Seth Godin (and others) have written eloquently on the concept of "permission marketing." As Seth writes,

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

To me, the converse (or is it the obverse?) of permission marketing is the ability to retract that permission. Easily. The SafeUnsubscribe feature of most email marketing services guarantees that ability, and makes it painless and risk-free to sign up for newsletters that you're not 100% sure about.

And then there's Hertz.

Hertz started spamming me recently with promotions I don't want.  For no comprehensible reason, they've decided to make it difficult to unsubscribe from their mailing list. When I tried to unsubscribe, the link sent me to this page:

Hertz Unsubscribe.pngAs a #1 Club member -- one of their most valuable customers -- they're forcing me to take SEVEN (7!) steps (which I've circled in red) to unsubscribe from their mailings: entering my email twice, clicking three checkboxes, and even entering my #1 Club member number. Really? They can't associate my member number with my email address? They need me to specify THREE times that I don't want their emails?

This is not permission marketing. This is "hassle marketing" -- as in, it's too much of a hassle to opt-out of your marketing, so I'll just delete the messages. Wrong.

Whatever your product or service, do you make it easy for people to *stop* doing business with you? To me, that's the unspoken flip side of permission marketing. You have to respect people's desires not to talk to you, and make it easy for them to move on.

The last thing your customer or prospect wants to deal with is a company acting like you're their first boyfriend or girlfriend, unwilling to let go and pestering you while you start dating someone else.