Ask an Expert: How to Evangelize Permission
By Ken Magill and Only Influencers participants
See? I told you I know people. Last week’s call for questions for The Magill Report’s new Ask-an-Expert feature drew a great question: “How do you gently educate one's customers or employer to use permission-based marketing?”
I submitted the question to Bill McCloskey who runs the Only Influencers email discussion list, an invitation-only list of online-marketing experts.
The question generated a lively discussion among some of the sharpest, most informed folks in online marketing. Here it is:
Carissa Newton, director of marketing, Delivra: I always begin by emphasizing results because blasting out to a bunch of people that don't want to hear from you will not get the results you are looking for. Email marketing with intention, permission and strategy will be a much stronger result because you are messaging to an engaged audience that wants to hear from you.
Jeanne Jennings, consultant, Email Marketing Strategy: There's a strong case to be made for permission-based email marketing, both in terms of performance and insurance against blacklisting. My approach is to get approval to launch a small scale "proof of concept" campaign, which begins with an explicit opt-in and continues with delivery of relevant, benefit-oriented email messages.
The proof is in the results. In a recent "proof of concept" campaign, the client saw a 200% lift in open rate and a 104% lift in click-through rate over a similar non-permission based effort sent at the same time.
Unfortunately, this particular client isn't currently tracking conversions or ROI (I'm working on that), but the lift in metrics, even with the smaller overall audience contacted, combined with the insurance against blacklisting, was enough to convince them to begin shifting all their email marketing to opt-in.
Dela Quist, CEO, Alchemy Works: Why bother? The dumber everyone else is the smarter you look.
If you really believe in the value of permission sit back and watch them go out of business through deliverability and/or subscriber alienation. If that doesn't happen because their business model actually works - you won't be able to stop them no matter how hard you try.
My view? If you don't like non permission based marketing, don't work with or for people and companies that don't practice it (we don't). If you have to work for them make sure they pay a huge premium for making your life difficult.
Kelly Lorenz, email marketing strategist, Bronto: I speak to their bottom line.
Dela Quist: Hi Kelly
You failed to change them which proves my point that if their business model actually works - you won't be able to stop them no matter how hard you try.
So once again I ask. Why bother trying?
Kelly Lorenz: Yes, that is the point. Those that don't care about diminishing returns will never care as long as they are making some money. Those that do, will change it. Stories like Jeanne's and mine help those that are willing to try permission-based practices.
Andy Thorpe, deliverability and compliance manager, Pure 360: I'll have to concur that turning people onto it is more often than not a waste of time and it's normally best to walk away.
Like all other spam, if it did not make money, no-one would do it. But it apparently does. So business models are built around it.
The tool that works for me is fear mainly. Dazzle them with the consequences and scare them out of it but there are too few high volume senders out there that it'll work on.
I think it'll take more from the continuing efforts of the large ISPs to implement more consequences to complaints and bounces. Also, hopefully, growing data protection and privacy laws will envelop the terrible electronic communication laws and give us something that really protects us.
Loren McDonald, vice president, industry relations, Silverpop: I don't think you "gently educate." Dear Company That Wants to Send Spam, There are 4 reasons you need to use a permission-based approach: 1) It is the law in the EU, Australia and other countries and soon Canada. Do you know where all of your recipients reside and are you willing to risk the penalties? 2) Spam makes a little money. Permission email makes a lot of money. 3) Most of your non-permission email will probably never make it in to the inbox. 4) You may not care, but good luck finding a legitimate email service provider that will work with you.
Have fun and come back later when you see the light.
Christopher Donald, vice president of marketing, Inbox Group: Permission is the foundation of any legitimate email campaign. You must respect the recipient’s wants and needs. If they didn't ask for your marketing chances are you'll be doomed to fighting a bad reputation with ISPs and recipients. Non-permission, short-term gains will eventually turn into long-term problems with deliverability, complaints and a dwindling unresponsive list.
Respect the recipient and respect their choices.
Kelly Lorenz: You look to appeal to their bottom line. However, sometimes a donkey is a donkey that will never be a horse. For many companies already practicing non-permission-based practices, there is no point in trying to convince them otherwise. They more times than not won't modify the behavior until they stop seeing dollar signs.
What you can do is appeal to those companies that are thinking about buying a list or doing an e-append before they take the leap with stats and case studies like the one I highlighted on the Bronto blog. Essentially, you could be making $X practicing shady list growth tactics, or you could be making close to 15 times that by growing organically.
Everyone looks for a big, easy win, but that "big, easy win" could end up being the "extremely painful lesson" after it inevitably causes you to be fired by your ESP and gets you blocked at the major ISPs.
Dlea Quist: Hi Andy
Just trying to understand here. You say "give us something that really protects us". Protect who? From what?
All: I think I need to clarify what I meant when I asked the question why bother? If every ESP, consultant, deliverability company - RP PV etc. - or agency made permission a prerequisite of working with any company we wouldn't have a problem.
But we all do, I hear you all say.
If that's the case then why do we care if a bunch of people out there don't? It won't affect anyone on this list. So to circle back to my question to Andy. Who are we trying to protect and from what?
