Permission Fades

Permission marketing is all the rage right now. In fact, it’s so cool almost everyone is practicing it. Trouble is, a lot of people appear to have forgotten how permission works. Or at least, how it works at its best. Here is an attitude that appears to be prevailing out there right now

“Hey, we got Nick’s permission once, so now we can email him as much as we like.”

I don’t think so. In real life, permission granted isn’t a contract; it’s a state of mind. The customer’s state of mind.

Let me put that another way.

The moment your customer no longer feels as if you have permission, you no longer have permission. Whether you like it or not. The trouble is, in most cases, you’ll never get to know when your customer is approaching or has crossed that line. As a result, permission granted can turn into, “How the heck can I get off this dumb list?” before you know it.

And long before that moment, the likelihood of your customer responding to any offers will fall to almost zero. That gradual erosion of permission sends your conversion rates down the tube in a hurry. As an example, I signed up for one of the major points/reward programs a while back. I was curious to see how it worked.

Here’s my experience, as a real life customer:

1. I went to their site, looked around and signed up.

Key point: Now, about two months later, I have absolutely no recollection of their site. I don’t remember what it looked like. More significantly, I don’t remember what I did there. Did I just sign up? Or did I opt-in to receive information on particular areas of interest to me? I have no idea. Just can’t remember.

This is pretty important, because if I can’t remember what permission I granted, they essentially no longer have my permission. They may think they have. But in terms of my actual participation in the program, they don’t.

2. I waited with anticipation for my first offers.

Sure. When permission granted is fresh, it’s exciting. In fact, as I recall, I was kind of annoyed that it took them a couple of days to get back with their first offer.

3. I continued to be interested for about a month.

These guys send me an email exactly once every two weeks. To begin with, that felt fine. Not too many, not too few. But now? Now I just want to get off the list. Why? Because they let my permission erode, lapse and collapse.

4. Now I just want them to go away.

Trouble is, they don’t want me to go. Can I get off the list with one click on the emails they send me? Nope. Do they tell me at the end of their mailings how I can say goodbye? Nope.

They got me. They want to keep me. And they are going to make it hard for me to leave.

Is this smart? Nope. Because now they are spamming me.

Permission withdrawn means that your future emails are spam. You can argue that technically I’m wrong. But who cares what you think? It only matters what the customer thinks. And if the customer feels they’re being emailed stuff they no longer want, you’re spamming them. So what’s the answer?

Think about it this way.

If you go on a date and get permission to come by his or her home the next evening, have you just received permission to go to that person’s home every evening for the next five years? No, you haven’t.

If you want permission granted to translate into long-term sales and a growing ROI, you need to keep that permission fresh and renewed. Those points/reward people should give me the opportunity to renew, refresh or even withdraw my permission on an ongoing basis.

In a permission-based online relationship, the customer’s perception is your reality — whether you like it or not. So treat that permission with care. Look after it. Respect it. Renew it. Continue to earn it. Or the whole concept of permission marketing could quickly descend into another sneaky way to spam people.

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