Part 2: Permission Marketing and Relationships

In his book, “Permission Marketing”, Seth Godin (1999) wrote: “[y]ou can define advertising as the science of creating and placing media that interrupts the consumer and then gets him or her to take some action”. One of the key words in his definition is “interrupting”- who likes to be interrupted? Despite being published in 1999, Godin’s concepts fit into 2016 quite nicely. He continues to emphasize that this escalation of interruption-marketing and increased spending on ad exposure suffers dramatically from diminishing returns. Eventually that practice becomes so cost prohibitive as to turn away firms without the financial capital to put their commercials where massive amounts of eyes are looking. The alternative solution to this problem? Permission marketing.

What is permission marketing? It’s a process first and foremost. Instead of shoving ads and promotions for masses of people to stumble upon, permission marketing aims to establish and foster a stronger, more fruitful connection between a firm and its customer. This relationship can be established in myriad ways, but generally conforms to Godin’s (1999) template:

  1. Offer the prospect an incentive to volunteer
  2. Using the attention offered by the prospect, offer a curriculum over time, teaching the consumer about your product or service
  3. Reinforce the incentive to guarantee that the prospect maintains the permission
  4. Offer additional incentives to get even more permission from the consumer
  5. Over time, leverage the permission to change consumer behavior towards profits

There are many ways to begin this process, but they have to fit the firm, its products, and most importantly provide value that the prospect actually deems valuable. Equally, this style of marketing targets specific individuals who express interest in the firm and its initial offerings- instead of trying to send out messages unsolicited. Permission marketing also re-frames the scarcity of time as a means to provide customers with marketing that values that same resource. In this manner, potential customers adopt a brand into their lives towards which cultivates a relationship that works for both parties.

The marketer gains a loyal, receptive customer, and the customer actually gets something of value in return for their voluntary adoption of said marketing materials.

The costs of executing this style of marketing on a large-scale may not make the most sense for firms that pursue low-cost, mass-market strategies (the target market is simply too diverse). However, niche-market focused firms with a differentiated strategy may find added value here. Niche-markets may tend to be smaller in scope and may contain a target market with quite similar psychographic traits making them particularly receptive to certain marketing material designed for them. This strategy also opens up firms to explore more aspects of online marketing- especially in regards to social media where people already are, and where people gain more value in relation to the volume of users on a given social media platform. In Part 3 of this blog series, I will examine how a select social media platform is suitable for permission marketing.

Note: Material for this post makes reference to Seth Godin’s 1999 book, “Permission Marketing”, and is available free in exchange for providing an email address here:

And, to see how personal online targeting can be visit: