3 Insights from Seth Goddin’s Permission Marketing


“America’s best marketer”, “The Godfather of Modern Marketing”, ‘Marketing Guru”… all phrases I’ve seen being used to describe Seth Goddin! If you haven’t heard of him already, Seth Goddin is one of the most respected entrepreneurs for his way of thinking, writing and innovating.

At a time when “The Matrix” had society contemplating the nature of reality, and get this … Google was less than a year old (1999), Godin published his first book Permission Marketing. In every way the little mustard-coloured book was a hit. It revolutionised the way many people thought about marketing and still does today. I only first read the book early in 2015, but I would dare to say (in light of the expansion of inbound marketing) it’s even more relevant now than when it was first published!

”Permission Marketing” —a term Seth coined and developed—discusses the ideology of transforming interruption marketing to permission-based marketing (explicitly getting your audience’s permission) in order to reach customers more effectively. The groundbreaking concept encourages us marketers to shape our messaging so that consumers will willingly pay attention to it. Instead of annoying potential customers by interrupting their most coveted commodity — time — by using traditional outbound marketing methods (like TV & radio ads, billboards, cold-calling etc.) ‘permission marketing’ offers people incentives to voluntarily accept advertising and ”turn strangers into friends and friends into customers”.

The quick and simple explanation of “Permission Marketing”…
Permission Marketing, is targeted, relevant marketing that is presented to customers and prospects at the right time and place because THEY allowed it to happen.
Interruption Marketing which is the traditional untargeted unmeasurable marketing that ‘bothers’ customers and prospects.

Here are 3 key insights I got from this book:

1. Give your audience a reason to pay attention

Although Permission Marketing is less intrusive than Interruption Marketing you still need to grab the persons attention to get the process going. The heart of permission marketing is giving the stranger a reason to pay attention. Attention is something to be valued, not wasted. It’s difficult to get attention back once lost, so producing relevant, engaging content is the best way to earn their attention and treating people with respect is the best way to keep their attention! You have to offer a reward, whether that be information, free resources, education or entertainment… lets face it we’re all pretty selfishly motivated and don’t pay attention unless there’s something in it for us.

2. “Permission is a process, not a moment”

Probably my favourite part of “Permission Marketing” is when Godin compares marketing to dating. He tells a story of a man who dresses up in a flashy suit, puts on his best cologne and goes out looking for a date. He finds a single lady at a bar and proposes to her. Of course, she turns him down, but he repeats this process all night with every woman he meets. He returns home concluding it must be the suit or cologne so buys new ones. The cycle repeats with the man failing to identify the process as the problem and instead blaming the other irrelevant matters for his failures. It’s easy to see how he has it all wrong. To get engaged, you have to first introduce yourself. As time passes there are a series of increasing commitments. You get a phone number, then hopefully one date after another, followed by a steady relationship. Then after some time, the relationship gets to a point where a commitment is made. In other words, it takes time to build the trust needed for a commitment of marriage. The same is true for customer/company relationships. Expecting a sale immediately without building a relationship with the customer is naive, so you must repeat your messaging over time. A single message can easily be ignored or forgotten, frequency helps minimise the potential of that happening.

3.  “Maximise the value of each customer relationship”

Instead of focussing on increasing the number of new customers, focus on keeping customers longer and getting more revenue from them over time. By staying engaged with someone over time the stranger becomes a friend, the friend becomes a customer and if the messages you send are anticipated, relevant and personal that customer will hopefully develop into a loyal customer. Seth contrasts the multi-million dollar TV ad campaigns that big brands often rely on with permission marketing campaigns in which companies are directly connected with customers. By leveraging existing knowledge of customers to build excitement and provide solutions based around their interests, response rates and conversion rates dramatically increase. Why? When messaging is targeted and relevant people are more willing to engage in a two-way conversation giving us marketers an enriched understanding of our marketers.

Obviously there are many more take aways from this book than I’ve mentioned here (there’s loads on establishing trust with your customers), but I’ve highlighted three insights that stood out most to me. If you haven’t read Permission Marketing, I’d highly recommend it and if you’re not already subscribed to Seth Goddin’s blog you can subscribe here.  http://sethgodin.typepad.com

And hey, don’t forget to subscribe to me too!  😉


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