Permission marketing is the foundation of all marketing automation. Without permission from interested members of your audience, you are effectively blocked from direct marketing on the internet. Marketing automation systems cannot send out email content without permission from your leads.
[A version of this post first appeared on HubSpot’s blog in April 2015, revised September 4, 2015]
Just what is Permission Marketing?
Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing helped give birth to the communication rules marketers now must follow around the world. But Seth Godin was not trying to write anti-spam legislation, he was pointing out a fundamental shift in how people and companies communicate with each other. The shift is from interruption marketing to permission marketing: advertising vs. requested; outbound vs. inbound.
The second point Seth Godin made is that asking permission is the right thing to do. Why trick people into filling out warranty cards only to bombard them with junk mail they never wanted? Why pepper thousands of people with sales literature when only 1% will ever be interested?
A permission marketer asks, “Why not invite our audience to opt-in for further communication on the topic?”
Finally, permission marketing leads to better results because your communications are:
- 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.
Building Permission Marketing into Marketing Automation
Now that initial marketing is done entirely online, marketers need a way to collect permission, manage permission, and use permission effectively. Marketing automation tools enable these three activities.
- Collect permission – need a form and content offer on your site.
- Manage permission – so that communications are Anticipated.
- Use permission: ensure the content is Relevant and Personal.
Marketing automation platforms (MAP) are designed with these three marketing actions in mind. What your vendor may not tell you, however, is that you will need to build out the workflows and rules for your business and location to use Permission Marketing correctly.
Your audience provides permission for you to send them deeper information on the topics you discuss. Your MAP does this with tools for you to create opt in forms for use on your blog and website. Remember “opt-in”? That’s because opted in leads are the most engaged group. Even if CANSPAM permits “opt out” in the United States, (meaning you can email people until they tell you to stop), this is not a good way to make friends fast. Use opt in permission for the best results. It’s easy with marketing automation.
To collect permission with opt in, always ensure your Forms have an opt-in check box or statement like, “Providing your email address means you are opting in to future communications.” Or this example from the HubSpot Blog. It is clear that entering your email is providing permission to subscribe.
There are three components your MAP uses to help you manage permission: subscription management; filtering; and preventing blunders.
Subscription Management is the ability to have multiple subscription options. Let people opt in to your blog, your webinars, event invitations, and product communications. Your MAP can handle it all automatically once you set it up. To setup a system usually means going beyond the Unsubscribe checkbox. You will need to add new checkboxes for each subscription type, and then determine rules for when those checkboxes are changed.
- User action – did they Unsubscribe All, or just one box?
- Emailed Request for Removal – is someone manning the “firstname.lastname@example.org” box? Is Sales able to pass along requests to the right person?
- Automated action – if the email hard bounces, should we remove the lead from future communications?
Filtering lets you see a list of opted-in leads with a particular set of behavior. Your MAP will have this built in. It is often called a “smart list,” that looks for the leads you request. Using smart lists to be ready with opted-in leads that are interested in Product X is vital to using permission.
Preventing blunders is about people processes and built in safeguards your MAP has. One example is preventing an email send to over 10,000 leads unless a senior manager approves. Another process is to always have two people look at a campaign. It is all too easy to blast out 8 emails or 8 million–just ask the New York Times. In Marketo, you can set rules to prevent leads from receiving more than a few emails per day or per week; you can also block non Admins from running campaigns larger than say, 50,000 at a time without further oversight.
These marketing automation features work together to make sure the lead anticipates your next communication.
Seth Godin explains that as a lead progresses through your funnel, she is giving you increasing permission to communication and to build a relationship. This permission can be revoked any time, thus using permission must be done carefully by making content that is Relevant and Personal to the lead.
Your MAP helps you do just that. Each day, new features are added in the world of automated personalization, which sounds like an oxymoron, is in reality a low cost way of managing a giant mail merge system in near real time. Tools like HubSpot and Marketo can personalize emails and even web pages based on the information your audience has provided you, with permission!
Focused messages will encourage the lead to download more of your remarkable content via pages and forms you create with your MAP. Each time a lead fills out a new form, they provide more detail on who they are and how you can help them all while providing additional permission for you to send more information. A lead may even be ready to ask you to call them.
And if you setup your workflows with permission marketing and your customers in mind, all of this permission is collected, managed, and used automatically.
Does Permission Marketing Really Work?
Surprisingly, there are still marketers out there who believe opt-out is good enough and that there’s no evidence batch and blast unpermissioned lists is harming their efforts. Fortunately, marketing automation data can prove otherwise for your audience as your list degrades rapidly. And you can also look at a third party study (often conducted by email service provides): In a 2011 study by Clickz, Open and CTR were compared to opt-in lists and 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+%.
In 2014, I audited several companies’ databases. Every time, without fail, the real marketable database was roughly 20% of the total number of records. (I define “marketable” as permissioned and active in the past six months). If you could increase this marketable database size by just 50%, what would that mean for your pipeline?
Way back before marketing automation, I used to send email just to the US and Canada (before CASL). I would send maybe 500-3000 messages per run, and send once a week until my event registrations were at my target. Each time, I would lose 2 to 5% of my send list to opt-out. I knew each time this was not good, but there were very few alternatives other than to run a better list selection. So when I had the chance to build out full subscription management, I asked people if they wanted Event Invitations, Webinar Invitations, etc…and this reduce unsubscribes to under 1% very quickly.
Permission marketing is not just about following government regulations. It is about treating your customers as you would want them to treat you in the same situation. Remember to focus on the audience, what they want, and asking their permission to give them what they want. Marketing automation just makes managing all that easier.
Image Credit: flickr slopjob