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Michelle PW : Permission Marketing — The Future of Marketing

Permission Marketing — The Future of Marketing

By Michele Pariza Wacek

In the last column, I discussed how traditional marketing is no longer working the way it used to. This is happening for a variety of reasons — people have too many mass media choices, they're bombarded with way too many marketing messages, the Internet is adding accountability to advertising, etc. (For part one, go here.)

So if traditional marketing is no longer effective, then how will you get the word out about your products or services?

What Internet Marketer Seth Godin, author of the book Permission Marketing, calls permission marketing.

Permission marketing is when your customers give you permission to market to them. This is opposite from traditional marketing, also known as interruption marketing (another term coined by Godin).

Interruption marketing works by interrupting you. Nobody watches television for the commercials. Nobody flips through a magazine for the ads. But that's how interruption marketing gets you to buy something.

Permission marketing is completely different. With permission marketing, customers look forward to hearing from you. They LIKE receiving information about your products and services. That's because they've agreed to enter into a relationship with you. And if permission marketing is done correctly, you'll eventually develop a stronger relationship with your customers than you ever would have with interruption marketing. (But that doesn't mean interruption marketing doesn't have its place. More on that later.)

Permission marketing isn't new. In fact, it's older than interruption marketing. Back before there was mass media, business owners routinely developed long-term relationships with their customers. And customers expected to be involved with the selling process from the beginning.

Now, of course, we no longer need to be dependent on building relationships face-to-face. With the Internet, we have a whole host of low-cost options available to us, which makes permission marketing easier now than it was before.

Here's how it works. You start by developing something that your customers find valuable enough to give you permission to contact them on a regular basis. E-newsletters or e-zines, which are e-mail newsletters, are popular and so are Web blogs. Web blogs are like online journals. For a fun sample, check out www.boingboing.net. Or Seth Godin has his own blog — www.sethgodin.com.

But e-zines and Web blogs aren't the only things of value people sign up for — you can offer them classes delivered via e-mail or tips or contests or points programs or special offers or whatever your creativity can come up with.

While it is possible to develop a relationship with customers using only offline techniques (for instance, a printed newsletter you mail to your customers) it's less expensive and more effective to use the Internet. It's quick and easy for your customers to sign up via your Web site and it's cheap for you to send it out via e-mail.

However, in order to get people to sign up, you first need to tell them about it. That's where interruption marketing comes in. You still need to get the word out about what you're offering. Then once they sign up, you can start building the relationship.

Is this a lot of work? Yes. Is it more work than interruption marketing? Yes again. But is it more effective than interruption marketing? It can be. Especially since interruption marketing isn't working the way it used to.

I feel that permission marketing favors small business owners. That's because permission marketing only works when customers and businesses form a relationship, and customers prefer forming relationships with people rather than entities. Customers want to know the person behind the business, not just the business itself.

But that doesn't mean big corporations can't employ permission marketing techniques. They just need to get creative about it. Perhaps developing a spokesperson or a business "personality" or a forum or group of people.

The important thing is to start thinking about how marketing is changing and what you can do about it. •

(Resource for article: Seth Godin, Permission Marketing)

Copyright 2004 Michele Pariza Wacek. All rights reserved.

Michele Pariza Wacek Michele Pariza Wacek owns Creative Concepts and Copywriting, a writing, marketing and creativity agency. More »

Updated 1/5/14