Permission Marketing: definition, strategy & useful examples

Permission Marketing is a strategy that involves obtaining the consumer’s consent to receive informational, promotional, or advertising communications based on the personal data they have provided.

This marketing strategy was first mentioned by Seth Godin in his famous book “Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers.”

It is based on the concept that obtaining permission from the customer to communicate with them leads to more successful initiatives and communications towards them.

If you have the consumer’s permission, you have a greater chance of capturing their attention with your message. Consequently, your advertising efforts will be more effective.

All of this is applicable to marketing strategies, especially in digital marketing. Those who develop digital strategies understand that at the core of every advertising initiative are people.

The key to success lies in intercepting their real needs. Users have learned to seek information, find answers to their problems, and compare prices and rates from numerous offers.

In this sea of offerings, you need to stand out and possess the right skills to attract user attention by providing the information they are seeking before anyone else.

In this article, I will detail:

  • what Permission Marketing is, how it works, and its purpose;
  • the fundamental steps to build a Permission Marketing strategy;
  • some examples of Permission Marketing;
  • advantages, disadvantages, and mistakes to avoid.

With Permission Marketing, you have an extra opportunity to be noticed by your target audience.

Start a journey to turn them into loyal customers through an Inbound Marketing plan, which you can learn to define and implement by attending the Inbound Marketing Certification Course and Email Marketing Course.

What is Permission Marketing and what is its purpose

Permission Marketing, as defined by its creator Seth Godin, is a strategy aimed at obtaining the consumer’s permission to communicate with them.

The underlying idea is that gaining the consumer’s permission ensures greater attention to the message they receive and, consequently, greater effectiveness in any action you implement towards them, especially sales-oriented actions.

In fact, the most successful advertising campaigns are those in which the consumer has given consent to communicate with them.

Your potential users are constantly bombarded and interrupted by advertising messages, often unwelcome and irrelevant to their tastes and interests.

The frequent, borderline spam-like nature of many advertising messages often builds a resistance barrier to purchase for the user. Consequently, any initiative runs the risk of being ignored.

Permission Marketing, on the other hand, is based on consumer consent: they provide their personal data to receive advertising and promotional communications.

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How Permission Marketing works

The basic idea behind Permission Marketing is to transition from intrusive and push-oriented marketing.

It is also known as Interruption Marketing (such as TV ads during a movie or a cold call from an operator trying to get you to switch phone carriers during dinner), to a series of friendly and pull-oriented strategies.

The goal is to quickly obtain consent from your potential customers. If users have given consent to receive communications from you, they will be more inclined to interact and provide useful information, and feedback.

Your database will consist of people genuinely interested in your business, making it easier to convert them into customers, leading them into your sales funnel with an Inbound Marketing strategy.

One of the initial steps in the sales funnel to engage your potential customers is to offer them an info product.


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Interruption Marketing vs Permission Marketing

Permission Marketing stands in contrast to Interruption Marketing in that it is not about “interruption marketing” but rather about “permission marketing.”

Interruption Marketing encompasses all advertising actions conveyed through traditional media that interrupt the consumer’s consumption of media content: a classic example is TV commercials.

Interruption Marketing seeks to intrude into the customer’s work and personal life, to convince them, persuade them, and often exhaust them into buying.

Is the customer satisfied? Customer satisfaction is not considered. In this case, marketing does not investigate and understand the real desires of its customers.

So, besides not understanding and learning what their interlocutor really likes and wants – or even what they dream of, aspire to, or are willing to buy at any price – the sale to the customer is unlikely to happen a second time.

interruption marketing

Permission Marketing differs from Interruption Marketing because it does not follow the logic of broadcasting (one-way communication addressing a passive audience).

It embraces narrowcasting, involving interactive, personalized communication, addressing an active audience for the creation of a lasting and stable relationship.

In particular, the philosophy behind Permission Marketing is to “turn strangers into friends and friends into customers.”

It is, therefore, an approach to the market that lays the foundation for building a stable and lasting relationship between the customer and your company.

It’s a relationship that develops gradually, through an increasingly high level of permission granted by the consumer, in a gradual and least intrusive manner possible.

Permission Marketing campaigns generally offer incentives to encourage the consumer to establish initial contact with the company and subsequently consolidate it and keep the business relationship alive.

Once permission is granted, the potential customer is more inclined to pay attention to the messages since they will receive only the information they have expressly requested.

With Permission Marketing, the seller sets broader goals, such as trying to understand the hidden desires of their customer, their dreams, and hobbies, in order to create a true exchange relationship.

With satisfaction for both parties. As Seth Godin writes, “While the interruption marketer is a hunter who seeks new customers and loads his gun with bullets to then shoot into the crowd with the ultimate goal of hitting someone”.

