What Is Permission Marketing?

Permission marketing refers to a form of advertising where the intended audience is given the choice of opting in to receive promotional messages. The concept of permission marketing has been popularized by Seth Godin, an entrepreneur and author. He first discussed the idea of permission marketing at length in his book Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers Into Friends, And Friends Into Customers.

Key Takeaways

  • Permission marketing is a form of advertising where the audience is given the choice to opt-in to receiving promotional messages.
  • Common forms of permission marketing include opting into receiving updates as part of an email list.
  • Be mindful to respect customer boundaries with how often you reach out and when the customer asks to end the relationship.
  • Permission marketing aligns well with regulatory compliance requirements (like GDPR) where customer information must be collected and maintained.

Understanding Permission Marketing

Permission marketing is characterized as anticipated, personal, and relevant. It is often positioned as the opposite of direct marketing where promotional material is traditionally sent to a wide customer population without their consent.

Permission marketing has increased in popularity, particularly with respect to digital marketing. Subscription email updates are a good example of permission marketing. Users can opt-in to receive periodic emails with updates and offers based on the interests they expressed when they registered on a website or other consumer touchpoint. Subscribing, in this case, is the act of giving permission and allowing themselves to be marketed to.

Advantages of Permission Marketing

Permission marketing is a low-cost and effective way to create a relationship with a potential customer. The use of digital platforms with direct access to consumers, such as email or social media, removes many of the overhead costs that traditional channels such as mass mailing and print ads must assume.

In addition, the main benefit of permission marketing is that because users self-select into receiving marketing messages, they are likely to be higher quality leads for marketers. The opt-in from the potential customer makes it more likely that they will read the content and absorb the marketing messages because they already have a demonstrated interest. While other forms of advertising may reach a bigger audience, permission marketing allows for more valuable relationships and interactions with potential future customers.

Last, permission marketing is known for its compliance with regulatory requirements. This includes laws such as data protection rules like General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). By obtaining explicit consent from individuals before sending them marketing communications, businesses ensure that they are operating within legal boundaries and respecting individuals’ rights to privacy.

Loyalty cards are a method of permission marketing. A customer chooses to collect stamps, punches, or marks that add up to an incentive; only the customers who want to participate will be exposed to the promotion.

Permission Marketing vs. Traditional Direct Marketing

Direct marketing in the traditional sense is often blind marketing—little is known about the target audience other than the postal code. For example, a real estate agent might send a postcard with their details to every home that has a particular zip code in a certain area.

A permission marketing approach would involve a real estate agent using a blog to share content about home prices, mortgage rates, and tips on selling a home specific to that same area. The blog might show a link to an email newsletter opt-in that prompts the user to answer basic questions that help the real estate agent determine what services they might need. For example, “When did you purchase your current home?” or “Do you intend to buy a home in the next year?”

This information can be used to segment emails into different lists and further personalize the content. This type of communication builds a relationship with subscribers. When the time comes for them to sell or buy property, they will be likely to contact the real estate agent who is already communicating with them and with whom they have a relationship.

Strategies to Obtain Permissions

In the realm of permission marketing, obtaining consent from individuals is so important. Without it, the marketing strategy would fail. In this section, let’s talk about several strategies and best practices to acquire and maintain permissions to send permission marketing content.

Businesses must first and foremost communicate the value proposition clearly to potential recipients, emphasizing the benefits they will receive by opting in to receive communications. This makes it so people will want to sign-up. This is often done through an upfront discount (i.e. 10% off your next purchase by signing up for marketing material). However, consider implementing customized messaging that does deliver value as the discount is usually only valid for one transaction.

Consider offering multiple opt-in opportunities across various touchpoints allows businesses to reach individuals at different stages of the customer journey. You can present opt-in options on websites, social media platforms, and during checkout processes. You can also have opt-in practices if you have an in-person retail store where you interact with customers. Don’t simply rely on one channel for sign-ups.

When asking people to agree to receive content, be clear on the frequency and nature of communications. Make it known that it will be easy to opt-out of future correspondence if it is not found to be relevant. Consider how you want to mesh your opt-in messaging with your company’s brand, voice, and style.

Finally, you need to continue to deliver value to your audience. Consider how your marketing material resonates with the recipient. Respect individuals’ preferences to ensure a positive and mutually beneficial relationship, even if that means they no longer want content. If possible, try to gather information from the customer when they are opting out to better understand what you could have done to retain them as a permission marketing customer.

