Does Permission Need To Be Explicit?

Earlier this month, the topic of permission spurred heated debate on Inbox Insiders, an industry discussion group in which I participate. One group argued that explicit, upfront permission is the gold standard and that anything less -- including eAppends  -- is unethical. The other group suggested that it should be fine to send an email to someone who has chosen to do business with you and hasn't opted-out of communications. 

Putting aside for a moment the questions of ethics or eAppends, the real question seemed to be: "How explicit does permission need to be?"

As responsible marketers, we need to consider first how our customers would like to interact with us. And if we avoid loaded questions about permission and data sharing, we could come up with a pretty good picture of what our customers want based on how our customers behave. And to be clear, we're talking about the average Joe (or Josephine) here. Not the rabid fans who think your brand is the best thing since sliced bread, but the rest of the group that makes up a decent chunk of your sales.

So what would that hypothetical consumer say? Here's a clue:

 

To all responsible and reputable emailers that I've bought products or services from:

 Feel free to send me email. I don't really have the time to bother with figuring out how to give you permission. I don't want a relationship with you, I want you to sell me stuff as well as you can so I can make an informed decision whether to buy.

 Since I already do business with you, I expect to see some emails that actually relate to what I've bought or maybe searched for or even read/reviewed on your site. But you can also send me random items... eventually something will be of interest. It's your dime (or 0.025 cents or whatever you pay to send me an email). 

Don't expect me to open everything - but I'll go back and search for your emails when I am ready to buy. And when I decide you're just not relevant to me -- like Babies 'R' Us now that my kids aren't exactly babies anymore -- I'll just delete your emails or opt-out or hit the "spam" button or something. Whatever is convenient for me. 

Of course, if you decide to waste my time by waiting for me to raise my hand and ask you to send me emails, I'll do business with someone who has the guts to send me their best efforts instead of hiding behind silly arguments about the ethics of talking to me in a channel I use daily. For all I know, I already gave you my email address and permission. Or not. I don't care either way. This non-relationship you think we have isn't worth my time or effort unless and until I decide I need something you have. Please remember that in the future, when you're agonizing over whether to send me a message or not. 

  Sincerely,

Your customer

 

How many of you think it's your customer's responsibility to figure out how to ask you to sell them stuff?

Please share!

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32 comments about "Does Permission Need To Be Explicit?".
  1. Mark Vogel from Vogel Marketing Solutions LLC , November 16, 2010 at 12:32 p.m.

    I see a huge difference between B2B and B2C. I feel a consumer's email is akin to their home phone. However, cold-calling in a business environment is acceptable and expected. As long as that B2B message is targeted, relevant, personalized and professional, then I encourage it -- and do not wait for that business customer to ask for a sale. I counsel my clients to use every tool in the email kit: deep list segmentation, automated thank you's, drip campaigns, customized emails based on click behavior, etc. It's my belief that in the business environment it's part of a person's job description to field calls from relevant vendors, filter the offers and make a decision.

    All of that is out the window in the Consumer world. In that case, all efforts should be placed in how to INVITE them into a personal conversation. If there could be any doubt in the recipient's mind that they opted-in for that message from that company, then I advise against it. If they don't open after X deliveries (varies based on product) then I purge them from the list even if they don't unsubscribe. I don't "pre-check" online forms, and don't share lists with third parties no matter how relevant they may be.

    So the bottom line is, to me, that explicit permission is NOT required in B2B. But in the B2C world, it's critical.

  2. Rita Allenrallen@freshaddress.com from FreshAddress, Inc. , November 16, 2010 at 12:38 p.m.

    I appreciate your customer letter :) Permission needs to be offered and an eAppend should address only those potential recipients with who you have had a previous relationship. As a culture, we typically look for a 'way out', or to unsubscribe from mailings and contact. We don't usually open an email and look for a way 'in' to participate. I agree that searching when I am ready to revisit your brand is valuable for me as although I may not need you now, I will remember you when I am ready to move. And, I know, by best practices, will always offer me a 'way out' to unsubscribe.

