The Complete Guide to Permission Marketing

What is permission marketing? To understand permission marketing, you must understand its opposite, interruption marketing. Permission Marketing vs Interruption Marketing Interruption marketing is advertising in the traditional way. The Internet has made interruption marketing worse with more clutter than in the old days when advertising was primarily limited to Newspapers, […]

What is permission marketing? To understand permission marketing, you must understand its opposite, interruption marketing.

Permission Marketing vs Interruption Marketing

Interruption marketing is advertising in the traditional way. The Internet has made interruption marketing worse with more clutter than in the old days when advertising was primarily limited to Newspapers, Radio, and Network TV stations. Permission marketing, in contrast, uses a strategy to get prospects to provide you with various levels of permission to market them, making them far more receptive to your message.

To combat and stick out in the clutter of interruption marketing, saturation marketers are forced to change ads more often to keep the message fresh and to gain the prospect’s attention. This is expensive and achieves poor response rates, especially today with the proliferation of ad fraud.

However, with permission marketing, permission is the asset. It is less about new customer acquisition and more about selling more to the same customer to make the customer acquisition more valuable. It is the difference between reach (the number of potential customers you can reach with a campaign) and frequency (the number of times you touch each person with your message).

I once saw a great definition of sales vs marketing that can help make this concept of reach and frequency clearer.

Marketing is an effort defined by the business to communicate with the masses. Marketing is a one-to-many approach and is where interruption marketing is often used to create brand awareness.

Sales, by contrast, is a sales rep from the company communicating with a prospect typically face-to-face. Sales are more of a one-on-one approach and are where permission marketing is used to drive a prospect through your value ladder.

So, interruption marketing is generally associated with a firm’s marketing efforts while sales are generally associated with permission marketing.

At the core of permission marketing is the fact that you invest more time and energy on a few prospects compared to interruption marketing, where you cast a wider, but porous net, often failing to achieve the level of contact frequency with a prospect to make the sale. One way to visualize this concept is with a few examples:

Suppose you have 100 seeds and 100 daily doses of water. Would you take your 100 seeds and water each of them only once and hope that they survive? Or would you take the 3 best seeds, throw away the rest, and water each of the 3 seeds every day for a month? Which option would you choose? Interruption marketing is about reach (more seeds less water) while permission is about frequency (less seeds more watering).

In another example, if interruption marketing was like dating, it would spend lots of money on a new suit and find a bar with patrons that represent the demographics of their future spouse. It would walk up to each prospective spouse, introduce itself, and deliver a marriage proposal. Permission marketing, however, is more like traditional dating. It would show up, find the best prospect in the bar, focus its attention on this single prospect all night, and suggest a second date at the end of the evening. Who do you think would be more successful at finding a spouse?

In permission marketing, you use bait or something of value that you give away in exchange to begin the permission marketing process to build a reputation that breeds a level of trust so that ultimately the prospect buys what you recommend. After you have their permission and trust, you have moved from marketing to sales.

Permission Marketing Scale

Getting a prospect’s permission and moving them up the permission marketing scale is about building trust. In permission marketing, permission is always granted in one form or another.

According to Seth Godin in his book “Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers”, there are five levels of permission that the customer can grant, each increasing the business’s autonomy and the customer’s level of trust in the business.

1. Situational Marketing

“Situational Marketing” permission requires that the contact is first initiated by the customer. Once the customer makes first contact, situational marketing can occur. Situational marketing the lowest level of permission marketing “Do you want fries with that?” is an example of situational marketing.

Situational marketing is designed around the specific circumstances and needs of an individual customer.

Perhaps you called your newspaper provider to say,

“I would like to put my newspaper on a vacation hold.”

In situational marketing, the person on the other end of the phone might reply,

“Sure” and add, “Oh, I see you are a good customer. Would you like to upgrade to monthly billing, which involves charging your credit card directly each month?”

