Permission marketing is a concept that was popularized by Seth Godin in his book of the same name. With permission marketing, you get consent in advance to market to your customers. More than likely, you’re already doing some type of permission marketing. If you collected email addresses from customers when they made a purchase, you at least have implied consent to market to them in the future. Let’s look at how you can build on that concept.

How does it work?

For example, if your customer gives you her email address to sign up for a newsletter, you probably put it in a database and send her emails about events, updates, products, sales, and anything else your organization sends out. Under Godin’s permission marketing philosophy, this is a big no-no. Instead, you would only use that email address to send out your newsletter UNLESS you ask again for permission to send that customer something else. If you have a customer’s email because of a previous purchase, use it to offer an incentive for them to opt-in to regular emails from your organization.

Don’t assume that every customer wants to hear from you daily, weekly or even monthly. Ask for permission.

The three main elements of this type of marketing are:

  1. Anticipation – people want to hear your message.
  2. Personal – your message is targeted to specific people.
  3. Relevant – people are interested in the topic you’re talking about.

Create a fan base instead of a database.

The real beauty of permission marketing is that, if done right, people will get upset if they *don’t* hear from you.

Once you’ve gotten permission, be sure you keep your end of the deal.

Provide information about your organization and your mission that your readers want. No one (except your board of directors) is waiting with anticipation for your quarterly financial report. Put that on your website where people who want it can find it.

Send your customers success stories, news about future projects (but only if they’ve expressed an interest already). Build a relationship with them. Ask for feedback. Find out what they want to receive from your company.

Permission marketing takes time and trust. Don’t skimp on either.

Over time, you will seek to increase the level of permission, asking for more information through in-person events or phone calls. The goal is to invite the customer to become more involved with your organization and mission, AND to have them invite your organization to be more involved in their lives or businesses. If you can do that, you’ll have a lifelong customer.

The benefits of getting permission.

You may think your organization is doing just fine with its email marketing campaigns, so why change course now. Well, here are a few things to consider:

  1. Research has shown that email campaigns sent to subscribers achieve a click-through rate 100 times greater than those sent to emails you don’t have permission to market to. When someone tells you they want you to send them an email, they are far more likely to open and act on it.
  2. The ROI of campaigns sent to lists of subscribers is much higher than that of campaigns sent to purchased lists or even to lists of people for whom you have implied consent.
  3. Also, deliverability rates will improve. When you send emails to people who’ve not asked to receive them, the number of “mark as spam” complaints increases tenfold. This can greatly inhibit the deliverability of future campaigns, because big email providers like Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo watch how recipients interact with your email.

Getting permission.

We’ve already talked about implied permission. If a customer has given you an email address with their order, they have tacitly allowed you to send them emails. But as many as 40% of people give a non-primary email address when asked during a check-out process. The email you have for that customer may not be very valuable.

Whenever possible, try to get express permission. You can do this by offering an incentive on your website, or on your app, or even on a form that can be filled out at your organization or a booth you have an event. Be sure to explicitly explain that by signing up they are agreeing to receive emails from your organization.

If email marketing is a big part of your organization’s strategy, consider using a permission-based system. You’ll see your click-through rates increase and your undeliverable mail decrease. More and larger sales are sure to follow.