The Three Rules of Permission

The following probably isn’t what you’re expecting me to say about permission marketing.

If you’ve read “Permission Marketing” by Seth Godin, you might expect me to say that the three rules are:

  1. Be anticipated.

  2. Be personal.
  3. Be relevant.

Great advice. And read the book if you haven’t done so already. But this is not what I’m thinking.

Here are my three rules.

  1. Help people find what they want.

  2. Be trustworthy.
  3. Obsess over service.

Permission marketing isn’t just about “getting” permission. It’s not just a box with a check in it. It’s not just a prospect or customer saying “Yes.”

These are just moments in time.

When a customer checks a box or says “Yes,” it doesn’t mean that you now own the customer and the customer’s constant attention. You have that customer for just a very brief moment.

The key to success is how you use that moment.

Permission marketing is about building long-term relationships.

So, after you have received that small moment of permission, here are my three rules:

  1. Help people find what they want.

    Permission weakens in the face of confusion.

    You may love your web site, but chances are it’s a horrible place in which to find stuff. Most online folks are not experienced Internet users. To you, it may be obvious how to navigate around your site. To others, it won’t be.

    Whether you’re selling information, a service, books, or road salt by the ton, there’s something you can do to make it easier for your customers to use your web site.

    Why bother? Because permission, when first received, is a very delicate thing.

    And it likely won’t survive a web site that is hard to navigate.

    So make it easy for people to find what they want. Make it easy for them to get all the information they need to make an informed decision. Make the order process easy. Make it easy to track a purchase and return that purchase where applicable.

    You think that your site usability is already fabulous? No room for improvement? Sure there is.

  2. Be trustworthy.

    Permission dies in the absence of trust.

    Yes, privacy is a real concern for most people online. Those of us who make a living online may be pretty sophisticated in our understanding of encryption, firewalls, and everything else we do to ensure the security of our customers’ private information.

    That so-called sophistication makes us complacent.

    Our customers have legitimate concerns. They don’t want to put their money or personal information at risk. Respect their concerns and address them.

    And never betray the basics of permission. Don’t send out emails that are not requested.

    Do whatever you can to demonstrate that they are right to trust you. Whatever it takes.

  3. Obsess over service.

    Permission deepens when relationships grow.

    The more you can do to create a genuine relationship with your customers, the more likely you are to earn a deeper, more resilient level of permission.

    This is where customer service comes in. Obsess over it. Invest in it. Do whatever you can to maximize the number of positive moments of contact between a real person within your company and one of your customers or clients.

    By phone. By live chat. By email.

    The Net can be a cold and lifeless place for your customers.

    Add in real people as often as you can. Make every point of customer contact a positive experience even if it starts out poorly (which it often does).

So there you have my three rules.

Make it easy. Build trust. Serve.

Simple to buy into. Pretty tough to execute all three well.

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