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December 12, 2017

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Permission Marketing

Thirty years ago, it was easy to get someone’s attention. A TV commercial, a letter, or a sales call—they were all easy and effective ways to reach people. But the times, they have a changed… average consumer see or hear 1 million marketing messages—that’s nearly 3,000 per day! No human being can pay attention to that many messages. So to deal with the information overload, we’re training ourselves to ignore these interruptions.

The bottom-line: traditional sales and marketing techniques are losing their effectiveness.

The New Model

Marketing is a contest for your attention. Advertising, direct mail, telemarketing, direct sales, and other forms of promotion fight for your time and attention by interrupting. This model works just fine when interruptions are few. But today life is too hectic to pay attention to the interruptions. According to marketing guru Seth Godin, interruption marketing is giving way to a new model: permission marketing.

Companies are now challenged to persuade customers to raise their hands—to volunteer their attention. You tell customers a little about your company and its services, they tell you a little something about themselves, you tell them a little more, they tell you a little more. And over time, you create a mutually beneficial learning relationship.

Permission marketing is marketing without interruptions. The permission model is quite simple. You get permission to begin a dialog with someone and then over time use that permission to educate, entertain, and inform. You teach people how you can solve their problems and how you add value. Through repeated contact, you develop trust. Permission marketing turns strangers into friends and friends into customers.

Permission marketing rewrites the economics of marketing

One of the greatest benefits of permission is that it dramatically lowers marketing costs. With interruption marketing, you spend a great deal of money just to get a few people to express interest. And if someone doesn’t respond to your offer, you assume they’re not interested. The cost of reaching that person a second time is equal to the cost of the first interruption, so it’s often easier and more cost effective to just start with a new list of prospects. When you get permission, you’re getting the okay to communicate with a person via e-mail. And e-mail changes everything, allowing you to communicate with people frequently, quickly, unobtrusively, and inexpensively.

With permission, frequent communication is cheap. So rather than try once and give up, you keep contacting people, keep educating them, and keep trying to turn them into customers.

Permission in Staffing

The staffing industry is made up of more than 8,000 companies operating more than 21,000 locations in the US alone. And not one of those companies is promising lousy service and high prices. To win business, you must somehow differentiate yourself from the competition. You have to get the attention of decision makers, demonstrate the value you can offer, and develop trust in your ability to deliver. Permission marketing offers a powerful means to accomplish these goals.

By nurturing people on a consistent basis, you demonstrate your expertise, position yourself as a valuable partner, and set your company apart from the competition.

Most staffing companies want to sell higher margin solutions. But to sell solutions, you have to speak with the people who really have the problems. Permission marketing can be used to teach decision makers about the strategic value of staffing—how your services can be used to control costs, improve productivity, and manage risk.

Permission marketing can also be used to increase placement rates. One specific technique is to ask customers if they’d like to receive first notification about top candidates that become available. This type of permission has two benefits: it’s an extra value you can offer to special clients, and it will help you place available candidates faster.

A second technique to increase fill rates is to get permission to market top jobs to your current candidates and your alumni. As job orders come in, don’t just post them to a web site. Use your permission to market them to your candidate database. You’ll get more referrals, faster fills, and spend less on classified advertising.

Getting Permission

Why would someone give you permission to market to them? The answer is quite simple: because it’s in his or her best interest to do so! To get permission, give people something they want. Reward them for opting in.

Rewards can be tangible—things like promotional items, prizes, and other incentives. They can also be intangibles such as free information or special offers. One of the most popular and effective means of getting permission is with contests and games. People love games. They are fun, exciting, and engaging. People join for the challenge and the chance to win. Using games as the lure, Seth Godin’s company was able to attract millions of players. The games then served not only as entertainment, but also as a means to educate people about a specific product or service.

Of course, to get permission you still have to capture people’s time and attention. But with powerful rewards, getting permission is fairly easy—and much less threatening than a typical marketing or direct sales effort.

How many sales calls do you make each week? Wouldn’t it be easy to end the call by asking for permission to keep in-touch? With little effort, your sales team could collect dozens, if not hundreds, of permissions each week. And wouldn’t that make future sales a heck of a lot easier?

Creating a Curriculum

Interruption marketing ends with a response. But with permission marketing, a response is just the start. Once you obtain the permission, you must have something to say. The trick is to break your marketing message down into a curriculum—a series of communications that educate and build your relationship with the customer. For a curriculum to be effective, each message should be relevant and add value for the recipient. For many companies, the easiest curriculum is an email newsletter. Each issue may share company news, ideas on using staffing to solve problems, hiring tips, information on the latest management trends, or anything else that would be interesting to the audience.

One of the challenges about creating a curriculum is that you have to keep the content fresh and interesting. Permission doesn’t last forever—it can be revoked. To maintain permission, deliver first-rate content. And since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, you have to determine what would be desirable to the people you want to reach.

Putting Permission to Work

Permission marketing makes it easy to reach decision makers. It keeps you top-of-mind. It differentiates you from the competition and helps you sell higher margin solutions. It improves fill rates and lowers recruiting costs. And it’s relatively cheap to implement.

The key to success with permission marketing is to be an early adopter. Right now, few staffing companies are taking advantage of permission marketing. Those that ask for permission first are most likely to get it. And the latecomers? Well, they’ll probably be too late. People are selective about giving permission. The longer you wait, the harder it will get.

- David Searns

David Searns is a member of the StaffingU Adjunct Faculty and is President of Haley Marketing Group, a relationship marketing services firm specializing in the staffing— industry. Haley Marketing offers a unique relationship marketing process that helps staffing and search firms to stand out, stay top-of-mind, and win more business. They offer a range of services to satisfy the marketing needs (and budgets) of most types of staffing firms.

For more information about Haley Marketing, please visit www.haleymarketing.com.