Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Lesson in Permission Marketing

As an avid fan of Seth Godin and his mantra of Permission Marketing, I learned a valuable lesson this weekend about the cost of attention in the digital economy.

I've mentioned before that I'm somewhat of an information junkie, constantly looking for ways to connect the dots between different concepts and different types of businesses. In my mind, there is a certain level of satisfaction in finding those disconnected snippets and sewing them together. Mistakenly, I also believed that the connected snippets might be of interest to my classmates as we try and apply our learnings to our working environments.

After a Q&A session in class this weekend, a classmate cut one of their questions short and instead tossed out a, "I'm sure Brian will send out something on that.." comment. He was partially joking, but 100% accurate that I had now violated any previous permission that he may have allowing me (regarding the sharing of information) in the past.

Where I made my mistake was ignoring four critical factors:
  • While the sending of bits (ie. email) is essentially free, the cost of interruption for the receiving party is nowhere near free. And unlike Twitter, where people actively choose to receive your information, email does not easily permit the receiver to filter/ignore your noise.
  • Managing information is a completely asynchronous process, with each person doing it in their own way. Not everyone deals with information overload in quite the same way, and very rarely do overload or excessive noise result in positive interactions.
  • Permission is not a one-time event. It's a constantly re-evaluated model, where the the allowance of permission can be a binary decision based on the last interaction or the last level of value (real or perceived) provided to the user.
  • Permission is not a supply-led function, it's completely demand-based. What's useful (or perceived useful) for me in no way implies that it is useful to anyone else. And this holds true on an interaction-by-interaction basis.
Lesson learned. While their cost of transmission may be the same, not all digital communications mediums are created equal. The same goes for communicating new ideas, or influencing others. It's not always a "lowest-cost provider wins" game.

Once again, it's good to make mistakes in the classroom rather than out in the real world.
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