Strike One. . . You’re Out!

I’m not going to lie to you. Despite the fact that I live in New England, home of the newly crowned Superbowl champion New England Patriots, I’m not that much of a football fan. Oh sure, I enjoy the big event itself (half-time not withstanding), but the truth is, I don’t really care who wins.

I think my lack of passion comes from the fact that I don’t understand the game itself. I have a handle on the basics of course, but there are significant pieces of football that frankly just don’t make sense to me.

Take “huddles” for example. Here you’ve got the only sport on the planet where they actually have a meeting in-between every single play, and yet the first thing the quarterback does when he gets up to the line of scrimmage is yell out more directions. Why not just cover everything in the huddle; how much could there possibly be to talk about every five minutes?

In any case, there is one thing about football that I do like: one loss during the playoffs and you’re out for the season. Unlike the other major American sports (basketball, baseball, presidential primaries, etc.), in football there’s no such thing as a “best of seven series.” You make one mistake and it’s all over.

Believe it or not, in this small way, E-Newsletters are just like football. A given subscriber need opt-out of (i.e. request to be removed from) your mailing list just once to be gone forever.

Think about that. You spend all that time and effort driving people to your web site; fine tuning your newsletter subscription page; coming up with sign-up incentives; and doing whatever else you do to make it as attractive and easy as possible for somebody to get your newsletter. Perfect.

Then, you do one thing one time that a reader doesn’t like — publish too frequently; talk too much about yourself; bore your readers; whatever — and she decides to take herself off your list permanently. (I know what you’re thinking; thank God marriage doesn’t work that way).

The point is, the implicit arrangement underlying permission marketing is fundamentally different than what’s at the heart of “traditional” marketing. If you’re involved in traditional marketing (e.g. direct mail; mass media advertising; telemarketing; trade shows), you live in a, “there’s always next time,” kind of world. The focus is on who bought — not who didn’t — and you’re free to experiment all you like in reaching different audiences over time.

With permission marketing on the other hand, the customer holds all the cards, and he or she alone decides when to cut off communication (not you).

Bottom Line: Every newsletter you send carries with it the risk that a reader might opt-out of all future email from your company. The penalty for poor or off target communication is a permanent loss of attention.

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