There are two main approaches to selling anything, from sailboats to software as a service to towing services.

You can use the interruption method, where you basically throw an ad into someone’s face and demand their attention right away, and there’s permission marketing. Permission marketing became a formal concept in 1999, with the publication of Seth Godin’s book of the same name. Since then, permission marketing has found a comfortable home within the eCommerce community, as well as with offline companies that have a strong online presence.

The Principals of Permission Marketing

Godin reasoned that modern advertising was getting too noisy and too full of distracting, in-your-face style marketing.

People were exhausted from it and, frankly, had learned how to ignore and filter out most of the advertising messages they saw entirely. This was in 1999, before the rise of the web, so you can imagine how that effect may be multiplied today. He reasoned that instead, you should ask people for their participation in your marketing campaigns. It was a simple enough concept, but revolutionary in 1999.

Permission marketing revolves around three main concepts: 

  • Your customers or potential customers are actually eager to hear from you. Your newsletter, blog, social media updates and so forth are something they enjoy and anticipate. If they stop coming, your fan base will wonder why.
  • The messages you send are related to the individuals you’re sending them out to. This is made possible by audience segmentation. Obviously you can’t personalize to the individual level, that’s a lot to expect.
  • Your marketing is something useful to your customer base. They’re either interested in reading it or seeing it, or they gain some benefit from it. This could be anything from sales flyers to blogs to coupons or trivia, whatever your audience enjoys.

But How Do You Get Permission?

But, of course, before any of the principals of permission marketing come into play, you have to ask for permission.

You can’t trick your audience into participating in marketing, they have to come willingly. It’s not as hard as it sounds, though. People will often agree to receive marketing messages if you’re selling something they find useful, especially if you make it a two-way relationship. You may have to give a little bit at first to get them to budge.

For example, you may start your permission marketing campaign with a Facebook advertisement showing your product or service. The potential lead then clicks on the ad and they’re taken to your site, where they’re given an option to sign-up for your newsletter in exchange for a 10 percent off coupon. Or you might be found via your blog through a Google search, where your potential customer comes in looking for advice on how to handle a problem they’re having. They notice you have a social media page, which they sign up for in exchange for the free advice you’ve dispensed on the blog.

That’s permission marketing, it’s easy, right? You ask, your customers emphatically shout “yes!” and just show up. There’s just one catch. You have to be prepared for them, on every possible channel. Not only should you be ready for emails and social media fans, but telephone calls to your office. Even if you don’t have the staff for an influx of phone calls, an answering service can help tame the tide, either temporarily or permanently, depending on how successful your campaign is.