  3. Sam Bueno de mesquita from ActionAid UK , November 16, 2010 at 1:42 p.m.

    It all comes back to relevance. If you are genuinely sending them something they might want - and not in the business evangelist's 'everyone must want our products' way - then it's probably OK. Otherwise, they're going to hit that 'Mark as Spam' button, and you'll ruin your sender reputation.

  4. Neil Schwartzman from CAUCE , November 16, 2010 at 3:01 p.m.

    Well, congratulations. This is a new low. The purported email from a subscriber trivializes, indeed, entirely dismisses the notion of permission as being 'too hard' for the average Internet user to bother with.

    To say I am amazed at the arrogance that is engendered in such a statement would not begin to express my disgust with such a notion.

    I must say this though: this faux email is a clear representation of what end-users feel marketers think of them: disposable, not worthy of respect, and too dumb to figure out marketing schemes to exploit them for every last penny. Thanks for having removed any doubt.

    As William Gibson once described the marketer's take on a consumer "something the size of a baby hippo, the color of a week-old boiled potato, that lives by itself, in the dark, in a double-wide on the outskirts of Topeka. It's covered with eyes and it sweats constantly. The sweat runs into those eyes and makes them sting. It has no mouth... no genitals, and can only express its mute extremes of murderous rage and infantile desire by changing the channels on a universal remote"

    You have done nothing to dispel this notion, rather, you have gone to lengths to prove this notion. Happily, truly responsible marketers do not have such silly thoughts, and two, the time is nigh for such things to change.

    Neil Schwartzman
    Executive Director
    CAUCE http://cauce.org
    The Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email, North America Inc.

  5. Gretchen Scheiman from L5 Direct Consulting, Inc. , November 16, 2010 at 4:09 p.m.

    @Mark V. interesting point of view on B2B requiring lower permission.

  6. Gretchen Scheiman from L5 Direct Consulting, Inc. , November 16, 2010 at 4:11 p.m.

    @Neil, another way to look at it is that it's a new high in the level of respect we should have for customers - not to waste their time after they've clearly established an interest in our products and services. I've often thought it's a mark of hubris that we expect our customers to spend more and more time engaging with us when really, what they most want is to enjoy the products we can provide to them.

  7. Gretchen Scheiman from L5 Direct Consulting, Inc. , November 16, 2010 at 4:13 p.m.

    @Sam, interesting idea. I'd say that the concepts of relevance and permission are entirely unrelated, though certainly something more relevant to me will make it easier for me to overlook whether I actually asked for it or not.

  8. Gretchen Scheiman from L5 Direct Consulting, Inc. , November 16, 2010 at 4:18 p.m.

    @Rita, thanks for the support and for an elegant way of expressing the concept.

  9. Gretchen Scheiman from L5 Direct Consulting, Inc. , November 16, 2010 at 4:48 p.m.

    @Anon Anon, why are you assuming that every customer has enough interest in every organization that they do business with to make it a point to hunt down every single permissions page so they can sign up for emails? We don't ask for the same level of interaction for direct mailings. That's a huge level of disrespect for people's time and effort. It takes far less time to unsubscribe than it does to subscribe (or to shred/toss the mail for that matter). And for every story I've heard of a disgruntled person saying, "why did they email me" I've heard a story of a disgruntled person saying "why didn't they email me?" Respect cuts both ways. I trust customers to be able to decide where to spend their time and attention.

  10. Neil Schwartzman from CAUCE , November 16, 2010 at 4:58 p.m.

    "I trust customers to be able to decide where to spend their time and attention." By sending them email they haven't requested, you most certainly don't. "Hunting down" signup pages means you are doing it wrong. Thinking that a customer needs to 'figure out' how to give you permission, or are to busy/dumb to do so, means you are doing it wrong. As far as I can tell, with regard to marketing, you are decidedly doing it wrong. Your comments harkens back to the 1990s Bob Weitzen-era DMA stance. I suggest you educate yourself, and become enlightened what your colleagues are actually doing these days. Permission is king. Study after study after study has proven that, repeatedly.

