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The Gist:
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.
Commentary:
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."
Reviewer Views:
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.
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on 20 April 2007
...it has been a very disappointing purchase so far. The preface announces that, although it was first written in 1999, the author decided not to update it for 2007. At all. There are reasons given but, unfortunately, the result is a very dated read, which doesn't take into account the massive changes that have taken place in the intervening years.

The other major problem, as a reviewer of an earlier edition points out, is repetition. The author says the same thing over and over and over again. Whatever the intention is, the effect is poor. As with many book like this, you feel the idea is really only enogh to justify an aticle in a journal, and not a whole book.

I can't see myself ploughing on until the end.
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on 5 July 2004
I am currently writing my dissertation on viral marketing and was hoping to get some additional insight into alternative marketing strategies and tactics. Certainly this book didn't have anything to add at all. Regrettably it is written in a rather populist way with many repetitions and sometimes contradictory arguments (see page 123: "Brand trust is dramatically overrated. It's extraordinarily expensive to create, takes a very long time to develop, is hard to measure, and is harder still to manipulate." Then page 124: "The power of brand trust can be truly significant.." and so on).
I couldn't find anything new about permission marketing. Godin, as far as I am concerned, just randomly throws together concepts of brand loyalty programmes, the importance of dedicated after-sale service, maintaining good personal relationships with important customers etc. just to say at some point that the initial step for any permission marketing activity is still "interruption marketing" via traditional ways of advertising - a concept he, in preceeding chapters, denies much of a future in the marketing world. He even devotes almost an entire chapter to the outline of the difference between frequency and reach. Wow, here's some groundbreaking marketing novelty for you.
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on 25 October 1999
This is the best book about contemporary marketing theory we have read this year. At first blush, this might not be saying too much; we know all too well how bad prose and dreary writing seem to be the marketing guru's stock-in-trade. And there is something inhuman in the way they so frequently write of people as mere targets or "hits" or revenue streams. Nor do we like all those "how-I-converted-my whelk-stall-into-a-global-fast-food-conglomerate" books either. Marketing literature rarely provides an uplifting read.
But Permission Marketing is a belter. Seth Godin explores the creative interaction of three motive forces with modern marketing : diminishing returns from conventional advertising; the rise of sophisticated, seen-it-all-before consumers; the revolutionary impact of the Internet as a marketing device. "If you believe that the Internet changes everything", he says, "you will readily appreciate this book". We do and we did. The emphasis that the creative interaction of technological and social change provides a genuinely new possibility of dialogue with customers just has to be right. At the coal-face of modern marketing, large corporations are still spending zillions chasing sales from inherently promiscuous consumers through ever more expensive applications of the old-fashioned marketing mix. Not for nothing are individual advertisements sometimes called "executions". But the changes reviewd by Seth Godin allow for a much deeper basis of loyalty between the cash-rich consumer and the companies that spend time analysing and anticipating real needs. This is the basis for "permission marketing".
Here in the UK, we worry a lot about companies having too much information about us, especially credit card details. But as Seth Godin shows, if companies stock and handle this information successfully they can earn the crucial right to intervene in our lives to save us time and money. It has to be right to assume that, in due course, consumers will realise this and reward the most assiduously professional "permission marketers". Seth Godin is an early philosopher of this process. And anyone who can so dazzingly sustain the potentially seismic claim that "the overwhelming clutter in the marketplace has made traditional advertising almost worthless for most marketers" gets our vote.
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on 21 November 2003
Whilst this book offers useful ideas and some good examples, the overriding 'revolutionary idea' is not new.
It is clear that Godin's achievements are to marvelled at, however I tried to explain the book's 'Big Idea' to a friend and found that I had either missed it, or that it was not significant enough to recall with any zeal.
An interesting read but certainly a disappointment in the originality stakes. I'm afraid it simply felt like another buzz phrase milked to sell vast quantities of books to people like me who are waiting for the next revolution!
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on 20 May 2015
When this book was published, I'm sure it was a total game-changing hit. Unfortunately, ageing has not done any good to it. In the fast-changing internet era, most of what is explained in this book has quickly become outdated.

Moreover, the principles behind what is explained in this book is not new. It might be explained in a different way and put into the internet context but 'Permission Marketing' would be the samoe as infomercials on TV, David Ogilvy's news-looking advertisements or the principles explained in Claude Hopkins' Scientific Advertising 70 years before this book.

