E-mail Permission Marketing: it works!

In 1999 Seth Godin wrote an incredible book called “Permission Marketing” (you can check out part of “Permission Marketing” for free at Amazon or could read the entire first four chapters if you e-mail me at damian [at] idaconcpts [dot] com,  and yes, I am authorized to forward the first three chapters of this book via e-mail, as long as I don’t make any profit out of it).  Seth is a truly great author and you should check him out.  He’s such a good author that he often gives out  part of his work for free (as in the case of “Permission Marketing”) or even complete books.

The concept of permission marketing is best exemplified by the smart use of e-mail.

Use of permission marketing from Skitch.com.

Recognize this little checkbox? Every time that you are interested in an online service or product and you need to register to be able to use it, the makers will ask you this question.  Do you want to hear from us? This little question is very powerful because you are already engaging in a conversation with your users.  You’re letting them know that you want to keep in touch with them and likewise you are asking them, if they are ok with it.

Now, I understand that you might challenge this proposition:  people are ok with an organization reaching out to them.  Well, consider this survey from eMarketer:


Do you notice the change in user trends about e-mail messages from companies from 2005 to 2008?  People care about these e-mails because 1) they are REGISTERED, 2) they checked the little “it’s ok to contact me” box during registration,  3) the e-mails that they are receiving are personal, relevant, and ANTICIPATED messages (the three pillars of Seth’s permission marketing), and 4) they can choose when and where to check these messages.

“It’s about me, it’s about what I’m interested right now, and it’s delivered in a format that I want to get it.” – Seth Godin (“All Marketers are Liars” presentation at Google, 8:41)

The beauty behind e-mail permission marketing is that people do not have to be interrupted, they choose when to review the information (if, at all).


However, any organization can mess up this priceless, golden permission that its users have provided by abusing this permission and turning its e-mail messages into impersonal, irrelevant and unanticipated.

In conclusion:

  1. Provide your users a check-box during registration so they can decide whether or not to give you permission to contact them.
  2. Make your e-mail messages personal (ask for feedback, provide various channels for communication, thank them for giving you a job), relevant (tell them about how you are making their experience better, tell them how other users got in touch with you and they made a difference in the new release) , and anticipated (bi-weekly, monthly).
  3. Don’t abuse the permission your users they have given you: NEVER sell your e-mail list to other vendors, ALWAYS provide the option for 1-click, easy unsubscription, and ALWAYS respect if they decide to unsubscribe from your e-mail list.

Thank you for your time.  In the next post I will discuss about web metrics of permission marketing e-mail campaigns.

How to target your audience using Facebook Ads

For the last week, I have been pretty busy creating and tweaking online ads at Google Adwords and Facebook Ads, so I thought it would be useful to provide a bit of advice from my personal experience using Facebook Ads.

Why did I choose Facebook Ads?  Consider the following bar graph from Venture Beat’s article titled Facebook’s traffic growth leaving rivals in the dust.


For simplicity, I will assume that you want to drive visitors to a single website.


  1. Do your research: You cannot expect Facebook Ads to do miracles for you.  It will do a pretty decent job at providing impressions but the “clickability” of your ad is 100% up to you.  Forget one-size-fits-all approaches, you will require to develop at least 5 ads (I am currently working with 8).  You need to think about the profiles of your website visitors.  For a quick video tutorial of this idea, take the quick tour of the web attitudinal web analytics firm iPerceptions from Canada.  (Avinash Kaushik is on their Advisory Council, so yes, you have to listen).  Is your ad audience: female? male? young? old? English speaking? Time-constrained? Etc, etc, etc.  Preparation of audience profiles should be about 60% of your time dedicated to develop online ads.target-your-audience
  2. Select your text and image for your ad: As you can see from the two ads below, you can have a subject line of 25 characters, text of 135 characters, and you can upload an image (there are appear no limits on the image file size because Facebook will resize it to fit the add).  example-of-adsIt is important that you have a variety of images available because you will be needing as you A/B test your ads.  Notice that Facebook users can give your ad a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down to your ad!  Don’t try to fully capitalize words (e.g. FREE), or use strange characters (keep to the regular alphabet, both using different languages is ok, actually I encourage it!).  Remember to use proper punctuation, otherwise your ad won’t be approved.  great-widgets
  3. Think of the keyword(s) of your ad: This step is critical because it will allow you to use SEO and SEM tools such as Google Trends.  Let’s assume that you want to promote your great widgets at www.widgets.com.  So an important keyword to consider would be “widgets”.  Let’s check out what is the search volume index of “widgets” at Google Trends.  widgetsWow, this is a lot of useful information!  Notice that we get a couple of relevant news that show what drove queries for this term.  Company names and product names are useful because then you can go into their websites and see what are their current SEO and SEM practices.  Also, you should look if the already have ads around Facebook.  Don’t try to reinvent the wheel and keep an eye on the current practices of your competitors.  It is also important to check out what keywords are related to your keyword, what regions (or countries or cities) provide the most queries for your keyword, and what languages are those queries made on.  Another important source of information is Google Ad Planner.  For a discussion on how to use Google Ad Planner, refer to this web analytics analysis of Flickr, Photobucket, Shutterlfly, Snapfish, and Slide using Google Ad Planner.
  4. Reach the (exact) audience you want: facebook-audienceUsing the information from the previous steps, you can fill in the fields on step 3.  Notice that not all keywords are available at Facebook, so its important that you look for keywords related to your own keyword(s) of choice.
  5. Price your ad: I will skip this step for now, because it deserves a whole post of its own.  If this is your first time creating Facebook ads, then I would recommend setting the price towards the  lower limit and setting a total budget for 1 month.  Keep track of your A/B testing and then you will have enough information to develop a more detailed pricing strategy.

