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Book Review: Permission Marketing by Seth Godin

Book Review: Permission Marketing by Seth Godin

Book Review: Permission Marketing by Seth Godin

PermissionMarketingIn Permission Marketing, Seth Godin reinforces the view that the marketing paradigm has changed and we are in the situation that we need to be asking permission of our market to engage with them. Now well recognised in the internet business arena, Godin’s book explores techniques and Permission Marketing applicant as well as the concept.


Chapter 1 – The Marketing Crisis that Money Won’t Solve

Godin believes that we marketers are addicted to what he terms ‘Interruption Marketing’. That is the need to interrupt a person doing something so that a marketing message can be presented to them. This approach to marketing has thrived since the advent of television where shows are interrupted so that commercials can be shown and viewers can be presented with a short series of advertisements. Articles in magazines are also broken up by advertisements of various sizes from small inserts to full pages spreads.

Godin believes, and argues extremely well, that this approach is no longer achieving the levels of marketing performance that it used to. In fact, consumers are becoming increasing immune to this marketing approach. Consumers are being subjected to increasing numbers of advertisements in a vain attempt to increase the performance of such marketing. Godin argues that increasing the number of advertisements just adds to the noise and makes it less likely that a consumer will be influenced by such an approach.


Chapter 2 – Permission Marketing – The Way to Make Advertising Work

Again Interruption Marketing fails because it cannot capture sufficient of the consumer’s attention. With the hectic pace of life, our time is important to us. The interruption marketer not only interrupts our time, but also attempts to steal more of it but presenting us with information that we probably do not want to have.

Godin suggests that the alternative to interruption marketing is permission marketing, an approach that offers the consumer a chance to volunteer for something and with that action opens them up to continues marketing. The consumer takes action to engage with the marketer and, in volunteering, gives permission for further focused marketing opportunities.

This approach of permission marketing is then focused and specific.

Godin uses the terms:

  • Anticipated: The consumer looks forward to hearing from the marketer.
  • Personal: The messages are directed at the individual.
  • Relevant: It relates to something that the prospect is interested in.


There are 5 steps in Godin’s approach to Permission marketing. These are:

  1. Offer an incentive for the consumer to volunteer.
  2. Use that attention to begin a campaign of further marketing.
  3. Reinforce the initial incentive for continued permission.
  4. Offer additional incentives to grow more permission.
  5. Leverage the permission into profit.

Chapter 3 – The Evolution of Mass Marketing


In the early days of commerce, every business was a small business, building a relationship with its customers and thriving by providing a tailored benefit to the problems of those customers.

The industrial revolution brought automation, and large scale economic changes leading to big companies and large brands. These organisations began to industrialise the advertising and interruption marketing was born.

The concept was simple, build a few ads and run them everywhere. Repetition increases the public awareness and increases sales. The approach is scalable, predictable and measurable. This led to the small brands getting large and the large brands getting larger.

Unfortunately, when the audience becomes saturated with this marketing approach the effect is reduced. The more the interruption marketing, the less impact it has on the customer consciousness.


Chapter 4 – Getting Started – Focus on Share of the Customer, Not Market Share

If interruption marketing is failing to capture customer interest, how better to market? Permission marketing focuses on gaining a customer and then growing the relationship with that customer, and capitalising on that relationship in sales and recommendations.

Start by getting the customer to volunteer his details by offering him something valuable for free. By volunteering those contact details, the customer is giving you permission to contact them further with additional marketing information that is of benefit to them. By getting that initial contact from the customer, you have the opportunity for further communications and the chance to earn back your initial investment plus build a relationship that offers the potential for increased profit over the long term.


Chapter 5 – How Frequency Builds Trust and Permission Facilitates Frequency

Interruption marketing builds awareness by presenting the brand or product to the customer frequently. This approach is not focused on the target customer but on everyone, potential customer or not. However, trust is the single biggest factor in achieving a sale and interruption marketing does not build trust.

Permission marketing creates awareness and then ensures an interest in the product before increasing familiarity with follow up messages. This approach has the virtue that only those customers who show an initial interest are the focus of further marketing. You then have the chance to build trust and convert trust into further profit.


Chapter 6 – The Five Levels Of Permission

Godin suggests that there are 5 levels of permission marketing:

  1. Purchase on approval – typified by product ‘clubs’ that send a product monthly based on membership following an initial purchase.
  2. Points – typified by a membership scheme where purchases earn points or stamps and these can then be used for further purchases or discounts.
  3. Personal relationships – building a relationship refocuses attention for a short period. People learn to trust and buy from people. It is, however, temporary and works only on a one to one basis.
  4. Brand Trust – repeat use of the product increases familiarity and so trust in that brand as long as it performs.
  5. Situation – typified by a consumer contacting the seller and asking for your product.


