Permission Marketing Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: Permission Marketing explains why nobody pays attention to TV commercials and flyers anymore, and shows you how in today’s crowded market, you can cheaply start a dialogue with your ideal customer, build a relationship over time and sell to them much more effectively.

Read in: 4 minutes

Favorite quote from the author:

Permission Marketing Summary

Audio Summary

Listen to the audio of this summary with a free account:

Seth Godin is no stranger here on Four Minute Books. In February he made his debut on here with Purple Cow. Now, he’s back (and you can expect quite a lot more from him).

Permission Marketing is a book that talks about today’s common marketing practices: getting permission to market to your audience, for example via an email list, and then building a relationship, before eventually making a sale.

The staggering part is the year the book was published in: 1999. Once again, Seth caught the wave early, to say the least.

The lessons from the book are still as rock solid 17 years later. Here are my favorite 3:

  1. Ads that rely on interrupting people are dead.
  2. By giving people a chance to volunteer their attention, you end up with a much more targeted customer group.
  3. The internet makes permission marketing extremely easy, so get started!

Do we have permission to take off? Great!

If you want to save this summary for later, download the free PDF and read it whenever you want.

Download PDF

Lesson 1: Ads that rely on interrupting people are dead.

Man, looking back, marketing in the 1950’s must’ve been a dream. Color TV became available on a big scale and people’s eyes were glued to the tiny boxes in their living rooms.

This era and the following 50 years were mostly coined by what’s called Interruption Marketing. It works exactly like it sounds. As a consumer, you’re being interrupted in whatever you do and told: “Hey! Watch this soap commercial now!”

Why did it work so well for so long? Because peoples’ attention was already there. When you’re watching Little House On The Prairie anyway, you might as well sit through the 5 minutes of soap, cooking and car commercials.

Huge companies like Procter & Gamble used interruption marketing for decades to target as many people as possible. Whether they were a good fit for their products wasn’t important. If you reached enough people, you’d make enough sales.

But not anymore. Interruption marketing is dead. There are ads plastered on supermarket floors, car roofs, gigantic walls and bus stands, and we see…none of them.

We’ve long crossed the point where huge companies market so much to us, that our brains have decided not to pay attention to any of it, because it’s too much information to even filter.

You can save that money you were going to spend on posters and flyers, Seth has a better idea.

Lesson 2: Give people a chance to volunteer their attention and you’ll build a much better customer base.

We now live in the age of Permission Marketing. Not only does it sound a lot nicer, if done right, it’s also much more effective than the old ways. Here’s how it works:

  1. You invite people to learn more about your product by making a unique offer.
  2. You start talking to the people who accept your invitation on a regular basis.
  3. Once you’ve established a relationship, you can ask for a sale.

If you know your marketing 101, you’ll now instantly think of email marketing, but that’s by far not the only use case, just the most popular one. For example, you could do permission marketing in a TV commercial by describing your product and then inviting people to learn more on your website, call a phone number, or send you an email.

You’re still making the initial contact, but then you put the ball into the customer’s hands and say: “Your turn.” This empowers people. Instead of being forced through 30 seconds of airtime, they now get to choose. They can contact you and take you up on your offer, or not.

The reason this makes your marketing 10x as effective is that the people you actually end up talking and trying to sell to are much more likely to buy from you, because they expressed interest voluntarily.

When people give you their contact information voluntarily and tell you it’s okay to send them more, that’s when you know you have permission to market.

Lesson 3: Permission marketing is free and easy, thanks to the internet, so what are you waiting for?

With permission always comes a mission – you have to fulfill your promise! If you said you’d give them a 10% coupon, give them a 10% coupon. If you promised an ebook, deliver the ebook.

Thanks to the internet you can now make and deliver on your promises 24/7/365. Best of all, it’s free, or costs a few $ at most.

Take the homepage of Four Minute Books, for example. The promise is simple:

Each Saturday I’ll send you 7 new book summaries, so you can learn more in less time.

That’s it. No more, no less. And that’s exactly what you’ll get. For the past 3 months, I’ve sent out an email every Saturday (except one). If you’ll give me permission, I’d love to send them to you too, tomorrow’s the next issue.

People can go to that page, sign up, receive their bonus, and get the next round of summaries whenever they want. Whether I sleep, work, or eat, people can give their permission at any time.

Sending messages at scale has never been cheaper, with social media and services like Mailchimp, which lets you build an email list of up to 2,000 people and talk to them regularly for free.

Your customers can also reach you a lot easier, all it takes is a click on the response button and soon, you’ll have built a solid relationship with someone who was a stranger just days before.

So if you haven’t started, please, please, please, I beg you, create something online.

Permission Marketing Review

I would never have become interested, nor involved in any marketing activities whatsoever, if permission marketing wasn’t around. It’s such a fun way of basically making a whole lot of friends, who end up supporting you financially, because you help them.

We can let honesty, hard work and great service rule and work with the people who choose to work with us. No need for scams and marketing bullshit.

Permission Marketing is packed with much more insights, details and case studies, but the summary gives a great overview of the history of marketing and how permission marketing works in specific cases. Thumbs up for both!

Who would I recommend the Permission Marketing summary to?

The 24 year old with no online presence, the 74 year old with no online presence, and anyone who works in a company that still relies on interruption marketing.

Last Updated on July 28, 2022

Rate this book!
This book has an average rating of 0 based on 0 votes.

Niklas Göke

Niklas Göke is an author and writer whose work has attracted tens of millions of readers to date. He is also the founder and CEO of Four Minute Books, a collection of over 1,000 free book summaries teaching readers 3 valuable lessons in just 4 minutes each. Born and raised in Germany, Nik also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration & Engineering from KIT Karlsruhe and a Master’s Degree in Management & Technology from the Technical University of Munich. He lives in Munich and enjoys a great slice of salami pizza almost as much as reading — or writing — the next book — or book summary, of course!