Book Review: Permission Marketing -Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers

I cannot believe this book is over 15 years old, and I had not read it. It is a book I believe every small business owner and Extension educator should read. At its core, it is about developing and nurturing relationships so they are eager to buy into your product. This book has a lot of overlap with the ideas of Referral Engine*. Rather than spend (waste) a lot of money advertising to people who may or may not be interested in your product, grow your lists of people who are actually interested in what you offer. Get to learn about those people and target your programming or products accordingly. 

In his book, Permission Marketing: Strangers into Friends into Customers*, Godin noted that you and I see 3,000-10,000 ads per day depending on if we went to the grocery store or not. We have become numb to the advertising and only see it when we are looking for it. It is no wonder that our advertising attempts are often no more than flushing money down the drain. Godin has offered a different and what I think is a better approach. He advocates for asking permission from people to market to them.

Across twelve chapters and 256 pages, Godin explained how to move from an interruption marketer to a permission marketer. Interruption marketers place an ad with the intention of disrupting what you are doing while hoping you will read it. A permission marketer first gains your permission to send you content that is relevant… information that interests you.

“Permission Marketing, which offers the consumer an opportunity to volunteer to be marketed to. By talking only to volunteers, Permission Marketing guarantees that consumers pay more attention to the marketing message.” (Godin, 1999, Chapter 2, Section. We Are All Running Out of Time, Para. 12)

Godin likened the process as developing a relationship. You provide free information, service, or product in exchange for the opportunity to continue the dialogue. You must provide clients a valuable reason to interact with you. It could be as simple as regularly providing quality of life tips in a newsletter. Over time, you work to gain more and more information about your customers to help know them better. With this information, you can target your messaging specifically to those who are interested. You can target programming to those who would benefit from it. The more you know and the more you work with what you have learned, the better your chances for a successful sale or program. Godin provided great examples on how marketing could have been altered to save money and get the right people to participate.

“Permission Marketing Is Anticipated, Personal, Relevant

Anticipated—people look forward to hearing from you.

Personal—the messages are directly related to the individual.

Relevant—the marketing is about something the prospect is interested in.” (Godin, 1999, Chapter 2, Section. Permission Marketing Is Anticipated, Personal, Relevant, Para. 1 through 3)

Godin’s key message was focus on the customers you have. They will provide a greater return on investment when treated properly. Treating them properly means knowing what they want and delivering exactly that.

The author gave high marks to technology that helps you know your customers, their needs, and wants. Yesterday, I wrote about a new product we are using called It is a tool to help us understand our faculty better, and help us provide better service to them.  There should be a process on your Web site that makes it easy for those interested to sign up for whatever you are giving away. You need a call to action to help make that connection. Godin stressed that your Web site should be a mechanism to convert prospects to customers.

Thinking about Extension—programming events, field days, and other events should be used to get people on a list so that you can continually provide them with more relevant information and invite them to more programming. Ask participants for their name, interests, and permission. Take that information and build out your customer relationship management (CRM) system so you can target products and programming better.

Businesses can provide the same opportunity. Collect business cards so you can subscribe them to a newsletter. Learn your customer’s needs and target information to improve their quality of life.

Godin stressed that permission marketing is about getting and expanding permission. He also stressed that you should not misuse the permission gained. Once you lose permission, it will be extremely hard to get it back. Treat your CRM file like gold.

Right now, I am starting a new business. Permission marketing is the method I will be using to expand what I am going to do. This means I will be working on developing friends who are interested in what I have to offer. Even Godin admits that interruption marketing may be necessary to make that initial introduction; however, after that, you only need to keep the conversation going.

If you are in small business or one of my friends in Extension, I certainly recommend that you read this book.

Anyone else read this book? What are your thoughts?

* In the spirit of full disclosure, this is an affiliate link, which means that if you purchase this item through my link I will earn a commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through my link. I only recommend products & systems that I use and love myself, so I know you’ll be in good hands.
Plus, when you order through my link, it helps me to continue to offer you lots of free stuff. 🙂 Thank you, in advance for your support!