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The Art of Permission Marketing

By: Jared Ledbetter
Published: 2023-11-28

So, what is permission marketing exactly?  

In this day and age, the term ‘marketing’ wears so many different hats, shades of that hat and sometimes even disguises itself to look like another hat.  

I’d say Seth has got it dialed in though. 

“When I launched my book that coined this phrase 9 years ago (permission marketing), I offered people a third of the book for free in exchange for an email address. And I never, ever did anything with those addresses again. That wasn’t part of the deal. No follow ups, no new products. A deal’s a deal,” said Seth Godin, American entrepreneur, marketing expert, author and speaker.

“If it sounds like you need humility and patience to do permission marketing, you’re right,” said Godin. “That’s why so few companies do it properly. The best shortcut, in this case, is no shortcut at all.”

Hence, the art of permission marketing – because it is an art.  

It takes finesse, patience and understanding on you (the marketer’s) part.  

And here’s why.  

Permission marketing is…. 

A term coined by Godin, permission marketing explains how businesses can market to a subscriber who gives their permission to be marketed to by ‘opt-ins’ to receive offers and announcements from a brand. 

The concept is broken down into two schools of thought: express-permission marketing and implied-permission marketing. 

Express-permission marketing entails the consumer providing their email to receive marketing messages. An example of this would be signing up for a newsletter. This form of permission marketing is common when creating and establishing new business relationships.  

Implied-permission marketing entails a business already having an existing and established relationship with the consumer. Think someone who is already a customer and a frequent visitor to a brand’s website.  

So, consumers are giving their permission to receive offers and announcements from a brand, either via email or after they are already an existing consumer with a brand.   

paper with newsletter text in old typewriter

Think about all the times you have signed up to receive emails and special offers from brands you follow, know and love. After signing up, you see an email with a special offer from Nike-Christmas is right around the corner and they’re offering a 10% discount on your favorite pair of running shoes if purchased during the month of December.  

That’s express-permission marketing.  

Godin’s theory is that consumers should have the ability and power to choose how they’re marketed to. Upon consumers agreeing to receive marketing emails, marketers are better able to meet their individual needs through better understanding their individual interests.

The key here is in the understanding of the consumers’ interests. Regardless of it being express or implied, the art and beauty of both forms of email marketing is that the control lies with the customer. They have full right to the beginning and end of the marketing relationship with the brand.  

Through permission marketing, brands are also able to build value, trust and brand loyalty with their consumers.  

So, What’s the Catch with Permission Marketing?  

tightrope walker amsterdam

There are many pros to permission marketing, the top probably being that it’s an extremely cost-effective way to market a brand. It’s also a great way to build and maintain strong relationships with clients, as well as boost your leads.  

Finding the middle ground between investing time in creating what customers want to see and purchase, and maintaining exceptional quality via email marketing does wonders to build a positive reputation with your customers. 

Permission marketing is also a great way to generate new leads. By asking consumers to subscribe to your content, they are voluntarily agreeing to see more of what your business offers and are more likely to keep coming back for more when you have engaging and personalized content tailored to your consumers’ needs.  

But, much like walking a tight rope, you must strike a delicate balance to be successful at the art of permission marketing.  

Companies really have to work to find that ‘sweet spot’ between flooding their members with too many emails and sending them just enough to keep them intrigued and coming back.  

It’s a fine line to walk, but it can be done through strategic tactics like the ones below: 

Promotions, membership perks and newsletters are a few content ideas to keep people informed about your brand, keep them interested and keep them returning to you with their business.  

It’s important to remember to send consumers content related to what they signed up for. Pay attention to what your customers want-it’ll go a long way.  

Remember, folks. Privacy is Key in Permission Marketing

many old keys and locks

Although the consumer has agreed to your marketing tactics, it’s very important to maintain the consumer’s privacy. Let them know up front that their information is private. No one wants their personal information lost in cyberspace, open to hackers and fraud. It may be obvious, but ensure that you have their permission first.  

Also, give them the option and control to end the relationship. Make sure to provide an easy unsubscribe button so they can choose to leave at any time. Once again, you’re lending control to the consumer.  

Most importantly, let your businesses’ personality shine through.  

This is your chance to reach your audience in a more relaxed manner while also giving them the content they want to see. The art is found in keeping these emails short, engaging and lending a call-to-action from the consumer.  

Permission-based Marketing is no new tactic, but it still works like a charm. 

classic light bulb

Circling back to Seth Godin, the founder of this marketing principle, Forbes magazine covered Godin’s ideology in a refreshing light.  

Godin published his book Permission Marketing in the late 90’s and shattered glass ceilings when it came to marketing tactics, landing himself a spot as a marketing icon.  

The content of the pages sold his book, bringing forth more practical ideals that stemmed from a marketer and entrepreneur who had experienced ten years of the ever-changing world of cyberspace and the internet.  

 His observations entailed seeing how the internet had direct impact on the connection between brands and consumers. At the time, this was a new concept as traditional media had never bridged that gap before.  

Through observation, he also deduced the most productive and effective campaigns were the ones that first sought the consumer’s permission, leading him to coin the terms anticipated, personal and relevant in regard to this newly adapted style of marketing products to consumers and gaining their loyalty.  

Although simple, his ideals were direct and effective, still carrying through today.
-Anticipated, meaning the consumer looks forward to hearing from you.
-Personal, meaning the messages are directly related to the consumer.
-Relevant, meaning the marketing is geared toward what the potential consumer would want to see and purchase.  

Like any new ideas though, Godin’s were not widely accepted at the time of his book release. In fact, most people in the marketing world deeply disliked his ideals. How dare the consumers take the reins when it came to a business’ email list and demographic data. 

What an absurd concept.  

Thankfully, Godin held fast, and it worked out. He saw through traditional media’s approach to marketing as the world shifted to a digital age – and it made all the difference.  

The biggest and most foreign shift for traditional media was in moving away from ‘interruption marketing’ and moving to the consumer having control while also having their personalized needs met via email marketing, in ways it never had been before.  

People suddenly realized they no longer needed to tolerate ads that were thrown in their faces as a distraction from daily life. A revolutionary concept was born – consumers could simply visit another website that would best cater to their needs, on their terms. Control had shifted to the consumer’s hands and out of the hands of traditional media.  

What a brilliant concept.  

Godin revolutionized the marketing world by showing marketers that permission marketing was a wonderful way to build personal relationships with consumers, while also reminding them that these relationships would grow only if they were built on a strong foundation of meeting the consumer’s needs, providing consumers individualized attention, obtaining their permission and delivering the highest quality of products, services and engagement to keep them being loyal customers.  

Godin revolutionized social media as well, as all social connections are based on permission – think posts and sharing them on Facebook, Instagram, and the like.  

He inspired countless entrepreneurs to build permission marketing agencies – probably the truest testament to the art of permission marketing.  

There must be something to his simple, yet effective tactics, because twenty plus years down the road, permission marketing is still driving long-term relationship development, leading to exponential growth and customer loyalty for brands across the United States and beyond.  

Cheers to you, Mr. Godin.  

You have truly changed the marketing game in the era of the digital world we live in – and all you had to do was ask.

This article was originally published on Carbon Digital.