Archive for April, 2012

“Permission marketing turns strangers into friends and friends into loyal customers.” 

Today’s fast-moving world with ever-improving technology has changed marketing dynamics completely and reversed almost all values generally accepted up till today. As the marketplace for advertising gets more and more cluttered, it becomes increasingly difficult for marketers to attract the attention of consumers that becomes an important asset to be valued. From now on, consumers call the shots as they have a great power in their hands: not paying attention.

Philip Kotler, world-renowned marketing guru, in his book “Marketing Moves” (2002) states that the power has shifted from companies to consumers. He says that today the consumer is king and he/she has the power of deciding whether he/she will give permission to receive company information and advertising. Now, the challenge that marketers is facing is to persuade consumers to learn more about a company and its products. So, a new form of marketing based on permission is not only changing the landscape but also affecting the other forms of traditional marketing. Within this respect, Seth Godin declares that we are entering an era that’s going to change the way almost everything is marketed to almost everybody.

The “Permission Marketing” concept stated by Kotler was coined and popularized by internet marketing pioneer Seth Godin in 1999. By recognizing the new power of the consumers to ignore marketing, Godin defines Permission Marketing as the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them. He states that treating consumers with respect is the best way to earn their attention. Since permission marketing talks only to volunteers, it guarantees that consumers pay more attention to the marketing message that arrives in an expected, appreciated way. And over time, marketers create a mutually beneficial learning relationship. As Godin puts into the words, “It serves both customers and marketers in a symbiotic exchange.”

However, there is a fine line between real permission and presumed or legalistis permission. Although permission does not have to be formal, it has to be obvious. Just because a company somehow get your email and you don’t complain does not imply it has permission. Just because it’s in the fine print of the company’s privacy policy doesn’t mean it’s permission either. Real permission works like this: if the company stop showing up, consumers complain and ask where it went (Godin, 1999).

Permission Marketing is mostly used by online marketers, email marketers and search marketers, as well as certain direct marketers. The prospective consumer gives either explicit permission to receive a promotional message (like an email or catalog request) or implicit permission (like querying a search engine). For example, Amazon has overt permission to track which books you buy and which books you browse. They build a permission asset by explicitly getting permission to send you promotional e-mail messages. Moreover, they talk to their customers about specific genres of books by creating special interest communities. This is not only where the profit lies but also where Amazon is best able to leverage their permission asset (Godin, 1999).

The core ideas behind Permission Marketing:

Over the last fourty years, advertisers have dramatically increased their ad spending by benefitting from a glut of ways brought by technology and the marketplace. As new forms of media develop and clutter becomes more intense, they have also increased the noise level of their ads by interrupting the day of consumers and making them much more exposed to these ads. How many marketing messages consumers encounter in a day has become countless from huge screens at the airport to advertisements in urinals to brand names or logos on the daily products. There is no wonder that consumers feel like the fast-moving world around them is getting blurry.

One of the key drivers of Permission Marketing is the scarcity of attention. Consumers physically have a finite amount of attention. The percentage of marketing messages consumers get decreases as the amount of noise increases. So they cannot pay attention to everything that marketers expect them to see, watch and remember. Pay attention is a key phrase here, because Permission Marketers are aware of the fact that consumers pay attention only if they are actually interested in the product. And it is too difficult to get their attention back if they change their mind (Godin, 2008). So Permission Marketers use this scarce resource efficiently by sending offers only to consumers who are interested in the product.

Permission Marketing turns clutter into an advantage by allowing marketers to calmly and succinctly give their message without fear of being interrupted by competitors. Permission Marketers need to get some data from the prospects (prospective customers) in order to make the marketing messages more relevant and personal. So they ask for some data from the prospects by making it clear what they will do with the data they collect and why it is beneficial for the prospects to share this data with them. In this personalized, anticipated, frequent and relevant communication marketers speak to potential consumers as friends, not strangers. They try to turn strangers into friends who choose to “opt-in” to a series of communication.

Godin says that permission is like dating. Permission Marketers don’t start asking for sale at first impression. Because they know that the first date is an opportunity to sell the consumer on a second date. So they earn the right, over time, bit by bit. Instead of cheap impressions, they care about deep relationships. As the potential consumers voluntarily pay attention, it becomes much easier to teach them about a product. Instead of trying to capture the attention of the prospect by filling each message with entertainment and eye-catching design, Permission Marketers talk about product benefits by focusing on the ways this product will help that prospect and offer a curriculum over time. As a result, it creates more impact than a random message displayed in a random place at a random moment. For example, if a trusted friend recommend a restaurant to you, you are likely to try it while ignoring a recommendation from an unsolicited mail (Godin, 1999).

