You have my permission

Whatever happened to permission-based marketing? The kind where I opt in to hear messages about your company. What used to be a best practice seems to be a fading reality.

Not sure what’s happening in your world, but mine’s been compromised. Invaded even. And it has me questioning the direction of data-driven marketing.

In the past several months, I’ve noticed some changes in marketing that’s aimed at me – no doubt the result of bigger and better data that makes instant connections and takes instant actions, accordingly.

For instance:

  • I’ve received direct mail – as in a piece of paper in the mailbox that hangs to the right of my front door – from four separate companies whose ads I clicked on in Facebook.
  • I’ve received daily emails from companies with which the only interaction I’ve had was to visit their website. (Meaning: I did not fill out a form, I didn’t check a box and I surely didn’t knowingly give them my email address, nor did I say it was OK for them to email me.)
  • I now receive an average of four unsolicited telemarketing phone calls every day. That’s every day. Four. Every. Single. Day. (Yes, I am on the Do Not Call list, which apparently is meaningless.)
  • When I pump gas into my Subaru Outback I am forced to watch and listen to advertising built into the gas pump. This makes me feel particularly hopeless because I’m literally trapped right there trying to make a transaction that I pay good money for – a transaction that is not subsidized by advertising.
  • I’ve experienced a feeling of entrapment on flights in which they curiously don’t enable you to turn off the screen on the seat in front of you until after takeoff. This is yet another transaction which I’ve paid a lot of money for, yet I still have to watch and listen to forced ads.
  • I’ve received phone calls – direct to my cell – from software companies trying to demo their marketing platform tech to me – presumably because they’ve mined my LinkedIn profile and matched me to my phone number.

What the eff is going on?

First of all, I thought I left the magical 18 to 35 advertising cohort a few years back? Surely, these advertisers can tap all that data and see that I’m no longer in that age range where it’s cool to spend a paycheck on a pair of leather boots.

Second of all, whatever happened to the Do Not Call registry? I never realized I waived the right to not be telemarketed to by staying at a Marriott hotel.

I’m officially a curmudgeon. A naysayer.

I’m a marketer who doesn’t like to be marketed to.

Well, let me rephrase – I’m a marketer who doesn’t like to be aggressively pursued by marketing I did not opt into.

And it bothers me because I happen to like being marketed to by brands to which I’ve given my permission. I do open and read emails (again, from brands I’ve invited into by inbox). I enjoy talking on the phone with companies I buy things from.

But that’s the thing. It needs to be my idea. My world, my idea. My invitation to you.

Not a forced entry just because you happen to have the data now.

A break-in is still a break-in if the perpetrator knows your security alarm code, right?

Seth Godin wrote a succinct post about permission marketing 10 years ago that is still relevant – if not more – today. He notes that humility and patience are needed to successfully pull off true permission marketing, which is why so few companies do it well.

Well, I’m crying uncle here. I’m begging. Please learn the art and science of permission marketing and be diligent about it. Be patient. Give me the opportunity to truly give you permission.

Otherwise, my list of banned brands is getting quite long.

We can all be smarter with data and new technologies that enable these things. Because there’s a reason permission-based marketing started in the first place. And while so much has changed in technology, we humans are still basically the same.

So if you’re about to open a big shiny new box of predictive analytics tools for your real estate company, please, think of the children – I mean the humans whose space you will no doubt be invading armed with this amazing data. I’m not knocking it. I’m just saying, there’s a limit to marketing tolerance.

Move ahead with caution.