is now five years since Seth Godin launched
his permission marketing mantra. Yet it remains
highly relevant judging by the emphasis rightly
placed on customer consent in the latest CIM
agenda ‘ You talkin' to me? ' ( www.shapetheagenda.com
) and the continuing popularity of Godin's
book Permission Marketing (Godin,
his book, Godin refers to using permission marketing
both in the offline world and online world,
but he does not consider in detail how to best
achieve permission marketing using web and e-mail.
Furthermore, in the last five years, adoption
of web and e-mail by marketers has increased
dramatically such that there is a danger that
if e-mail marketing is not practiced sensitively
there is a danger of interruption marketing
– exactly the problem that Godin suggests should
this article we ask how the original principles
of Permission Marketing can be applied by today's
online marketer. For each of the core principles
of permission marketing, I identify, define
and illustrate my principles of ‘ e-permission
marketing ' which show how web and e-mail
can be best combined to achieve permission marketing
Marketing principle – reduce interruption marketing
permission marketing concept suggests that communications
requested by customers have a greater impact
and higher response rates than the many unsolicited
communications which bombard us each day through
print, mail and TV. Seth Godin says that permission-based
communications are ‘ anticipated, personal
and relevant '.
many have pointed out, and as Godin recognises,
interruption will always be needed for customer
acquisition and when starting a dialogue with
potential customers. Indeed, there is little
to suggest that direct mail use has declined
– reference to the UK Direct Mail Information
Service ( http://www.dmis.co.uk/keystats
) shows that it continues its inexorable
rise. There is, however, some evidence of declining
ad spend, for example in trade magazines and
TV. This brings us to our first e-permission
marketing principles which are related to how
we manage ‘interruption marketing' online.
1: ‘Select the best mix of communications tools'
are many online communications tools that can
be used to build awareness in your target audience
and prompt for permission to be given. Despite
e-mail recipients drowning in a sea of spam,
response rates are holding up well for e-mail
marketing, including rented e-mail lists used
to contact prospects. We have not experienced
the dramatic decline in response seen with banner
advertising over its first five years. Recipients
of e-mails do engage with communications that
they have proactively agreed to receive. Responsiveness
to permission e-mail campaigns is supported
by these trend reports:
are other alternatives to using e-mail marketing
to gain permission online apart from renting
e-mail lists. A good way to dip your toe in
the digital water is to place an ad in a third
party e-newsletter. This can help you learn
about targeting and the types of offers that
will work. Co-branded e-mails such as one sent
out by a mobile phone company to its subscribers
but featuring a credit card company is another
opt-in offers for future e-mail communications
should give you the widest possible representation
or reach on the web and in the offline world.
advertising through traditional graphical online
adverts or Pay Per Performance or Pay per Click
advertising on Google Adwords, Overture or eSpotting
is also an effective way of gaining permission
online. Often opt-in forms on microsites on
third party or advertiser sites will get better
response rates than a click through to an opt-in
on your site.
method such as reciprocal linking or natural
search engine listings which gains visitors
to your site is an opportunity to gain permission.
Smart companies which practice e-permission
marketing such as Microstrategy ( www.microstrategy.com
) design their web site to showcase offers
which encourage permission to be gained from
all digital footfall on the site.
course, it is not only online tools that help
gain permission online. Many campaigns have
shown that e-mail marketing produces the best
response when offline media are used first to
build campaign awareness. For example, when
JD Edwards launched a new CRM product they found
that e-mail generated the most acceptances for
attendance at a launch event. However, direct
mail and print ads were used first to build
awareness about the event. As is often the case,
the web response page referred to in these communications
was the most popular response mechanism.
principle 2: ‘Think request marketing'
usability expert Jakob Nielsen (Nielsen, 2002)
argues that permission marketing does not fit
with the ethos of the web as a customer-controlled
experience (i.e. a pull medium rather than a
push medium). Instead he argues that, on the
web, it should not be about the company gaining
permission, but the customer requesting information.
A subtle, but important distinction. He gives
the example of the facility on Amazon where
a site visitor can request e-mail notification
about future books from an author. Notifications,
such as information about new products or new
reports requested by the user, can also be shown
on the web site on future visits in what Nielsen
refers to as ‘an information control panel'.
