Why Aren’t You Using Permission Marketing Yet?

As a marketer and marketing consultant, I have come across some situations where the database was not 100% opted in along with poor opt-out procedures. While that may not have been technically illegal in certain jurisdictions, using a non-opted in list (opt out list), made me cringe. I cringed because this was not how I would treat my customers and I cringed because the client would invariably complain about CTR and Opens. And I would urge them to build an opted in house list instead.

But they wouldn’t always listen. Why?

In this day and age, why would a marketer use a list with questionable permissions?

In my experience, I have come across several arguments that lead people to use an opt-out or zero permission list.

  • Incentives – your bonus is tied to list growth, leading you to gradually ignore permissions to make that target. “It’ll be ok, this time, right?”
  • Leadership wants you to hit that number no matter what. “Lose my job now, or later?”
  • Permission? Who needs that? Batch and blast! The more we can get out at 1% response rate, the better off we are. “I just follow orders.”

First, read my other article about permission marketing and marketing automation – they work in tandem.

…Then, Resist These Arguments!

While we know permission marketing is always the best choice, regardless of regulations, there are other reasons to resist the bad situations above.

The Law: the laws in your jurisdiction likely enforce some sort of permission marketing – Opt Out or Opt In. Ignore this too long and you’ll find that one person who will complain to the authorities. Of course, you are already following the law, right?

Incentives: if your incentives and leadership put you in a situation where you feel you must (or are allowed to) ignore legal or ethical considerations toward your audience, then you should question why you work there!

And it’s no wonder this and the Leadership argument are so powerful. In HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2014 ebook, 25% of practitioners and 25% of leaders had “Increasing Number of Leads” as their top priority, with “Reaching the Relevant Audience” as number three, with 17% of Leaders and 19% of Practitioners

Leadership: Let’s say you are under pressure to churn out campaigns and show growth in leads. You explain that there are limits to using old data or purchased lists, but the CMO doesn’t care how it is done – just hit that number. So if the leader gives you permission to skirt ethics and the law, you think, “Well, no one will check on this…and since my CMO okayed this, he’s got my back.”

Guess what! If just one of those leads complains to the US FTC and they audit you, your firm can be fined $16,000 for each email violation. Violations of Canada’s CASL law also lead to high penalties. Will the CMO protect you then?


The CMO Said it Would Be Ok

You will be fired for costing the company money and violating the law. Even if you document every interaction with the CMO, do not expect to retain your job. Do not participate in illegal behavior!

Remind the CMO of the costs and risk and how it alienates your audience. Show him the plan for building a list and getting more qualified leads out of a focused, permissioned list.

[Please remember to consult a lawyer who can advise you on marketing regulations in all regions where you operate.]

How can you convince management to do the right thing?

If reading the fines involved isn’t enough, then take the positive approach: permission marketing increases revenue and lowers costs. Nothing like a basic business argument, right?

Bad data Increases Costs

Your database degrades up to 25% per year with bad data, people moving around, etc. A 2011 Gartner study indicated that bad data lowers productivity 20%. A SiriusDecisions study in 2008 showed that the cost of a bad data might be $100 per record.

If a typical SMB B2B database has about 40,000 records, we can expect 10,000 to go bad over a year. If each bad record costs $100, that’s $1,000,000 of lost productivity and marketing budget to keep a list fresh. Perhaps you will not see that number leave the corporate treasury, but it sure will lead to days of frustration to clean the system. It will lead to more and more pressure to get new, qualified leads.

No wonder your CMO doesn’t care about permission!

Good data lowers Costs, and increases Revenue

If you focus on permission marketing with double opt-in list management and you actively cull inactive leads you can increase deliverability while lowering the record count in your expensive marketing automation system. Just check with your sales rep and you will see the cost savings.

When I do Marketo Audits, I find that the emailable database of people who are Active in the Past 90 days, opted in, and valid email is only 15-20% of the entire database. I have never seen this higher at any firm of any size or reputation. Your list is not special, so act like it is going to spoil, and hustle to make it a valuable asset. (And by hustle I mean use content marketing!)

Wait, how is this going to increase Revenue?

