Follow This: How to Create a Compelling Reason to Gain Permission

  |  September 9, 2010   |  Comments

Eight key questions to ask to ensure you're making it easy for customers to do what they came to do.

Let's face it – every Web page, application, or brand (and even most people) are screaming at us to like them, follow, check in, connect, sign up, or register. It can be daunting.

Here are eight key questions to ask (for marketers and what your intended recipients will ask) to make sure wherever your customers and prospects are interacting with you, that you make it easy for them to do whatever they came to do. Chances are if you accomplish that, your business objectives should have a better chance of occurring.

For marketers:

What's your goal?

As baseball legend and life philosopher Yogi Berra said "If you don't know where you're going, you might not get there." Goal setting is mission critical for e-mail marketing program success, yet sometimes gets ignored.

So you have to be clear with your vision for any opt-in marketing program. What are you trying to accomplish? How will you do it? How does this impact your business goals? Is it realistic?

Answers will vary for a mature e-mail program versus testing a Twitter proof-of-concept campaign but you need to ask these questions no matter what. Why? Because someone will eventually.

What's the situation?

Just a button, tab, or neat font may be a start, but you must make it easy and clear for your visitors. Always make the opt-in (be it e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, or Foursquare) highly prominent on your site. Southwest Airlines does a nice job in grabbing your attention and then hopefully converting you after the initial click.


Don't waste great opportunities like confirmation pages, welcome e-mails, social conversations, and more to cross-pollinate complementary permission-based marketing offerings. For example, does your welcome e-mail provide links to your social media presence? Does your Twitter page offer clear direction on how else to engage with your brand? After you buy or opt in it is very appropriate to want to delve in deeper, and these opportunities are missed by most for leveraging integrated acquisition efforts.

How will I measure the success and value?

In addition to "Is my open rate good?" and "When should I send my e-mails?" we often hear "Is my e-mail database size big enough?" Yes, in the numbers-driven world of marketing, size does matter. But how about measuring how many fans or subscribers interacted (measured by likes, comments, or clicks) with the brand in a particular month? What about measuring churn across the various opt-in platforms? What about ROI on each campaign or channel? Content and value of your communications, for better or worse, is often the driver of these, so you want to be sure you are evaluating why and what may have helped increase engagement and sales or decreased call center inquiries.

Customer and prospect questions that will be asked:

What will you deliver?

Just asking for an e-mail or a like isn't enough in today's marketplace. You must be clear to the end user on what they will receive in exchange for their permission. Regardless of the platform, any company needs to spell out what you will be receiving. One thing to note, marketers may be enamored with social's potential for going beyond offers and discounts, but that's what is driving them to like you (as evidenced by the chart, below, from ExactTarget and eMarketer). Don't worry - it's them, not you.


Why should I?

Offering incentives to sign up or like a brand is a proven acquisition method. Making them consistent with the brand experience and not bringing in the "wrong" type of user is key too. Regardless of an incentive, you should articulate how the potential subscriber, fan, or follower will benefit from opting in. Is it exclusive content, discounts, or updates from the CEO? Be clear and tell them out of the gate.

Do I trust you?

Privacy policies are one of those things it is good to have even though no one reads them. But what about being frank and making it clear about how you will (or won't) use any data from the relationship? Trust is often gained through simple and transparent wording, not legalese or marketing speak that begs the question, what are they hiding?

OK – you had me at hello, now what?

Everyone hates to fill out long forms, so why don't e-mail marketers learn from the ease of one-click opt-ins like Twitter and Facebook offer? Capture the e-mail address and then provide the ability for the user to offer more information in order to build a profile. Forcing them down an eight field form is often one of the biggest reasons e-mail programs don't grow.

Is this all you have to offer?

I love to think that any permission-based platform, whether it is Twitter, Facebook, or e-mail, is really a unique channel that offers VIP benefits that can't be accessed elsewhere. The reality of the situation is very different. Your best customers crave something unique, so give it to them. It doesn't have to be monetary offers. Maybe it's a heads-up on a special that will launch in 24 hours or a special survey so your customers can comment on specific topics, and provide compliments (gasp) and their meaningful feedback. Just don't be the cut-and-paste marketer.

Whatever your opt-in marketing platform of choice, remember to stand out, speak clearly, and be respectful to your audience. What do you do to attract subscribers, likes, and followers and who does this really well? Thanks in advance for your two cents.


Simms Jenkins

Simms Jenkins is CEO of BrightWave Marketing, North America's leading email marketing-focused digital agency. The award-winning firm specializes in elevating email marketing and digital messaging programs that drive revenue, cut costs, and build relationships. Jenkins has led BrightWave Marketing in establishing a world-class client list including Affiliated Computer Service (A Xerox Company), Chick-fil-A, Cox Business, Phillips66, Porsche, and Southern Company. The agency was recently ranked among the fastest growing private companies by Inc. Magazine.

Jenkins was awarded the prestigious AMY 2010 Marketer of the Year from the American Marketing Association for being the top agency marketer and the Email Marketer of the Year at the Tech Marketing Awards held by the Technology Association of Georgia. Jenkins is regarded as one of the leading experts in the email marketing industry and is regularly cited by the media as such and called upon by the financial community to provide market insight and consulting.

Jenkins is the author of two definitive and highly regarded books on email marketing; The New Inbox (published in April 2013 by ClickZ/Incisive Media) and The Truth About Email Marketing (published by Pearson's Financial Times Press in 2008). Jenkins is currently the Email Marketing Best Practices Columnist for ClickZ, the largest resource of interactive marketing news and commentary in the world, online or off. His industry articles have been called one of the top 21 information sources for email marketers.

He has been featured in Fortune Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Adweek, Bloomberg TV, Wired Magazine, and scores of other leading publications and media outlets. Jenkins is a regular speaker at major digital industry and general business conferences.

Additionally, Jenkins is the creator of and, the leading authorities on email and social media metrics. Prior to founding BrightWave Marketing, Jenkins headed the CRM group at Cox Interactive Media.

Jenkins serves on the eMarketing Association's Board of Advisors among other civic and professional boards. He is also a mentor at Flashpoint, a Georgia Tech-based startup accelerator program. Jenkins is a graduate of Denison University in Granville, Ohio and resides in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood with his wife and three children.

Follow and connect with Simms on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, The BrightWave Blog, and his book websites at and

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