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 Permission and Inbound Marketing

Is it always easier to ask forgiveness than to get permission? Perhaps; but when it comes to marketing, it’s precisely the wrong thing to do. While some might disagree and say that any publicity is good publicity, and that you want to saturate the environment with your messaging, that doesn’t make your audience more receptive. The key to getting the right clients is to make yourself useful, available, and helpful – and engaging them in the process. So while intrusive advertising can have a positive impact, it certainly doesn’t help you reach the right people except by law of averages.

If you want to reach the right people, you have to get permission.

 

Permission Matters

Originally coined in a book by marketing guru Seth Godin (he of “purple cow” fame), the term “permission marketing” is really just about the idea that people hate being sold to. Nobody wants to have advertising shoved in their faces; I mean, who doesn’t skip the commercials when they can? We’ve built entire software systems and pay internet television services precisely so we can enjoy our media and our lives in peace. From TiVo’s commercial skipping to ad blocking software, there’s a war going on between consumers and advertisers – and the solution isn’t to simply find new ways to snake your message into someone’s life as aggressively or as sneakily as possible.

If nobody wants to hear your message, they’re just going to resent it when you get through. That makes for poor lead generation at best. It may be easier to ask forgiveness than permission, but permission nets you better business.

Getting Permission

When you do take the time to get permission, you get to market to people who are definitely interested in who you are and what you do. When you invite people to opt in in some way, you get to focus on those people who have demonstrated interest. And not in the way, say, that movie previews are generally the same genre or tone as the movie they precede; demonstrating interest when it comes to permission-based marketing is much more explicit. People demonstrate interest by, perhaps, formally signing up for communication from your business or giving you their email address for some kind of content offering that’s directly related to your business; either way, they’ve shown that they aren’t just passing by.

Permission leads to better marketing outcomes precisely because your messaging is welcome instead of an intrusion. They know you’re coming, they’re anticipating hearing from you, and your messaging is relevant to something they’re interested in.

So don’t assume permission just because they haven’t bothered to opt out of your email list; get permission and market more effectively

It Works

Permission-based marketing is demonstrably more effective. According to this 2011 study between opt-in and opt-out lists, open rates for mailings sent on an opt-in list were twice as high as those on the opt-out list, and click-throughs were as well. That means that, while people who opened the email weren’t more likely to take action, twice as many people opened the email to begin with.

That’s huge. That’s twice as many prospects. Twice as many marketing-qualified leads. And potentially twice as many close-to-sales. All because you took the time to ask first.

In other words, permission-based methods like inbound marketing offer much better ROI.

Why Play the Odds When You Can Stack the Deck?

Don’t get me wrong. There’s a time and a place for traditional paid advertising.

But most of the time commercials or website banners aren’t only unwelcome, they’re limited in their relevance; even social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook flash ads at me for things that, while certainly within the realm of my interest, aren’t anything I’m actively looking for. Television commercials are even worse, the vast majority of which are just gambling that a tiny fraction of the millions of people who see them just might be looking for a better dish detergent or dandruff shampoo – but most of whom find the ad nothing short of tedious and unwelcome.

The cost of reaching those millions of people can be enormous, and the return per ad is minimal. It takes an extensive campaign to reach enough people – and you never quite know if it’s actually even working. Campaigns with a permission model might reach fewer people, but every single one of them is more likely to buy than the hordes who had a banner ad flashing at them while they were just trying to read the news.

Goal-Based Marketing

And that brings us to the last, and probably most important, part: permission marketing isn’t interruptive; it’s the goal. When you read an email, or visit a website, or do anything online, you’ve set out to accomplish some goal. Spam email is unwelcome because it gets between you and the information you want.

But when an email is welcome, anticipated, and desired, reading it becomes the goal. It’s not just marketing; it’s useful information that your prospects want to have. The fact that it promotes your business is almost immaterial; it contains the information they’re looking for. So they’ll actively engage with it in a way they simply wouldn’t otherwise.

With all of that in mind, there’s simply no reason not to make permission models the basis for your marketing. It helps you reach better leads more effectively, and makes them more likely to start down the sales funnel – and make it all the way down.

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