Permission Marketers or Data Collectors?

Recently I attended a marketing seminar run by a Director from a well-known marketing automation company. During his speech, he asked how many of us had read Seth Godin’s book “Permission Marketing” (check out Seth at www.sethgodin.com). I was surprised that I was the only one to raise a hand in a room full of experienced marketing people. Our presenter was clearly taken aback, and he should have been, as I’ll explain.

At Oinkodomeo, we are big Seth fans. His philosophies underlay much of the advice and support we provide to improve our Client’s sales processes’. I’m not going to try to summarize the principles of permission marketing here (please, please read the book, it’s a fast read). Instead I offer the one simple rule I adapted from permission marketing, a rule we follow:

Ask only for information that your prospect/customer would believe you need to do what he/she wants you to do right now.

Every time you ask for your prospect’s personal information, two things can happen; you give your prospect a better experience in exchange for their data (hopefully), or you damage whatever relationship has been built between you so far. Managing this interaction on an ongoing basis and patiently developing a relationship over time is really what permission marketing is all about, and marketing automation tools are built to facilitate this process.

In an environment where permission marketing is not a guiding principle, the goals for marketing automation tend to change from building relationships to information for its own sake, the mindless collection of information without purpose. While the profligate use of these data in outbound marketing campaigns might increase revenues in the short term, ultimately people will sense that a company’s continuing requests for more are not in their best interest. When sales fall, the automation tools itself gets blamed, not the process, and marketing automation could fall out of favor over a wide spread of markets.

So the man from the marketing automation company was right to be concerned. I’m concerned also.  It’s time to return to the permission principles that these automation tools were born to support, before we kill them off through mis-use.