Implied permission marketing occurs during the normal course of business (i.e. when a customer recently buys something and is exposed to content). Express permission marketing is when a someone, whether they’ve bought from the company or not, has opted into marketing materials that didn’t happen naturally.

Ethical Considerations in Permission Marketing

Transparency and honesty form the cornerstone of ethical permission marketing practices. Businesses must provide clear and truthful information about how individuals’ data will be used. Consider how the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau filed U.S. Bank for illegally exploiting customer data; this type of relationship can only hurt past and future customers.

Respect for privacy is another crucial ethical consideration in permission marketing. Businesses should only collect and utilize personal information that is necessary for the specific marketing plan. Companies should also implement robust security measures to safeguard this data from unauthorized access or disclosure. Additionally, individuals should have the right to opt out of receiving marketing communications at any time, and businesses must honor these requests promptly and without penalty.

Consent should be freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous, and businesses should refrain from assuming permission. Don’t gatekeep your content and make it so a customer has to give consent in order to finalize a sale. Instead, you should seek affirmative actions from individuals, such as opting in through checkboxes or an explicit agreement that could have been turned down by the customer.

Limitations of Permission Marketing

One limitation to permission marketing is the challenge of obtaining and maintaining consent from consumers. Building a permission-based contact list requires time and effort. Businesses must incentivize people to provide their consent, whether through discounts or exclusive offers.

Additionally, maintaining consent requires ongoing engagement and communication to ensure that individuals remain interested in receiving marketing messages, which can be labor-intensive and costly. Companies must also maintain customer data, though this is simply a limitation of any robust marketing department.

Another limitation of permission marketing is its potential for audience segmentation and reach. Since permission is obtained on an individual basis, businesses may struggle to reach broader audiences or target niche markets effectively. This limitation can restrict scalability. For example, a company may want to enter into an entirely new city; however, it won’t be able to enter the market because its unfamiliarity in the market.

It may be tough to maintain relevant engagement with customers over time through permission marketing. Even with consent, individuals’ interests and preferences can change. Businesses must continually adapt their strategies and content to remain relevant to keep getting approval from people to receive their marketing content.

Last, there is a risk of consent fatigue among consumers. As individuals are inundated with requests for permission across various channels and platforms, they may become overwhelmed or desensitized to these requests. For instance, people may simply select ‘no’ without considering your specific company out of habit.

Example of Permission Marketing

At the bottom of Investopedia’s home page, there is an option to sign up for newsletters. As of March 2024, there’s four newsletters to choose from. Note that in the photo below, only one option is shown.

In this example, the only way to receive the newsletter is to opt-in. You must provide Investopedia your personal information (i.e. your e-mail address) in order to be contacted. Note that these newsletters are largely informational with minimal Investopedia brand-related information. However, the premise is a good example of how you must elect to receive content from a company.

How Does Permission Marketing Differ From Traditional Marketing?

Traditional marketing often relies on mass advertising techniques, such as television commercials, print ads, and cold calling, to reach a broad audience. In contrast, permission marketing focuses on building relationships with consumers by obtaining their consent to receive marketing communications. It emphasizes targeting individuals who have already expressed interest in the brand, products, or services, leading to higher engagement and conversion rates.

What Strategies Can Businesses Use to Maintain Permission?

To maintain permission, businesses can implement strategies such as providing valuable and relevant content to subscribers, respecting consumer preferences and privacy settings, and honoring opt-out requests promptly. Companies should also regularly updating subscribers on their privacy policies.

How Can Permission Marketing Help With Compliance to Data Protection Regulations?

Permission marketing helps businesses comply with data protection regulations by ensuring that marketing communications are sent only to individuals who have given explicit consent. By obtaining permission before sending promotional messages, businesses demonstrate respect for individuals’ rights to privacy and control over their personal data, reducing the risk of non-compliance and potential legal repercussions.

The Bottom Line

Permission marketing is a marketing strategy where businesses seek consent from consumers before delivering promotional messages. By obtaining permission, businesses ensure they are targeting a receptive audience, fostering trust, and enhancing the effectiveness of their marketing efforts.



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شركة النمر هي شركة متخصصة في تصميم وادارة المواقع الالكترونية والارشفة وكتابة المحتوى والتسويق الالكتروني وتقدم العديد من خدمات حلول المواقع الالكترونية والتطبيقات وهي شركة رسمية ومسجلة منذ عام 2015.

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