Tarzan Kay


April 19, 2024

to you

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persuasion vs. consent—what’s the difference?

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See what’s possible with AI-powered design

Nicole Edwards is hosting The Canva Clinic, a 90-minute Canva workshop for those of us “reluctant designers” who wear all the hats, including a designer cap. Create cool GIFs for email, learn essential editing tools way beyond “remove background,” and get ready for the democratization of good design.

Wed, April 24 @ 4pm PT / 7pm ET
Replay available | Register here (Check out the consent-based language Nicole uses in her tick boxes. It’s so clear.)​


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Persuasion Marketing vs. Consent-Based Marketing—What’s the Difference?

Read time: 6 minutes

It’s Friday night, and I’m gearing up to do my wild, single gal thing.

…take an Epsom salt bath and listen to an audiobook 

Except this particular Friday, I’m checking in with a popular marketing teacher I’ve followed for years, someone I’ve learned from but also grown apart from.

I don’t want to be presumptuous.

Maybe they’ve got something new to teach. Maybe they aren’t doing what I think they’re doing.

Twenty minutes into the interview my ears turn red when the subject turns to asking for the sale.

“You need to let them say, ‘No, no, no,’ many times before they say, ‘Okay, maybe I’ll check this out.”



That’s harassment, actually.

Is it necessary to ask for the sale many times? Definitely. I send at least 10 sales emails when I’m promoting a course.

But do you have to close your ears and yell, “LA LA LA CAN’T HEAR YOU” when people say no?

Absolutely not.

That’s the difference between permission marketing and consent-based marketing:

Permission marketing asks, “Do you want to register for this webinar?” and then makes a series of assumptions—that you also want to be tracked across the internet with cookies, deposited into a sales funnel, and receive numerous emails about the offer, added to the email list and subsequently exposed to a variety of affiliate offers, all within the next 30-90 days.

Permission is a one-time ask.

Consent, on the other hand, goes beyond permission and prioritizes agency and personal autonomy. It gives you choices: “Do you want to register for the webinar? And while we’re here, would you also like to be added to my email list?”

“Agency” means that you have a choice.

>> The choice to watch the webinar but not to get the emails.

>> The choice to turn emails off with a 1-click unsubscribe.

>> A way to say “no” if it’s not what you expected, without turning off emails altogether (ex. with an opt-out link)

>> The ability to think critically about whether or not you need the offer, which you can’t if persuasion is layered on too thick with timers, scarcity, over-the-top promises coupled with fear and FOMO

The 3 Qualities of Consent

As mentioned in the last week’s email, the same principles that apply to the body can be applied to marketing. Consent must be:

1. Freely given / not forced

In order to say yes, you have to be able to say no. Those tick boxes you must tick in order to hit the “submit” button? That’s not consent. That’s “I’ve come this far so I’ll tick this annoying box so that filling out your silly form wasn’t a complete waste of time.” (Banks and insurance companies love to take advantage of this in application forms and requests for quotes.)

Every email service provider on the market offers tick box functionality and it’s not complicated to set up. It’s required by law in many parts of the world, and coming into legislation in many others.

BOTTOM LINE: If you can’t say no, then you can’t say yes.

2. Informed

In order for someone to consent, they have to know what they’re consenting to. This is where things like pricing transparency and affiliate link disclosure come in.

Consent-building means giving people the information necessary to make an informed choice. It’s also how you build trust. Tell subscribers when the offer is coming and what it will cost. Give them more than 20 minutes to make a purchasing decision, in case they need to look at their P&L first or check in with a family member. Tell them when the offer will be coming back if now isn’t a good time, or turn it off completely if the answer is “never.”

Super slick marketing is often at odds with informed choice. It dazzles the consumer with so many transformational promises and fast-action whatevers that you don’t look too hard at the actual offer or consider if it’s the right choice for you.

BOTTOM LINE: You can’t say yes if you don’t know what you’re saying yes to.

