Even if you’ve never heard the term before, chances are you’ve experienced permission marketing. 

Ever subscribe to a company’s blog to receive notifications when they publish new posts? 

That’s permission marketing — you’re volunteering your information up to the company, giving them permission to contact you. 

For some marketers, this whole concept feels foreign. They’re used to buying lists and watching their sales team make cold calls to generate leads and close customers. And at the same time, more and more marketers are looking to purchase software to automate their marketing. 

The truth is you can’t have both. If marketers want to buy and successfully use marketing automation software, they’re going to need to embrace permission marketing. Here’s why.

What Is Permission Marketing?

Coined in a book by Seth Godin, the term “permission marketing” has helped give birth to the communication rules marketers around the world now follow. But Seth Godin was not trying to write anti-spam legislation — he was pointing out a fundamental shift in how people and companies communicate with each other.

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The second point Seth Godin made is that asking permission is the right thing to do. Why pepper thousands of people with sales literature when only a very tiny percentage will ever be interested? Instead, a permission marketer invites their audience to opt-in for further communication on the topic.

Plus, permission marketing leads to better results because your communications are:

  • Anticipated: The lead is waiting for your email.
  • Relevant: The content is something the lead is interested in.
  • Personal: The content is relevant to the lead.

How Permission Marketing and Marketing Automation Work Together

Today when much marketing is done entirely online, marketers need a way to collect permission, manage permission, and use permission effectively. Marketing automation tools enable these three activities at a low cost:

  • Collect permission by adding a form and content offer on your site.
  • Manage permission so that communications are anticipated.
  • Use permission to ensure the content is relevant and personal.

Marketing automation systems are always designed with these three marketing actions in mind. So how does a marketing automation platform (MAP) make permission marketing a reality?

Collecting Permission

Your audience should provide permission for you to send them deeper information on the topics you discuss. Your MAP does this with tools for you to create opt-in forms for use on your blog and website.

Notice I used the term “opt-in”? That’s because opted-in leads are the only type that follow the permission marketing framework. Even if CAN-SPAM does permit opt-out emails in the United States (meaning you can email people until they tell you to stop), this is not a good way to grow your business. (Your MAP probably will outright block you from emailing them, anyway.) Use opt-in permission for the best results. 

Managing Permission

There are three components your MAP uses to help you manage permission: subscription management, filtering, and preventing blunders.

Subscription management is the ability to have multiple email subscription options. Let people opt in to the types of emails they’d like to receive from you: your blog, your webinars, event invitations, and/or product communications. Your MAP can handle it all automatically once you set it up.

Filtering lets you see a list of opted-in leads with a particular set of behavior. Your MAP should have this built in. It is often called a “smart list,” that looks for the leads based on characteristics you request. Using smart lists to be ready with opted-in leads that are interested in Product X is vital to using permission — it ensures you’re sending the right content to the right people.

Preventing blunders is about setting up people processes and taking advantage of the built-in safeguards of your MAP. One example is preventing an email send to over 10,000 leads unless a senior manager approves. Another process is to have two people look at a campaign. It’s very easy to blast out 8 or 8,000,000 emails — just ask The New York Times.

These marketing automation features work together to make sure you’re not emailing the wrong people and providing irrelevant information.

Using Permission

Seth Godin makes it clear that as a lead progresses through your funnel, he or she is giving you increasing permission to communication and to build a relationship. and this permission can be revoked any time, so using permission must be done carefully by making content that is always relevant and personal.

Guess what? Your MAP helps you do just that. Marketing automation tools help you deliver focused messages based on the lead’s behavior and demographic profile. Relevant and personalized messaging is easier, faster, and cheaper when using a MAP.

Focused messages will encourage the lead to download more of your remarkable content via pages and forms you create with your MAP. Each time a lead fills out a new form, they can provide more detail on who they are and how you can help them, all while providing additional permission for you to send more information. A lead may even be ready to ask you to call them.

And marketing automation ensures the permission is collected, managed, and used with the customer in mind.

Proving Permission Marketing Works

If doing the right thing or following the law isn’t enough for you, let’s prove permission marketing works better than non-permissioned marketing.

In a 2011 study, open rate and CTR were compared between opt-in and opt-out lists.

  • Opens in the opt-in lists were twice as high as the opt-out lists.
  • CTRs on opt-in lists were also twice as high on average.

Permission marketing isn’t just about CAN-SPAM and the law — it is about treating your customers as you would want them to treat you. With marketing automation helping you manage permissions, there is no reason to avoid embracing permission marketing as a core business principle.

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