What You Need To Know About Permission Marketing

Why Permission Marketing is Like “Dating” Your Customers



Permission Marketing, offers an opportunity for consumers to choose whether or not to be marketed to.  It encourages consumers to engage in a long-standing, cooperative Marketing campaign rather than shoving its sales pitch into their faces.  It also requires you to understand the buying process of your customers and to adjust your Marketing efforts around that, as opposed to expecting your persona to adjust around you.




In Seth Godin’s book “Permission Marketing”,   (as Reviewed By: Bob Ruffolo, IMPACT)  he describes permission marketing as “dating” your customer in 5 steps:

  1. Convert-Offer the prospect an incentive to volunteer their contact information.
  2. Nuture-Once you’ve gained their attention, offer a curriculum over time, teaching them about your product or service.
  3. Reinforce the incentive by consistently providing value to guarantee that the prospect maintains their permission.
  4. Offer additional incentives to get even more permission from them.
  5. Close-Over time, leverage the permission to change consumer behavior toward profits.


To be an effective Permission Marketer, you must follow Seth Godin’s 5 principles below:

  1. As a Permission Marketer, you are a farmer and constantly need to work at harvesting your crop/customers. An Interruption Marketer is just a hunter and tries to kill something once with a single bullet.
  2. Permission is a process, not a single moment.
  3. Never breach the trust of your customer once they grant you permission to speak with them by selling their data to someone else.
  4. Frequency is always better than reach.
  5. Give a prospect a reason to pay attention –- you have to offer an explicit reward, information, education, entertainment, or even cold hard cash to get the customer to opt-in to the message.




Here are Seth Godin’s 5 levels of Permission Marketing

1. Situational Permission

  • This is a scenario where a lead provides their contact information and gives a business permission to assist them further.
  • At this point, the person is interested in what you have to offer, but they likely haven’t made up their mind about making a purchase from you.
  • Most businesses that rely on Inbound Marketing for lead generation offer an incentive for leads to opt-in to their mailing list.
  • Once they’ve joined your mailing list, you have permission to communicate with them further — and if the incentive you offered was valuable enough, they will be interested in hearing more from you.


2. Brand Trust

  • Establishing brand trust takes time, but once you’ve accomplished this your customer gives you permission to regularly contact them and you will be their go-to source for the product or service you offer most of the time.
  • Marketing to your persona at this level is much easier than only having situational permission because you no longer have to win them over.
  • However, that doesn’t mean you can’t lose their trust either.
  • You still have to make an effort to keep their trust, but they will be more forgiving of little mistakes at this level.
  • It’s all about keeping your customers happy and being as loyal to them as they are to you.


3. Personal Relationship

  • At this level, the customer’s permission is earned because they have a personal relationship with someone in the organization.
  • Have any of your close friends or relatives ever started a business?
  • You are a lot more likely to do business with them than you are a competitor, simply for the fact that you want to support them and their business.
  • Even if your close friend works for a company (instead of being a founder) you are more likely to do business with that company unless your friend suggests otherwise.
  • This is why it’s crucial that you are developing real relationships with your best customers and clients.


4. Points Permission

  • At this level, the customer is already buying a company’s good or services and provides contact information because they are incentivized by points or rewards.
  • Does your business have a customer loyalty program?
  • One of the most powerful ways to grow your business — especially if your company is tech-related — is to create an affiliate program where your customers can receive commissions for recommending your company.
  • There’s nothing more valuable in marketing than a referral from someone you trust.


5. Intravenous Permission

  • This is the most efficient level of permission marketing because this is the level where a customer depends on your business.
  • The term intravenous permission comes from an analogy that Godin states in the book: “This is what you’ve got going when you’re in the intensive care unit with a needle in your arm and a bag of medicine dripping into your veins…Your doctor has your written permission to inject just about anything he wants into your IV bag.
  • Not only can he select and administer the drug, but he then can charge you for the treatment and fully expect that you’ll pay for it.”



If you can create a B2B product or service that controls the back end, exists as a framework, or operates in a way that customers build their business around it — you have the highest level of permission marketing.



