Why savvy marketers ask for permission

609_3702804Do you have a few minutes? I’d like to talk with you about something important.

It’s about two different styles of marketing and why one works a lot better than the other.

But first, let me give you some background information on marketing, in case all this is new to you.

Here’s the deal.

If you’re selling something, you’re involved in marketing. Even if you’re just selling some old furniture on Craigslist, you market it by taking photos, describing the furniture, pricing it right, and posting the ad. Easy.

And if you own a business, selling is always the goal whether it’s a specific product, a variety of products, or a service. Not always so easy.

How do you market your product or service?

If your customer base is local, your marketing efforts might include ads in a newspaper, direct mailings and groupons, a billboard, a phone book listing, or even radio ads.

If you’re a sole proprietor, you’re probably doing a lot of informal marketing: networking at trade shows, asking for referrals, or listing your business with your local chamber of commerce.

Now, if you’re taking your business online—or if you’re already there—understanding two basic marketing approaches is essential to seeing why one is far more effective than the other.

In fact, only one approach really works for small businesses, and the other is on its way out.

These two forms of marketing are called interruption marketing and permission marketing.

Interruption marketing, also called outbound marketing, is something you’re already familiar with.

Print ads in magazines, banner ads on websites, radio “sponsorships,” direct mail, telemarketers, and door-to-door sales are all forms of interruption marketing.

It’s called interruption marketing because it interrupts other activities.

TV commercials are classic “commercial interruptions.” Don’t you just love it when a movie cuts to a commercial just as the crime’s about to be solved? It’s designed that way to make sure you come back—for more interruptions 10 minutes later.

Interruption marketing is all about a company chasing the prospect whether or not the marketing message is welcome. And savvy consumers are tuning out.

Permission marketing, on the other hand, means prospects come to you. It’s also called inbound or invitational marketing.

As people develop relationships with a company and build trust, they’re far more likely to purchase a product or service than they would be after seeing a TV commercial or hearing a radio jingle.

Seth Godin, who gave widespread appeal to both the term and the concept, puts it like this:

“Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.”

When people give a business their email address in exchange for specific information, they’re giving permission to that business to market to them, even if the “marketing”  consists mainly of blog updates, a regularly published newsletter, or a free report.

This free but valuable information is part of what develops trust as well as the business’s authority.

For example, if you enter your name and email address on a real estate website such as realtor.com, you’ll get access to additional information or be notified when homes are listed for sale.

Because you want to buy a house—solve a problem—you eagerly sign up for the service. In addition to home listings, you’ll also receive information about financing, insurance, relocation, and other “problems” related to buying a home.

What’s in it for the company behind the website?

In this case, the profit comes from many sources: real estate agents pay to be featured on the site. Businesses like moving companies pay to handle requests for quotes. Banner ads. Pay-per-click ads. And much more.

When website visitors sign up for information, they give permission to the company to send email. They opt-in or subscribe, and they can opt-out or unsubscribe.

Permission marketing is all about a prospect going after the company. That’s a nice way to do business, don’t you think?

The advantage of permission marketing

Interruption marketing is hit or miss, it’s often obnoxious, and it’s expensive to cut through the noise and get people to notice. And unfortunately, the return on investment (ROI) is often low.

What do you do with junk mail and email spam? Do you read it and whip out a credit card? Or do you throw it in the recycling bin or hit delete?

In the last few decades, consumers have become more knowledgable, more savvy, and less trusting, and they’re not so easily lured by catchy slogans and clever pitches.

They’re already overloaded, and most of it gets tuned out anyway. They want to buy products from businesses they trust and respect.

As a small business owner, it doesn’t make sense to spend time and money chasing after prospects who might be interested—if you’re lucky.

Permission marketing is far less expensive than interruption marketing. And instead of pummeling a target market with repeated campaigns that might only produce a trickle of new business, you develop relationships with people who have already indicated they’re interested in what you offer.

Permission marketing means lower cost, less work, more leads, and more buyers.

How can permission marketing work for you?

Your primary online marketing efforts need to focus on developing valuable content, building relationships, and inspiring trust.

Relationships and trust require communication, after all, and that’s why you need to get a conversation going that revolves, even indirectly, around your product or service. Plus, as anyone on the customer service side knows, you need to be helpful.

But how do you do that?

It starts with your website content and opt-in (permission-based) email lists, but social media—Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks—can also play a big role.

If your content solves problems and supplies valuable information, visitors sign up for more: they give you permission to deliver your content to them. And it works.

The reason is plain and simple: most people don’t like in-your-face advertising and pushy marketing.

They hate to be SOLD stuff, but they LOVE to buy stuff, and permission marketing educates them on you and your product and gives them an opportunity to buy when they’re ready.

To earn the business of those savvy consumers, be a savvy marketer.

How can you develop the relationships, the trust, and the authority that brings the customers to your business? Share your experience or thoughts about what works and what doesn’t in the comments.

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