    Or, do us a favour, and put your words into actions. Consul your clients to follow your paradigm, and the market, and filtering will take care of this situation in a most decided fashion. I believe there will be a fast-track Darwinian evolutionary process to anyone who undertakes this wrongheadedly dangerous and naive approach.

    lastly, I should mention that what you are suggesting is illegal outside the United States, in Canada and all of Europe.

    Neil Schwartzman
    Executive Director
    CAUCE
    The Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email, North America Inc.

  11. Dela Quist from Alchemy Worx Ltd , November 17, 2010 at 3:55 a.m.

    Hi Gretchen

    Brave of you to stick your head above the parapet!
    Your point is very well made and worthy of reasoned debate.

    Apart from trying to make it a moral issue, it seems to me that the permission activists want to have it both ways. On the one hand they believe that any email a consumer, recipient, Google, Yahoo, mentally deluded person, person hitting the wrong button or algorithm deems to be spam is spam. Even if the recipient actively signed up to your program and were double opted-in!
    Serves you right they say; you should have been more relevant.

    But by that logic relevance trumps permission, in which case your argument has a great deal of merit and email marketers should primarily focus on relevance with permission as a secondary consideration.

    But No! The very same people who disregard and disrespect your permission-based and legal right to send an email want you to absolutely respect the fact that you do not have explicit permission no matter how relevant your message - that’s just nuts.

    Personally I am a huge fan and advocate of permission, but I think it is time there was a level playing field. IMHO permission is far more important than relevance; it should work and be respected both ways by everyone.

    However as it is not at this time, I have no problem with anyone leveraging the fact that many consumers are happy to receive unsolicited email that is relevant.

  12. Kelly Lorenz , November 17, 2010 at 8:43 a.m.

    Gretchen,

    I can see both sides of the argument here, and have seen both be successful. Ultimately, I have to side with the permission-only folks like Neil for several reasons:

    1. Online marketing is different than offline (which you site as one of the major reasons non-permission-based email marketing is okay). The vast majority of online marketing tactics, with the exclusion of banner ads is pull-based, not push. Consumers seek YOU out through search (SEO and PPC), they find your website, they opt-in for your emails (which I agree with Neil here - if a consumer has to search for it, you're doing it wrong), social is purely opt-in, and to take it sort-of offline again, so is mobile. I would argue there is more of a case for permission-based email marketing based on its current peer group than any direct marketing offline.

    2. Consumers, by and large, utilize an email address they regularly check and use for online purchases. There have been numerous studies and personal case studies I can point to that show consumers get angry when that sacred email address gets inundated with spam -- which I would argue non-permission-based email marketing is by nature. Unless the consumer has explicitly opened that email address up to you, the marketer, it's a fine line you are walking with "it's okay, they have bought from us in the past" and "they will never buy from us again for spamming them".

    3. To me, a one-time purchaser does not a customer make. My belief is that the more you gain a purchaser's trust and permission, the higher the likelihood that they'll buy from you again...which bring me to my fourth point:

    4. In every case -- seriously, every one -- that I've worked with a client to measure permission vs. none for customers, the ROI, Lifetime value and AOV are always higher when permission is involved. Just because you can make money without permission doesn't mean it'll be more profitable that doing it the right way. This is the same argument we've had for years regarding eAppends and buying lists. Yes you can make money from both, but you could be making so much more money by growing your list organically.

    I have more points, but for now I'll leave it at that.