In situational marketing, once the customer makes contact, the business takes the liberty to up-sell.

2. Brand Trust

“Brand Trust” permission is expensive to obtain, but once established, provides you the opportunity to charge a premium for your product or service.

Brand trust reflects the consumer’s expectation that the brand’s product, service, or corporate behavior matches the promises made by the company.

Starbucks is a good example of brand trust. Starbucks is considered a premium brand worthy of a higher price tag for a cup of coffee.

Brand trust is often the desired level of permission marketing. However, brand trust can be lost with one misstep. For example, Coke nearly lost all of its brand trust overnight when it introduced its New Coke formula.

3. Personal Relationship

“Personal Relationship” permission is where permission is granted to a person to solicit them based on personal trust.

When it comes to beauty salons, permission is often bestowed on the hairdresser and not on the salon itself. Permission resides in the individual and if the beautician leaves the beauty salon, the customers do not automatically stay with the salon.

I have a trusted relationship with my auto mechanic and when he says I need to make a repair, I often say, “You are the expert, make it happen.”

An issue with personal relationship permissions is that they are not scalable and have no resale value since the people are free agents. Moreover, if the person makes an error, all trust is gone.

4. Purchase On Approval

“Purchase on Approval” permission is when the customer signs up for a program and accumulates points with each purchase that can be redeemed later. The customer is aware that purchase points are accumulating and willingly directs their purchases to the company.

Frequent Flier Miles or loyalty cards are examples of purchases on approval.

A downside of purchases on approval is that they build up a liability for the company to deliver on the promise. Since many points are not redeemed, the company’s level of liability is often unclear.

Chance or giveaway marketing is a variant of purchases on approval that overcomes the issue of unknown liability. In chance marketing, points equate to the number of chances a person accumulates to win a specific prize. Each point, therefore, increases the person’s odds of winning a set number of prizes.

5. Intravenous

“Intravenous” permission is the most coveted permission marketing level.

With intravenous permission, the supplier owns the decision and execution. The customer is completely dependent on the company to make decisions and deliver on them. Intravenous permission is different from personal relationship permission in that with personal relationship permission, the customer must still give permission to proceed with the execution, but with intravenous permission, the decisions and execution are the domain of the supplier and the customer has previously agreed to pay for it, regardless of the final cost.

Intravenous permission is the level of permission you give your surgeon during a medical procedure. The doctor can give you anything through your IV and do whatever is medically necessary during an operation and you have agreed to pay for it. You give him 100% permission to make decisions for you during an operation without further consultation.

Another example of intravenous permission is Book or Wine of the Month Clubs where each month, a committee selects a new book or bottle of wine and sends it to you with a bill.

The value proposition for all this trust is that the permission granted saves the customer time and money.

Implementing Permission Marketing

Permission marketing is a process. It will not create immediate results. It is like the flywheel that starts slow and builds up momentum over time.

The following steps can help you implement your permission marketing strategy:

  1. Offer a selfish reason for the customer to enter your value ladder, such as giving away free content or employing pricing strategies to encourage membership, to achieve situational marketing opportunities.
  2. Consistently under-promise and over-deliver on your offers to build up brand trust.
  3. Use tools like the LifeStyle Database offered by DataAxle to learn more about your customers and follow the Maverick Principles as you communicate with them to build a deeper and more personal relationship, so customers are confident that you have their best interests in mind.
  4. Reward repeat customers by employing pricing strategies for repeat business, such as loyalty programs, or by implementing gamification strategies to achieve purchase on approval status.
  5. Finally, explore ways to offload the need for customers to be educated and to explore every option to save them time and money if they make poor decisions. Offer customers the convenience of outsourcing complicated decision-making processes and the execution of those decisions to your business, without any customer input. By consistently offering solutions that are in the best interest of the customer for a fair price, you will achieve the coveted status of intravenous level permission marketing.

How can you implement a permission marketing strategy for your business?

Balmon Hyper

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