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August 2008

The importance of permission

When I met my husband of almost seven years, Jayson, he was a hot looking (he paid me lots of chocolate to say that!) member of the Student Guild at our university.

To this day I still remember his first words to me. Wait for it… “Can you please tell me how to publish a mind-blowing brilliant E-newsletter?”

Sorry! Couldn’t resist. What he really said was: “Where do you want your sausage?”.

No joke. He was literally asking where on my plate I would like my rather burnt looking sausage, on the bun or on the side.

I should have responded with something horribly witty but being a girl from the country I just looked at my feet and said “wherever”.

Truth is it wouldn’t have mattered what I said since handsome Jayson was too busy checking out my new friend who had waist length brown hair, long legs and short shorts.

Okay if you like that sort of thing I guess!

I’m more than just a little bit satisfied to tell you that a month of so later, Jayson and I were standing outside a local nightclub and he was handing me an ATM receipt from his wallet to write my phone number on the back of.

Had I taken a good look at the balance on that receipt I probably would have run a mile but instead I gave him permission to call me the following day by writing down my name and phone number.

Hear that? I said “permission”. Store that one away.

When we were cleaning out the drawers of an old desk at home the other day would you believe Jayson squealed with excitement (in manner of 2.5 year old daughter) when he unearthed that very receipt – some 14 years after I nervously wrote my name on it.

All sense of romantic nostalgia was lost though when he announced that he had asked me to write down my name and number instead of doing it himself because at the time he couldn’t remember whether my name was Kristy or Kirsty. What a catch he was eh?

Now I’m sharing this story with you about the early days of my relationship with Jayson because it’s just like my relationship with you now.

Shocked? Well you can relax. I can promise I won’t be washing my hair, shaving my legs and buying a new frock to impress you any time soon.

What I’m saying is that, following your very kind decision to sign up for my E-newsletter, I am now attempting over an undefined period of time to engage your interest, build rapport, develop trust and convert you from a stranger to a friend to a customer to a loyal satisfied client to an advocate.

Kind of sounds like dating doesn’t it?

This was the analogy that Marketing guru and author Seth Godin made in his ground-breaking book “Permission Marketing”.

I can credit a lot of my beliefs about E-newsletters to this book.

According to Seth, Permission Marketing is “Anticipated, Personal and Relevant”.

It “encourages consumers to participate in a long-term interactive marketing campaign in which they are rewarded in some way for paying attention to increasingly relevant messages”.

He says “by talking only to volunteers, Permission Marketing guarantees that consumers pay more attention to the marketing message”.

Permission Marketing has apparently developed out of this notion of “clutter” that we all experience in our modern lives.

It’s estimated that the average consumer sees about 3000 marketing messages every day – there are so many people vying for our attention that we’re not really paying much attention to anything any more.

Marketing experts are looking for new ways to sell and Permission Marketing, where the consumer has more control than the advertiser, is big.

Back to the specifics of E-newsletters and egged on by Seth I tell clients, prospects, my kids, my dog, my parents’ goldfish and anyone else who will listen that successful marketing with an E-newsletter relies on two key things:

1. Permission to email

2. Content that is personal, relevant and valuable to the recipient.

In practice I have discovered that permission (to email) is really a continuum. Some business owners are purists and will only email someone who has explicitly asked them to.

Others believe their clients’ permission to email is implicit in their existing relationship – a person’s name is on their client database, so they have permission to email them.

All my research tells me that sticking to a more pure definition of permission will elicit better results from your marketing messages.

I only have to look at my own E-newsletter open rates. Those people who have signed up completely of their own accord register as an “open” every edition.

Those I have coaxed into becoming subscribers, were happy to participate, but are a lot more irregular in the way they respond.

Love to know what you think about all this! Where do you sit on the Permission continuum? What sort of story are your open rates telling you?

Brown Mouse Communications helps small business owners build trust and win sales through high quality, individualised email newsletters.

© Copyright 2008 Brown Mouse Communications

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