    -Kelly Lorenz

  13. Gretchen Scheiman from L5 Direct Consulting, Inc. , November 17, 2010 at 10:02 a.m.

    @Neil, please stop calling customers "dumb" - as David Ogilvy said, "The customer is not a moron, she's your wife". Or husband, in my case. I have the utmost respect for my husband. For you to suggest otherwise can only be an attempt to hide a bad argument behind rhetoric. If you believe your argument is strong, it should stand on its merits without need to insult me or customers in general.

    To address your point though, I would say that as with all people, time is a limited resource for my husband. Suggesting that he should be concerned at any level about whether his favorite store has his email address - even if he wants emails from that store - is silly. Why should he care? That is the store's responsibility, not his.

    Consider this from another perspective: have you ever answered, "I don't know - you decide" to the question, "what do you want for dinner?" If you can't be bothered deciding what you want for dinner, why should I expect you to waste your time on worrying whether you've opted-in to messaging from your favorite store? Eating is far more important to our lives and yet sometimes can't grab our attention. That's not suggesting you're too dumb to know what you want - just that you have other things to think about that you have decided are more important.

    As far as the law goes - yes, this is all legal in the US and of course I can't advocate the same approach in countries where it is not legal. Nor have I discussed the subtleties in how this may be done well or poorly - I'm simply pointing out that this isn't a black and white issue.

    Is permission best? Of course. Is it possible for permission to be the only answer? Nope, unfortunately not. There are no easy solutions.

  14. Gretchen Scheiman from L5 Direct Consulting, Inc. , November 17, 2010 at 10:06 a.m.

    @Kelly, thanks for a nicely articulated counterpoint to my article. I appreciate the perspective. And I agree that organic growth is absolutely strongest and best for any company. However, I have yet to meet a company that could rely solely on organic growth to fuel their business, without sacrificing significant opportunity. For some businesses, that's okay. For most, it's not. But then again, isn't that the basis for all marketing?

  15. Gretchen Scheiman from L5 Direct Consulting, Inc. , November 17, 2010 at 10:09 a.m.

    @Dela, thanks and you're absolutely right that permission is best. Now if only all our customers kept us top of mind every day, and appreciated all of our efforts to treat them with respect. I guess I'm a bit too pragmatic in my approach to marketing to believe that customers will ever consistently put commerce first in their thoughts.

  16. Neil Schwartzman from CAUCE , November 17, 2010 at 10:59 a.m.

    "@Neil, please stop calling customers "dumb". For you to suggest (this) can only be an attempt to hide a bad argument."

    Sigh. Let's start out by saying that Twitter syntax like @Neil is best left to that medium. Secondly: I never said customers, or as I much prefer to call them, "Internet users" are dumb. The fact that you could not properly understand what I wrote, or threw up this spurious accusation despite such comprehension does lead me to such a conclusion about my present interlocutor, however.

    You asked for comments. Everyone here has told you you are wrong. How long will it take you to accept that fact and let this unfortunate incident fade into the realm of a bad memory?

    I should note that Ogilvy operates very much in the International realm, and I find it troublesome that a company operating in such an arena would advocate for worst-possible practices in one jurisdiction, and set up a flimsy Chinese wall between that and the others. I'd question such a company's ability to effectively council their clients.

  17. Kelly Lorenz , November 17, 2010 at 1:10 p.m.

    Gretchen,

    I do see your points and the reasoning behind them is sound; however, I just can't, as an email marketing professional, ever recommend or passively agree with non-permission-based marketing.

    If we step back and ponder it, why is organic growth resource and time-intensive? Because you have to find those folks that are responsive to not only your company, but to your email program as well. In email marketing to be successful in the long-term, it's critical to bake permission into the fold.

