One of the biggest problems of mass-market advertising is that it vies for the attention of prospects by interrupting them. That’s why TV commercials have long been called "dream interrupters," because that’s exactly what they are. The TV show is your dream. The TV commercial interrupts that dream. Not good.
Of course, if nobody else is interrupting the audience, the interruption will be effective for you. But everyone and their second cousins are interrupting the audience to the point that there’s an interruption overflow. And that’s why guerrillas one and all are rapidly warming up to permission marketing.
The name of this game is to get your prospects to point to themselves as hot prospects. They literally agree to learn more about your company and its benefits. Permission marketing can transform strangers into friends and friends into loyal customers. The first and main rule in permission marketing is that it truly is based on selfishness: Prospects will grant you permission to market to them only if they know exactly how they’ll benefit.
Seth Godin, with whom I’ve coauthored The Guerrilla Marketing Handbook, Guerrilla Marketing for the Home-Based Business and Get What You Deserve! How to Guerrilla Market Yourself, admits that mass media advertising will remain a potent weapon.
"Winston tastes good… ." Can you complete that sentence? Of course you can. It’s "… like a cigarette should." And yet nearly three decades have passed since that slogan was advertised. It would cost far beyond your budget to implant such a slogan in the minds of consumers today. Maybe Nike can afford it. And Budweiser. But the list is very tiny, indeed. It does not include many affiliate marketers.
I agree with Godin when he says that marketing is a contest for people’s attention. There is so much interrupting these days that people have learned to ignore interruptions. TV is cluttered with commercial messages beyond belief, and the Web is even worse.
That means that the challenge of the day is to persuade consumers to volunteer their attention.
Tell them a bit about your company and how your offerings benefit them. Then let them tell you a bit about themselves. Then tell them some more about your company. They’ll tell you some more about themselves. Over time you create a beneficial learning relationship. They want to know what you have to say. That’s why permission marketing is marketing without any interruptions.
Of course, you’ve still got to flag the attention of your prospects, but once you have it, you can turn it into permission, then turn that into learning, then turn that into trust. Once they trust you, they can buy what you sell.
Godin says there are four rules of permission:
- Permission must be granted. If it isn’t, you can’t assume you have permission to market. Buying names and addresses, then sending direct mail, is not permission. It’s spamming. And guerrillas do not spam. They know spamming litters the marketing scene and is usually ignored.
- Permission is selfish. Your prospects will grant permission to you only if they see clearly that there’s something in it for them. You’ve got about two or three seconds to communicate what that something is.
- Permission can be revoked. As easily as permission is granted, it can be withdrawn. On the other hand, it can intensify over time. The intensity depends upon the quality of interaction between you and your customers.
- Permission can’t be transferred. Think of marketing as dating. You just can’t give a friend the authority to go out on a date in your place.
Once people give you permission to market to them – then what? Then they want to get to know you better. They want you to solve their problems. They want you to improve their lives.
Why does permission marketing make sense? These days, people have the money to spend on products or services, but they don’t have the time to evaluate your offerings and learn why you are trustworthy. That’s why online marketing is so powerful. You can use email to communicate with people frequently, quickly and unobtrusively – if they have given you permission. Get it at your website. If you list yours, be prepared for a barrage of permissions.
To get these permissions, you’ve got to remember that the Internet is not television. It is direct mail with free stamps. It allows you to create rich relationships. Web banners will wither on the online vine while email marketing becomes the real killer application of online marketing.
Interruption marketing is coming to a dead end in the road, and the future will belong only to those companies that have embarked upon a permission marketing campaign. Will yours be one of them? I hope so.
JAY CONRAD LEVINSON is the acknowledged father of guerrilla marketing with more than 14 million books sold in his Guerrilla Marketing series, now in 41 languages. His website is GuerrillaMarketingAssociation.com