The definitive guide to permission marketing

Permission marketing has been around for a while and most people are familiar with the basic concepts — you’ll enjoy more success in your marketing when your sales funnel contacts give you permission to communicate with them. Makes sense.

If it worked the way it was supposed to, we wouldn’t have so much spam in our inboxes. However, when it comes to actually implementing permission marketing, many fall short. Some can’t figure out what the next step should be. Others think an email address is a license to overwhelm someone’s inbox. Others think that finding an email address posted on a website or on LinkedIn (or elsewhere) is an implicit permission.

Recently, I found a blog post on the website SmartInsights.com that gives what I believe is one of the best and most comprehensive guides to permission marketing that you find.

If you are thinking about including permission marketing in your sales funnel, read this post, bookmark it, and apply the principles!

Read E-permission Marketing by Dave Chaffey.

Unstick your sales funnel: Get stalled sales funnel contacts moving again

Some people move through your sales funnel quickly. Others move through slowly. That’s okay, as long as they’re moving. Unfortunately, some contacts just get stuck. They don’t go anywhere: They never actually buy from you, they may even continue to use your resources, and they ultimately distract you from buyers.

Here are tips to unstick contacts at each stage in your sales funnel to keep people moving:

DO YOU HAVE AUDIENCE CONTACTS STUCK IN YOUR SALES FUNNEL?
This is going to be the most difficult group to identify someone who is stuck. That’s because your audience is already the slowest moving, most skeptical, and least likely to move forward. However, you will spot them if you have several steps in your Audience stage and people move step-by-step through the stage but never go beyond.

The most important way to move your Audience contacts forward is by engaging them and by building rapport and credibility. This group is not motivated by what you have to offer. Rather, they are only becoming aware of their need or problem. If necessary, reach out to them individually and talk to them about their needs or problems. Listen to them. And DON’T pitch to them.

DO YOU HAVE LEAD CONTACTS STUCK IN YOUR SALES FUNNEL?
This group is easier to identify. For example, it’s the Facebook fan that “Liked” your Facebook page but never contributes to it, or it’s the ezine subscriber who never opens their emails. Move this group forward by highlighting their problem and by giving them a few ideas and tips to solve their problems. Give those ideas for free. Consider reaching out individually to this group.

You might also want to try giving them an ultimatum. This is daring but I’ve seen it work. Basically tell them that you don’t want to waste their time or yours and give them another chance to opt-in to continue being a Lead. (For example tell them you are cleaning your ezine list and only want to keep people who are truly engaged). There are risks to this tactic, of course, but it can be enough to either kickstart them or removing them from using up your bandwidth.

DO YOU HAVE PROSPECT CONTACTS STUCK IN YOUR SALES FUNNEL?
Prospects are much easier to identify as being forward-moving or stuck. At this stage, it’s usually pretty clear if they are interested (moving forward), disinterested (they leave your sales funnel), or completely stalled.

There are a few ways to move contacts in this group forward. One of the most common ways is with a price incentive. Put your product or service on sale and that can move people forward. However, it’s not always advisable because you don’t want to set the precedent and stall other contacts in the future as they wait for your offering to go on sale.

The two best ways to move contacts forward in this stage are: (1) overcome their objections, and (2) make it so insanely easy for them to buy from you. Prospects who are stalled tend to either have objections (stated or unstated) or they tend to feel confused (to the point of inaction) by what to do next.

DO YOU HAVE CUSTOMER CONTACTS STUCK IN YOUR SALES FUNNEL?
Once a buyer buys, you’ll still want to track whether or not they’ve stalled. This one is very easy to identify: First, figure out the average time that a customer buys their second product from you — the “average 2nd purchase date”. Then figure out the longest time that a customer has taken to buy a second product — the “longest 2nd purchase date”. Now you have a window. Your aim is to get people to buy at or before the average 2nd purchase date. Once they enter the window, though, they are in danger of no longer buying. And once they pass the longest 2nd purchase date, you can be pretty confident that they’ve stalled.

There are a few ways to get these contacts unstuck. I’d suggest reaching out to them and offering them something else. I’d suggest a special “repeat buyer” discount. I’d suggest polling them to find out what they thought of your last product and what their current needs are. I’d suggest talking to them about other ways they can benefit from your product or service. You might even want to have a frank discussion with them about whether they are using the competition and how you can get 100% of their business.

DO YOU HAVE EVANGELIST CONTACTS STUCK IN YOUR SALES FUNNEL?
Evangelists are, by definition, fully engaged and actively promoting your business. They don’t need to be kept moving unless something happens and they suddenly stop promoting you. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to find out when someone stops talking about you! So the best thing to do is monitor your brand, continue to treat your Evangelists like gold, incentivize them to tell their peers, and generally ensure that they feel good about promoting your business.

I’d like to hear from you! How have you unstuck your sales funnel? What have you done to get stalled contacts moving!

Why I don’t have a newsletter (yet)

Building a loyal audience is one of the primary reasons that someone writes a newsletter or ezine. It offers a business tremendous long-term value to be able to interact with a loyal audience, communicate with them again and again, engage them, and market to them. I write newsletters for other clients, so why don’t I write one for myself?

Like everything else in my business, I try to be very intentional in my decisions and it’s not an accident that I don’t currently have a newsletter. The main reason is: I don’t have anything extra to write about right now. For a lot of my clients and readers, a blog serves as a vehicle to position and promote some of a business owner’s thought leadership but it’s the newsletter where they really put out their good stuff, their differentiated stuff. The blog convinces people to sign up to the newsletter and the newsletter convinces people to buy from the owner. It’s a nice, clean funnel and it makes sense… if you save your differentiated thought leadership.

But I don’t. My business model is different so I use my blog differently: It’s my primary hub for what I’m thinking; it’s a laboratory for new ideas; it’s a map to my brain revealing what’s coming up for me in the future. I put it all right here, and thus have little more to say in a newsletter except to repeat what I’ve written here.

Certainly there are tradeoffs in this choice — I try not to promote my business in my blog in the same way that someone might be able to promote products or services in their newsletter. And, I have a less measurable audience compared to the data you get when you send out a newsletter. But I’m busy anyway so something must be working.

The best decision for right now (and that’s all any entrepreneur can act on, isn’t it!?) is to skip the newsletter and just let people sign up to my blog (through the subscribe link or the email link to the right).

Caveat: This isn’t a firm stake-in-the-ground anti-newsletter stance. There will likely be a newsletter some day. I believe in them, I like them, I think they offer long term value, I recommend them to various clients, and I write them for various clients. However, those publishing decisions need to be considered in light of what you want to reveal along your sales funnel.

Client Spotlight: TopStockGurus

aaronhoos_businesswriter_client_tsgTopStockGurus.com is a free report and weekly newsletter in which stock market gurus choose compelling stocks and give their reasons for the choice.

As the editor of the report and the weekly newsletter, I track the gurus down each week and review their investment recommendations and then develop content that introduces the investment and the guru.

The gurus include well known names like Tom & David Gardner of The Motley Fool, Roger Conrad of Utility Forecaster, Jim Trippon of China Stock Digest, Gene Marcial of BusinessWeek, and many more.

The newsletter is delivered to subscribers every Thursday morning.