The permission marketer is instead a farmer who cultivates his potential customers constantly and gradually.

Permission Marketing techniques

Today, there are so many product and brand alternatives that “spraying and praying” won’t lead to a sale. Or, it might, but with a customer who won’t be loyal and won’t return.

In this market of abundant choices, the winning strategy is to discover, understand, and recognize your individual customers, in order to provide them with personalized product information in a truly equal dialogue.

The customer at the center? Yes. And fortunately, it’s not a novelty anymore. In their conversation with the seller, your customer will set the rules, leading the sales negotiation.

It’s an active dialogue, turning the buyer into a friend, someone who, if understood in their doubts and needs, will return. With their satisfaction, word-of-mouth starts, bringing you more customers seeking the same satisfaction.

marketing brand techniques

In Permission Marketing, it’s as if time disappears. It’s no longer about how quickly an offer meets demand but rather about the Customer’s attention threshold.

The customer relationship becomes a series of appointments, important steps leading to the sale and customer loyalty.

After each successfully completed step, another one follows, leading to loyalty. And each time the parties openly communicate needs and desires, the purchase proposal follows.

The first step is seduction: providing an incentive for the consumer not to be distracted, and to be attracted to your product/service. Once the customer accepts, their need for extensive information about the product or service intensifies.

This ensures certainty in their purchase and confirms that what they’re buying is genuinely the best choice for them. Right measurements, right capacity, clear and suitable consumption: remember, only the customer knows exactly what they truly need.

The dialogue must always remain two-way: not just informative but receptive to all customer inquiries. Obtaining consumer permission is, therefore, very gradual.

I want to emphasize how Permission Marketing creates a privilege: with this strategy, you can establish, with great care, a deeper relationship between seller and customer that you won’t break by sending, for example, unwanted advertisements.

A random and unstudied action would break the loyalty that the customer, now loyal, has placed in the seller. To do Permission Marketing well, you must have humility and patience.

That’s why very few really know how to do it well.

Permission Marketing tools

The GDPR regulation allows the sending of commercial or marketing communications only to those users who have given their consent and have clearly expressed the desire to receive them.

That’s why obtaining this consent is important. The option through which the consumer expresses their consent to receive informative and commercial communications is called opt-in.

For example, a user who subscribes to a newsletter or a mailing list must provide their email address and confirm their desire to join the service.

An example of opt-in is in email marketing, where the user is asked to provide their email address to receive the company newsletter, giving explicit consent.

All communications specifically requested by the user, which therefore do not cause a disturbance, are part of “permission marketing”: for example, notifications that a user requests to receive from a site every time new content is published.

There are also opt-out techniques that lead to obtaining potential customer consent; in this case, the user who has not explicitly stated opposition to receiving commercial communications is contacted to request consent to continue exchanging communications.

A company sending a message to a consumer for initial contact can offer them the opportunity to refuse further messages.

In the absence of such refusal and an explicit statement of disinterest, the company can continue to send commercial communications until the user explicitly declares that they are not interested.

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How to create a Permission Marketing strategy in 5 steps

Permission Marketing is a part of Inbound Marketing, so the two strategies are complementary and inseparable.

For example, we need an “awareness” phase to make ourselves known and an “attract” phase to grab attention and convert leads.

This strategy is based on one-to-one marketing and focuses on segmenting users based on demographic criteria and purchasing habits.

This personalization is crucial for the success of your marketing initiatives. As per Seth Godin’s wisdom: “Discover products that resonate with your customers, rather than searching for customers to fit your products.”

Here are the 5 fundamental steps for a successful Permission Marketing strategy.

1. Evaluate the value of your product

This is absolutely the first step. Evaluate your product and ask yourself if it has enough value and brand power to attract users.

Be critical and assess if you have done a good job creating a quality product/service and if you have positioned it well in the target market.

Because if you realize at this stage that your positioning might not be strong enough, every marketing action could be in vain. So, it’s crucial to start strong from the first step.

2. Obtain permission from the consumer

At this point, you need to obtain permission or acceptance from your potential customer to receive your communications.

By communications, we mean advertisements, information, initiatives, or any other action that allows you to promote your brand.

Create a communication that encourages your user to give consent, perhaps by offering a specific incentive.

3. Segment potential customers

Once you have obtained consent, you need to segment your potential customers to optimize your actions. 

For a good marketing strategy, it’s necessary to segment customers and potential customers to send relevant information to specific individuals.

Prepare specific content for each well-defined user, so that accurate information is sent to the right person, thereby improving conversion rates and the effectiveness of each campaign.

4. Start communicating with customers

You need to start communicating with the aim of convincing your audience to engage in your initiatives.

Your communication should create a two-way conversation, listening to the responses and requests of your potential customer, in order to reach them with compelling initiatives.

