This article is a summary of a former reading of Seth Godin’s book “Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers Into Friends And Friends Into Customers”. Back in 1999, M. Godin already gave us meaningful insights and keys to build a relationship with customers. Today, in 2017, those learnings are still true and valuable to anyone works in that sense.

As I work every day with customers and partners I realize how much it’s still easier to get into “interruption marketing” habits rather than building a “permission marketing” muscle. That’s why I decided to start this blog with fundamentals. And I think that Seth Godin’s concept of permission marketing is one of those.

Interruption Marketing

It is a set of sales and marketing techniques that aim at soliciting an individual while he didn’t ask for. The objective of these techniques is to sell as much as possible to the greatest number of “customers”.

Media used: Mass-media, advertising at all cost whether it’s on internet (unwanted pop-up, uncapped retargeting), on TV or in newspapers.

Permission Marketing

According to the author, marketing people are not allowed to solicit customers with impunity. To succeed their marketing on the internet, they must build a relationship with them taking into account their concerns which are:

  • Save time
  • Save money
  • Don’t always have to make choices
  • Provision
  • Security
  • Comfort
  • After-sales service

Marketers must win permission to start a relationship with them, relationship that will then lead to a sale.

Prospects –> Customers –> Friends

According to Seth Godin the relationship to the customer must be considered as a love relationship. You must first start with a dialogue and then cultivate this relationship over the long term. The important thing here is to turn a maximum of prospects into customers rather than increase the number of prospects.

Then, it’s all about extending the scope of the permission with the same customer by offering new services.

Permission Marketing is like a One-to-One strategy in the approach since the individual is at the center of the message. Here are the 5 steps that Seth Godin lists to build this customer-centric approach:

1 – Give the customer a valid reason to volunteer. We must catch the customer’s attention with a true promise, i.e. identify needs that we’re able to satisfy. The customer must be able to answer the question “what’s in it for me?” when he sees your communication.

2- Use the client’s attention to initiate a sustainable relationship that will help him understand what the products and services are. Seth Godin refers to being able to retrieve contact information (including email addresses) and customer’s information about his areas of interest in order to have strong and relevant databases.

3 – Strengthen your incentives to ensure that the customer renews his permission. It’s all about securing the relationship with the customer. For this, the investment in loyalty is necessary and is less expensive than the acquisition of new customers. At this stage, we need to find a way to reward the attention or purchase: points program, promotions, discount coupons… you can also invite your customer to subscribe to a customized newsletter in which he will find promotions that interest him personally.

4 – Give additional incentives for the customer to expand his permission. This is to widen the offer by offering complementary products and services.

5- Take advantage of the permission to change the behavior of the client so that it brings you benefits. The personal relationship in Permission Marketing is essential to keep open the path of permission. The one-time permission by a physical and social proximity is not enough. The goal is definitely to maintain and develop the permission.

For the message or the communication to the customer to be impactful, it must be explicit, obvious, and rely on 4 rules:

  • Customized i.e. target specifically your customer.
  • Expected i.e. the recipient expects to have news from you and is delighted about it.
  • Frequent because confidence comes from the frequency (nb: an ad must be submitted 27 times to produce the desired effect – Jay Levinson).
  • Relevant i.e. the message matches with recipient’s needs and center of interests

The more the database is relevant, with valid information, the more the development of such messages is easy and effective. And Yes, databases are not intended to be used no matter how but databases must be used for behavioral targeting. The rule of Permission is simple: get value of your database by focusing on differentiation (what makes you unique and irreplaceable), anticipation and honesty. The more your public is exceptional, the more your messages are expected, the more the willingness to participate (permission) from your customer is strong, and consequently the more your database gets value.

In conclusion, I will finish on the 4 pillars of permission:

  • Permission can’t be forwarded. You are in charge of it, not a third party or it has to be invisible for the customer.
  • Permission is based on selfishness. You’re not in control. The customer is. And he cares about himself and his benefits. Not about you and your product.
  • Permission is a process, not a one-time event.
  • Permission may be cancelled at any time