I still give it 2 stars because there are still a few good pearls here and there but it has been a disappointment because I've been following Seth Godin's blog for a while and he gives great insights on marketing and business so I expected a timeless classic just like Ogilvy's or Hopkins' books.
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on 4 March 2003
You may not have heard of Seth Godin. You will have heard of Yahoo - and Godin's the marketing brains behind it.
I first read this book over two years ago and, at the time, decided to test Godin's ideas with a small e-mail campaign. It got three times the response of any of our previous direct marketing efforts and, ever since, Permission Marketing has formed the basis of our approach.
Here's how it works: Godin classifies convention forms of advertising as 'Interruption Marketing' and it's becoming less and less successful. Permission Marketing is about getting potential customers to 'put their hand up' and say "I'm interested". You honour that interest by providing the information they ask for, and ask them for permission to educate them a little further, perhaps by giving them some options regarding the next step. For example, a free trial, speaking to another satisfied customer or calling into your office/showroom, etc for a demonstration. And so the process goes on, with you gaining valuable information about this customer's exact needs as they continue to grant permission; and the customer trusting you increasingly to provide them with exactly what they're looking for. The significant difference in this approach is that the consumer has volunteered to accept the promotional message. In fact, they will often look forward to receiving it.
It works. It requires a little extra effort and a lot of patience on your part. In return, you win very satisfied, very loyal customers. A fair bargain, in my opinion. The process, as Godin explains, begins with something to cut through the clutter of all the advertising we are bombarded with. It could be something very creative, or it could be something simple. He gives plenty of examples. Once that first connection has been made (which he accepts must usually be through conventional 'interruption marketing'), the key is that everything that follows is "anticipated, personal and relevant".
Anyone who remembers Rapp & Collins' 'MaxiMarketing' from the 80s will already understand the approach (ie: seek out individual consumers). What Godin adds is the application of technology (specifically the internet) to maximise effectiveness. He also emphasises the learning relationship between both parties, which I liked.
You don't have to be an e-business for this to be successful, and you don't have to do it via e-mail and the web. Godin's argument is that the technology makes it easy and cheap to do via e-mail and the web, but the concept works in other media. The concept will also work equally well in B2B or B2C businesses. Buy this book and you will be on your way to finding and keeping your best customers of the future.
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on 10 April 2010
When Seth wrote this it was revolutionary. But our social media world is now at the place where it better understands the idea of PULL rather than PUSH, so this book becomes less revolutionary over time.

Seth talks about 'Permission' marketing, which is the opposite to broadcast. In the broadcast marketing world, we push messages out to people, without asking them if they'd like to see them. This is un-targeted and ineffective. Permission Marketing is about building what Seth calls a Permission Asset. This can be an email list, customer bass, network, following, community, etc, that has given you permission to market to them. This means that when you send out your message, these people are not only likely to buy, but they WANT to buy.

Good thoughts, but if you've read Seth's other books, no need to read this one.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 11 December 2015
You are bombarded with thousands of advertising messages each day. There is only have one way to react to maintain your sanity - to develop a stronger screening mechanism so that the more messages you see and hear, the more you don't even have to even think about them to ignore.

You literally just don't see them.

This creates a vicious circle as it forces marketers to develop more extreme methods to try to capture our attention.

This traditional advertising approach is what Seth Godin calls Interruption Marketing. It's first purpose is to interrupt the your thoughts about your problems, your own agenda and instead focus on the advertiser and their agenda.

The author offers an alternative and it's called Permission Marketing. Instead of shouting to interrupt and gain attention, imagine having customers and prospects who want to pay attention to your promotional messages because they have given you permission to send them.

According to the author, permission marketing is anticipated (people look forward to hearing from you), personal and relevant. It is the equivalent of old fashioned dating. It builds the relationship slowly over time so that when you do ask, the chances of hearing a "Yes" are much higher.

The idea of permission marketing is a full five star idea but the book has been padded so it loses a star.

The book was written in 1997 when the Internet represented the bright future and it is interesting to see how many predictions have come true. Email was the main source of permission marketing, even though they was still plenty of spam. Then social media was emphasised as the way to build relationships. Sadly both have been abused by marketers and also by us consumers. Our interests are transitory. What's important one month is often irrelevant three months later but we still receive emails, we still have that link in Facebook and we still follow them on Twitter.

I'd like to see an update on the Permission Marketing idea that accepts that we often only want a limited number of close, long term relationships. I think the Internet still holds a big hope but it's through search marketing that gives us a chance to access what we want, only when we want it.
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on 17 August 2012
I am a fan of most things that Seth Godin does, so it's quite easy to give this book a top rating - but first of all some points to watch: -

1. You gain nothing by buying the latest edition of the book - it's exactly the same as the original except for the preface where he explains why he has deliberately not updated the book.

2. You don't need to read this book if you subscribe to his daily blog (which I do). The only thing that the book brings to the table is that it's all in one place, plus he gives examples, except they are all American examples and all 12 years out of date (and remember: this is about the internet).

[By the way, I once emailed Seth Godin asking him for examples to illustrate the points in his blog posts, and he replied saying that there are many examples in his books.]

3. It's possible to download the first few chapters for free from his website and read them as a pdf. Funnily enough, it was reading the first part of the book in this way which persuaded me to buy it.

What the book is about: -
The central idea of the book is very powerful: Most of the marketing and advertising in the 20th century was "interruption marketing" eg newspapers, TV advertising etc. In the modern era there is so much advertising clutter, than most people ignore conventional advertising and instead can be sold to by the marketer building a relationship, over time, with the customer. Powerful stuff - and I recommend all business people to read it.
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