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Confessions of an Interruption Marketer: An Ode to Seth Godin


The sign said NO SOLICITING!

In the beginning, interruption marketing was all there was

I began my career in “Interruption Marketing” back in 1993. The Internet was still young then, and it was long before text messaging and email use. Social media consisted of basic internet bulletin boards. My employer was new in town, just opening the San Diego branch office for the first time. So there weren’t any existing customers to work for referrals. I had to start cold. I was handed a yellow legal pad, a box of Bic pens and a stack of 3 x 5 “Lead Cards” of local corporations from Dun & Bradstreet. My employer told me: “You said when I hired you that you could sell…now show me.”

And so began my career as an “Interruption Marketer.” We didn’t use that phrase at the time – it would be another six years before Seth Godin coined the phrase in his book Permission Marketing.

Cold calls, bulk mail, bulk faxes, bulk email

The “Cold Calling” process went like this: dial the number on the lead card, ask for the decision-maker and try to schedule a sales presentation. So I was essentially interrupting people who were in the middle of doing something else, making my pitch, and repeating the process over and over again. If I was successful scheduling an appointment, I straightened my tie, got in my car, drove to the meeting and made my pitch. Sometimes I would call as many as 100 people before I got an appointment. It was a numbers game and my employer kept track of my success and failure rate. It went from 1 appointment per 100 cold calls to 1 in 50 cold calls, to 1 in 25 cold calls, as I got better at it over time. After I couldn’t find the will to make even one more phone call, I would walk through office parks and do my cold calls in person. Door-to-door selling is the epitome of interruption marketing, and it is brutal.

Most people resented the interruption and they were not shy about telling me so. I got pretty good at ignoring the No Soliciting signs, and at getting past gatekeepers who were tasked with preventing me from interrupting top executives. This taught me how to craft my sales messaging in an artistic way. That’s a nice way to say I learned how to BS.

After couple years, I used this experience to get a lead marketing position at a company with a generous marketing budget. Again, a company without an existing customer base. This gave me new tools; specifically, direct mail to stimulate interest. The rules of successful communication tactics in this medium are different from those used on the phone and in person, so I became proficient in direct mail best practices too. I now could blast thousands or tens of thousands of people with my message. No more cold calling. Broadcast faxing, the first iteration of modern spam, was a favorite tactic, until the FCC made an example of a national restaurant chain, fining them $500 per fax, totaling millions. The FCC had made their point; don’t do that.

Whether marketing by phone, mail, or in person, with these methods you are interrupting people. People do not like being interrupted, but those were the only marketing tools at my disposal.

Later, email use became the norm, and I joined the ranks of marketers that blasted prospective customers with marketing messages. My email messages, just like my telemarketing and my cold calls, were uninvited. Nobody was expecting to hear from me. Cold calls, cold faxes, cold postal mail, cold email – they are about all the same. The only difference between them, in my opinion, is the expense and effort required to deploy them.

Enter Seth Godin

Godin’s 1999 book: Permission Marketing changed the way I did my job. Godin’s philosophy reinforced what I already knew; that people hate being interrupted. He counseled that if you ask permission to send marketing messages first, you will be more successful. Not everybody will grant that permission, and that’s okay. People that don’t want your marketing messages are unlikely to buy anything from you anyway. Focus your efforts on the people that might. This was revolutionary thinking for me. I had spent the last six years perfecting the art of interruption and got really good at it. I took great pride in my ability to blast through the barriers set up by gatekeepers and get to the decision-maker. It became a macho thing, and I was proud of my ability to absorb negativity and rejection without noticeable effect. It became my raison d’être. Many colleagues expressed admiration for my bulletproof persona, and my employer paid me very handsomely for my skills.

Here’s the problem with Interruption Marketing: it costs lots of money, and most of that will be wasted. Salaried employees spending most of their day on activities that will never result in a sale, and spending a huge chunk of the budget sending direct mail to total strangers that will never read it. Even today, a 99% failure rate is considered the norm for a prospecting mailing. Bulk email campaigns that are targeting people that have not given you permission to email them are by definition spam, and just give you the ability to greatly annoy large numbers of people for almost zero cost. Use this tactic in your marketing these days and you’ll end up with a blacklisted server in no time at all.

Back to Seth Godin. I must’ve read his book Permission Marketing 10 times. Eureka! I thought. Ask people if they want to hear from you before you send your message. What a concept! That will definitely improve the odds of success, and remove resentment from the process altogether. I wish Godin had written his book six years earlier, but maybe the words wouldn’t have resonated had I not spent so many years banging my head against the wall. Since I started employing Godin’s techniques, I’ve enjoyed unbridled success. I kept a Fortune 500 company happy as a sales and marketing consultant for over eight years and generated millions upon millions of dollars in new revenue. Now Permission Marketing is the only kind of digital marketing I do. We still use one-to-one direct mail, but never in bulk form. It’s the one method that doesn’t pass the cost of marketing onto the receiver.