    Do hugely successful companies auto-opt-in customers to their email program? Sure. Amazon has done it for years. Amazon also has a very successful email program (from what I hear) based on the large amount of resources it puts into providing relevant, targeted content. Does relevance trump permission? I don't know; the jury's still out. But the fact of the matter is, the vast majority of marketers aren't the one-size-fits-all Amazon and this strategy won't and doesn't work for them. Assuming permission at checkout is a gray area and one that makes me, as a consumer, question whether the company I'm doing business with really values my business and treats me as such or if they are just looking to suck me dry. Even if the goal is to suck consumers dry (which, let's get real, is more often than not the case), by acting flippant about their wishes and permission just because you think you might have something they may want is just to many variables to make it a worthy gamble.

    -Kelly Lorenz

  18. Deborah Krier from PNTA , November 17, 2010 at 3:16 p.m.

    Considering this conversation, ultimately I come down to what forms of marketing are appropriate in the private versus public space, and where the email inbox falls in this divide.

    I agree with Mark that context defines the level of permission required, and by implication whether or not the email inbox should be considered public or private space.

    In either case, though, Gretchen, it's not a matter of me not having "the time to bother with figuring out how to give you permission." It's about you being too lazy to implement the best practices to capture my permission at the moment that I first transact with your company/brand, then trying to make up for that laziness with a quick email append after the fact. Just because you failed to maximize your first impression with me, the consumer, doesn't give you the right force your way into my private space.

    Implying permission might be profitable activity in the short-term, but I would bet that you could better spend your limited marketing resources building explicit permission-based programs for an ultimately higher return on investment.

  19. Edward Hunter from Loop Analytics , November 17, 2010 at 4:37 p.m.

    @Neil - perhaps if you'd take the time to listen and pay attention, rather than blather on incessantly with your over syllabic rhetoric you'd understand a few important things about posts like this and frankly - the evolving digital world.

    Yeah, I said @Neil - read something other than Gibson for a change and you'll easily discover how people are thankfully adopting Twitteresque symbology to help direct comments towards one another in all kinds of ways.

    Here are the facts - your 'coalition' is a dinosaur with more than a single leg in the tarpit, consumers are not the scared little tech ignorant folk they were before. Your drum and brow beating about illegality here and claiming that everyone has said Gretchen is wrong is as ignorant and transparent as cleverly pasting your full ED credentials into every post. Your coalition is unimportant, so are your hollow insults at someone clearly trying to have a simple dialog in an appropriate place to do so. Get over yourself.

    Gretchen, it's unfortunate, but the world of email evolved from a time when people got few from those they knew, and many from those they didn't. Back in the earlier days, spam was a problem facing far fewer consumers, but moreover, with far less bandwidth, far less horsepower and notably - far less electronic communication management options or skills.

    I'd wager that despite what our somewhat CAUCEstic forum troll says that today more and more consumers would in fact buy into a scenario like you describe. I would. Lord knows the spam I get doesn't come from retailers or brands, it comes from Nigeria (I'm still waiting on that 50 million from the oil company Mr. Simmons. When will it be transferred into my account?), it comes from the unscrupulous scammers who have managed to get their claws onto an email list...

    And it's all part of my personal email management process now, the subject of the email, the sender, they all instantly create an outcome for the message - and you're absolutely right - I do search for emails I didn't read when I think about it later.

    Ultimately, it's those who would abuse this process between brand and consumer that would foil the scenario you described, Lord knows Ole Neil here is too busy picking fights with respected members of the media community - so no help there.

    I think consumers are weary of this dance - filling out forms, giving permission (sometimes even when they don't know they are), getting emails, maybe reading them, maybe having to fill out another form to have the email stop...

    Consumers are smarter than this today - bandwidth is plentiful and frankly, email systems are smarter than ever - sure there are still folks who will nerd rage about spam, (*coughs, but you could swear he said 'Neil'...) heck, I used to cry foul myself.

    End of the day, the consumer complained and ended up in the same box with some very hardline rules and some very crabby people. Getting them out with sensible choices for permissions to contact will be tough. At least until a lot of the 'zomg privacy!! permissions!' people start to fade into the woodwork. You did your jobs guys, thanks! Now go do something about the Nigerians, k?

