#TBT: Are You Really a Permission Marketer?

Happy #TBT! Here’s an oldie-but-goodie post from Jim: Are You Really a Permission Marketer?

Today, I’d like to introduce you to the High Priest of how to “earn” the loyalty of potential customers versus trying to “own” them.

(BTW, during this whole discussion of “owning” customers, all I can hear in my head is Lesley Gore singing “You Don’t Own Me.” Or the Blow Monkeys, if you prefer.)

And with no further ado, the man’s name is Seth Godin. Way back in 1999, Seth wrote a book called Permission Marketing, which, though some of the examples he uses are a bit dated now [circa 2009], is still the place to go if you want to understand how to do business on the internet.

Back then, the book was an important breakthrough because it put to words what many of us in the e-commerce and consumer internet business had been thinking of but unable to pin down. Seth’s insight was that success comes not from massive advertising budgets, but by individual relationships with customers, wherein you move up a metaphorical ladder of permission.

You start as strangers and, one step at a time, move to becoming “friends.”

But you can’t do it in one step, and you can’t be friends with someone you’re trying to own.

This idea really caught on, and whole industries changed to match this philosophy. Everyone now knows that they want a “list” of names to market to, but as the years went by, the importance of that “list” grew to overwhelm the understanding of why it was built in the first place and what to do with it when you got it.

It became a high-tech version of a junk mailing list, and that’s all.

So it’s time to bring this back, especially for live entertainment venues. You, more than almost anyone, have something interesting to talk about with your patrons and potential patrons: the shows, games or whatever it is you produce.

And the potential value if you do it well is enormous.

Right on the jacket of Permission Marketing, there are four tests of Permission Marketing, but I know that in 2009 (as opposed to 1999), you all pass the one that asks if you have a permission database. Yes, you do. That’s the “list,” and most of you have come by your list more or less the right way, with above-board permission granted by the folks on that list. (For those who’ve built their lists by other means, you need to stop using that list and start again. What you’re doing is toxic, and possibly illegal.)

So here are the other tests, which I will paraphrase:

1. Does all your marketing give people a way to deepen their relationship with you by any means other than buying? That is, are you giving them a way to engage with you with every communication you put out?

2. When people do give you permission to communicate with them, have you figured out what you’re going to say? Seth calls it a “curriculum to teach people about your product.”

3. Once people buy from you, do you have ways of engaging them further? Just because somebody’s bought from you doesn’t mean they’re loyal or that they even like you. If you do this part right, you’ll develop a valuable, long-term relationship. If you don’t, it could be a one-night stand, so to speak.

In this decade, Permission Marketing, done right, has taken on a lot of interesting forms. A company like Zappos, for example, has developed so many ways for customers to do more than just buy shoes from them. You can get to know the CEO on Twitter, you can read the blogs of many of their employees, you can read about their culture in a book that’s been published, and you can obsess about running with their mini-site devoted to the topic.

In those ways and more, a good permission marketer can build on the thin sliver of permission that you get when somebody decides to sign up for an email or log in to your site and turn it into something special.

At Goldstar, we work hard to do that, too. Anyone can browse the Goldstar site, but we hope we make the content of the site interesting enough that you’ll want to join as a “member.” In fact, we’re the only ticket-selling site in the world that has “members” instead of just people who sometimes show up and buy tickets. Beyond that, you can sign up for RSS and Twitter feeds to automatically find out instantly when new events get posted in your area, read and share your event reviews, leave tips for other people when you’ve gone to an event, give people kudos for their own reviews, build and share lists of events you’re thinking of going to, and … well, you get the idea. I’m not saying this to promote Goldstar, but to give you a sense of the possibilities.

So please, go to the Permission Marketing site right now. You can download the first four chapters of the book for free, and go from there. We all benefit from better Permission Marketing, and we all suffer when it’s done poorly.

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