Why I wrote a book called “Permission Shmarketing”
May 14, 2020
I love Seth Godin.
Seth has a way of expressing the biggest marketing ideas in a clear, succinct, and memorable way.
Purple Cow is a great example. The meaning of the title of that book only needs to be explained to you once, and you’ll remember it forever. To wit: If you’re driving down the street and you see brown cows, big deal, it never gets mentioned again. If you see a Purple Cow, you’ll tell everybody. In marketing, the goal is to create a Purple Cow.
The first marketing book I ever read was Godin’s Permission Marketing.
I LOVED the book. I read it in 2011 just after I’d left an 8-year career of trading credit default swaps for the now-defunct Lehman Brothers. We
I understood nothing about marketing at the time, but loved the idea that the “TV Industrial Complex is dead, consumers have become so sophisticated that they tune all advertising out, and the way of the future — the only way prospects will listen — is for brands to receive permission from prospects to market to them.”
Along Came Google
That book was written in 1999, one year after Google was founded.
In my opinion, Seth’s vision couldn’t have been more wrong.
As a consumer, my choices have increased to near infinity in every category since the book was written. I have become increasingly more savvy and sophisticated since 1999 in how I purchase things.
However, I continue to be bombarded with advertising that I didn’t ask for. In airports, on Youtube, on Facebook, on news outlet websites, on search engines, in my inbox…Literally every place I spend my time, I get advertising I didn’t ask for.
In fact, because of Google, the non-permission based advertising we receive is far more invasive — and far more persuasive — than it’s ever been.
Google has the equivalent of 5 million word documents of data about every one of us that they use to decide what ads to serve us that we didn’t ask for. Once you realize everything they monitor and save forever about our lives, it will make you want to vomit.
Seth was wrong
If Seth’s vision was a world of better, more highly targeted products that brands would sell to their mini followings of people with similar worldviews, all of whom raised their hands to receive the advertising, I’d say he was dead on. Except for that “raise their hands” part.
Like I said before, I barely raise my hand for anything, and I see ads all day long.
GetEmails is controversial
At GetEmails, we created a product that many people have a problem with. Many believe it is both illegal and unethical because it goes against Seth’s gentlemanly notion of the future that in order to email someone, you need permission first.
Interestingly, permission-based email marketing is not the law in the USA. CAN-SPAM in the US states that email marketing is opt-OUT, not opt-in. However, partly because of Seth’s book, but mostly because of how the email ecosystem was built, nearly everyone thinks that you actually DO need permission to legally send email marketing in the USA.
From an ethical (and pragmatic) standpoint, it is my opinion (as someone who has owned an ESP for 7 years) that email marketing is not about permission, it is about engagement. Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, and other ISP’s have all built their SPAM filters around letting email that is sent to engaged audiences IN, while keeping unengaged email OUT.
Why have they done that?
It’s all about ENGAGEMENT
Because high engagement, ie, high open rates and click throughs, with low unsubscribe and complaint rates, is definitively how you judge whether or not a group of people actually wanted to receive the mail.
Gmail doesn’t care if you are sending to a list of opt-ins. They just want your list to engage with the content you’re sending. In fact, they’d rather you send to a list of people that DIDN’T opt-in with higher engagement than a list of people that DID with lower engagement.
Guess what? We built a product that gives you email addresses that ENGAGE. Not only do they not hurt your reputation with ISP’s, but the engagement of these emails will be better than your house list, and they will actually HELP your future emails get delivered better.
GetEmails works. It’s inexpensive, easy to get started, and the consumer doesn’t mind it, because the engagement of our emails is through the roof.
However, the very nature of the product is the exact opposite of everything Seth talks about in that seminal, 1999 book he wrote about only emailing people who give you permission to do so.
To that, I say…