I have just a few more comments about permission marketing, which we have talked about on two previous occasions. The essence of permission marketing is building a relationship with people who want to hear what you have to say as opposed to interrupting people with all kinds of messages they don't want and aren't looking for using marketing gimmicks and techniques. I recently went into a sports venue and there was a company's name on the turnstile spokes as I went through the ticket gate! That is a perfect example of non-permission marketing. The company thought they had my captive attention to send a message. They did; the message was, "This is dumb and I will choose to ignore this invasion of my private, mental space." I don't remember the name of the company that put their ads in that imaginative but silly place.
In my last post, I mentioned that permission marketing requires listening, which interruptive marketing requires speaking. The latter requires that the company or church initiate and dominate the conversation with the public. Permission marketing requires that the organization listen to the public, something we as humans aren't always equipped to do. Listening takes time and takes the conversation the way the speaker wants it to go. That is why so many pastors are such poor listeners. They are so used to speaking at and to problems that they don't really know how to listen. I have seen this to be the same the world over.
In the late '80s, Stephen Covey's book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, swept the world. I have quoted the fifth habit many times: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. I have learned that when I have said to someone, "I know just how you feel. This is my experience in that area," I am actually denigrating their experience and trying to do them one better by telling them my story. For the last decade, I have worked to ask better questions, listen more intently, give feedback more accurately and not try to speak too soon. I still have a long way to go.
Here are two of my favorite quotes where listening is concerned:
“Listening, coupled with regular periods of reflection, are essential to the growth of the servant leader. . . . The most successful servant-leaders are those who have become skilled empathetic listeners” – Robert Greenleaf, The Power of Servant Leadership.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. . . . The essence of empathetic listening is not that you agree with someone; it’s that you fully, deeply understand that person, emotionally as well as intellectually” – Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
I have used The Monday Memo as an example of permission marketing. I send it only to those who give me permission and anyone can easily remove themselves from the mailing list. You may be thinking, "But you, Dr. Stanko, writer about what you want to write about every week. Aren't you dominating the conversation?" The answer is that I am, to an extent, but I would not have 12,000 subscribers if I didn't write about things that were helpful to the reader. If I wasn't a good listener as I travel, teach and consult, I would not write an effective Monday Memo. The Memo isn't about me; it's always about the reader -- readers who has given me permission to send my material to them.
So how good of a listener are you? If you don't think it's important, remember what Jesus said: "Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him" (Luke 8:18). If your listening skills are okay, then how are you applying this to your work, whether in or out of church? Are you listening to people's needs and working to meet those needs, while still adding to the bottom line whether that's money or changed lives and communities? That, IMHO, is the essence of permission marketing.
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