Selfish Reasons Not to Sell Your Customers' Information
Excerpts from Permission Marketing
These four rules go a long way to help marketers understand permission:
- Permission is nontransferable.
- Permission is selfish.
- Permission is a process, not a moment.
- Permission can be canceled at any time.
The rules cause direct marketers the biggest fits because in traditional
marketing: it is totally okay to rent or sell or transfer data about your
customers secretly without their permission.
Permission Marketing is at odds with the secret sorting and evaluation
of data. Why? Because it takes consumers by surprise. And when you surprise
a consumer, not only do you void permission, you increase fear. More than
80% of all consumers polled indicated that they're afraid of the data being
collected about them. Far worse (from a marketer's point of view) is that
this same fear is the single greatest impediment to consumers shopping
The morality of gathering information isn't as important for this discussion
as the effectiveness of it. Even relevant advertising when directed to
recipients without their permission cannot be as effective as that same
advertising with permission attached. Contact the great Permission Marketers
and ask to rent their list. They'll all turn you down. The reason is simple:
Permission rented is permission lost. They can make far more money by protecting
this asset than they can by destroying it.
One of the reasons marketers are so quick to buy and sell data is that
they love to be in control. A list that can be bought can be mailed to
-- whether or not the consumer wants to receive it. The law of large numbers
means that sooner or later a sale is going to happen, and if the cost is
low enough and the list is targeted enough, many marketers feel it's worth
But Permission Marketing embraces the opposite approach. The marketer
is not in control, the consumer is. And the consumer is selfish. Consumers
care very little about you, your company, your products, your career, or
your family. They're not likely to spend time trying to discover how you
can help them solve their problems. The heart of Permission Marketing is
giving the stranger a reason to pay attention, while Interruption Marketers
hold people hostage. Occasionally they resort to entertainment, and sometimes
even information, but more often than not the goal is to use the "commercial
break" to drill a message into the prospect's subconscious.
In today's infoglut, people are most selfish about their time and attention.
Permission Marketers make every single interaction selfish for the consumer.
"What's in it for me?" is the question that must be answered at every step.
That's why affinity programs and other promotions are such an effective
overlay for many marketing campaigns. If you have a device that automatically
rewards consumers for paying attention, you can allow the messages to develop
more slowly and effectively over time.
At Yoyodyne, we focus on sweepstakes because the very obvious rewards
we offer make it easier to get people to opt in. But other techniques work
well, too. You can offer up-to-the-minute sports scores. Or an ongoing
education on a topic of mutual interest. Making the information itself
a reward works quite well.
A free report on salaries offered by a recruiting firm is a great way
to begin a permission relationship. Robert Half (a recruiting firm) starts
the permission process by running ads in local and regional publications
with a few attractive job listings in the area. The call to action is to
contact Robert Half for a complimentary copy of their current salary guide,
which you can also get through their Web site. Almost everybody wants to
know if they're underpaid, overpaid, or in the middle. When the customer
phones in to request the free salary guide (or fills out an online application),
Robert Half obtains permission to establish a mutually beneficial exchange
To continue the permission exchange, their Web site features something
they call My Job Agent, which allows you to search for jobs using characteristics
you define. If you provide your E-mail address, they automatically send
you job updates as they come in, as well as the latest industry news if
you want (their Web site includes links to Reuters Business and Technology
News). From the perspective of the job seeker, immediate access to a potential
gold mine of job opportunities is all the self-serving incentive required.
Permission Marketing is under way.
On the other side of the spectrum, marketers who have earned permission
often take it for granted. They cease to consider the selfish needs of
the consumer and begin to use the permission in their own interest, not
in the consumer's interest. This leads to a dramatic drop in the effectiveness
of the campaign and to the eventual dissolution of the permission altogether.
Seth Godin is vice-president for permission marketing at Yahoo! He founded Yoyodyne, an online promotion and direct-marketing company, and helped build it into a Permission Marketing pioneer before selling it to Yahoo! in 1998. Godin is a recipient of the 1998 Momentum Award honoring outstanding Internet industry accomplishments. He can be reached at Seth@permission.com.
Reprinted and excerpted with permission from
By Seth Godin,
Copyright 1999, Seth Godin
Reprinted with permission of Simon & Schuster
All rights reserved.
Available at the McGraw-Hill Bookstore and online bookstores