That’s it for now and happy experimenting with Facebook Ads!

Lateral Marketing and The Tipping Point – Part 4: Introducing Blink

• Given the higher failure rate of products and the saturation of marketing channels, it is necessary to improve the understanding of the innovation process in order to better meet the customer’s needs and to launch to market ahead of the competition.

• I agree that innovation requires a different approach that goes beyond the category where the idea originated and that there are special kinds of people needed for this process. Kotler and Trias de Bes (2003, p. 104) indicate that “the logic of creativity consitsts of taking an element, displacing laterally one aspect of it, and connecting the gap that has been provoked. The logic of creativity follows a process similar to that of humor”.  Below are three pictures of an innovative sculpture that combines the work of two my favorite artists, Salvador Dali and Albrecht Dürer.  This sculpture is located at a hotel nearby the Nagoya airport in Japan, notice that Salvador Dali sculpted this based on Dürer’s Rhinocero’s woodcut.

Photo Credit: Me
Photo Credit: Me
Photo Credit: Me

•Lateral marketing uses the power of context and the stickiness factor concepts of Gladwell to create “a simple way to package information that, under the right circumstances, can make it irresistible” (Gladwell, 2002, p. 132). The case of “Big Brother” TV Contest in the United States and the Sony Walkman in Japan are good examples of well-executed lateral marketing.

• The three steps of lateral marketing are (Kotler and Trias de Bes, 2003, p. 104):
o Choose a focus where we want to generate a lateral displacement.
o Provoke a lateral displacement for generating a gap.
o Think about ways to connect the gap.

• Kotler, author of the 4Ps, wouldn’t pass the opportunity to include them in the process described above and defines the three main levels of lateral marketing as 1) the market definition level, 2) the product level, and 3) the rest of the marketing mix level.

• I found the example of the creation process for the artificial flower was great. In this series of talking points, I have discussed the similarities and differences between “Lateral Marketing” and “The Tipping Point”. However, I think that another work is more appropriate for chapter six of Lateral Marketing. “The Tipping Point” was concerned with grand themes, with figuring out the rules by which social change happens. “Blink” is quite different. It is concerned with the smallest components of our everyday lives–with the content and origin of those instantaneous impressions and conclusions that bubble up whenever we meet a new person, or confront a complex situation, or have to make a decision under conditions of stress.

Photo taken from the author's bio section at www.gladwell.com by Wiley Chin.
Photo taken from the author bio section at his website by Wiley Chin, http://www.ximnet.com.my/thelab/comments/comments.asp?id=80.

• “Blink” is a good read, especially for the second step of the lateral marketing process, making a lateral displacement on one of the three main marketing levels through substitution, inversion, combination, exaggeration, elimination, and reordering. This process is more like brainstorming. “Blink” is a “book about rapid cognition, about the kind of thinking that happens in a blink of an eye. When you meet someone for the first time, or walk into a house you are thinking of buying, or read the first few sentences of a book, your mind takes about two seconds to jump to a series of conclusions”.

Photo Credit: Amazon. http://images.amazon.com/images/P/1586217615.01.LZZZZZZZ.jpg

• The hardest part about the process of lateral marketing is the last step, that is solving the gap of the lateral displacement with a value proposition that will result in either: 1) same product, new utility; 2) new product, new utility; or 3) new product, same utility. The further reprocessing of the marketing mix is about dealing with small details that make a big difference. This is the same objective of “The Tipping Point”: “how a number of relatively minor changes in our external environment can have a dramatic effect on how we behave and who we are” (Gladwell, 2002).