Chapter 7 – Working With Permission as a Commodity

Once you have the permission of the customer to continue marketing to him, Godin states that there are 4 rules to obey:

  • Permission is non-transferable – You cannot transfer that permission to another provider by selling your contact list as there is no trust between that customer and the new marketer.
  • Permission is selfish – The customer is always asking what is the benefit in this message. You need to continue to reward the customer so that the relationship can continue to build.
  • Permission is a process – Interruption marketing is in the moment that the interruption occurs. Permission marketing becomes a dialogue, a dance between customer and marketer.
  • Permission can be cancelled at any time – Your fate is always in the hands of the customer who can end the relationship at any time for any reason or even no reason at all.


Chapter 8 – Everything You Know About Marketing on the Web is Wrong

The internet is not a television set with a million channels all open for interruption marketing. Godin suggests that there are key 12 myths about marketing on the web and why marketers are making some fundamental mistakes:

  1. Traffic is the best way to measure a website performance – Hits do not translate to interest or sales and so it measures little.
  2. If you build great content, people will return again and again – Only fresh and attractive content will generate repeat visits.
  3. You can sell on the web if you have a secure server – Sales is about interest and benefit not about protecting the transaction, although an insecure transaction system will probably stop customers buying from you.
  4. Search engines are the key to traffic – Websites are needles in the haystack of the web.
  5. Java and shockwave are essential.
  6. The Web is like television – The combination of an infinite number of channels with viewers and this gives then an infinite number of choices. Only a few of those channels become popular.
  7. Lots of people surf the web – Most people have only a few sites bookmarked or use an RSS feed reader to avoid surfing the web!
  8. If you don’t experiment, you will lose later – You need to experiment well and measure appropriately to gain any intelligence on the performance.
  9. You should provide a complete experience – Such web portals are expensive and do not return value for the expense.
  10. Anonymity is Good for the Net – With nothing to hide the net becomes safe. Permission marketing rewards for personal information, not anonymity.
  11. You make money by selling banners – This is an old business model that is no longer providing any profit.
  12. Activity is good – Activity is not marketing and it may not be adding value.


Chapter 9 – Permission Marketing in the Context of the Web

Godin states that 6 biggest benefits of direct marketing on the web are:

  1. Stamps are free.
  2. Testing is rapid.
  3. Response rates are higher.
  4. You can use text and the web for your marketing.
  5. Frequency is free to achieve.
  6. Printing is free.

He then has 5 simple steps for permission marketing on the web:

  1. The marketers can offer an incentive for volunteering.
  2. This consumer attention gives you an opportunity to further educate the consumer about your offering.
  3. The incentive must be reinforced to assure the permission continues.
  4. Additional incentives gain even more permission.
  5. Over time this permission can be converted into sales and then profit.

To achieve this Godin suggests that a website:

  • Be tested to optimise the offer.
  • Makes the request for permission overt and clear.
  • Automate the information flow with computers not people.
  • Allow the customer to feel smart while on the website.

Chapter 10 – Case Studies

In this lengthy chapter, Godin supports his arguments with some compelling analysis and case studies. Each has value and should be read and considered carefully.

Chapter 11 – How to Evaluate a Permission Marketing Program

Godin suggests the key questions to ask when considering a Permission Marketing Program are:

  1. What is the bait?
  2. What are the costs of increments in permission?
  3. How deep is any permission granted?
  4. What is the cost of incremental frequency?
  5. What is the response rate to any communications?
  6. What are any issues regarding compression?
  7. Are you treating any permission as an asset?
  8. Is it being leveraged?
  9. How is the permission level being increased?
  10. What is expected is a lifetime of permission?


Chapter 12 – The Permission FAQ

This chapter captures what Godin considers the most Frequently Asked Questions regarding permission marketing. They answer the burning issues that are likely to result from the case studies.



Overall Permission Marketing presents a compelling argument for permission marketing. Given the characteristics of the internet and other modern communications channels, a more sophisticated approach is required to build a comprehensive market share. In an era when you can buy a book online and have it arrive before breakfast, we are facing customers that are likely to be more difficult to satisfy. Only by engaging with those customers that are interested in a product can a marketer truly gain a customer and permission marketing seems an effective method of achieving this. An engaging read and a compelling argument.

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