At this level raising prices, upselling, and other marketing strategies that present a challenge become much easier to accomplish. That doesn’t mean you have permission to abuse your power, but you certainly have leverage.



Want to evaluate your permission marketing program, according to the standards set by Seth Godin?


Answer these ten questions:

  1. What’s the bait? It needs to be easy to describe, valuable to a large portion of your audience, easy to deliver, consistent with your core message, and beneficial enough that they are willing to exchange their attention and contact information for it.
  2. What does incremental permission cost? What does your business have to give (or pay) to further the relationship with your lead?
  3. How deep is the permission that is granted? If the prospect requests a quote from your service, send them the quote and don’t bombard them with a bunch of other marketing material. This leads to canceled permission.
  4. How much does incremental frequency cost? What resources are required for you to stay in contact with your persona on a regular, consistent basis?
  5. What’s the active response rate to communications? What are your email open and click-through rates? How many people respond to emails or leave comments on blog posts? Are you actively making an effort to increase engagement?
  6. What are the issues regarding compression? Do you have a feedback loop and technology in place to increase the bait as its effectiveness begins to tail off?
  7. Is your company treating the permission as an asset? Understanding the ROI of your inbound marketing efforts will help your business view permission as an asset.
  8. How is the permission being leveraged? Are you asking for feedback, offering beta tests, etc?
  9. How is the permission level being increased? What are you doing to transform interested leads into loyal customers?
  10. What is the expected lifetime of one permission? Are you measuring turnover rates of customers or subscribers?




Are you using Permission Marketing in your business?






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To Your Success,
Joan Harrington


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13 thoughts on “What You Need To Know About Permission Marketing

  1. Hi Joan

    I never really thought about “permission marketing” and learned a lot from your post. Establishing brand trust takes time. I know I’ve opted into many things online and most of the time, I unsubscribe because the person or company has not given me a good reason to trust them.
    I try to look at my own email marketing that way and try to understand what impression I have on those who opt-in to my list.
    Thanks again for giving me lots more to consider!

    • joanlivegreen@gmail.com says:

      Hi Lisa,
      Thanks for your feedback and awesome comment 🙂 So glad you enjoyed and found value in my post, much appreciated!

  2. I hadn’t heard the term Interruption Marketing before but know it’s still widely practiced. Marketers might provide an incentive of value but then take advantage of the permission given to just pitch to you.

    Building a list through a one-off giveaway or discount is the easy part. Continuing to satisfy that list, by continuing to give value, is where the real effort and skill comes in, don’t you think? You’ve given us some valuable pointers on how to achieve this. Thank you Joan.

  3. Joan,

    Permission is a tricky thing, as I have been discovering. People may opt in to our list because they want a freebie that appeals to them but they may not want to receive future emails. The key is always to build a relationship. I like your describing it as being like dating your customers. I have had clients at all levels of the permission spectrum, all the way up to clients that needed me and depended upon my being readily available. I have also had others who no longer wanted to remain on my lists and opted out. that is actually good so that those who are not interested can leave and I can focus on those who are potential or active clients and customers.

    Set Godin breaks down permission so clearly and I find the most important is to keep your brand recognizable and to build relationships in every way you can.



    • joanlivegreen@gmail.com says:

      Hi Erica,
      Yes, permission can be a tricky thing 🙂 Building relationships are key to having success with your list….absolutely! Thanks for your awesome feedback and comment!! Appreciate it!!

  4. I am definitely a fan of Permission Marketing, we get plenty of Interruption Marketing going on in life ( a lot on the phone and text) and how annoying it is to not be able to eliminate this… but hey, the world’s not perfect!
    Building a relationship seems to be the key here Joan, but that can take time, and of course everyone’s response to us will be different depending on their reasons, business and personality.
    I think being a genuine trustworthy individual, who offers interesting emails, of value and helpful business techniques, tools and trainings will manage to become a sales source to customers in one’s target market.
    Interaction is useful, because everyone is in a different business space at one time, but continuous marketing will keep the list growing despite some opt-outs, and social media is great for finding friends of friends and new prospects 🙂

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