People, whether they are at work or home, are subjected to a constant bombardment of direct mail, newspaper ads, periodical ads, radio & TV ads, which are all designed to capture their attention ahead of the competition. Godin argues that most individuals do not have time for this approach known as "interruption marketing", either because they are too busy or because they simply resent the intrusion. Instead, he suggests that a different approach is needed in this time-precious age, especially if companies want to not only gain new customers but more importantly, keep them. The permission marketing technique is the reverse of the volume scatter gun method. By obtaining a potential customer's permission for two-way communication to take place, the company can build strong relationships and, over time, turn people into loyal, long-term customers.
Permission marketing has been around for years in record clubs, airlines and even doctor's surgeries & the church! However, it is now easier to take advantage of the permission techniques Godin highlights in his book, since the use of technology cuts out a lot of costs previously associated with such an approach.
Permission Marketing is best explained by the following example. A company sends a mailer highlighting the products and services it offers. This mailer is designed not to directly sell the product or service but instead invites the customer to call or email to request more company information. Once the customer has made contact, the 'dating' process can start. The brochure that is sent out in response to the request not only informs the customer of products and services but within the process, is designed to get permission to follow up and arrange a meeting. The meeting will give the chance to learn more about the customer's needs (and budgets!). This meeting can then leverage permission for many other contact opportunities and finally not only make a sale but also build a stronger relationship.
Although Seth Godin focuses mainly on marketing to consumers, this shouldn't put you off as the theories can be translated to a B2B environment and there are a few examples of how permission techniques work in business to business marketing. Not only does he provide case studies of companies including American Airlines, AT&T, Levis, McDonald's, AOL and Columbia Record Club, but also a FAQ section and an area entitled "Questions to ask yourself when evaluating any marketing program."
If you read this book -and I suggest that you do- you might have the feeling that all the key messages Godin delivers could be written in a '20 page pocket guide to Permission Marketing'. This is arguably true, although you might be in danger of forgetting a crucial element highlighted throughout the book. Permission Marketing is a process- not a moment. It is a relationship that takes time to build - the customer is in control and one wrong move can end the relationship forever. This is definitely a book worth reading and not just once - you should keep it very close by when planning any marketing campaign. He steers well clear of the marketing jargon and makes it very easy to read.