Seth Godin Week - Seth to Speak at Inbound Marketing Summit

Mike Volpe
Mike Volpe



We have decided to declare this week "Seth Godin Week" on the HubSpot Internet Marketing Blog.  We'll publish an article each day related to Seth, his books, his blog and/or his ideas.

Why are we doing a "Seth Godin Week"?  Well, Seth Godin will be speaking at the Inbound Marketing Summit marketing conference in Boston/Cambridge on September 8.

I am very excited to meet Seth and see him speak!

But, today, let's talk about how Seth got his start.  Permission Marketing.  He wrote a book of this title back in 1999.  What is Permission Marketing? Basically, it refers to all of the marketing techniques where you are gaining people's permission before you start to market to them.  TV ads?  Nope, they interrupt the show I am trying to watch.  Telemarketing?  No way!  Rented email lists... nope!  Getting found in things like search engines, providing useful information people actually want to consume, and using viral marketing techniques are some of the principles behind permission marketing.  Over the years I think permission marketing has evolved into Inbound Marketing, now that things like blogging, social networks, SEO and other techniques have become more of a complete discipline.  Seth Godin talks about 5 Levels of Permission in the book, and how marketers start at the lowest level (level 5, "situation" and work your way up - if you are good.  Here is some info about each level, I borrow language extensively from the book here.

The Five Levels of Permission Marketing

  1. Intravenous.  Your doctor has your permission to put whatever she wants into your arm, and then charge you for the treatment and expect you to pay.  The marketer who has this level of permission can make buying decisions on behalf of the buyer.  The only downside is if you mess it up, you'll lose the permission.  Automatic replenishment of the spring water in your office or the oil in your home are examples of this.  Why do people submit to this type of marketing?  To save time, to save money, because some people don't like to make a choice, and to avoid stock outs.
  2. Points.  Airline frequent flier miles and credit card points are examples of this level of permission marketing.  People opt-in to these programs because of the benefits you give them.  They give you permission to track their purchases and to send them special offers based on their purchase patterns.
  3. Personal relationships.  This form of permission ranks behind "points" because it doesn't scale.  [In 2008, I actually think that things like blogging and social networking might allow this to scale better, maybe making it #2.  - Mike Volpe]  This is the form of marketing used in very large transactions, like on Wall Street and on Madison Avenue.  When you have a personal relationship, you have permission to ask questions, see if someone is interested in a new service, and recommend other products.  Again, if you mess it up, you'll lose the permission, so be smart.
  4. Brand trust. This is the type of trust that outbound interruption marketers aspire to hold (it is scary that they only aspire to stage #2!).  Brand trust is dramatically overrated.  It's extraordinarily expensive to create, takes a very long time to develop, is hard to measure, and is harder still to manipulate.  You can use brand trust to create brand extensions, or cross sell other products.  But the first time you break the trust by not keeping the customer's best interest at heart, you'll damage the value of your brand greatly.
  5. Situation. This is the permission you get when a customer calls your 800 number or asks a store clerk for advice, etc. Compared to TV ads or other interruption marketing, this situation gives the average marketer a lot more options.  Remember that your employees who deal with customers and prospects are the tool to use for situational permission.  McDonald's has generated billions with the situational permission phrase of "Do you want fries with that?".  The question later became "Do you want to Super Size that?", and maybe they ruined their brand value by not keeping their customer's health in mind, leading to the movie "Super Size Me".

How to you bring the concepts of Permission Marketing into your company?  What level of permission have you attained?  Have any of Seth Godin's books or ideas influenced your marketing?  Leave a comment so we can discuss.

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