This will open the doors for a true dialogue with them, enabling you to build a trusting relationship.

5. Achieve the sale

The ultimate goal is to make a sale, provide a quote, or obtain an inquiry, depending on the stage of the sales funnel where the user is.

Depending on the type of product or service, it might cost more or less to earn the user’s trust. Hence, the importance of defining the perfect content for each user at the most opportune moment.

Performing lead generation and nurturing is essential.

Learn how to find potential customers through Lead Generation


Benefits of Permission Marketing

What are the main benefits of using a permission-based Marketing strategy?

  1. Compliance with GDPR/CPRA regulations. With the introduction of GDPR in Europe in 2018, a regulation was enforced stating that users must give explicit consent to transfer their data online. Transparency has thus become a fundamental pillar in building relationships with consumers. While CPRA (California Consumer Privacy Act) has been the US answer to the online privacy policy.
  2. Stop being intrusive. Instead of attacking the consumer and disrupting their daily life, we switch to a strategy that aims to attract their attention, engage, and convince through two-way communication. Not being intrusive also means not overloading; even if we have the user’s permission to receive information, we must not fall into the trap of overwhelming them excessively.
  3. The user expects your information. You’ve managed to gain the user’s attention and position yourself in their mind as a brand. The best strategy now is to keep this point active and improve it, so that you are not just in their mind but also turn them into an ambassador for your brand, speaking about you to their acquaintances, contacts, and friends.
  4. You can segment your customers. You have more information about your users, and based on this, you can segment them to create more targeted communications. A list of contacts or emails is a goldmine and, well-segmented, will be easier to leverage.
  5. You can enhance and personalize your messages. Through active conversation, you should be able to improve your message, as you have more information about the user. This allows you to offer more suitable and accurate content for each consumer, to provide the user with exactly what they are looking for. Therefore, it will be easier for them to buy your product and service, or to contact you or request a quote.

Examples of Permission Marketing

A typical example of Permission Marketing is that of opt-in campaigns.

In these campaigns, a form is offered to the user where they voluntarily consent to receive information (newsletters, promotions, offers, informative emails) about the company, product, or service.

Normally, this is placed somewhere on the website with a clear Call To Action, CTA, such as “Subscribe here” or “Receive our offers via email,” to make the user understand what they are accepting.

This prevents confusion or errors that would lead to cancellations, spam, reports, or even complaints for non-compliance with privacy rules.

examples of marketing campaigns

Newsletters are the primary form of marketing of this type. The user writes their email in a form you provide and agrees to receive your communications; in return, you can offer exclusive offers or promotions dedicated to them.

Even on your social media, it is the consumer (current or future) who explicitly gives their consent by subscribing to your social channels.

From your Facebook page or your YouTube channel, they can receive interesting content that aligns with the values they share with your company.

We can find examples of this type very easily if we look at our behavior on the Internet. When we use social networks and land on a company from our profile, we give that company permission to show us its content.

On YouTube, for example, when you subscribe to a channel, you receive a notification every time new content is published on that channel.

E-couponing is a mixed technique, which can be integrated into the email marketing strategy. It involves providing personalized promotions and discount codes to those who subscribe to your channels.

It is recognition of their trust in you for wanting to be part of the community you have offered them.


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Final tips and strategic advice

What are the mistakes to avoid with Permission Marketing? Aside from seeking explicit consent from your customers and protecting their data, pay attention to targeting your customers as much as possible.

When a user subscribes to your newsletter, ask for some additional information besides their email address.

This way, you can address them by their name, know their birthday, and send them wishes and a special promotion as a gift. In short, you can personalize your approach and make them feel special rather than just one of many customers.

Regarding social networks, you can utilize all possible engagement methods: you can conduct polls, include a Call To Action in your messages, and encourage users to comment on your content.

All these responses from users will help you understand who they truly are and what interests them the most.

Try to balance the number and frequency of information correctly. If you send emails too frequently, you risk annoying the consumer.

If you don’t manage the frequency of your communications correctly, you risk triggering a reaction in your customer similar to that of interruptive marketing, which ultimately leads to disinterest and abandonment.

On the contrary, if the sending frequency is too slow, your customers might forget about you. So, what’s the right balance?

Set an average frequency such as weekly for newsletters and daily for social media channel updates, for example, and make sure to always send valuable and in line with your company’s principles content to the customer.

Now you know the definition of Permission Marketing and its countless advantages over traditional advertising. You are also informed about the rules and laws to follow to keep your customers engaged.

Thanks to Permission Marketing, you can stand out from the crowd of advertising impacts with a message tailored just for your user, one that fits their needs perfectly.

Stop chasing your customers and attract them to you with the right digital strategy! If you don’t know where to start, contact an expert and define the actions to take with them



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