Lateral Marketing and The Tipping Point – Part 3: Investopedia.com and Fool.com

  • According to Gladwell, the Power of context infers that epidemics are sensitive to the conditions and circumstances of the times and places in which they occur .  This is a main idea within lateral marketing, because it involves an important transformation of a product or service:  there must be the radical addition of a use, situation, need or target that had not existed ever before (http://www.gladwell.com/tippingpoint/guide/chapter4.html).
Brooke Williams.
Malcolm Gladwell. Photo Credit: Brooke Williams.
  • While vertical marketing consists of modulations within a given market, lateral marketing restructures markets by creating a new category through new uses, situations, or targets with the appropriate changes in a product (Lateral Marketing, 2003, Kotler and Trias de Bes, p. 75).  I found it really interesting that Kotler and Trias de Bes state that lateral marketing is a complement of vertical marketing, because lateral marketing works in the areas where vertical marketing does not.  Throughout the first four chapters of Lateral Marketing, one gets the idea that lateral marketing should completely replace vertical marketing.  In chapter 5, the authors make it very clear that both types of marketing are complementary and necessary.

    Philip Kotler. Photo Credit: www.imm.org.my/My%20Webs/myweb3/images/kotler.jpg
Ana Jimenez.
Fernando Trias de Bes. Photo Credit: Ana Jimenez.
  • One generally accepted assumption for Gladwell, Kotler, Trias de Bes is that all kinds of high-tech products fail, never making it beyond the Early Adopters, because companies fail to transform an idea that makes perfect sense to an Early Adopter to one that makes perfect sense to a member of the Early Majority (http://www.gladwell.com/tippingpoint/guide/chapter6.html).  Most high-tech products fall under the lateral marketing area and require a greater effort on consumer education.  Consumers can assimilate and adopt more readily vertical marketing innovations because they fall within their comfort zones.
  • The last statement ties in directly with the “Stickiness Factor”.  There are small but critical adjustments in how we need to present ideas to the average individual, so that we can overcome the weaknesses from these ideas and make what we have to say memorable.
  • An example: Both Investopedia.com and Fool.com seek to educate all investors, from novice to advanced, because they believe that the key to success in investment banking is the access to information and that is why, online investing education sites offer a variety of glossaries, investing tutorials, articles, tools to calculate return on investments and investment simulators.  The main objective is to have a better understanding of how the financial market operates so that individuals can maximize their potential profit and minimize their risks by becoming aware of potential hazards in investing.  This is all nice and fine, but it completely misses the other two rules to start an epidemic, “the stickiness factor” and “the power of context”.  Both educational sites miss “a simple way to package information that, under the right circumstances, can make it irresistible” (Gladwell, 2002, p. 132).
Screenshot of Investopedia.com in January 2005.
Screenshot of Investopedia.com in January 2005.
  • Throughout many years these two websites failed to become “epidemic” because they failed to: identify the level of expertise of the investor; create as many hyperlinks as possible; recognize that most users on online education websites already hold some education about investments; put everything into the context of the investment industry (because the goal of online investing education is authentic learning); and provide training material for the certificates, licenses and other forms of legitimization that the investment industry requires.
Another screenshot of Investopedia.com in January 2005.
Another screenshot of Investopedia.com in January 2005.
  • A great area of opportunity for the investing education sector was the gap between what takes place in educational practices and what takes place in current work practices, and this creates an educational gap.  Gladwell (2002) refers to this as the “Power of context”.  Both Fool.com and Investopedia.com realized that even though it was necessary to expose the novice learner to the industry vocabulary, the two main goals of an online investing education website should be (1) putting vocabulary in context and (2) reinforcing the trust of the community in its non-material elements.  This is called authentic learning and it specifies performance standards in a profession. Therefore, it was necessary to develop more articles and tutorials about industry practices and specific industry skills like due diligence, portfolio management and professional certification.
Partial screenshot of Investopedia.com in October 2008.
Partial screenshot of Investopedia.com in October 2008.
  • So, did these sites follow this advice?
Daily unique visitors of Fool.com (blue) and Investopedia.com (red) according to Google Trends.
Daily unique visitors of Fool.com (blue) and Investopedia.com (red) according to Google Trends.
  • For many years, Fool.com had a clear advantage over Investopedia.com.  However, the graph above clearly shows that Fool.com has lost visitors, while Investopedia.com has a steady upwards trend of daily unique visitors.  To minimize the asymmetry of information in the areas of Finance and Investing, there should an increase in the teaching-learning practices that use the concept of a community of practice to diminish that asymmetry.  The investing sector is a community of practice that uses authentic learning to develop learning activities that are similar to those that take place in the current practice of finance and investing, which it is assumed that he or she wants to take part of later in the future.  There have been important advances in the field on online investing education but there is yet much to be done.

