Magazine article Communication World

Say Please

Magazine article Communication World

Say Please

Article excerpt

"It's better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission."

cynical business communicator

On those days when bureaucratic red tape gets to even the most patient business communicator, the marketing phrase, "Just do it," seems like the easiest course of action. If an apology is in order later, so be it.

Whether or not that works for the bosses, it's not the trend when it comes to customers.

The marketing mantra, "The customer is king," leads to another attitude, one that recognizes that just doing it just doesn't cut it, if doing it means forcing your message into your customer's face.

"All business in a democratic society begins with public permission and exists by public approval."

Arthur W. Page

Maybe it's always been this way, but such public approval has a name now -- actually several names. Some call it permission marketing, that is, asking the customer permission to market certain products or services directly. Or maybe you know it as personalization, as customers reveal something about themselves that allows the marketer to target additional products or services of related interest. Still another set of similar buzzwords: opt in and opt out, where customers can choose to receive or not to receive certain information about products and services.

Technology keeps track of who's given permission, who has revealed personal preferences, and who's opted in or out. The Internet has the reach to address each individual, well, individually, in ways mass marketing never could and with the speed individual sales calls couldn't achieve. A modern classic example is amazon.com. Buy a book online there, and you can learn titles of other books you're likely to be interested in (based on buying patterns of similar readers) and how other readers rate them.

Bell Atlantic has found a way to give media reporters exactly the news releases they will find useful. it offers a News Made to Order site and promises to "deliver new information on your choice of topics straight to your e-mail" and "in the format that works best for you." It saves time.

If this topic interests you, opt in to an e-mailed newsletter called Inside 1to1 from the Peppers and Rogers Group. The subscription is free, and so are the sales pitches -- always disclosed -- that explain how other companies are customizing products and services using what they learn about individual customers.

Because personalization is database driven, you don't have to write a different message to each person; computers do it for you. Content becomes real-time and data driven. …

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