Engage a consumer at your own risk – to business and reputation. “May I please” is a simple question, yet maybe the single most important truth for both affiliate and direct marketers. Last week I upgraded to iOS 6 and I immediately thought about asking permission. You see (if you are not one of the 100 million iPhone users who upgraded), Apple has integrated a new messaging system. Before I knew it, my phone was inundated with red circles appended to a corner of many of my home screen icons, reminding me that there was something I need to check or do. My phone took at least two more steps in the evolutionary cycle from a device to place and receive calls, to one more device that I had to invest time in managing.
It made me think of marketing. Asking specific permission is critical to building a relationship with your readers. While it is illegal to email to people without some level of permission, I am amazed at how often my expectations are overwhelmed with messages. If I join a blog community, I do not want a special offer every day. I do not want to get mail from friends of the owner saying I should be interested. Before I give away my email address, I want to know the rules of engagement – how often and what kind of communications I will receive.
The Direct Marketing folks tend to be far ahead of Affiliates on this, mainly based on the higher costs of snail mail over email. Buy from a catalog, and the merchant will send you the next one a lot sooner than if you had only used the catalog to feed recycling. Direct Marketers know who are the real consumers, and who are the casual observers.
How about you? Do you measure and segment your email lists based on engagement? Shouldn’t the people who are active in your community get a chance to share with you more often than casual observers? Do you build your offers thinking about this committed core? Remember the rule – use content to build commitment, frequency to build engagement. Make sure when your readers give you something precious – their email address – you are setting their expectations on how you will use it. Ask the question “may I please” and reap the goodwill.