  20. Edward Hunter from Loop Analytics , November 17, 2010 at 4:41 p.m.

    Oh I'd just like to add that anyone who truly feels that government regulation of this stuff was or is a good idea needs to have their head examined until they can name 10 legislative moves the government in the U.S. has made in the past 10 years that hasn't been ridiculously partisan or riddled with special interest needs.

    $1200 hammers. 'Nuff said.

  21. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , November 17, 2010 at 6:25 p.m.

    Ya' think this goes for selling your address to thousands of catalog retailers is OK to stuff your physical mailbox?

  22. Cece Forrester from tbd , November 17, 2010 at 6:26 p.m.

    There's a lot of wishful thinking going on out there: The mere purchase of a product can't stand on its own as a complete circle of satisfaction--you would be remiss to consider the customer happy without constant follow-up sales pitches. You could hardly hold your head up as an ethical marketer if you failed to deliver on this imputed desire!

    If you seriously care about knowing what permission looks like from the customer's point of view, then stop smuggling in your own. If you're going to take the low road no matter what, stop trying to justify it.

    I think Deborah hit it on the head--much of this is about trying to make up for laziness. Just ask them yes or no in the first place, and accept their decision with good grace, whether or not you understand it.

  23. Gretchen Scheiman from L5 Direct Consulting, Inc. , November 18, 2010 at 9:24 a.m.

    @Cece, I think you're confusing customer service and marketing. It would be lazy of me to ask once and never again - akin to publishing one print ad and never advertising to customers again.
    @Edward, thanks for pointing out the history that has led us into the situation we have today. And thank you especially for speaking up so publicly. It's much appreciated!
    @Deborah, your first point was a good one, and worthy of further discussion. I refer you to my reply to Cece regarding your attitudes toward your fellow marketers in your third paragraph.

  24. Deborah Krier from PNTA , November 18, 2010 at 9:29 a.m.

    Gretchen, I disagree with your analogy. A cashier asking me to subscribe to emails, at the same point when I'm handing over my credit card, is not at all the same level of engagement as a print ad published once. If I ignore the cashier, I don't complete my purchase. If I ignore the print ad, there's no impact to me.

  25. Ken Pfeiffer , November 18, 2010 at 10:16 a.m.

    I have 2 big issues here. First you are attempting to speak on behalf of ‘all’ consumers, the last time I checked there wasn’t an ‘average consumer’ button, so until you can isolate the averages consumes from the un-average ones, you are speaking to all consumers. So trying to speak on behalf of all consumers is logically flawed. Anytime you make an absolute argument, all you need is one exception and your entire argument is null and void. I think it’s safe to say that you don't speak for all consumers. I for one want what I ask for and nothing else.
    Second, why do you want to engage in a practice that directly goes against the receivers’ policy? If you have ever taken the time to read through the postmaster pages you will see they do a great job of saying they want permission based email to be sent to their subscribers. Their network, their rules, play by them or be blocked.
    Look at it this way, your car can probably do 100 MPH, but if the speed limit is 65 and you keep going over that speed. Then you are going to get tickets and after so many tickets the judge is going to take away your license so you can’t drive anymore. Now I really hope you can get the analogy here.
    Like it or not going forward permission isn’t going to be enough, receivers are recording and ranking you on your mail stream engagement. The data doesn’t lie and if you want good placement then you need to seek out permission. Valuing the transaction more than the relationship (as you suggest) is going to end up hurting you in the long run.

  26. Cece Forrester from tbd , November 18, 2010 at 11:08 a.m.

    Gretchen, I'm afraid you've still got your thumb on the scales, tilting it toward what you want to do because you want to do it rather than concede that a customer may want to set the terms. If they opt in, you can be happy for a win-win. If they opt out, you should accept it, not claim they don't really mean it so it's right to make them opt out again and again. Surely you can offer opportunities for anyone to opt back in without having to reset the opt-outs from others. And you certainly shouldn't avoid giving a customer a clear path to permanently opt out just because you might then have to respect the choice. Sending an e-mail is not the same as publishing an ad, because it's using an individual channel that belongs to the recipient, one which you can readily avoid. Setting things up so you don't have to hear those who feel that way doesn't make it any less true.