As far as I am concerned I don't give a damn how many companies refuse to practice permission based marketing because a) None of them are (should be?) clients of ours and b) none of their emails will get delivered c) We get a much higher ROI. Right? :-)
Love to hear your thoughts
Gretchen Scheiman, partner, director, CRM, OgilvyOne Worldwide: Define permission based marketing please.
Is this assumed opt-in (prechecked box), explicit opt-in, double opt-in, all of the above? What about ECOA - if I can update someone's physical address why not email or phone? Is that still considered permission-based? (I did after all have their old email address). Does prior business relationship play a role? What about eAppend hotlists - folks who did business with me in the last 30 days - those tend to be responsive (as opposed to eAppending 3-year-old data certainly). They walked in the store, bought something from me, gave me contact information - if I were a human sales person I would be able to try to contact them and I can send them postcards and flyers and other DM, but since it's email does that make it a faux pas?
I agree with whoever (apologies for not remembering) said that privacy and permission guidance coming soon (from wherever) will make this clearer. I'm not entirely sure it will help us, but if it's not done right it will at least be definitively wrong.
John Caldwell, principal, consultant, Red Pill Email: Hmmm... keep my head down working, or jump in? duh!
I just met with a B2B prospect yesterday that, as a bonus of signing with their new marketing automation vendor (or was it their new Salesforce plug-in vendor? - I can't remember, I was thinking happy thoughts) got 400k email addresses obtained from such reputable companies as Jigsaw (they hate me so much....) and Dunn & Bradstreet.
When we started talking, the first thing he said was basically if I was there to tell him he needed permission to email people, we were done. Ironically, this company targets IT upper management. It didn't take too long to show him that the very people that he wanted to talk to were the ones that he was pissing off.
In truth, he was pissed off that his "legal" store-bought lists weren't performing as promised and that private businesses were starting to block his mail.
After that, we didn't talk about permission. We talked about ways to get people to ask his company for more information; to make it a positive experience; and to work with only the most qualified prospects. After about 20 minutes he asked if I'd put together a proposal for a cross-channel marketing program designed to get more qualified people to ask to be sent more information.
We didn't need to argue over a word, we needed to find a solution that would get more people to ask to be sent email. A prospect asking for email is permission. I just didn't connect those dots for him, even though we both new, and it made for an easy way to back off of his earlier position.
Everybody won - this time.
Andrew Kordek, co-founder, chief strategist, Trendline Interactive: I kinda of agree with Loren in that there is no gentle way. However, I have always found that educating people using them as props is the way to go.
Here is what I would do (and have done in the past)
Step 1: Get them in a room. Get them on a call. Get the people who need to be educated in a well lit area where more than one person can be. (Provide food if necessary or if it’s a phone call give some sort of compelling reason for them to be there)
Step 2: Ask them to write down their email address and give it to you.
Step 3: Pick out an email address or 3 and read it aloud to everyone. Tell them a story about their email address or about them.
Step 4: Tell them that since they gave you their email address that you are going to subscribe them to all these wonderful email programs because they look like they could really be interested in receiving your email.
Step 5: Ask them for all of their friends email address.
Step 6: Ask them how it makes them feel. (Most will say that they don't like it or don't need it or don't want more email)
Step 7: Tell them that this is how our customers feel and that this is what permission is all about.
OR (you can do this)
Step 1: When talking to people who are resisting permission, ask them for their email address. Then ask for their spouse's email address. Then their parents and other relatives. Tell them that you are going to subscribe them to all the email your company and other companies that you think they would enjoy getting.
Step 2: When they balk. Tell that this is what permission is all about.
If you do this and they still don't get your point. Drop it. They will never understand and you’re better off fighting another battle.
Karen Talavera, principal, consultant, Synchronicity Marketing: +1 Loren and Jeanne. As with anything, why any of us would work with a company not at least open to permission as their email standard is beyond me. You can't convert those who have no desire to be converted.
Andy Thorpe: Thanks Dela,
The more I look into the law the more open it seems to list brokers and third party opt-ins. It doesn't seem that electronic communication laws are up to the job, possibly because of not wanting to stifle the economy, I'm not sure. I think the main thing that gets to me is once someone gets on a third party list there is no way off it because it's been passed around so much already and there is no 'parent' opt-out point. You just have to wait to get emailed and then opt out, if you trust the opt out, if not you hit spam. Ideally, the brands collecting the data and 'forcing' the third party opt-in (some loan and insurance comparison sites for instance) would not have the freedom to supply their services in exchange for sharing data with anyone who offers them enough money. I'm hoping data protection laws will protect us from that or at least give consumers the opportunity to have more control over it.
How's that?Just a quick thank you to Caldwell &Kordek for the real life examples. Great perceptions to give me some more options down the line knowing that they can work.
Cheers chaps, Hat off to you :-)
Editor’s note: Count me among those in the “why bother” camp when it comes to convincing an employer or client to embrace permission email marketing. I have tried to convince multiple employers to clean up their acts and have never succeeded. Granted, it may be my style as I tend to say things like: “What, are you a f*ckn’ idiot? Do you have any idea what this will do to our email marketing efforts?” But my experience has been that only negative consequences will change their behavior.
Got a question for the experts? Send it to KenMagill_at_Gmail.com.