A four-part series chronicling the origins of today’s permission marketing landscape
By the close of the 20th Century, unrelenting (and ever-faster) technological innovation democratized media and shattered the one-way communication model. The rise of the Internet in the 1990s1, coupled with micro-processing power that brought it (and voice, and video, and photography and everything else) into the palm of the consumer’s hand created a landscape where companies spoke to consumers and consumers held the power to reply. Now fully liberated from the trappings of geography and availability, consumers demand personalization and recognition of unique preferences.
“Permission doesn't have to be a one-way broadcast medium. The internet means you can treat different people differently, and it demands that you figure out how to let your permission base choose what they hear and in what format.”- Seth Godin
As consumers gained a voice in the engagement paradigm, marketers and advertisers were quickly forced to recognize the new reality. Two key themes converged to initiate this landmark change: brand-side efforts to capture a customer's expectations, preferences and aversions through Voice of the Customer methodology and a powerful consumer-side backlash to behavior tracking, interruption advertising and unwanted communications in the form of phone calls, spam and direct mail.
The result? Marketing guru Seth Godin dubbed it “permission marketing,” the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them. According to Godin, brands needed to recognize the new power of the best consumers to ignore marketing and realize that treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention.
Fast-forward to today and the opportunity to risk ratio on consumer engagement looms even larger. In their 2013 US Consumer Confidence Index, TRUSTe found that 89 percent of adults worry about their privacy online, 43 percent do not trust businesses with their personal information, and 89 percent avoid doing business with companies that do not take steps to protect their privacy.2Even the most tech-savvy customers are skeptical. According to a study by Cisco, three-fourths of generation Y consumers don’t trust marketers to use their data in a way that doesn’t compromise privacy.3
At the same time, consumers are rewarding companies that engage them responsibly and deliver personalized experiences. According to Forrester Research, more than 75 percent of consumers say companies should let them decide how they can be contacted.4 Moreover, 45 percent of global consumers are willing to share personal information with brands in exchange for relevant ads, according to research from IPG Mediabrands and Microsoft.5
Ignoring the self-reported preferences of prospects and customers leads to enormous missed opportunity costs while misusing or abusing that information is even worse. In order to remain competitive, marketers must implement smart processes for the collection, maintenance and distribution of consumer information. Enter “preference management,” a relatively new addition to the marketing lexicon and the logical extension of Voice of the Customer methodology and permission marketing insights.
Companies must be able to listen to consumers and learn from what they say. The key to that process is preference management – the active collection, maintenance and distribution of unique consumer characteristics, such as product interest, communication channel preference and frequency of communication.
These preferences are not derived by profile data, purchase history or where they are on a website; rather, they are expressly stated by the consumer themselves. In other words, preference management means giving customers and prospects the ability to conveniently communicate with a company, recording the information in a central location and acting on what they say.