  27. Matt Ruzz from ZetaXchange , November 18, 2010 at 12:48 p.m.

    Bravo, Gretchen.

    The rest of the industry should be so bold, if for no other reason than self-preservation. We are experiencing seismic shifts in consumer messaging habits, attention span deterioration, and deal-seeking behavior, and the assumptions and conditions on which the Utopian "long-run" is based will continue to be up-ended. How much money did Gap fork over to Groupon  to send an email to consumers who had previously shopped at the Gap at some point?  Seems like they built a lot of brand equity for Groupon because they were afraid of a few complainers and an outcry from the e-mail elite. All of those opens would have generated a whole lot of page/ad views for hotmail/yahoo/gmail/etc, and the next time Gap sent an email I suspect it still would have been delivered, despite a few consumers complaining.

    As a consumer, I am inherently unreasonable, and my expectations of brands I award my business to are high. I've been buying books at Barnes & Noble for years, and have changed email addresses so many times that I can't remember what if anything I've opted in to. Yet when I found out that I had missed an in-store reading by my favorite author (whose books I've purchased in BN stores and online) 2 miles from my house, I was annoyed that BN didn't let me know about it.

    If your analytics afford you the opportunity to provide value through email - as defined by the consumer, not you - than you may be rewarded with a purchase. Or your reward may be a tweet or post to their Facebook wall, as there is currency (or Klout) in being seen as a curator of relevance by your friends and network. Is there risk? Probably. But spend too much time deliberating whether you've asked all of your customers for explicit permission, and you might find yourself begging forgiveness from your boss because your competitor just kicked your ass out in the marketplace.

  28. Deborah Krier from PNTA , November 18, 2010 at 3:30 p.m.

    The "morality" of permission aside, does anyone have solid numbers to share with the group where an email append was run against a B2C customer list?

    What was the initial financial result? How did the appended list perform 6 months down the line? How did the list perform 12 months down the line?

    I've found plenty of case studies which speak to the large quantity of email addresses businesses were able to add to their file after an append, but none which speak to the financial performance of those appended email addresses, especially over an extended period of time.

  29. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , November 18, 2010 at 6:21 p.m.

    Yes, permission should be explicit and obeyed (unless it's OK for the Aliens to read your mind. ;)

  30. Gretchen Scheiman from L5 Direct Consulting, Inc. , November 18, 2010 at 7:06 p.m.

    @Cece, I was very clear in my original post that I do not condone emailing folks who have opted-out. That is illegal, and absolutely disrespectful of customers.

    @Ken, you're right, there is no average consumer. But technology forces us to speak to customers in limited ways. My point is that from the standpoint of many customers, perhaps waiting for them to take the time and effort to contact us is not what they want. If that is so, should we be more proactive about reaching out to customers?

  31. Gretchen Scheiman from L5 Direct Consulting, Inc. , November 18, 2010 at 7:09 p.m.

    @Matt, thanks for being willing to speak out. And yes, I have heard many stories exactly like your B&N experience. Customers are demanding. As they should be.

  32. Keith Finnegan from Zondervan , November 24, 2010 at 9:27 a.m.

    I'm more of a purist when it comes to explicit permission, but as email marketing shifts to more of a behavior-based channel, that permission needs to be more blanket and based on user behavior and preferences. At the same time, we as marketers need to ensure a good user experience by addressing relevance, frequency, and choice effectively.

    I argue that some sort of explicit permission is still a key piece. If consumers perceive your email as spam, it will be treated accordingly. There are also ESP contracts and ISP thresholds to consider.