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Back to the Basics of Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing

I read “Permission Marketing” by Seth Godin 10+ years ago. It was a crucial read in the early development of my career as I integrated the book’s philosophy into nearly everything I’ve done since. Little did I, know just how prevalent its world view would become within the fabric of social media and content marketing.

In the book, Godin describes Permission Marketing as “the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.”

Seventeen years after its initial publishing, marketers are using the book’s ideas more than ever. They are the very essence of what social media and content marketers do every day.  This is great news, because when it’s done right, permission marketing is the kind of thing that makes you proud to be a marketer. It’s honest, and everyone involved benefits. Unfortunately, some businesses love the idea but fail to get the execution right. That’s bad for consumers but good for me, as it means my job is safe. /wink

What I see more often than not, especially from small businesses, is a request for permission, without a promise of fulfillment. You’re getting it partly right, in that you’re requesting permission. But you’re getting it wrong by not communicating what you’ll do with that permission.

If this is true for you, your permission marketing efforts are likely failing—mostly because the people you’re seeking permission from don’t understand what you’re offering in exchange. They don’t know what the transaction is. How often will you contact them, and with what? You wouldn’t expect to close a sale this way; you shouldn’t expect to begin a relationship that way either.
Privacy, and contact information = time/attention, which, is more valuable than money. It’s not easily earned. As businesses increasingly request it, it becomes more common to withhold that asset from all but the most worthy. So get clear. What’s the frequency of your email newsletter? When and why do you send SMS messages? How often do you tweet? While we’re at it, get consistent. Do what you’ve promised, always. Diverting from that initial expectation destroys trust, and cancels out permission.
The permission you’ve earned is specific and conditional. Abuse it and you’ll lose it.

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