is to motivate that customer to spend more and more of his collecting budget with you.

With permission to interact with the customer on a frequent, regular basis--and with the magic of the Internet to make that interaction possible and cost-effective--such success is not only possible, but almost guaranteed.

Wrapping Up

One final thought: your potential customers will only agree to receive marketing messages from so many companies.

As more and more businesses turn to Permission Marketing, the ones that gain permission first will have a huge advantage over the latecomers.

Start building a permission-based, long-term relationship with your potential customers today