Permission Matters in Marketing

By Jess


What would you rather have: a large list of subscribers, or a well-performing one? Luckily, changing your attitude towards permission marketing can get you both.

In a rush? Here are the keypoints of this article:

  • Take a step back and think about how your subscribers ended up being on your list? Did you ask for their consent? Or did you find or even buy these email addresses?
  • Growing a high-quality list takes time, effort and engagagement, especially when you start from scratch.
  • Try to change your attitude about permission and think of it as something we want to have, because it improves our business and increase our chance of reaching our audience.
  • Email addresses are valuable. They are actually worth a lot of money, so make sure you treat your subscribers nicely, tell them what they are getting into.
  • When it comes to lists, it is important to have quality over quantity.
  • Focus on people who have shown an interest in your content, they are people you want to have a connection with, rather than a huge list of unengaged addresses, which might ultimately end up in severe deliverability issues affecting other lists of yours.

In his book Meatball Sundae, Seth Godin says that “permission [marketing] exists to help the user”. Turned on its head, this phrase could also mean that permission marketing doesn’t help the marketer at all - as far as simplifying their job, at any rate. While in reality, permission marketing will improve your business significantly - if you let it.

Once you start up an email marketing program, you have to make a choice between two roads very quickly: the easy, let’s-get-there-quickly road, or the harder, I-want-to-work-my-way road. The easy road includes lots of cutting corners and blaming everyone else for your problems; the hard road means commitment, work, patience, and most of all, respect on your part. Still, it’s the second route which holds the true payoff, both in terms of profits and subscribers.

Because as an email marketer, your subscribers are your most essential assets. Period. Within the industry, we talk a lot about “lists”, but tend to forget that they’re actually made up of real-life people. And all of these real-life people ended up on your list somehow. This is where it gets sticky: how exactly did they get there? Did they give you their explicit, no-strings-attached permission to contact them? Or did you find or even buythe list of their addresses?

These are tough questions to face up to. Which is one of the reasons why growing a high-quality list takes such time, effort and engagement - especially when you start from scratch. (Which in turn leads to so many marketers taking the easy route.)

The thing is, we need a change of attitude about permission. If we think about permission as something we need to have, it will become a source of pressure in our daily lives - or worse, just another thing to tick off our to-do list. If, on the other hand, we think of permission as something we want to have, because it improves our business and increases our chance of reaching our subscribers, it will become a goal in itself. Something that gives us a sense of achievement and inspires us to do even more.

APSIS Blog: Permission ends up in your inbox


So how should this change of attitude manifest itself in your email marketing strategy? Easy: just think of one simple thing when you start growing your list. Email addresses are valuable. They’re literally worth a lot of money. In a way, your subscribers are the ones paying your salary. So the very least you can do in return is meet their expectations honestly, treat them nicely, and tell them what they are getting into.

“But shouldn’t I be trying to increase my list at all costs?”, you may be thinking. But why? Why is it important to have a huge list? Wouldn’t it be better to focus on people you actually have a connection with? People that have already said “yes” to receiving your newsletter or campaign? If your only objective is increasing your list at all costs, with no regards to the quality of your subscribers, you may well end up with high unengagement levels and, ultimately, severe deliverability issues - which affects all lists, big or small.

Whereas people who gave their permission to hear from you will definitely increase your engagement rates. And as we’re fast approaching an even more digital culture, this permission is becoming easier to get: for new generations, sharing personal information with companies they feel comfortable with is like second nature. Just think of all the social sign-on pages out there, asking for authorisation. Another reason to think of permission as the legal requirement, read more about the essentials of GDPR here.

And if you’re still unconvinced, think about this: email marketing is still the single online marketing channel with the highest return on investment, currently around 40%. That’s a lot of potential for you and your company. Now imagine what that figure would be if any and all email marketing was permission-based? See? We told you it was worth it.

Get the best tips and tricks on how to create a powerful, converting and growing recipient list from our Webinar-On-Demand: List hygiene, opt-in, opt-out: What does it all mean, and how does it work?

This article was originally published in March 2016 by Head of Marketing Romana Walter and updated in September 2018.

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