The Most Satisfying Marketing Position

permission marketing is like dating

In a comment conversation on Caroline Middlebrook’s blog, I remembered a great riff from Permission Marketing.

Godin talks about two ways to get married.

Traditional or “interruption” marketing has you conducting a bunch of demographic analysis to find the perfect singles bar. Then you buy a really flashy suit and shoes, and spend an evening marching up to every single person in the bar asking them to marry you.

“If the Interruption Marketer comes up empty-handed after spending the entire evening proposing, it is obvious that the blame should be placed on the suit and the shoes. The tailor is fired. The strategy expert who picked the bar is fired. And the Interruption Marketer tries again at a different singles bar.

“. . . The other way to get married is a lot more fun, a lot more rational, and a lot more successful. It’s called dating.”

The kind of marketing I talk about in this blog and on my newsletter, whether I call it relationship marketing or permission marketing or one of about 20 other names, is this kind of “dating” marketing. It’s about conversation and participation and relationship.

Even better, you can do it with as many people as you like and no one gets mad at you.

How to get the first date

If you’re getting a project (a business, a new product, whatever) off the ground, the last thing you can afford to do is sink most of your marketing budget into one ad, one mailing, one really gigantic sign for your storefront, or even one Web site. Especially now, when most advertising just fades into white noise. There’s too much of it and everyone has built amazing anti-advertising walls up to keep the noise from making us crazy.

Instead, put your time and resources into attracting potential customers into going on a date with you. Just a friendly, low-key, low-pressure date. Think coffee, not a weekend in Vegas.

The clichéd way to do this is to find or make something valuable that you can give away. Swap it for an email address and permission to send stuff. This is a cliché because it works very well, so don’t be shy about it.

Next steps

When you’re building that relationship, give about ten times as much as you ask for. Don’t deluge people with a firehose of email. Don’t pester them with are you ready to buy yet? messages. At every moment, ask yourself if your actions are supporting your relationships or harming them.

When you do present something to sell, offer that in the spirit of giving too. If your product doesn’t solve important problems for your customers, you need a new product.

If you want a refresher on the whole permission marketing thing, it so happens that Seth just wrote one. (I didn’t find it until after I started this post, actually. Spooky.) Better yet, read the book. Mark all the pages up and cram it full of post-its, like I have.

Most business books are 110 pages of fluff packed around one or two good ideas. Permission Marketing is something more interesting than that. It’s a manifesto for a completely different way for customers and businesses to relate to one another. It’s a call for something that’s cheaper, better and more fun than Interruption Marketing.

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

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  1. RB says:

    I’ve been reading this book and am summarizing each of the Chapters…sounds geeky I know. But I want to be able to reference the chapters and share the important points with my colleagues. The most important points that we can take away from each of the chapters.

  2. Evan says:

    I guess the problem is how to meet enough people.

    You only need one life partner (or maybe a few would make it more fun) but lots of customers.

    I too hate interruption marketing but how to find enough customers in other ways can take a long time (and in the long term we may not be all dead (as Keynes said) but we may go broke).

    So I much prefer the permission approach but I need to know ways to connect with lots of people too.

  3. Sonia Simone says:

    @Evan, that is a great point. Godin does address it–the truth is, you do need a little infusion of more traditional marketing to get some traffic. Adsense is one popular choice, or another is the traffic-building strategies you can pick up from the internet marketing crowd. Other things that can work well are small classified ads in magazines related to your topic or referrals from popular Web sites or blogs in your topic. This would be a good use of a banner ad on a popular site, as well. A lot of the bigger companies are trying a version of this now, but they put 90% of the resources into the attention-grabbing part, which is backwards. You want to put 90% into the permission follow up and 10% into getting new people.

    If you find a keyword that people are searching reasonably frequently, ezinearticles can provide quite a lot of traffic. They tend to do very well in search engines, as does my old favorite, Squidoo. Doing *both* can be all you need to get on page one of Google (again, with the right keyword–not too much competition, but enough searches). And if you point them to your blog or Web site, that helps them rise in the rankings as well.

    @RB, it doesn’t sound geeky to me, but then again, I’m pretty geeky.

  4. Daniel Edlen says:

    This was the seed of the idea that started my shift from me-centric to you-centric thinking about my art.


    Daniel Edlens last blog post..VA™ – Now I Can Merchandise Vinyl Art!


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