E-permission Marketing Principle 3, ‘Selective
opt-in' is also based on the notion of Request
Marketing principle – achieve opt-in
permission in permission marketing is granted
through an individual opting in to communications
by proactively agreeing to receive communications.
Seth Godin says: ‘ Permission Marketers
spend as little time and money talking to strangers
as they can. Instead, they move as quickly as
they can to turn strangers into prospects who
choose to "opt-in" to a series of
opt-in is usually achieved through the ubiquitous
tick box. It is now a legal requirement enforced
by the UK Privacy and Electronic Communications
Regulations 2003 that there is a proactive agreement
to receive electronic communications (see the
detailed guidelines from the UK Information
Commissioner at http://makeashorterlink.com/?X26862EA6
). You could even say that one of the core
principles of permission marketing is now a
legal requirement in many countries.
3: ‘Offer selective opt-in to communications'
many legitimate marketers are now practicing
basic opt-in to an e-newsletter, a more sophisticated
form of opt-in is available for effective e-marketing
communications. This is selective opt-in. This
simply refers to offering choice to the customer
to ensure more relevant communications. Doubleclick
) offers selective opt-in to a range of
communications. Some customers may not want
a weekly e- newsletter, rather they may only
want to hear about new product releases. Four
of the main options for communications preferences
– News, products, offers, events
– weekly, monthly, quarterly, or alerts
– E-mail or direct mail
– Text vs HTML
course, there are resource implications for
tailoring communications, so you will need to
consider which give the best benefit. Frequency
and format are probably the options that will
give the best response for the least effort.
4: Create a ‘common customer profile '
marketing involves gaining permission both to
communicate with and learn more about customers.
Since we are looking to learn more through time,
we need a structured approach to customer data
capture. This can be achieved through a common
customer profile – a definition of all the database
fields that are relevant to the marketer in
order to understand and target the customer
with a relevant offering. Many organisations
will have created a common customer profile
that they use for offline data capture, perhaps
through a call-centre, but often, if e-marketing
is not integrated, the data captured offline
will be separate.
defined, the common customer profile can then
be used as a means of structuring e-permission
marketing and refining understanding about the
customer. A plan with targets can be created
about how to learn more about the customer.
– Use incentives
to gain opt-in
are needed to obtain permission. Seth Godin
talks about offering a range of incentives as
part of ‘dating the customer'.
5: ‘Offer a range of opt-in incentives
web sites now have ‘free-win-save' incentives
to encourage opt-in, but often it is one incentive
fits all visitors. Different incentives for
different audiences will generate a higher volume
of permission, particularly for business-to-business
web sites. We can also gauge the characteristics
of the respondent by the type of incentives
or communications they have requested, without
the need to ask them.
site for a CRM software vendor which offers
white-papers to encourage opt-in. Different
whitepapers could be developed for influencers
such as junior managers, marketing directors
and IT managers who will implement the system.
However, without thinking through the incentive
options for different audiences, white-papers
might exclude the IT managers who are important
in the buying process. Best practice in this
area is provided by Siebel which has collected
a large range of resources relevant to different
members of the buying unit and different vertical
markets ( www.siebel.com/resource_library
). Collecting these information resources
together and branding them as a ‘library' or
‘resource centre' emphasises their value and
encourages repeated access.
6: ‘Maximise learning, minimise attrition'
our visitors respond to our incentives, we present
them with an online data capture form. This,
of course, is our opportunity to understand
more about the customer. There is a balance
to strike between too many questions which will
help us understand our customer well, but may
well put-off subscribers and too few questions
which will increase the size of the list, but
not allow us to qualify interest and determine
characteristics. Sometimes over half the people
who visit a data capture form used to obtain
permission may not complete the process. They
are put off by the number of questions or concern
about their privacy. Although it can be argued
that this is a form of qualification, some good
prospects may be missed.
e-permission marketers need to work hard to
minimise the attrition from these forms through:
Asking the optimal number of questions.
