How to Spread the Word

by Azriel Winnett

In his now famous book, "Permission Marketing", Seth Godin argued that companies could market their wares more effectively when they enjoy the permission of the intended consumers for doing so. "Interruption marketing", where an intrusive message
would be abruptly hurled into the personal space of the consumer without warning, was declared to be a thing of the past.

But Godin's principle begged a very pertinent question: how are companies supposed to get consumers' attention to ask their permission in the first place?

Of course, best-practice email marketing and publishing has always been based on the "permission marketing" concept, even before Seth Godin came along. Over time, ethical but determined publishers have devised diverse methods, of varying
effectiveness, to attract potential consumers.

And now, Godin has launched a new book that presents his ultimate solution to the apparent Catch-22 dilemma of the permission marketer.

In "Unleashing The Ideavirus", the author contends that marketers gain the attention of consumers by getting them to market to each other. You develop a marketable idea, then urge and cajole consumers to pass it on to other consumers. Hopefully,
before long, your "ideavirus" will become so infectious that it has spread to the whole world.

Interestingly, this "ideavirus" concept has come in for some strong criticism from a leading advocate of personalization in marketing. In his article, "Tying Up the Ideavirus", Eric Norlin contends that although Godin's ingenious concept breaks new
ground, he is still operating on outdated assumptions.

No matter what method you use to spread your message, says Norlin, it's a mistake to think that a marketer can "influence" or "control" the modern consumer.

People don't want messages shoved down their throats,he warns, even if a fellow consumer is doing the shoving. Today, people expect to control their own destinies, and demand to be at least an equal partner in any marketing dialog.

In the words of the revolutionary "The Cluetrain Manifesto": "Markets are conversations" and "Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors."

Why do I mention all this?

As email publishers, we all have one marketing message we want to propagate as widely as possible: "Subscribe to my publication!" In many cases, this is itself a means to expose people to further messages: "Use my service!" or "Buy my product!"

Which of these two strategies - Godin's "ideavirus" or Norlin's "personalized marketing" - can we adapt and use in promoting our lists? Better still, can we harness the best of both these concepts, and use them to our advantage?

These questions crossed my mind when I received an email last week from one of our readers, who publishes an informative weekly newsletter related to her profession. She asked for advice on effectively marketing the newsletter, which is aimed at a
fairly specialized audience: human resources personnel, educational institutions, leaders of certain professional associations.

Clearly, many popular promotional techniques that may work well with publications catering to a more general readership, cannot be easily used in this case.

Ad swaps or even paid ads in other ezines, would only be effective if the host publication deals with a closely related subject, and the right type may be difficult to find. Submitting articles to other newsletters appears to be problematic for the
same reason.

So what should our reader do? Let's take another look at her preferred readership profile. Yes, it does comprise very specific groups of people, but for that very reason, it should be a little easier to track them down. And what's interesting here
is that many of these people will occupy positions of influence in their particular communities - which also form part of the market she wants to reach.

It may take a bit of detective work, but with the help of a few contacts in the right places and some good directories, our reader should come up with at least a few names and addresses - whether email or postal - of people active in her target
communities. At the same time, she'll find out as much as she can about these individuals and the companies or institutions they're associated with.

The next step is a little harder. Our publisher writes a personal letter to each individual, explaining the special benefits of signing up for her newsletter and distributing it to colleagues, students and associates.

To be sure, this might be especially tricky if she is sending her letter by email, since it is unsolicited and could be construed by some as spam. But if her recipients are made to feel that she's writing to them personally, and the message comes
through strongly that her intentions are for their benefit, problems will be unlikely.

Sending the letters by regular mail has one big advantage - she could include a number of paper copies of one or more sample issues and suggest that these be distributed to interested parties. She might suggest further that some of the contents be
reproduced, with proper attribution, in their institution's own publications.

Hopefully, our reader's enthusiasm will be infectious, and unrestrained, friendly viruses will cause the outbreak of a most welcome epidemic...

About the Author

Azriel Winnett is senior staff writer at Sling Shot Media,LLC - Your List Hosting SpeciaLists.
This article originally appeared in our weekly newsletter, ListHost News. Subscribe at our site or email to: []