Email marketing: an email relationship still starts with permission

OK, we all know what permission is (I hope), thank you Mr. Godin. However, although every decent email marketer knows that email marketing starts with the permission of the recipient, I still very often talk with publishers and advertisers that send their emails to every list or email address they can get their hands on (I have to say I’m talking Europe but there is legislation here too!).

Sometimes these lists are even their property but strictly speaking they can not use them for email marketing purposes. If they do, they don’t only break the law, they also risk getting blacklisted, receiving complaints, harming their brand reputation etc. Furthermore: the return of email campaigns on these lists will be low.

A good example is a company I know that recently participated at a trade show and organized a competition whereby people that gave their business card could win a prize. Not a bad idea (although a bit ‘been there, done that’) but there was one problem: no one even thought of asking the tradeshow visitors that left their business cards if these people wanted to be added to the email list of the company.

No one asked because no one simply cared. Besides the fact that it’s illegal in most countries to start mailing to these people, it’s bad for the company’s reputation and of course once the company started mailing to the people that left their business cards in their ‘good’ hands, it resulted in a few complaints and many unsubscribes.

You might think this is an exception. Well it is not. So I thought it was time to repeat why prior consent is so important in email marketing.

Besides the fact that opt-in or double opt-in is the basis of the legal framework within which email marketers have to operate in most countries, permission is the ‘condition sine qua non’ for email marketing campaigns to truly deliver.

You will probably remember that the term ‘permission marketing’ was first introduced by Seth Godin who used it to describe an alternative for good old push marketing where consumers were inundated by unidirectional and disruptive mass marketing messages.

In Godin’s vision the only true way to build long term relationships with consumers was that they accept voluntarily to enter in a personalized relationship with companies and brands.

Godin’s vision turned out to be a visionary one. The explosion of media and communication channels, the increasingly ‘invisible’ customer and the huge changes Web 2.0 brought upon us all force marketers to reduce their interrupting push marketing efforts in favor of interactive, personalized and relevant relationships with specific customer segments.

In email marketing the term ‘opt-in’ is a more practical translation of the permission marketing principles: consumers opt themselves to receive your marketing messages when they subscribe to your newsletters or email list.

By narrowing the reach of our marketing efforts to specific interested customer segments we raise our chances on success in analyzing customer’s needs and translating those needs into leads. Email marketing is based exactly on those findings…

The question that rises with permission is why consumers are entering in a preferred relationship with companies and brands by giving them permission.

The answer is simple: because they benefit from it.

Yes, it is again about relevance, respect and value.

Without these three: forget results.

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