Permisio is born

Permission Marketing is sort of a religion here at Jensen Unlimited. We named the service “Permisio” to highlight what makes our strategy and techniques different. We’ve perfected the art of asking permission – and getting it. Then we employ our messaging skills to craft a marketing campaign that works for virtually any type of business, in any industry.

The technology has evolved. We currently favor text messaging, with its unmatched 98% open-and-read rate, and we also use bulk email to reach people who don’t want to receive marketing messages that way. Both channels are permission-based. Every single recipient grants permission in advance before we send them anything in the digital realm. We use the power of social media to invite people to opt-in to these direct-contact channels. Finally, we use hyper-targeted direct mail; our only non-permission-based tactic. All the different marketing channels work to complement each other, producing amazing results. Give it a try.

Art Jensen portrait

Art Jensen


Contact me for a free 60-day trial today by clicking the button below. 

She’s Just Not That Into You

She's Just Not That Into You

She’s Just Not That Into You

She “likes” you, just don’t get carried away

So she “Liked” you on social media. It doesn’t mean that she wants to be assaulted with an endless barrage of marketing messages.

To illustrate my point, I will use romance as a metaphor for marketing. Most of the time you wouldn’t expect someone that smiled at you to agree to marry you five minutes later. Yet, marketers do that all the time. They succeed in getting initial attention; a “Like”, and immediately move to close the sale. “She likes me on Social Media, that must mean she is totally into me, my company and my product, so I get to blast her relentlessly with aggressive sales messages!”

Marketing, like romance, is a process, and it usually takes time. It’s not smart to try to rush things. When you’re on the receiving end of an aggressive approach, it doesn’t feel good, does it?

Getting your customer to “Like” you on LinkedIn or Facebook or even opt-in to your text message or email list is a good first step. That doesn’t mean she’s “that into you.” She may have subscribed on impulse. As a matter fact, the majority of the people who join your opt-in list or pay a visit to your social media page fit into this category. They are simply passive observers and will never become marriage candidates.

The path to deeper engagement

How do you help your subscribers and social media followers move along the path to deeper engagement? Simple – you just try to be as interesting as possible, and maybe – just maybe – you will succeed in moving the relationship to the next level. Treat your opt-in subscribers with the same good manners and humility in your text and email messages as you would if they were a romantic interest standing right in front of you. Using personalization features (yes, Permisio can do that) for starters. Then, script your messages in plain English, not marketing shorthand. Talk to people rather than talk at them. Make the effort to craft messages that are interesting and compelling. Yes, this often means using MMS – Multimedia Service format, which requires more message credits (3 credits vs 1 credit). Trust me, it’s worth it, and you can also insert a photo into your text messages that way.

It’s the difference between asking: “Hey you! Do you want to get married? I have 6 toes on my left foot and I drive a Lexus”, and the more subtle: “It’s great to meet you, Nancy. Can we talk for a moment? I’d really like to get to know you better.” 

In fact, we’d like to get to know you better too. Perhaps you could take a moment to explore the rest of this website. We’ve tried to include enough information so you can get to know us better.

Art Jensen portrait

Art Jensen


Contact me for a free 60-day trial today by clicking the button below.

“Likes” Do Not Equal Subscribers, Or Paying Customers

Like Icon


Putting social media “likes” into perspective

If you publish something noteworthy to social media, you will probably pick up some “Likes” along the way. They are an easy way for readers to interact and indicate some level of approval. It’s important that marketers not confuse “Likes” with deep interaction. It only takes a microsecond to hit the thumbs-up button and doesn’t require any effort at all. I compare it to somebody waving at you from a distance, and not much more. Not much value there.

If you don’t believe me, try this experiment: tally up your “Likes” and take them down to the bank and try to exchange them for cash. When the teller asks you how they can help, say: “I would like to exchange these “Likes” for $10,000 please.” The idea is totally absurd. Remember to differentiate ego-massaging metrics from those that represent potential revenue. Having a lot of “Followers” and “Likes” is great, but you can’t spend them. They are just a place to start.

In digital marketing, the goal is to move people forward on the path toward a purchase. To promote a reader to a “Like,” and then from a “Like” to “Follower”, and then to an “Opt-In Subscriber” of your direct messages – either emails or SMS or whatever method you prefer. Moving customers forward on this path may take quite some time, and some people will never take an additional step. That’s okay, focus on the ones that do.

I suggest you start by keeping track of the people that “Like” your social media posts and try to classify them in some way. Separate friends and family from actual customers, and actual customers from potential customers. This will provide you with ideas for future posts to entice the people that represent revenue opportunities to become opt-in subscribers.

Art Jensen portrait

Art Jensen


Contact me for a free 60-day trial today by clicking the button below.