When I started my business, I subscribed to all kinds of mailing lists. Turns out there are A LOT of hustlers out there churning out content meant to help you write better copy, generate more leads, segment your list of subscribers, improve your financial systems, develop passive income streams, and a lot more.

Their emails range from the very simple, with minimal formatting that could pass for a personal email, to the slick, with lots of colorful pictures of them in fabulous outfits surrounded by succulents or shorelines. But they all have one thing in common: a call to action. Register! Download! Listen! Watch! Subscribe! Buy! Upgrade!

I get it, but it’s overwhelming.

Maybe if I had been more discerning in which lists I subscribed to, I wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed. Then, I would be the target audience for each one and those newsletters would actually feel like personal emails instead of just looking like them in format alone.

But it’s more than just “clicking” with the hustler.

From February 20-22, I received ten (TEN!!!) emails from one hustler. They sent me three emails a day–and four one day–before I unsubscribed. Do you think I even read them before deleting everything with their name in the “From” field? Noooope. As far as I’m concerned, they disrespected my inbox (and, in turn, my time). I don’t care how much it felt like they were writing just to me.

I’m reminded over and over again (ten times recently, in fact!) about “permission marketing,” which is a term Seth Godin coined in his book of the same name. From his blog (I’d edit it more but it’s all gold):

Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.

It recognizes the new power of the best consumers to ignore marketing. It realizes that treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention.

Pay attention is a key phrase here, because permission marketers understand that when someone chooses to pay attention they are actually paying you with something precious. And there’s no way they can get their attention back if they change their mind. Attention becomes an important asset, something to be valued, not wasted.

Real permission is different from presumed or legalistic permission. Just because you somehow get my email address doesn’t mean you have permission. Just because I don’t complain doesn’t mean you have permission. Just because it’s in the fine print of your privacy policy doesn’t mean it’s permission either.

This experience (along with conversations with my personal board of directors) has helped me to get clarity on what kind of creator and seller I want to be. While the internet is vast and full of people who surely could use my services, the truth is that I’m going to find my clients through the relationships I build–not the mailing list I harass.

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