Permission Marketing

DEFINITION of 'Permission Marketing'

Permission marketing refers to a form advertising where the intended audience is given the choice of receiving promotional messages in advance. The concept of permission marketing has been popularized by Seth Godin, an entrepreneur and author, in the 1999 book, Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers Into Friends, And Friends Into Customers. Permission marketing is characterized as being anticipated, personal and relevant. Permission marketing is often positioned as the opposite of the direct marketing approach where promotional material was traditionally sent out to wide swaths of potential customers without their consent.

BREAKING DOWN 'Permission Marketing'

Permission marketing has gained in popularity, particularly in the area of digital marketing. One of the best examples of permission marketing are subscription email updates. Users opt in to receive periodic emails with updates and offers based off the interests they express when they signed up. Subscribing in this case is the act of giving permission. And if the reader finds value in the content that is personalized off their profile, they will look forward to it every week, month, quarter or whatever publishing schedule they commit to.

Benefits of Permission Marketing

Permission marketing is seen as a low-cost and effective way to create a relationship with a potential customer. The use of digital platforms with direct access to consumers, such as email or social media, takes away a lot of the overhead costs that competing channels like traditional mailouts and print ads have. More importantly, the opt-in from the potential customer makes it more likely that they will read the content and absorb the marketing messages.

Permission Marketing Versus Traditional Direct Marketing

Direct marketing in the traditional sense often amounts to marketing blind - knowing little about the total audience other than a postal code. For example, a real estate agent might send a postcard with her details to every home that has a particular ZIP code roughly representing her area of interest.

In permission marketing, the real estate agent could instead use a blog to share content about home prices, mortgage rates and tips on home selling specific to that same area with an email newsletter opt-in that requests some basic information such as “when did you purchase your current home?” or “do you intend to buy a home in the next year?” This information can be used to segment emails into different lists and tailor content further so that, when the subscribers are looking to sell or buy property, they’ll be much more likely to go with the real estate agent they have a relationship with.

Both approaches can work if done correctly, but the odds in this situation favor permission marketing as being more successful over time.