Lateral Marketing and The Tipping Point – Part 2

  • Throughout the fourth chapter of Lateral Marketing, Kotler and Trias de Bes discuss how “new market or category creation is the most efficient way to compete in mature markets where microsegmentation and an excess of brands do not leave room for new opportunities” (2003, p. 72).
  • The cited examples of Lateral Marketing by Kotler and Trias de Bes tie in with The Tipping Point in that they take into account the “power of context” and the “stickiness factor”.  The power of context states that one must accept that the immediate context of behavior is the one that guides one’s actions.  The stickiness factor deals with the small but critical adjustments in that an idea is presented to the average individual, so that it can overcome previous weaknesses and become memorable.
  • Lateral marketing uses the power of context and the stickiness factor concepts of Gladwell to create “a simple way to package information that, under the right circumstances, can make it irresistible” (Gladwell, 2002, p. 132).  The case of “Big Brother” TV Contest in the United States and the Sony Walkman in Japan are good examples of well executed lateral marketing.
  • Unfortunately, the abuse of segmentation and positioning has created an aversion for the introduction of new brands.  The information age and excessive amount of choice has proved a bit counter-productive for consumerism.  The stickiness problem is even more problematic for marketers in the United States.
  • It would seem plausible that both Gladwell and Kotler and Trias de Bes would agree in that the use of shock tactics by advertisers, publicists and celebrities grab public attention runs the risk of desensitizing us as culture and making us immune to the eyebrow-raising, attention-grabbing ploys of marketers.

Lateral Marketing and The Tipping Point

  • On this post, I will discuss the first two chapters of The Tipping Point by Gladwell and the third chapter of Lateral Marketing by Kotler and Trias de Bes because I found a lot of similar points on both books.
Brooke Williams.
Malcolm Gladwell. Photo Credit: Brooke Williams.
  • Kotler and Trias de Bes discuss the most common way of creating innovations by working from the market definition downward, which results in new products that are just variations of existing products and services.  Similarly, Gladwell argues that things can happen all at once, and little changes can make a huge difference.   Gladwell defines as social epidemics the way that change often happens in the rest of the world.  Both Kotler and Trias de Bes, and Gladwell agree that little variations or changes can have a big impact.
Philip Kotler. Photo Credit: www.imm.org.my/My%20Webs/myweb3/images/kotler.jpg
  • At the same time, these authors warn that even though this innovation process is productive, it will reach a point of saturation.  Kotler and Trias de Bes claim that segmentation and positioning (the most basic marketing strategies) are in crisis, and that a new innovation process is needed.  Kotler and Trias de Bes call it lateral marketing.  Gladwell would argue that it is just a variation of a social epidemic (or word of mouth epidemic).
Ana Jimenez.
Fernando Trias de Bes. Photo Credit: Ana Jimenez.
  • In chapter two of The Tipping Point, Gladwell talks about  about the central role that three personality types, defined as Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen, play in social epidemics.
  • Since the first time that I read the work of Gladwell, I liked the definition of mavens:  “Mavens have the knowledge and the social skills to start word-of-mouth epidemics.  What sets Mavens apart, though is not so much what they know but how they pass it along.  The fact that Mavens want to help, for no other reason than because they like to help, turns out to be an awfully effective way of getting someone’s attention” (Gladwell, 2002, p. 67).
  • The definition of a connector is not bad either: “Sprinkled among every walk of life, in other words, are a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances. They are Connector” (taken from http://www.gladwell.com/tippingpoint/tp_excerpt2.html).
  • I have always believed myself to be a maven but most of my friends believe that I am a connector.  They might have a point because a quick review of my social networks reveals so.  At Facebook, I have 687 contacts; at MySpace, 519: at LinkedIn, 95 contacts, and so on.  They might have a point because I enjoying spreading a good message and I am pretty good at figuring out what person would be interested in something or would be a good contact to find about something.
  • In conclusion, I agree that innovation requires a different approach that goes beyond the category where the idea originated and that there are special kinds of people needed for this process.  Among those people are appropriate connectors (people able to spread a message) and salesmen (people with the skill to persuade those unconvinced by the message).
March 2004 @ Hippie Market - Rio de Janeiro. Photo Credit: me.