3. Ongoing / revocable

Permission marketing only asks once, but consent is an ongoing conversation. As with the body, consent needs to be continuously renewed: Just because I said you could kiss me last year doesn’t mean I still want to kiss you today.

Permission marketing says, “I will email you whatever I want and as often as I want forever until you unsubscribe. Because you said I could, remember?”

Consent says, “Here are your options if you don’t want to get as many emails from me.”

BOTTOM LINE: Yes, once doesn’t mean yes forever.

Implied Consent vs. Explicit Consent

This comes up often in my Email Stars classes even if no one asks about it directly. It usually sounds like, “I want to send more emails but I don’t want to be pushy. How do I do that?”

If you’re not sure whether or not people want to receive that many emails, or you don’t want to be annoying, the safest thing to do is ask (i.e. get consent).

You can ask for explicit consent or implied consent.

An example:

Before sending promo emails to my monthly and weekly subscribers, I ask for explicit consent. We explicitly agreed that I would only email once a month/week. I’m not going to change the agreement without explicit consent, which in this case means the subscriber must click a link that says, “Notify me when this offer becomes available.”

But for my “everything plan” subscribers (which is most subscribers since it’s the default when you sign up), I practice implied consent, but I still give choices. I tell subscribers, “Here’s what I’m promoting next, click here if you want me to turn this off.

Then I continuously give subscribers the option to turn emails off in every subsequent email, in case they change their mind, because consent has to be revocable, remember?

No means no.

The fact that a very popular marketing teacher is advising business owners not to listen when people say no?

It’s troubling but not surprising.

More than 5 years after the #metoo movement, it’s somehow become a verb to describe something terrible and dangerous that happens to men. (If you are or you know a man who is worried about “getting #metoo’d,” I recommend The Little #metoo Book For Men by Mark Greene.)

We have a cultural lack of awareness when it comes to consent.

What does it mean? What words should I use? What does “no” sound like and how is it different from “I need more information”? When is it okay to ask again? How do I ask in a clear way?

Those aren’t easy questions. There are no “one size fits all” answers.

How much consent you build, and the ways you build consent, depend on your audience and what you’re selling.

I maintain a list of subscribers whose trust has been broken many times, sometimes by me. We have an industry-wide trust issue among course creators and coaches. We are badly in need of repair.

My subscribers are also heavily skewed female, a demographic that is more sensitive to consent being broken, being presumed, or not being considered at all. The more vulnerable and marginalized your customers, the more necessary it is to think about ways to build trust.

I practice a higher level of consent than many businesses. But maybe that’s not your audience.

If you sell vacuums, you don’t need to be futzing around with tick boxes and opt-out tags. (If only life could be so simple! Click here to get on the list for my upcoming program Rug Destiny, a side-project I am dreamweaving with my friend and co-conspirator, Jeremy de Tolly.)

Look, you’re not going to get this perfect.

It’s okay if you’re not doing any of this right now. I’m writing this so we can learn together and share ideas for consent-building. If you’ve found marketing difficult in the past, this might help explain why, and give you ideas for how to do it differently.

Unlike permission, a one-time thing, consent is an ongoing conversation.

One you can add to right now but hitting “reply” and sharing something you wish I’d included in this email.

So many of you have thanked me for bringing you along on the journey with me. I’m so grateful to be on it with you, too.


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“What's Hot in Copy?”
A Copywriter Panel

Host Frenchie Ferenczi asks Christina Torres, Laura Belgray and Tarzan Kay what’s cool, what’s “so 2020”, and how to stand out from your competitors.

Thurs, April 18 @ 12 pm ET | Register here

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Comic Relief Because This Email Needs It
…also, “Ditto, Eileen!”

Instagram post by @i_Lean, Eileen Mary O'Connell who says, "Here's all the exclamation points that I didn't use in work emails this week, for fear of coming off as too much colon then it's followed by about 300 exclamation points.

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