There is a sliding correlation between permission and possible consumer engagement. As the level of permission reaches higher and more personal levels, the consumer is increasingly telling the brand s/he is willing to accept its relevant content. Relevancy leads to engagement. The fewer touch points between the brand and the consumer, the less relevant the messaging. Much of this permission is automated through algorithms and web forms which require the human touch to be sure consumers are routed through the right channels.
With permission-based efforts, some brands and advertisers worry about being too restrictive and reducing their pool of potential customers. They might reason consumers opt out too readily and won't give their permission to even the most relevant and exciting offers. While in principle this might hold some truth, the trade-off in sheer numbers of prospective consumers outweighs the risks of presenting undesirable content. Simply put, the lower the permission levels, the lower the quality of ads received. This type of situation creates a feedback loop wherein lower-quality ads spur zero or negative word of mouth, which requires the brand to go even deeper to find a customer base to try to fix a dismal return on investment. While more permission does translate into less total audience size, the trade-off is quality, which is infinitely more valuable if cultivated properly.
So in terms of improving the Holy Grail of ROI, where does permission come in?
With a pure-play permission model, the ROI is fairly apparent. A group of segmented consumers has decided which brands and products hold their interest. If the corresponding offers and ads are matched and relevant to this group, then conversions and measurable and appropriate ROI should follow. This approach can be highly enhanced and optimized as the market or consumer interests change. To find the right content, it's important to remember the focus should be on education, not just entertainment, with the gradual goal of turning unknown consumers into friends and then customers.
Layering a redeemable incentive to consumers on top of a pure permission-based model can take a brand's marketing strategies to new levels. You move beyond the consumer's passive acceptance of offers to a motivated individual that will follow certain behavior patterns in order to obtain a reward; for example some kind of virtual currency. These behaviors can be strictly branding, meaning you need a certain number of eyeballs, or they can be a call to specific action as found in cost-per-lead or cost-per-action models. In either case, you need to avoid the dreaded disconnect. The virtual currency or other reward needs to be 100% aligned with the goal the advertiser or brand is trying to motivate the consumer to complete.
For real campaign value, you need more than just permission. The right combination of content, multi-point permission and tangible reward can produce longer-term ROI.