How Do You Talk To A Hot Date?

“Every marketer must offer the prospective customer an incentive for volunteering. In the vernacular of dating, that means you have to offer something that makes it interesting enough to go out on a first date.”

I could have said that, but didn’t. It was uttered by Seth Godin in his book, Permission Marketing. (You can get the first four chapters emailed to you free by going to

Interestingly, Mr. Godin and I seem to have very similar views on how to market online. And we both have a weakness for using dating as an analogy for just about everything. (I guess we’re both forty-something… and it shows.)

Anyway, I agree. If you want to start a relationship, you’d better start out on the right foot and make yourself appear at least a little attractive.

Mr. Godin coined the phrase “permission marketing” and bases his approach on the premise that if a prospect opts-in to hearing your message, he or she will likely listen harder.

Well, I think it’s time I started writing a book called “Permission Writing” before he does.

Permission Writing will be about how to write online, one-to-one. How to write to each visitor as an individual. And how to recognize and respect the various levels of relationship you achieve.

After all, the way you speak to someone on your first date will be very different from the way you speak to someone when you’re married.

This may sound obvious, but it’s not.

As a quick illustration of how I wouldn’t write to a new prospect, let’s take a look at that famous and much admired site, is the site that has been funded to the tune of many millions by such notables as and other smart people. Naturally, these people know a thing or two about marketing, so I wandered over to see what I could learn.

One of the first things I noticed was an offer of “$10 Off First Purchase” right in the center of the first screen.

I love it. It speaks back to that line by Seth Godin – “You have to offer something that makes it interesting enough to go out on a first date.”

So I clicked on the link and get taken… somewhere unexpected.

I expected to be taken to a page that would say something like: “Welcome to

“We know it’s going to take a few minutes for you to get familiar with our site. And you may have to click your way through a few extra pages to make your first purchase. (But after your first purchase here, it gets really easy.)

“Anyway, in appreciation of those extra minutes you’ll be spending with us, we’ll give you $10 off your first purchase.”

But that’s not what happened. Instead, I was taken to a three-page, multiple screenshot “How to Shop” area that showed just how complicated my experience here was likely to be.

Towards the end of the first “How To” page I did get an explanation of the $10 offer. Here it is:

“$10 off first purchase details

“Offer expires April 15, 1999. Offer may not be combined with any other offers. $10.00 off cannot be applied to shipping and handling charges or prescriptions.”

Sure, the details have to be covered at some point, but not there.

In the Seth and Nick vernacular of dating, here’s the real life equivalent in the bar of your choice:

“Hi honey.

“Any drinks you may have this evening will be paid for by me, up to but not including the fifth drink. Any money I make available for drinks may not be used on juices, snacks or calls home to your mother. This offer expires at 10:30 p.m. Offer null and void if you pass out before I get you home.”

Heck of a way to start a relationship.

So why do smart people end up with poor writing on their web sites? Beats me.

My advice? When you write for the web – or for email – get out of your own head and settle into the mind of an individual visitor to your site.

Look back at every sentence and consider how what you’ve just said will make the reader feel. (Yes, it really is about feelings.)

You’re on a date. You want a relationship. So…write appropriately.

Related reading