Sex, permission marketing and social media – The ultimate Ménage à trois

This naughty guest post is brought to you by James Duthie from Online Marketing Banter and is in no way endorsed by the fine people at SEO 2.0.

What do sex, permission marketing & social media have in common? It sounds like the start of a bad joke… but believe me… there is some logic behind the analogy. Let’s start with everyone’s favourite topic – sex. If sex isn’t the original form of permission marketing, I don’t know what is. In the eternal chase for a piece of the action, most of us mould our ‘personal brand’ to enhance our chances of attracting some attention from the opposite sex. We change hair styles, clothing and even behaviour in the quest for a little bedroom ‘permission’. You might even say the dating game is permission marketing in its purest form (or at least its most primeval).

It took us a while to pick it up, but most men are now acutely aware that there is a due process to follow if you want to win a girl’s heart. Propositioning her five minutes after you meet isn’t likely to earn you ‘permission’ of any kind… unless you meet in a sleazy nightclub/strip joint. For most of us, there are a set of golden rules we need to follow in order to join the mating game:

  1. Building trust & respect – Don’t try and jump in the sack on the first date! The only type of action that’s likely to land you is a class action. Most women need time to build a level of trust in a partner before considering anything further.
  2. Listening – Everybody likes to talk about themselves, but seriously… if that’s all you ever do most people will tire of you pretty quickly. Meaningful two-way conversation is simply a must to be considered for ‘additional’ benefits.
  3. Regularity – Sure… some people are lucky enough to land a booty call, but for the rest of us our likelihood of getting some action is directly related to our propensity to commit to some quality time together.
  4. Giving – Ok… this one is a gimme. Everyone knows that women love flowers, chocolates, jewellery etc. Giving generously without asking for anything in return means you’re chalking up a few extra brownie points.
  5. Avoid self promotion – Does anyone remember the Italian supermodel Fabio? He was apparently ‘the world’s most beautiful man’. As far as I can tell that title was self proclaimed, because few women I know found him attractive. In the end, he ended up with a bird splattered on his face. Karma, some would say for the ultimate self promoter!

Funnily enough, the principles that lead to success in the bedroom are strikingly similar to those that permeate successful permission marketing. Weird… I know. And if you thought men were slow to embrace these principles in personal relationships, marketers have been truly caveman-esque in applying them to customer relationships (probably because we’re too busy figuring out how to get laid). Let’s re-visit the same concepts again, except this time we’ll consider them from a permission marketing context (email marketing in particular):

  1. Building trust & respect – Customers are people. So the principles of real life relationships apply. Credibility needs to be established before attempting to ‘make the sale’. You may have been smooth enough to get a girl’s phone number, but that doesn’t mean you can call her every day. The same rule applies to customers. You may have collected their email, but that doesn’t mean you can spam them constantly. You wouldn’t scare a hot chick off within the first week, so why do it to a customer?
  2. Listening – Do you remember the episode of the Simpsons when Homer bought Marge a bowling ball for her birthday? Hilarious! And a perfect example of what most organisations do. Rather than listening to what their customers (or wives) want, they try to sell them something different. It didn’t help Homer get any action; in fact Marge almost had an affair because of it. Successful permission marketers take the time to listen to their customers and deliver relevant offers tailored to their personal needs. Perfectly simple.
  3. Regularity – The concept of quality time applies just as much to permission marketing as it does to romantic endeavours. Communication and interaction needs to be maintained to continue any relationship. The art of permission marketing is striking the balance between spam (over communication) and remaining front of mind. But here’s a novel concept – customers don’t mind regular communications when they’re relevant. It’s irrelevant crap that annoys them. Try listening to what they want.
  4. Giving – Few marketers actually think of what they can give their customers. Instead they think of what they can sell them. That’s a little like taking a girl out on a date, and asking her to pay for the bill. Sure, it may help you financially for the night, but you can bet your bottom dollar she won’t be back. Great permission marketers find a range of ways to give back to customers via exclusive content, relevant offers, priority service & loyalty programs.
  5. Avoid self promotion – Let’s get one thing clear. Customers don’t care about your company. They care about themselves. They don’t want to read your latest press release. Sending customers self congratulatory messages is like getting your friends to tell a girl how great you are. It’s lame. If the customer (or girl) cares enough, they’ll take the time to learn about you. Good permission marketers don’t talk to customers about issues that don’t interest them.

Does the analogy between permission marketing and sex still seem so crazy now…? Probably. But I’ll continue anyway… because just like sex, this analogy becomes a whole lot more fun when we get three parties involved. The final link in this juicy ménage à trois is social media. And just like permission marketing, we marketers could learn a whole lot from our mating rituals. Let’s explore how our five golden principles apply not only to permission marketing, but to social media success as well.

  1. Building trust & respect – Here’s a recent email I received from a brand new ‘friend’ in StumbleUpon – ‘Link exchange? Contact blah@gmail.com’. Yeah… nice to meet you too. While you’re at it, would you like to sleep with me? An immediate link exchange request in social media is just like asking a girl to get down and dirty on the first date. It’s just plain bad manners. Take the time to interact with a person in social media before asking for any favours. It’s called social media, not spam media.
  2. Listening – Striking up a conversation on a first date can be a challenge, even for the best of us. So instead of trying to dictate the conversation we listen and ask questions. And eventually we find common interests. The same principle applies to social media. Savvy individuals watch a social media community before entering. They listen to the conversations and build and understanding of the dynamics. Then, when they really understand the community, they begin to participate. Smart!
  3. Regularity – Rome wasn’t built in a day. Nor was a social media profile. In fact, most social media power users have spent years establishing their profile. So stop thinking you can crack it in a few weeks. Remember that whole trust and credibility thing? Well… that takes time to earn. The only way to build trust is through a regular dose of meaningful participation in your social media community.
  4. Giving – Here’s a short tale of successful permission marketing within social media. A few weeks ago my new friend Ahmed befriended me in StumbleUpon. After I accepted, he contacted me to tell me he liked my work. He subscribed to my blog, visited regularly, Stumbled my posts and submitted a review for my StumbleUpon blog. What a nice fella! Only after he had done all this did he send me a StumbleUpon request. And I had no hesitation in sending a thumb Ahmed’s way because I appreciated his support. In fact, I also Sphunn his article and subscribed to his blog. And all because he was polite enough to give before asking for anything in return. I’ll bet Ahmed gets a lot of sex. If I was a girl I’d sleep with him…
  5. Avoid self promotion – This one can be tough, especially for newbies trying to establish a social media presence, but self promotion (aka self submission) should be limited wherever possible. Self promotion isn’t perceived favourably within social media circles. It’s sort of like turning up to a party invited, and then telling all the girls they should sleep with you because you’re a great lay. Success factor = low.

So by now you’re probably wondering what the moral of this crazy analogy is. It may be that permission marketers get more sex than the rest of us… But a more believable one is that marketers who treat their audience as they would a partner are far more likely to succeed. Just because you’re hiding behind a computer screen, doesn’t mean you can abandon the principles of human relations and interaction. If you’re struggling to gain traction within social media or any other communication channel, perhaps you need to ask yourself… where’s the love?

Author Bio

James Duthie is an Australian online marketing expert. He writes on all things social media, blogging, SEO & digital marketing at his blog – Online Marketing Banter. Subscribe to hear more of his ramblings here.

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