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The New Age Of The Empowered Subscriber

by Azriel Winnett

The term "permission marketing" has been a buzz word (or phrase) in online entrepreneurial circles for some time. Since Seth Godin wrote his classic book on the topic, this concept has shaped the way promotions and advertising are conducted on the Web and by e-mail.

Godin conceived of permission marketing as the answer to the traditional system whereby individual consumers were bombarded, willy-nilly, with thousands of promotional messages from firms.

With the new way, customers would indicate through questionnaires or similar methods exactly what they were interested in. They would then only receive messages relevant to their specific categories of interest.

This method has great benefits for both consumers and advertisers. For the former, it reduces the clutter in their lives. For the latter, it increases targeting precision. Promotional messages reach the right addresses—where they are likely to do some good.

For e-publishers, this translates into the opt-in principle that we all use in building up our lists. On a more sophisticated level, publishers can employ technology to arrange that individual subscribers receive only those parts of a publication they are likely to be interested in.

But permission marketing, in its current form, does have its limitations.

Firstly consumers are typically asked for their permission only once—when they first register. As people change, the marketing messages will become more and more untargeted.

Second, marketers initiate the promotional conversation. In course of time, most consumers forget what they said they'd like to play, read or drink. The more messages they receive, the less they become engaged in the process.

The result? Before long, the wheel turns full circle and we're back to the level of direct marketing.

Partnership Marketing

To solve this problem, a professor of marketing at Washington University, Sandeep Krisnamurthy, suggested a new variation on the permission marketing theme. He called it "Partnership Marketing".

Partnership Marketing presupposes new business models that use the promises of Internet technology to the full.

First, it calls for the marketer to make the consumer an equal partner in the promotional conversation. After all, e-mail technology has reduced the speed with which a company can receive customer feedback.

Secondly, and even more importantly, this is the age of empowered customers.

Consumers decide which companies they wish to pursue partnerships with and which companies they would rather not talk to. Furthermore, they're sick and tired of the marketing clutter in their lives, and are ready to declare war on the relentless bombardment to which they're subjected. They're seeking simple ways to achieve their buying goals.

From all this, we, as newsletter publishers, can take several things to heart.

For one thing, corresponding to the first point above, only constant communication with our clients—in this case, subscribers—can ensure that we stay on the right track. Whatever form it takes, feedback is essential. We have to keep your fingers on the pulse of our readership.

Moreover, always remember that we have now entered the age of the empowered subscriber.

Honeymoon is over!

E-publishing's honeymoon period is long over. No longer does a list owner make one submission to NEW-LIST and then sit back to watch hundreds of subscriptions come rolling in.

And if it's more than a little bit harder to acquire those elusive new subscribers, it's at least equally as hard to keep them.

Of course, subscribers always did have free choice to sign up or sign off. (If not, the list could hardly be 'opt-in').

The difference now is this: as sick of anybody of marketing "noise" and clutter, of sensory over-stimulation, "information overload" or whatever you care to call it, potential readers have become more far more discriminating.

Bearing this in mind, our efforts to acquire and retain the trust of our subscribers take on new significance.

Whether or not we succeed in this challenge depends on what we do as well as what we don't.

We have to be careful to deliver on anything we promise. The best 'killer' promotional copy in the world will hardly do much good if you undertake to deliver "marketing secrets and original strategies" which your readers have already seen all over the Internet!

And if they have to wade through tons of ads, affiliate program promotions, announcements of your upcoming teleconferences and earth-shattering e-books hot off the press—just to get to that one secret which everybody already knows—well, if nothing else, you'll have a lively postmortem to look forward to!

Remember: the age of the empowered subscriber has arrived! With regard to trust, you'd be lucky indeed to be given a second chance.

A firm believer in the personal touch, Azriel Winnett is keenly aware that credibility has long been a sensitive issue on the Internet. He invests a lot of energy in building trust, and aims to develop warm, long-term business relationships that both sides will find stimulating and fulfilling. Visit him at and drop him a mail.


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Tuesday, 20 Mar 2018 03:35 AM


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