These are people who want to hear from you and are engaged on your site and with your communications, and who gave you permission to communicate. Focus on your engaged and opted-in database

In Permission Marketing, Seth Godin writes that once an audience provides permission, your content marketing materials are, and should be:

  • Anticipated – the lead is waiting for your email.
  • Relevant – the content is something the lead is interested in
  • Personal – the content is relevant to the lead.

Now, how does this lead to revenue?

In a 2011 study, Open and CTR were compared to opt-in lists vs. opt-out lists.

  • Opens in the opt-in lists were twice as high as the opt-out lists
  • Click Through Rates on opt in lists were also twice as high on average: 1.5% vs. 3.0+%.

If you run an ecommerce site, what would doubling your CTR do for your revenue?

If you run a B2B site, how would doubling your CTR to content improve your top of the funnel numbers? How about the rest of your funnel?

Build an Ethical Permission Marketing Culture

Permission marketing is about enticing prospects to enter into an agreement to receive future useful communications from you. Honor this agreement as if it were a contract (and technically your Privacy Policy is a contract). Part of that agreement is to send relevant, timely, and helpful content.

The next step is to ask “Is this how I would want to be treated by a vendor?” If not, cancel that campaign until it is both permissioned and treats people right.

If a mistake is made, be honest about it and make it right. The difference between a remarkable firm and an also-ran is how your human team handles mistakes.

Repeat this constantly to everyone involved until it sticks.

Improve Marketing Automation with One Rule

Do you need better marketing automation? Start by treating your customers the way you would want to be treated in the same situation.

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” – Bill Gates.

Automated Robot ProcessThese days nearly every online process has some automated component. Automation increases speed of sales and delivers instant gratification. When it works well, I welcome it and expect to be treated that way in many situations. Automation is a great thing when done well, meaning the designer thought of how the human who interacts with the automation would want to be treated.

But automation is only as good as the human who built it. Exception handling causes the most difficulties for everyone from marketer to audience. In other words, you have a situation that was not anticipated by the system. The more rigidly you design your system to serve your own needs, the farther away your business moves from your customers’ needs.

In many situations, a human must intervene to fix the automation or error. How the human handles the resolution is what determines if a company is viewed as exceptional, clueless, or uncaring.

For consumers, Zappos built its entire business on helping people handle exceptions from website errors to choosing the right shoe color, and of course, returns.

The difference between a remarkable firm and an also-ran is how your human team handles mistakes.

If your human team is remarkable in helping your human customers to resolve questions which are not answered by your site (or automation) or in resolving automation exceptions (personal preferences, outright errors, or human fulfillment mistakes), that makes the difference between a remarkable firm and an also ran.

The Customer Centric person treats their customers the way they would want to be treated in the same situation.

A few firms truly understand that. How often have you seen poorly written email invitations to industry events? Or read critical blog posts about mail merge errors and automated “personal” emails? Or you receive a few too many reminders because some other marketer desperately needs you at their webinar?

Is this how you want to be treated? So why are you doing this to your prospects and customers?

Marketing Automation tip: ask “Is this how I would want to be treated by a vendor?” If not, design a better workflow.

Ask Customer Focused Questions to Improve Customer Focus

Here are tips for building automated workflows which treat others the way you want to be treated in the same situation.

Asking the right Customer Question at each stage of developing a campaign, nurture flow, or lead management workflow will connect you to your customers in a more meaningful, human way.

How do you keep a Customer frame of mind? Ask Customer Questions!

  1. Ask the key Question: if I were to receive this email (or series of emails) is this how I would want to be treated? Is this email providing me with the information I need?
  2. Nurturing flows: “Would I want to receive this series of emails in their position?”
  3. Subscription Management: “If I wanted to change my preferences, is this how I would want to be treated?” What if I just wanted webinar invitations? Or live events?
  4. Lead Management: if I were a student, or had a question, but wasn’t ready to buy, is this the way I would want to be treated? How will that affect future perceptions of the brand?
  5. Sales Alerts: if I were a sales person, is this the information that would excite me to accept a lead, call that person, and be informed ahead of time?

There are plenty of opportunities to improve your workflows to save you time as well as make a good impression on people who contact your firm.

In case this framework sounded too familiar, it is: The Golden Rule.

Image: IMPACT Brand & Design; Jurvetson