Posted on

Permission Marketing

Permission Marketing
Permission Marketing
Permission Marketing

Permission Marketing is still a teenager. Born in 1999, it is not just vibrantly fit and energetic. It already seems mature and part of the community. This is so much so, that we see it everyday, and think nothing of the revolutionary change it has created.

Of course, it’s the term ‘Permission Marketing’ that’s a teenager. It was coined in 1999 by entrepreneur and marketer, Seth Godin. The idea, like so many, had been around for a long time.

It was just waiting for someone to give it a name, describe it, and see it as a powerful trend for the future. This is what Godin did in his breakthrough book, titled… yup: ‘Permission Marketing’ (US|UK).

Why Permission Marketing?

In his book, Godin talks about the crisis of attention. With so much marketing and advertising, how can a product, service or brand get attention?

He refers to the traditional approach to marketing as ‘Interruption marketing’. It gets consumers’ attention by interrupting what they are doing and demanding attention. This can be an interruption of:

  • a TV programme,
  • a magazine article,
  • a radio play, or
  • our morning reverie, as a billboard fills our visual field

Godin then identifies four ways traditional advertisers fight the battle for attention:

  1. Spend more
  2. Give your adverts more punch. Make them more shocking or entertaining
  3. Change the campaigns faster, to keep them fresh (a less creative version of #2, I’d say!)
  4. Scrap advertising and use promotions and direct mail. Direct mail is also interruption marketing – whether physical mail or email.

The Solution to the Attention Crisis: Permission Marketing

Godin’s solution is Permission Marketing. Don’t interrupt your prospective customer. Make your marketing so enticing and valuable, that they ask you for it.

To illustrate the difference, he uses an analogy of seeking a marriage partner.

The Interruption Marketer

The Interruption Marketer buys great clothes, cruises the best bars, and poses dramatically. They offer a well-crafted chat-up line and then make their proposal of marriage.

The Permission Marketer

The Permission Marketer offers an appealing date. If that goes well, they make a second invitation. And a third… Eventually, they are building a relationship. The marketer and their date trust one another and start to fall in love. Finally, the Permission Marketer makes a respectful proposal of marriage.

How would you respond to these two proposals?

That’s why Godin, in his typical bold way, says:

Fire 70% of your customers and watch your profits go up

The best customers buy. The rest just suck up time and money.

What is Permission Marketing?

The concept of Permission Marketing is simple. It is a marketing message that consumers want. So they give you permission to place it before them.

The commonest example is when you sign-up for an email newsletter. You value the information it contains. So you ask for it. As a result, you entertain the marketing component of its content.

For the marketer, they must get value-to-pitch balance right. Acres of internet territory are devoted to articles about how to do this. And there is a whole industry of software providers and marketing consultants who will help you.

Management Pocketbooks does it and you are reading an example. They pay the author of this article to produce valuable content in the hope that some readers will become subscribers. Then, some subscriber will become fans. And some fans will become customers. And the author (that’s me) does it in his own business too.

Godin’s Three Characteristics of Permission Marketing

Seth Godin defined permission marketing as ‘anticipated, personal and relevant’.


Your potential customers look forward to hearing from you. This is more than just tolerating your marketing messages.


You personalise your marketing messages for an individual. This is what a lot of marketing automation software helps you do.


You create marketing that is about things that interest your prospects. By matching this to your products or services, you exclude prospects who aren’t interested in your marketing… the unprofitable 70%.

How to do Permission Marketing

In his book, Godin continues his dating metaphor. He offers ‘five steps for dating your customer’.

  1. Offer your prospect a reason to give you permission to market to them. This is usually a free item, a voucher, or a preview. The marketing industry refers to these as ‘Lead Generators’.
  2. Use the attention your prospect pays you. Offer them a constant stream of value that repays their investment. This will help them continue to give you permission – rather than clicking ‘unsubscribe’. Godin talks of delivering a ‘curriculum over time’. This teaches your prospect, the consumer, about your product or service. Marketers sometimes call this an ‘Engagement sequence’. Top internet marketer, Russell Brunson, describes this as a ‘Soap Opera Sequence’ in his book, ‘Dotcom Secrets’ (US|UK). His metaphor is that you are telling a story over a series of messages.
  3. You will need to constantly reinforce your incentive to stay. If not, your consumer may withdraw their permission. This means a constant stream of value.
  4. And marketers often intersperse it with additional special offers, that won’t create profit. They are there to invest in the relationship. The ideal result is even more permission from your prospect. Now they want you to make a proposal.
  5. Over time, you can use the permission you have to make offers (proposals). Now your consumer will start to consume. And you can start to make profits. Marketers then spot the good customers. They continue to escalate the offers they make, through an ‘ascension sequence’. This is a series of marketing messages that offer ever more rewards to the customer, in exchange for larger purchases.

What is Your experience of Permission Marketing?

We know you have been on the receiving end of permission marketing… or at least, on attempts to secure your permission!

And have you used it in your own business.

Whether as consumer or marketer, we’d love to hear your experiences, ideas, and questions. Please leave them in the comments below.

To learn more… 

The Marketing Pocketbook is full of tips, techniques, and tools for the whole marketing process.

Share this:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *