Continuing my post-college marketing education, I picked up Permission Marketing by Seth Godin. I read “Internet Marketing Pioneer” on the front cover and was hooked. When I flipped to find the publication date and read “1999,” I then understood the $3 price tag. Still, with all that Godin has done, for $3 I knew I could afford to read up on the basic building blocks of his marketing philosophy– even if the internet has grown a bit since I was building Lego battleships in my bedroom.
The main theme of Permission Marketing is taking strangers, turning them to friends, and turning those friends into lifetime customers. Godin frequently compares gaining new customers to the process of wooing a love interest.
A Permission Marketer goes on a date. If it goes well, the two of them go on another date. And then another. Until, after ten or twelve dates, both sides can really communicate with each other about their needs and desires. (45)
Much of the book goes on to highlight the pitfalls of what Godin calls “Interruption Marketing” – pursuing customers with no real forethought or level of concern. The internet (again, the internet of 1999) created a huge opportunity for interruption: banner ads, pop-ups, clunky search engines etc. As a result, the personal relationship plummeted with the anonymity and the interruptions.
If Permission Marketing is the process by which quality relationships are established and maintained, then what is the next step in the process? Staying with the dating metaphor, how do we get introduced to her friends, how do we get invited to go out to her parties, and how do we get tweets with our name in them? How can we spread the word about the hard work we’ve done with the Permission Marketing process without blowing our own horn?
I think company blogs are a fantastic tool to accomplish this. They can serve the purpose of communicating product information, company information, company values, or even stories that their customers find interesting.* I’m not speaking specifically about a part of the website that lists the “5 values of Company XYZ,” but rather a regularly updated source where these principles are acted out, and stories are told.
Personally, I’m a fan of the Starbucks blog. I know their company values of customer service, community serving, sustainability, etc., but their blog is a place where this stuff can come alive. I love seeing that. Furthermore because I know more about them, I want to tell more about them. I want to share things about Starbucks with my friends. I want to find one in every city I ever travel to. I want to sound the horns about Starbucks.
They’ve done their Permission Marketing work on the front end. I love interest in me, and I love the free drink every fifteen times I use my gold card, but they’ve gone the extra mile and made me love who they are as a company. This is the latter half of the one-two Permission Marketing punch that will keep me sticking around and has made me a lifetime customer.
I like to think (as most people do) that I’m a picky, unique individual with a well-established set values. My money and my time are therefore important and I believe should be treated as such. I need a company to give me focused attention if I’m going to consider returning the favor. If all a company can offer me is fleeting interest, I’m going back to my Lego’s.
*For a blog that capitalizes on this, look at Huckberry.com. They offer manly gear inspired by manly things, along with a manly blog about awesome things. I signed up with them last week and am already a big fan.