This is a difficult balance to get right since
it will vary between audiences. Often, I feel
insufficient profiling is done. If the incentive
is good enough and/or there is a high-involvement
product, then respondents may well be prepared
to take the time to give their interests, particularly
if it is explained that this will be used to
provide tailored communications. For example,
this example of best practice from Le Croy shows
how the proposition is well explained and followed
by detailed profiling ( www.lecroy.com
). Another approach is to gently lead the
respondent into opt-in with a simple set of
questions. For example, software vendor Microstrategy
) uses a range of incentives and then asks
initially for the relationship with the customer,
before leading on to more detailed questions.
Devising powerful incentives. As we
have said in principle 5, incentives must be
available for a range of audiences. And these
incentives need to be powerful enough for someone
to fill in the form accurately.
Explaining how the customer data will be used. Through explaining that
the data collected will be used to improve the information and experience delivered
to the customer, customers will understand why the data is being collected.
Reassuring about privacy. Often, the magic words ‘we will not share your
data' at the top of the form will increase response since privacy is a common
concern. Better on the form than hidden away in a privacy statement.
Using multiple forms. Two or three short forms of profile information
may be less daunting than a single long form.
TIMITI. Test the form until you have the balance right. Use Jim Sterne
's approach to online marketing to ‘Try It, Measure It, Tweak It' (Sterne, 2002).
principle – enable opt-out
flip-side of opt-in. Permission marketing involves
making it easy for the recipient of communications
to specify that they no longer wish to be in
a dialogue. Online, this is the e-mail unsubscribe
7: ‘Don't make opt-out too easy'
view is that we often make it too easy to unsubscribe.
Although an easy form of opt-out is now a legal
requirement in many countries, a single click
unsubscribe is making it too easy. Instead,
wise e-permission marketers use the concept
of My Profile. Instead of unsubscribe, they
offer a link to a web form to update a profile,
which includes the option to unsubscribe. This
will still be legal if the option to unsubscribe
is clearly visible within this form.
use of ‘My Profile' can be tied to the principle
of ‘selective opt-in' – you could call it selective
opt-out. If there are a range of choices of
communication, then the recipient may decide
to change the type or frequency of communications
rather than opting-out. For example the person
intending to unsubscribe may change from a monthly
e-newsletter to a quarterly e-mail or e-mail
alerts about product news or promotions only.
opt-out can also be used for event marketing.
Often a marketer will want to run a multi-message
campaign to inform and remind recipients about
an event. If there is a sequence of say, 4 communications
about an event, then the recipient can opt-out
to hear nothing further about this event.
Marketing principle – learn more through time
Godin said we should aim to learn more about the customer through time – this
means offering additional incentives to continue the dialogue. This is sometimes
referred to as ‘incremental profiling' which means
filling in more of the fields on the common customer profile referred to above.
8: ‘Watch don't ask'
of the difficulties with e-permission marketing
is the potential interruption and intrusion
caused by asking the customer too many questions
via online forms. The need to ask questions
can be reduced through the monitoring of online
interactions or responses to better understand
the customer needs and generate follow-up communications.
click-through to different types of content or offer.
The interests of individual list members can be assessed through monitoring what
they click through to. Lastminute.com reputedly tailor their newsletters according
to content clickthrough. For example, if you click through to theatres or city-breaks,
then you will receive more of this type of content in future.
the engagement of individual customers with e-mail communications.
This is achieved by monitoring trends of opening and click-through by individual
customers. These metrics indicate the level of interest of individual customers
and we can monitor how these vary through time and use follow-up communications.
For example, perhaps a buying signal is suggested by a customer who has not previously
responded to e-mails who starts clicking through to the web site more frequently.
This could be followed up by a tailored e-mail communication or a phone call.
of response to a specific e-mail.
If a B2B vendor offers information about a new product launch which encourages
click through to a landing page then they have two main choices of follow-up.
First, the form could contain a question asking about the future buying intentions
or whether contact from a sales rep is required. Alternatively, if there is a
capability to monitor an individual who has clicked through to a page, then it
may be best to use this to prompt a call from an account manager or sales person.
The second approach may result in more sales, but of course there is a danger
that the customer may react negatively to monitoring of this type and it is arguably
not permission marketing.
