It’s Not About Permission, It’s About Trust

Why has “permission marketing” proved so popular among marketers?

Good question.

And a question that has puzzled Seth Godin, the author of the book that started it all: “Two years ago, when I wrote ‘Permission Marketing,’ my hope was that it would help advertisers understand a little about how to use the Internet. In my wildest dreams I never imagined it would become a catch phrase to describe the single best way to market your company online.”

(For more in this vein, read Seth Godin’s summary of a brief piece of “eMatter,” which he is publishing through

So what’s been the big deal? Sadly, putting aside the abundance of common sense within the book itself, permission marketing has exploded because the phrase itself has become the ultimate defense for the Net’s greatest scumbags.

Marketers do whatever the heck they want, hide their nifty opt-out instructions nine levels deep on their site, and, when confronted, say, “Hey man, back off! We do permission marketing.”

No, you don’t. At least most sites don’t.

These guys just “do the phrase.” They don’t “do the practice.”

If you really want to practice permission marketing, change its name to “trust marketing.”

The thing about “permission” is that once it is given, however casually and fleetingly, marketers can then hold it aloft and say, “I have permission.”

Control resides in the hands of the marketer. The burden of change lies with the customer. They have to opt-out or unsubscribe.

That makes marketers sloppy and complacent or, in many cases, downright sneaky.

Call it trust marketing and everything changes.

If you have to earn and maintain the trust of your customers, you have an ongoing task.

Nobody can tell you, “You have my trust” and really mean it beyond a few hours. Trust has a real short “best by” date. Trust has to be earned and retained day by day.

With trust marketing you have to build a system that ensures the trust is there BEFORE you send out each and every email.

You can’t assume it. You can’t hide behind it. You have to earn it, again and again.

In the world of permission marketing, it’s like closing every email with a true opt-in box. And if it isn’t checked, you don’t email that recipient again.

It’s like you’re getting one-time permission only. Each and every time.

So instead of hiding behind the word “permission,” hold yourself and your marketing team to a much higher standard.

Tell everyone that they have to gain each customer’s trust. Each day. With every visit. Every transaction. Every customer service call. Every outbound promotional email.

Because if you don’t have your customers’ trust, their permission is worthless.

And don’t let anyone kid you into thinking otherwise.

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