When I was 12 years old, I first kissed a girl.
I was a perfect little gentleman about it. I approached the object of my affections (She was a stunning 11 year old) and asked meekly,
"May I kiss you?"
She nodded her head, extended her cheek, and I awkwardly complied.
Thats Permission Marketing.
Several years later, I kissed another girl. But this was different. She didnt just give me permission, she kissed back. And without revealing all the juicy details, it was a far more involving and rewarding experience.
And thats Participation Marketing.
The difference between Permission Marketing and Participation Marketing may seem like one of degree. However, it is much deeper than that.
Permission Advertising is like shaking hands with a stranger. Participation
Marketing is the marketing equivalent of playing "Twister."
Youre not quite sure which part of your program belongs to the company
or to the customer.
Permission Marketing was the phrase (and the title of the 1999 book) coined by Seth Godin, Vice President of Direct Marketing for Yahoo.
Godin argued that most marketing was interruptive the TV commercial interrupting the show, the magazine ad interrupting the article.
Consumers didnt request the commercial or the ad so they werent pleased by it. And thats a major hurdle for every advertiser to get over before they could actually sell something.
But Permission Marketing is different. Its based on three main principles:
This is an excellent first step but only a first step. Permission is not enough.
And there are some problems with Permission Marketing that must be recognized.
The idea of Permission Marketing is as old as direct marketing.
Every time you enter into a relationship with a company, or provide any information to them, you are, in effect, giving them permission to market to you.
Think about the last time you gave to a charity. You began receiving dozens of different mailings throughout the year each one asking you for more and more money. You may have also received telephone calls at home.
You couldnt pay them to stop.
And the more you gave, the more likely they were to keep pursuing you. They were never satisfied.
Chances are, you also began receiving donation requests from other charities that you had never given to. Because once you have been identified as a "donor" your name is sold and traded more often than an Internet stock.
The result is that you may stop opening any envelope from the charity, or any other charity, and you may no longer support what you originally felt was a very worthy cause. Everyone loses.
Its even worse with e-marketing.
Heres why: It costs the charity a substantial amount of money to keep marketing to donors through traditional channels. Direct mail can be expensive. Telemarketing even more so.
But what happens when it costs a company almost nothing to bombard consumers with updates, sales pitches, product news, special offers, items of interest, press releases, messages from the president -- just about anything?
Nothing gets read. And everybody loses.
But Permission Marketing is supposed to be above all that. After all,
I did give you my permission
Yes, I gave you permission but it shouldnt be abused.
Permission Marketing should be limited to the specific information that the individual has agreed to receive. And it must be carefully nurtured, so that a trusting relationship will grow.
On my free "Improve your Response" newsletter, we reassure subscribers with the following:
And by the way, if youd like to receive it, please e-mail me at
Permission Marketing carries an implied obligation -- that once I have given you permission to market to me, you should know me, and only send me things that are relevant to my needs.
How often does this happen? The September issue of Business 2.0 had an article on on-line marketing that began with this:
"Melissa Shore hardly bothers to open e-mail from Northwest Airlines preferred opt-in list anymore. Its not because shes not interested. She travels a lot in her work and shes always looking for travel deals."
Every week Id get another email from Northwest offering me discounts on flights to Chicago or Atlanta," she says, mystified, "I kept hoping to receive a message that read Melissa, weve got discounts on those trips leaving from New York, but I never have.
"Id rather not get anything from them than something thats not relevant."
And relevance can also be a function of timing.
One of the problems with Permission Marketing is that it is usually based on the marketers schedule, and not the customers schedule.
E-mails are sent out when the company is having a sale; or pushing a particular product or service; or trying to generate leads.
These e-mails may have nothing to do with where the customer is in the relationship; what they want; or what they are interested in. Thats a problem with all marketing programs however it becomes markedly worse when you are working in a Permission environment.
Not only will people not respond but they also may begin to think
badly of your company and your products.
When a consumer sees a TV commercial thats not relevant to them, they just tune it out. Or turn the channel.
When they receive direct mail thats not targeted or just not interesting, they simply throw it away.
However, these other media dont promise to be relevant the way Permission Marketing does.
They dont clog up a personal communications channel the way e-mail does.
And they dont alarm people, when it comes to privacy issues, which are becoming more and more important.
The decision to use Permission Marketing is a major step and one that no company should undertake until they are completely confident that they can fulfill on the promise.
However, theres another step you can take that goes beyond Permission and may be even more powerful.
Permission Marketing is only the beginning of a true interactive marketing system.
Beyond Permission Marketing is Participation Marketing.
Its when consumers not only agree to be marketed to, but become involved in creating their own products and service offerings.
Its when customers create their own contact strategies, even their own marketing strategies, and companies respect that.
For example, some of the home grocery shopping services offer customers a chance to register for their "Never Run Out" Service.
You select the items such as milk and bread and you never have to worry about ordering them again. Theyll guarantee that youll never run out.
And thats way beyond Permission.
Let me give you an example of a program I did with an e-marketing company
We did a recent program for Lucent Technologies that was based on the principles of Participation Marketing, which I will list in a moment.
The program began with a questionnaire sent to 86,000 potential prospects. These were individuals who had expressed interest in Lucent within the past 12 months.
But we werent just trying to get a response our goal was threefold.
The questionnaire generated an 18% response.
We then ranked prospects into seven different tiers, based on what they told us. And began marketing to them in seven different targeted ways.
We also asked prospects how they wanted to hear from us direct mail, e-mail, by telephone. And we honored their request.
The result was a highly successful campaign, where prospects received only the information from us that they requested, based on not just permission, but active participation.
By the way, questionnaires are an excellent first step in Participation Marketing. For a complete discussion on how and when to use them, please see "The Art of the Questionnaire" a recent article posted at www.alanrosenspan.com
For over 40 years, people sat and simply listened to the radio. By turning it on, they gave advertisers "permission" to talk to them.
Today, the most popular radio programs arent just shows you listen to. Theyre programs you can call and talk to. "Talk Radio" predominates.
And thats another example of Participation Marketing
But it goes even further than that. Participation Marketing may be a powerful tool for selling what you have. But it may be even more important in determining what you should sell.
My company began doing e-mail marketing because my clients urged me to. Several of them told me, "Were starting to do a lot of it. And wed love for you to be involved."
The highest level of Participation Marketing is when your customers
become actively involved in helping you develop new products and services, because they prefer to do business with you.
© Alan Rosenspan & Associates