Joe Wehinger Encourages Permission Marketing in Small Businesses


Permission marketing is a groundbreaking concept coined via marketing legend Seth Godin’s 1999 book of the same name. It describes a marketing technique intended to avoid traditional methods, which are often based on interrupting the prospective consumer. Instead of interrupting the consumer with unsolicited information, permission marketing aims to contact their audience only when advanced consent is given to receive the information.



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At our company, United Digital, our major focus is strengthening internet presence for our clients that results in awareness and sales. There are a number of ways to accomplish these results – social media marketing, video production and promotion, website design & development, Search Engine Optimization, branding — just to name a few. Today we’re going to talk more about permission marketing.

This marketing technique is recognized as a privilege, not the right, of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them. It recognizes the new power of present-day consumers to ignore marketing. It realizes that treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention.

Fake Permission VS Genuine Permission

Fake permission is the assumption that a company can email you because they 1) have your email address; 2) you, the recipient, haven’t complained; 3) the company has some fine print in their privacy policy that gives themselves the right. None of these help to build a positive impression or loyalty to the company and their brand.

Genuine permission, however, is built to last. It’s built over time to create a tribe of enthusiasts who feel respected, appreciated, and ultimately advocate for the company and its brand. They assume they can email you because 1) You, the recipient, asked for them to; 2) you complain if the company doesn’t email you.


There are many opportunities a brand can leverage to earn a closer bond with their audience. A newsletter, blog, RSS feed, subscription to an SMS. Example: if the consumer receives a birthday giveaway by registering on-line. In exchange, the brand receives their name and email. Then on the customer’s birthday, they receive the coupon and it’s done. That’s a respectful, branded reward with a positive impression. What they don’t get is continued unsolicited mail sent to their address. That’s unwanted, disrespectful and likely leaving a negative customer impression.

Permission Intensity

Permission marketing interacts with customers according to their permission intensity — that is the degree to which a customer allows/asks for information from the brand. The intensity varies between customers, between brands communicating with the same customer, and within the same customer-brand relationship at different times. It tends to be highest when a customer is actively shopping for a specific product or service that the company provides.

As with other types of two-way marketing communication, permission marketing is most effective when the customer is comfortable with providing more information about themselves. Some customers make the decision to share more of their private details in order to receive far better service and more shopping opportunities. Commonly those who have grown up active in social media and the internet are often the most comfortable sharing most/all of the personal information.



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Permission marketing techniques do not typically create immediate sales. Instead they create a stronger relationship with the customer (which can lead to a lifetime of sales) by first requesting their attention and then preserving the business relationship. In this practice, a brand makes a promise to a customer — offering a product/service — in exchange for the customer’s attention; then it fulfills that promise — and nothing else. The key is to do exactly what was promised, instead of presuming the permission to sell more. Presuming more breaches permission and the customer’s trust.

If the customer has a positive experience, they may choose to reach out to the brand again (another product/service sale, visit the store/website, via social media, etc). As communication continues, the brand’s marketing aims to increase the level of permission from the customer — permission to get more data about the customer’s interests, permission to offer a new product/service category, permission to offer a free sample. Finally, this information can be leveraged with this permission by making product offers — which at this point are being directed at an engaged audience, willingly paying attention to your messages.

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