The Next Big Thing? It's Already Here

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I can't believe it already happened. And it happened twice in one day. At two different conferences, people walked up to me and asked, "What's new?" They want to know when the sequel to permission marketing is coming out. They want to know the next big thing.

Sorry, but I've got news for you: We can't move on to the next big thing until we figure out this big thing. I'm astonished and pleased by how quickly the Internet marketing community has started bandying about the phrase "permission marketing." Delighted to discover executives who are changing their titles to things like Permission Marketing Advocate. Very cool!

But I've got to tell you that the execution in the trenches demonstrates that most of us have a lot of work to do. (Notice that I said "most." This column isn't about you. It's about those other folks). It's very early in the game, and most of us are still experimenting with old mindsets in the new universe.

Permission marketing is not about getting someone's e-mail address and then mailing them once a day until they finally switch ISPs.

Permission marketing is not about running one ad, Web site or offer page, discovering it doesn't work and then giving up.

It is not about figuring out how to surreptitiously buy, sell, rent or otherwise exchange data on consumers without their knowledge.

Permission marketing is not about making it hard for people to opt out, nor is it about lowering your prices or maximizing today's sales.

It's about building a system that maximizes your sales forever. Permission marketing is a process, a different way of looking at marketing, and most of all, a recognition of the increasing power of consumers.

The best permission marketers test like crazy. The best permission marketers focus on lifetime customer value, and measure every element of their ongoing campaigns to turn strangers into friends and friends into customers.

Direct marketers have always thought differently than traditional marketers. And now that stamps are free, permission marketers are developing a way of thinking that's as different from direct marketing as DM was from traditional marketing.

If you bring a DM or broadcast mindset to your permission marketing efforts online, it's inevitable that you're going to be frustrated. And it will not be surprising that you're searching for the next big thing. But the thing we've got right now is pretty powerful. We just need to use it better.

I'm totally charged about the potential of this approach. And amazed at the great work I'm seeing every day from pioneers who are putting the principles into place, and even better, inventing new principles based on the results of their tests.

As more and more marketers start to focus on how to make this approach work, the already amazing case studies that cross my desk will multiply in scale and number. Hang on. The next big thing is already here.

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