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Permission Marketing – A Necessity, not just a Courtesy

By Stephen Jenkins, Founder & MD, Too Many Dreams 

The word ‘permission’ holds many interpersonal undertones. When it comes to email marketing, however, it takes on two forms; implied and express which if not correctly understood could result in an abrupt tethering of business relationships.

Stephen Jenkins
Stephen Jenkins

If you have an existing business relationship with someone, then you have implied permission – or, in legal jargon, a legitimate interest – to send them campaign emails (unless stated otherwise). This could mean they are a current client or customer, donate to your charity, or are an active member of your website, club, or community.

If you don’t have implied permission to send a person email campaigns, then you need what is known as explicit consent to do so. This is only granted when someone specifically gives verifiable consent to receive marketing communications. This also means that when you, as a marketer, have asked for permission, it is clearly done so and on a separate basis from any and all other agreements. For example, requesting that they enter their email address in a subscribe form on your website, or having a separate checkbox labelled “I would like to receive marketing email from XX ” to offer their explicit consent. This approach ensures that the permission you receive is also verifiable.

Why do email marketers need permission?

In my own experience, every good business relationship that has been founded upon respect and understanding is destined to thrive. If you opt for the traditional email marketing approach of sending generalised content across a wide customer-base, without consent or any audience segmentation, it risks coming across as impersonal and irrelevant, potentially being sent straight to their ‘trash’ folders.

What does this say about you as a professional? For one, it says that you may lack empathy, by sending unwarranted marketing material. But most importantly, it shows fundamental errors in your ability to understand your customers’ needs.

This disconnect can cut any further opportunity for you to communicate with your customer on a more personal level through further marketing emails. 59% of respondents say that marketing emails directly influence their purchase decisions, so being able to effectively engage with both current and prospect customers will yield positive trends in your ROI.

As renowned promoter of permission-based marketing, Seth Godin says: “People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic.” I’ve found this concept to ring true when carrying out segmented email campaigns. Putting noticeable time and effort into dividing and targeting customers based on personalised criteria, for example buyer personas, trumps the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach of direct marketing, every time. It also explains why reports show that the email click through rate is 100.95% greater in segmented email campaigns.

Permission marketing should indeed be a privilege (not a right) for delivering content that is anticipated, personal and relevant. If this process is honoured, it can form the lifeblood of inbound marketing.

Permission and B2B inbound marketing

Coined by HubSpot in 2006, the term ‘inbound marketing’ is defined as the process of attracting, converting, closing and delighting customers. This is effectively achievable by combining various channels – content marketing, search engine optimisation (SEO) and social media – in inventive ways to drive quality traffic, engagement and conversions using both ‘earned’ and ‘owned’ media.

By employing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform, this enables you to nurture and grow your email marketing database, but also the email address provided by your prospect as the identifier to connect-the-dots of your other marketing activity, making it more timely, personal and relevant in the process.

Once you have received appropriate permission to send marketing communications via email, you become open to the potential of tailoring responses that continue to help, support, and empower others well after they become a customer. These more robust forms of automated marketing content can take the form of website blogs, instructional guides, candid expert interviews, white papers and even individual email follow-ups with further information, after they have visited a specific page of your site

People actively want to see that their individual concerns are being understood, questions are being answered and problems are being solved. If you, as a business, can provide this content where and when it is needed the most, you will quickly build credibility and loyalty amongst your customers, which should then result in recommendations and new business opportunities.

GDPR should be every marketer’s doctrine 

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), has overhauled how businesses process and handle data. With the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) having completed their ‘adtech’ 6-month review, following their interim report last summer, 2020 has become crunch time for marketers, if they haven’t already considered how their marketing and advertising is GDPR compliant.

With fines of up to 4% of a company’s annual turnover, or £20m (whichever is greater), the risk for failure to comply is significant.

However, whilst this threat shouldn’t be taken lightly, it is clearly just best practice to have a consented, opt-in approach to email marketing – it’s good manners and will deliver far better results if your target audience actually want to hear from you.

Key thoughts to take away

  • Permission marketing should indeed be a privilege (not a right) of delivering content that is anticipated, personal and relevant.
  • People actively want to see that their individual concerns are being understood, questions are being answered and problems are being solved. This can be achieved through personalised email marketing content.
  • Customer and prospects email addresses can be a useful connector in your marketing activity, if employing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform.
  • More than social or other paid distribution channels, email marketing is a direct and far more cost-effective connection to your customers and prospects.
  • It is essential that you secure explicit consent and your marketing programmes are compliant with all relevant regulations in your market – not only will it ensure you are free from exposure to fines, but provides a better experience for your customers, thereby creating further value for all concerned.