Today, the concept of Permission Marketing is redefined by technologies like Facebook Connect and OAuth. According to a recent survey data, the new generation comfortable using social media like Facebook and other mobile apps are quite eagerly sharing personal information with brands and companies in exchange for value provided. Especially, Seth Godin’s favorite phrase “turning strangers into friends and friends into customers” seems compatible with today’s “Liking” and “Following”. These social platforms allow brands to establish an active permission-based relationship with their consumers and users on their own websites. Being upfront with people during the registration process about how their data will be kept and used, and how it will provide mutual benefit; these websites show their transparency (Yovanno, 2011).
Interruption Marketing vs. Permission Marketing 

For decades, marketers almost exclusively have relied on “Interruption Marketing” which is the traditional approach to getting consumer attention. It is often positioned on the opposite side of Permission Marketing. Unlike Permission Marketers that spend as little time and money on talking to strangers as they can, Interruption Marketers spend all of their time on interrupting to capture attention and increase popularity. The word “interruption” reflects the fact that the key to each and every ad is to interrupt what the consumers are doing in order to get them to think about something else. For example, a 30-second spot interrupts a film you watch, a telemarketing call interrupts your dinner.

“The interruption model is extremely effective when there’s not an overflow of interruptions,” Godin says. However, today there is too much going on in our lives to pay attention to the interruptions. Interruption Marketing not only interrupts what we are doing at any given moment but also waste our time. So we naturally ignore them (Taylor, 2007). As a result, mass-market advertising that fights for consumers’ attention by interrupting them does not work as well as it used to and most of the time it fails to give the relevant message. Despite the fact that the effectiveness of Interruption Marketing is diminishing in today’s clutter, the marketers ironically deal with this problem by interrupting us more.

Unlike Interruption Marketing, Permission Marketing is described as marketing without interruptions; but getting people’s attention in the first place still costs lots of money and time (Taylor, 2007). Permission Marketer must offer the prospective consumer an incentive for volunteering. This incentive must be not only interesting enough to make the prospective consumer go out on a first date but also overt, obvious and clearly delivered. Since the incentive offered by the marketer wears out over time, Permission Marketer needs to reinforce the incentive in order to maintain the attention. This is a two-way dialogue between the marketer and the consumer, so the marketer must adjust the incentives and fine tune them for each consumer. Along with reinforcing the incentive, the marketer also aims to increase the level of permission. By gathering more data about the consumer’s personal life, hobbies and interests the marketer uses the permission to change consumer behavior over time. That is how the marketer leverages the permission into a profitable situation (Godin, 1999).

Seth Godin uses an analogy of getting married to contrast the
Interruption Marketer with the Permission Marketer. The Interruption Marketer walks into the singles bar and proposes marriage to the nearest person. If turned down, the marketer repeats this process on every person in the bar. After coming up empty-handed at the end, the Interruption Marketer tries again at a different single bar. On the other hand, the Permission Marketer goes on a date before proposing marriage, which is more rational and successful way of getting married. If it goes well, the two of them go on another date. And consecutive dates. After both sides communicate with each other about their needs and desires, finally the Permission Marketer proposes marriage.In Permission Marketing the cost of interrupting the consumer spread out, over not one message but dozens of messages. This creates significant competitive advantages and profit. While Interruption Marketers are getting mediocre results by interrupting strangers, Permission Marketers are turning strangers into friends and friends into loyal consumers (Godin, 1999).One of the advantages is that Permission Marketing provides meaningful data about the return on investment (ROI). By measuring the depth of permission a company has with each consumer, it can begin to track ROI in Permission Marketing. It can also begin to recognize the value of permission asset by focusing on how deep its permission is with its existing consumers (Godin, 1999).

Permission Marketing takes advantage of new technology better than other forms of marketing. Compared to Interruption Marketing that has rushed in internet by spending billion of dollars to apply their interruption techniques, Permission Marketing effectively uses the internet. The low cost of frequent interaction makes Permission Marketing a powerful trend in marketing (Godin, 1999).

Permission Marketing is a measurable process unlike Interruption Marketing. Since it evolves over time, it becomes an increasingly valuable asset in the long-term. If a company commits to Permission Marketing campaign more, they work better over time by taking advantage of leveragable processes in today’s cluttered market. However, Permission Marketing requires patience before it has success. It is not as easy as running an ad a few more times or creating a website that consumer can find by searching. Because Permission Marketing campaigns grow over-time. While a bad Interruption Marketing campaign gets some results righ away, a Permission Marketing campaign requires infrastructure and a belief in the durability of permission concept (Godin, 1999).

After all, the most obvious conclusion is that today consumers have the power of whether granting a company permission to communicate or not. So it is much more difficult for marketers to get the consumers to raise their hands in the face of cluttered marketplace. However, Permission Marketing seems to be one of the most relevant communication channels that create consumer loyalty.