9: ‘Vary online offers through time'
have said we should not discourage the initial
opt-in through asking too many profiling questions
and learn more through time. So we should have
a plan to capture more profile information through
time. We can then also monitor how the status
or buying intent of the customer varies through
best approach to this is to develop a structured
programme of online offers. Here best practice
is provided by Web analytics company NetIQ /
WebTrends which sponsors the customer relationship
management section on ClickZ (see for example
). Each month it uses banner ads in the
newsletter and on other sites to promote detailed
insights of interest to its target audience.
For example, in 2003 it offered a series of
‘Take 10' video presentations about topics such
as customer retention, search marketing and
campaign testing. If an existing registrant
clicked through they were prompted to give further
information to help assess their purchase intent.
marketing principle 10: Create an outbound contact
permission marketers need a plan for the number,
frequency and type of online and offline communications
and offers. This is a contact strategy.
good starting point is to ask ‘ what
will annoy' the customer. Clearly if e-mail
communications are too frequent, then the customer
is less likely to have the time or inclination
to open an e-mail. So one approach is to monitor
the response for e-mail communications. According
to a posting on this topic at E-consultancy
), E-commerce analyst at Phones4U, Alex
Chudnovsky recommends that the following criteria
need to be monitored by e-tailers to assess
whether the frequency is right:
drop off (unsubscribe)
sales (or profits for cases with high variation
alternative, particularly for non-retail brands,
is to research customer preferences, or as we
have said before, to offer a choice of frequencies
at the point of initial opt-in.
contact strategy should indicate:
defines the minimum frequency (e.g. once per
quarter) and maximum frequency (e.g. once
per month). Remember that we will often e-mail
too infrequently. Similarly, it may also be
useful to set communications targets such
as ‘at least four e-mails per year'.
Some companies may seek to set limits on interval, e.g. there must be a gap of
at least one week or one month between communications. This may be overtly restrictive
and brings us to the next point…
It is impossible to create rules to cater for all occasions and some companies
have limited opportunities by creating such rules. For example, a rule to limit
intervals to greater than one week or month would restrict multi-message campaigns
where a reminder is sent out to boost response.
and offers. We may want to limit or
achieve a certain number of prize draws or information-led offers.
between e-newsletters and campaign e-mails.
Often the link between e-mails and campaign e-mails is missed in communications
planning. This can lead to missed opportunities where the e-newsletter could be
used to reinforce messages in campaigns. Or sometimes the e-newsletter may be
the main vehicle for explaining an offer, but it may get diluted amongst the other
between online communications and offline communications.
Again, synergies between online and offline communications may be missed or there
may be mixed messages.
control strategy. A mechanism to make
sure these guidelines are adhered to is essential. One method is to use a ‘focal
point', or single person who checks all communications for one group of customers
before creation or dispatch.
these are my 10 principles of E-permission Marketing. I have developed them over
the past few years through working with clients and delegates on e-marketing workshops
from The Chartered Institute of Marketing. So I would like to acknowledge the
discussions with many marketers used to create them, and of course, Seth Godin,
for developing such a powerful, practical framework for marketers to apply which
has stood the test of Internet time. These principles have evolved, and will evolve
more, so please let me know what you feel is inaccurate or missing via my web
site ( www.marketing-online.co.uk
We all know that, for now, Google is the pre-eminent
search engine. We all use it routinely to find
information fast. Next month I look at how we
can Search Smarter using Google Advanced search
and the Google Labs tools. Specifically, we
will look at a structured approach which can
be used by market researchers to find information
D. (2003) Total E-mail Marketing.
Butterworth Heinemann. Oxford.
S. (1999) Permission Marketing. Available online at: www.permission.com.
J. (2002) Request Marketing. Alertbox, October
15, 2000. www.useit.com/alertbox/20001015.html
J. (2002) Web Metrics: Proven Methods for Measuring Web Site success. John Wiley
& Sons, Inc, New York,
Dave Chaffey is workshop leader for a range
of one-day e-marketing training workshops from
for course details and online booking.
Chaffey, consultant for Marketing Insights Limited ( www.marketing-insights.co.uk
) is a prolific e-business author with ‘Total E-mail Marketing' and
the second editions of ‘Internet marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice'
and E-business and E-commerce Management published in 2003. Dave is
also an examiner of the CIM E-marketing Professional Development Award.
A web site at www.marketing-online.co.uk
supports the workshops and books with over 400 marketing related links.