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.
Permission marketing was first popularized by New York Times best-selling author and marketing expert, Seth Godin, in his book― Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers. Far from being defined by one specific tactic, permission marketing represents a holistic approach towards customer engagement that provides a host of benefits for modern marketers, including the ability to address high value consumers with targeted, relevant messaging.
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 works like this: if you stop showing up, people complain, they ask where you went. I got a message from a regular follower of this column last month. She was upset because for two consecutive weeks in one month, this column didn’t appear. She made it clear to me that column on Brands is one of the main reasons she subscribes to this newspaper. That is what I call permission. In fact, permission is like dating. You don’t start by asking for the sale at first impression. You earn the right, over time, bit by bit.
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One of the key drivers of permission marketing, in addition to the scarcity of attention, is the extraordinarily low cost of reaching people who want to hear from you. RSS and e-mail and other techniques mean you don’t have to worry about postage stamps, surface mail deliveries or television/radio commercial placements every time you have something to say. Home delivery, they say, is the milkman’s revenge… it’s the essence of permission.
Permission doesn’t have to be formal but it has to be obvious. My friend has permission to call me if he needs to borrow money from me, but the person you meet at a cinema or a comedy show has no such ability to pitch you his entire resume, even though he paid to get in. In line with that, I will say subscriptions are an overt act of permission.
In order to get permission, you make a promise. You say, “I will do x, y and z, I hope you will give me permission by listening.” And then, this is the hard part, when you finally get the permission, you do only what you requested and granted permission for. That’s all you do. You don’t assume you can do more. You don’t sell the list or rent the list or demand more attention. You can promise a newsletter and talk to me for years, you can promise a daily RSS feed and talk to me every three minutes, you can promise a sales pitch every day. But the promise is the promise until both parties agree to change it.
Permission doesn’t have to be a one-way broadcast medium. The internet means you can treat different people differently, and it demands that you figure out how to let your permission base choose what they hear and in what format. If it sounds like you need humility and patience to do permission marketing, you’re right. That’s why so few companies do it properly. The best shortcut, in this case, is no shortcut at all.
The basic mechanism of permission marketing involves offering something of value to potential customers in exchange for their information or attention, and then delivering what was promised without asking for anything else. This means no selling email addresses after they opt-in to your list, or using underhanded methods to acquire customer data.
Permission Marketing vs. Interruption Marketing
The basic concept of permission marketing is often seen as being at odds with traditional marketing methods, like television, radio or print media, because they deliver advertisements to customers without explicit consent.
For example, when you sign up for TV service, there is no form asking for permission to show ads. There’s an unsaid agreement that if you want to watch TV through conventional channels, you must pause for commercial interruptions. This poor user experience is also part of the reason on-demand services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime are becoming more popular as ads are nonexistent on these platforms.
While some may see permission marketing as a disruptor, the key element of this type of marketing is integrity which most marketers are often accused of lacking. Thus, any marketer that is able to get consent for permission marketing, he or she must see the opportunity as one that yields more, even when it doesn’t appear so.