A Weekend of Television

Permission Marketing

As you know, I am a Seth Godin addict. I think he is one of the best marketing thinkers today. His work influenced me to start The Monday Memo seven years ago and I believe his marketing insight has great relevance not just for marketers but also for leadership, whether in business or church. I am watching some DVDs of Godin teaching at the University of Denver and one of them reviewed his concept of permission marketing.

Godin feels that most marketing today doesn't work because people don't want it and didn't ask for it. He points out that most marketers are looking to interrupt people with unwelcome ads, billboards, pop up computer ads and direct mail. Consequently, most people ignore or tune out those unwanted messages. Godin argues that companies should invest money in creating remarkable products and services rather than spend the money for something like ads for the Super Bowl broadcast that went for $2.7 million dollars for a 30-second spot. Remarkable products are their own best marketing plan and word-of-mouth would spread the news like a virus. Thus, he also coined the term "idea virus."

What makes more sense to Godin is what he calls permission marketing, where people have asked for and welcome (or at least don't ignore) notices, ads and material from your company (or church). My Monday Memo is an example of permission marketing. People have given me their permission to write and they are free to stop that mail at any time. They have given me their approval to write and now I am free to establish a relationship with them.

Here are some points to remember about permission marketing:

  1. It costs time and money.
  2. It is revokable and nontransferable; it can't be imposed on anyone else.
  3. It doesn't happen by accident; it takes concerted effort and thought.
  4. It must be nurtured; there are no quick or easy results.
  5. It is selfish, in that it is all about the recipient and not about the company, service or product.

This is why most companies, nonprofits and organizations don't "get it" where permission marketing is concerned. It is too slow, too unspectacular and too "limited." The old way of marketing thought about mass markets, where permission marketing focuses on relationships with a smaller niche market. I am especially amazed that most churches don't pursue this approach for evangelism, fundraising and discipleship. That is why their websites, for the most part, are boring and they don't have any regular outbound emails or blogs. Because permission marketing is about the recipients -- their needs and wants -- many companies and churches just don't participate. They still want to dominate and initiate the conversations and interrupt people with the message of the gospel -- or their latest program or upcoming event.

How can you apply permission marketing in your world? What can you do to get your message out to people who are open to hear instead of knocking on doors and answering questions that no one is asking? This is a challenging question, but it must be answered by every individual and organization in this 21st century world of speed and options. Permission marketing has changed my leadership style from one of dominance to one of partnership and cooperation. It has the same potential for you, but the question remains: Do you see the need to change? I guess an even more important and fundamental question is: Do you want to change?

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P Rizzle


I think you are right on. I went through that period where I thought I was forcing myself or "my message" on people through forced emails. So I swapped up, started a blog and tried some permission marketing. I read a stat that less than 1/2 of 1% of radio, TV ads and mail outs are effective in reaching the age group of 18-36. W/ that in mind, what are more effective ways of permission marketing? How can we as a church promote permission marketing? Stand in the foyer w/ a clipboard and gather e-mails? What else works?

Keep up the great purpose work!


Dr. J,

I loved the concept of "unwanted messages" versus an "idea virus". I spend so much TIME trying to maintain contact with people. It makes much more sense to CREATE something that people will search out. I have always wondered why I never receive responses from email blasts. With so much junk floating around its just easier to press delete and move on. I do it.

Thanks for the insight,

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