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Tim Peter Thinks

Tim Peter


January 29, 2013

Is Permission Marketing Still Relevant?

January 29, 2013 | By | One Comment

Mistakes happenYesterday I recapped my Finding and Following Your Customer’s Digital Footprint Twitter chat and I mentioned the following points:

  • Have a clear sense of what’s your data (aggregate usage information, opens, clicks, shares, retweets, etc). vs. customers’.
  • All personally identifiable information (PII) belongs to customers, always. Handle with care.
  • If you’re uncomfortable telling customers how you plan to use their data, ask yourself whether you should collect it at all.

Well, I got an email asking why these concepts are so important. I’m not going to quote the email in full (I want to protect the guilty on this one), but, as the writer asked,

“I’m not saying I want to be ‘evil,’ but what’s evil about trying to grow my business? How am I supposed to contact prospects if I’ve got to ask their permission all the time? Isn’t the point to drive more revenue?”

I’m going to answer these in reverse.

First, of course the point is to drive more revenue (assuming, of course, you’re a revenue-focused organization; if you’re not, insert your “business” metrics where you see “revenue,” “profit,” etc.)

But the point isn’t to drive more revenue today with no thought for tomorrow.

Yes, we live in an instant gratification society, one focused on immediate earnings and early exits. I myself am fond of saying that marketing is next quarter’s sales. But you can’t sacrifice your future for short-term gain (well, you can; I’m just saying it’s a bad idea).

This isn’t just “touchy-feely,” holier-than-thou stuff, either (though I’m getting to that in a minute. There’s a practical reason for this approach. Finding customers is expensive. Really expensive, in fact. So a customer who buys from you just once isn’t a great investment. Instead, you want to cultivate longer-term relationships with people, earn their trust, and also earn their repeat business. It’s much simpler to sell to people you’ve sold to before. And that’s much easier if you’ve demonstrated that you take their concerns into consideration.

It happens to be the right thing to do. But it’s also a good business.

Now, the second reason is this: It’s not your data.

Your customers entrust you with a limited amount of information, for a specific purpose. You should use it for that purpose and only for that purpose. If they want it back, or want to opt out, or want to move on and not hear from you any more, that’s their right. How would you like it if I borrowed your car, then wouldn’t give it back when you needed it? Or if I trashed it, spilling chili dogs and Diet Cherry Pepsi all over the floor?

So why do you think it’s OK to treat their data that way?

Seth Godin once wrote a fantastic book, called “Permission Marketing” about this very topic. It’s a little dated, but it’s well-worth the read. For me, it’s still the gold standard. And the reason is because, like all fundamental truths, they really don’t change over time.

So, yes, work to grow your business. Do what you can to drive your revenues. And feel free to push for better and better results. But do it in a way that’s good for your customer today and good for your business tomorrow.

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Tim Peter


March 6, 2008

Permission marketing: An interview with Jared Reitzin (Guide to Small Business E-commerce)

March 6, 2008 | By | No Comments

If Seth Godin never wrote anything else, his role in defining permission marketing alone would have made him who he is today. Jared Reitzin, CEO for a great new email and mobile marketing firm, mobileStorm, has picked up the torch, working to help small businesses go from zero to $10 million in sales using permission marketing. But Jared’s view of permission marketing isn’t just email. mobileStorm also develops direct mail, fax, and, most interestingly, mobile marketing campaigns to help small businesses connect with their customers. I recently spoke with Jared about permission marketing and how small businesses can benefit from email and SMS marketing.
Tim: Hi, Jared. Thanks for taking the time with us. Can you talk about the role permission marketing plays in helping small business reach that $10 million goal?

Jared: It costs 10 times more money to attract a new customer than it does to keep an existing one and existing clients bring 10 times the revenue . It’s very important to build a database of customers that you can continue to market to and upsell. The great thing about doing business in today’s world is that digital messaging is an extremely cost effective way of reaching people and you can easily gauge and track ROI. However on the flip side if you are not practicing permission based marketing, it could hurt your brand and will hurt your growth .

Tim: With the emergence of RSS and “pull” media, does email marketing still have a place?

Jared: Absolutely, I am firm believer that RSS will not replace email . At the end of the day, consumers still want information pushed to them; they won’t always remember or have time to check their feeds. I do think, however, that RSS is great because your message will get delivered, it won’t end up being caught by the spam filter.

Tim: What about SMS marketing? Is this viable for most small businesses? What sorts of businesses would benefit most? Are there specific types businesses that should avoid SMS as a tactic?

Jared: When I get asked this question by a small business my answer is simple, try it out. Mobile marketing is tricky and doesn’t work for all businesses. Try and work with a provider who won’t just offer you their technology but can also help strategize your game plan. Regardless, like anything else, you should be able to look back and answer the question “did I do everything I could to make it work?”. If the answer is no, then try a few more approaches. If the answer is yes, then don’t force it. A text message interrupts someone’s day, it’s a powerful form of communication. Don’t forget it can be just as negatively powerful as it can be positive. I think retail, entertainment and event based businesses are great candidates for SMS marketing.

Tim: Small businesses need to pay attention to the value of their media more carefully than large business (given the fact that they’ve got less to spend). What metrics should matter most when using permission marketing?

Jared: If we are talking about email and you sell stuff online, the most valuable metric is the total amount of revenue you driving through your campaigns. This is why email is so powerful. You can track the whole sales cycle and even see what your customers are not doing. Also every small business should know how much it costs to acquire a new customer , and when they figure that number out and it makes sense, spend as much as they can and go big.

Tim: What kind of budget should small business owners expect to spend? What’s the minimum amount that’s realistic to produce meaningful results?

Jared: It really depends on the size of their database and if they need additional services such as consulting, support, custom feature etc… A serious small business digital marketer should have a monthly budget of at least $500.

Tim: What should small business owners look for from a permission marketing (email marketing/SMS marketing) service provider?

Jared: The service provider should be able to provide good references and case studies. They should have a good reputation and willing to let you know what IP address you will be sending from so you could do some research before coming aboard. Check out their management team and the press release section, see what the company has going on and the direction they are going. Also Google them and see what people are saying.

Tim: Jared, thanks for your time today. Keep up the great work.

Jared: Thank you very much for doing this interview with me, I hope your audience takes a few things away and becomes successful digital marketers!

[Full disclosure: I plan to use mobileStorm’s services for my email marketing going forward.]

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