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The Promise of Permission

February 2004 By Lisa Yorgey Lester
The balance of power has shifted: Consumers have put a premium on their time. Inundated with countless marketing messages competing for their attention, the American public has expressed its displeasure through its demand for Do-Not-Call and Can Spam legislation. Moving forward, successful marketers will be those who embrace the principles of permission-based marketing and begin to court consumers’ favor by building relationships.

Break Through the Clutter

“The days when all can graze cattle on the village green are gone,” says Don Peppers, founder of the Peppers & Rogers Group and co-author, with Martha Rogers, Ph.D., of a series of international best sellers on relationship marketing. Peppers believes it is going to get harder for direct marketing as an industry because “interruption” marketing creates a village green dilemma. “There is no penalty for soliciting someone’s attention, but the more it’s done the less inclined someone is to give that attention,” he explains.

The solution to this dilemma: permission marketing.

Coined five years ago by Seth Godin in his groundbreaking book “Permission Marketing,” this type of marketing is based on the premise that you have to get consumers to raise their hands and begin a dialogue with you. Once they’ve initiated a conversation, marketers must work to build and grow that relationship. Unlike traditional or interruption marketing, permission marketing, in the words of Godin, is about “turning strangers into friends, and friends into customers.”

More Legislation Is Probable

With so many messages fighting to get noticed, Peppers says he sees “a real consumer backlash against giving away their attention” and predicts it is only a matter of time before the Do-Not-Call Registry extends to the fundraising and political arenas. Unfavorable consumer sentiment also will eventually trickle down to mail, Peppers says, either by legislation or some other mechanism.

The need for marketers to embrace permission marketing is clear.

“We have all had the Scrooge-like luxury of peeking into a permissionless future and nobody liked what they saw,” says Michael Mayor, president and COO of NetCreations. Mayor, a pioneer of double opt-in e-mail list building, says, “Spam is the best argument for permission because [spam] is anti-marketing. It’s also anti-relevance, anti-targeting and anti-respect. Consumers remember the brands that treated them with respect, and they definitely remember the ones that didn’t.”

So how can you get consumers to raise their hands and begin a dialogue with you? Here are six ways you can begin to build permission into your marketing program.

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