Promiscuous Customers

A couple of weeks back I wrote about how permission fades. That article appeared to strike a chord with quite a few people. Well, if the time is right to get real about the miracle of permission marketing, here’s another wake-up call — another reason why permission fades.

The customers with whom you have relationships are two-timing you.

Actually, it’s worse than that.

Your customers are outrageously promiscuous. They’ll give permission to just about anyone who comes knocking. That’s the sad truth of it.

Hundreds of e-commerce sites out there are jumping on the permission bandwagon. So consumers Joe and Jane Public will soon have so many permission-based relationships, they’ll end up with no relationships at all. Just a full inbox and no time or interest in opening their messages.

So you have three choices facing you:

One: Ignore what’s happening and hope that your new customer acquisitions will outpace your churn rate — at least until IPO time.

Two: Up the ante and make your relationship the most valuable in the inbox — because you pay more for the relationship.

Three: Try to find a new way to create relationships.

These aren’t easy choices. To paint a picture here, let’s go down to the old “Permission Bar and Lounge.”

Well, it just isn’t the way it used to be. One used to be able to come in here, sit in a quiet corner, strike up a conversation over a couple of glasses of Chablis and start a relationship.

But not any more.

Because word has spread that you can pick up some great customers at the Permission Bar and Lounge. And all it cost was a few points here and a discount or gift certificate there. So now the place is packed. The darn place is filled shoulder to shoulder. It’s noisy, messy and everyone is trying to pick up just about everyone else. Worst of all, everyone is saying yes. That’s the promiscuity part.

As marketers, the trouble for us is that we used to spend a few bucks on saying hi to someone so that we could catch their attention. We’d then try to hold that attention as we slowly nurtured a relationship built on familiarity, value and trust.

Now, when 10 other companies are doing the same thing with your latest customer — at the same time — the chances of creating any kind of relationship disappear in a hurry.

Is there a way to stand out from the crowd?

Sure. If you’re sharing the same customer with half a dozen other permission marketers, you need to separate your voice from theirs. So your message is heard above the din. Here’s one way to do that:

Stand out from the crowd with content that has value — and can come only from your site.

My guess is that five out of those other half-dozen companies have established relationships based on bribes: Points, discounts, specials, certificates and other monetary rewards.

And what’s wrong with a relationship based on rewards? Well, that may work really well with dogs, but I think it has its limits with people.

Even online, I think you need to offer a little more depth if you want to describe that tenuous connection you have with each customer as a relationship. Here’s an example of what I mean. Check out the “Amazon Delivers” service. may be the old dog on the block, but if I give them permission to tell me about new books on the history of agriculture, you can be sure I’ll open the emails they send me. How does this stand out from the promiscuous, superficial relationships I have with all those reward-givers?

It stands out because they’ve taken the trouble to invite me to tell them about what touches me as an individual. The program–and the relationship–is about me.

Not them.

More on this next time.

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