by Dana Blankenhorn
  Volume IX, No. X

This Week's Clue: Permission in Big Transactions

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This Week's Clue: Permission in Big Transactions
SSP (Shameless Self Promotion)
Best of the Week
The American Diaspora
ZDNet Open Source
Clued-in, Clueless

Dana Recommends The Blankenhorn Effect offers a powerful, positive message for our time. Once you understand how Moore's Law impacts every part of your life, how powerful it is, and how irresistible a force it truly is, you will have the power to predict the future and know how to change it. Buy it today, and make 2004 a better year for yourself, your business, and your family.


For the Week of March 14, 2005

The last time I wrote about Permission Marketing I described the "permission tree" and urged you to audit all levels of permission so you could make use of them.

Now I'm going to tell you how to apply permission to the highest levels of personal transactions, the selling of homes and cars.

Permission Marketing is already heavily used in the home-buying business, which is all about relationships. Agents give small trinkets to raw prospects, and work the neighborhood hoping to create relationships. The search is always for someone who knows a seller before they become one. The buy side is mostly handled through branding and TV ads, which seem to be aimed at sellers but actually push the message that "we do deals," which is something buyers want as well.

Permission came to the car industry mainly through the Internet. I got a taste of it recently, a survey page that offered to tell me what my old clunker was worth. Once I completed the form I was inundated with e-mails (plus a few phone calls), most of which eventually went into my "spam" folder.

Why was this? It was because the wrong people were contacting me. I'd sought information on something I wanted to sell. The people who got my information, and used my information, treated me like a buyer.

In both cars and real estate, permission starts at a level far below that of the transaction. While Seth Godin's book treated "transaction permission" as a low-value good, here it is the highest value. That's why real estate agents give out calendars and flyers to raw suspects. The car survey page, too, was aimed at creating suspects.

What are the holders of this Contact Permission doing wrong? Both the car dealers and real estate agents were expecting too much of their suspects. They were not giving enough to turn these people into prospects, thus missing the nature of the relationship and the chance to make a sale.

The potential value of a prospect, as opposed to a suspect, is enough to make a bigger investment worthwhile. But the funnel of suspects is so wide, and the number of prospects that turn into sales so small, that most just give up. Add to this the fact that many car buyers are spending "just" a few thousand dollars and you can see the scope of the problem.

But there is something these people can give, even to suspects. Honest information.

If the car dealer came to me wanting to see the car I had to sell, or if he could get me to a dealer or mechanic who could accurately value it (not just deliver the Blue Book number) I would have been ready to do business. I still am, on that basis. But I can't buy until I sell. Help me sell. Give me information that leads to my selling, and I'll remember you when it's time to buy.

What form would this take? It would take some knowledge of the local market, a set of contacts (not just your dealership, but neighborhood contacts) who can, either free or for a price, deliver honesty. In other words, give me a referral, an e-mail listing these people, and ask the customer to follow up.

Honest information can go a long way in the real estate game, too. What if you sent an e-mail newsletter to those suspects who gave you their e-mail address? And what if, in that e-mail, you gave them transaction records on every sale in their zip code? It's easy to get, even easy to automate. Your trinkets, then, should have your subscribe address, and should solicit the customers' e-mail address. Don't just put a phone number down and your picture. Offer a no-risk way to develop a relationship.

In order to climb the Permission Tree, from suspect to prospect to transaction, you must give away relevant information. In these businesses the suspects are sellers, and even if you're looking for buyers you still must treat the names you get on their level. In other words, you have to become a publisher, an opt-in e-mail publisher.

Thus we have another level of permission, and another level of payment. You turn a suspect into a prospect through Reading Permission, and what you give them for that permission is a valuable editorial product.

How do you turn reading permission into something more valuable, which I'll call Prospect Permission? This is where it gets personal.

Once you have an editorial product, the value of your Reading Permission scales. On a per-reader basis, it goes down. Meanwhile, the value of that permission to your reader goes up. This is the magic of publishing.

The fact is that every person who reads a newsletter (like this one) has a personal relationship with the publisher, out of their sight. So when they do write you (and every issue encourages them to write you, with a personal e-mail address), it's vital that you write back, that you answer their question, and that you follow up by telephone (ask for their phone number in your response e-mail if you haven't got it already) to make sure the question is answered.

Now, because of the nature of your editorial content, and the responses that business-oriented content delivers, you do in fact have a prospect on the phone. Not only that but you have a qualified prospect, one whose respect you have already earned.

This is how local Web content becomes a reality.


Shameless Self-Promotion

In partnership with ZDNet, I'm now helping to produce a special blog on Open Source.

I work as a freelance writer in Atlanta, and am on the development team for EgoScout, a new kind of mediator for mobile phone users.

My last non-fiction book, "The Blankenhorn Effect" won the Computer/Internet category in the 2003 Independent Publisher (IPPY) awards. Write me for a PDF copy of my latest novel, "Baptists are for Dunking."

On my Mooreslore blog I've written a new novel, "The Chinese Century." It's a story told in real-time, with real characters, but entirely fictional, dealing with the consequences of the falling dollar. I'm beginning a sequal, "American Diaspora," exploring the themes of the first book but with more fictional characters. It's a true alternate history, but set in the present day.

You are encouraged to forward this newsletter widely. And if you have trouble subscribing let me know. Remember: it's journalism that keeps the Clues coming...


Best of the Week

Abuse by the Little Guys

I've seen it and seen it. A big company works its butt off to prove a market, and some little guy comes along claiming patent rights. Here we go again.

Barrett for President

used to like Intel chairman Craig Barrett. Now, as he prepares for his May exit from the job he's had for seven years, I love Craig Barrett.

Son of DeCSS

Jan Johansen became infamous because he wanted a Linux-based DVD player. Nils Schneider merely wanted the iPod to be all it could be.

Taiwanese Design

Taiwan has the greatest OEMs in the world. They can take your design and turn it around faster than anyone. But Taiwan is not known for its equipment designs. Taiwan doesn't dominate the brand market. That may be about to change with the Universal.

Sony "Walkman"

Sony released its Walkman phone yesterday. It is what it is, a phone with a half-gigabyte of storage in it, enough room for about 500 songs.

A Waste of RSS

have written several times about RSS in this space, often wrongly. But now I have something which, I hope, will prove non-controversial. If your story is behind a registration firewall, don't put it in your RSS feed.

IM Wars Continue

It's time for the IM wars to return. The main feature of this market battle over the years hasn't been features, but alliances. As a result the world has divided into two warring camps, that of AOL and that of Microsoft.

Haptics Come to Mobiles

Samsung is bringing the science of haptics to mobile phones. Haptics recreates touch and texture artificially. If your kid has a "force-feedback" joystick on their computer game console, they're getting a taste of haptics.

Alzheimer Result Is Its Cause

Scientists at UC San Diego have found a precursor condition that's just as important. Before symptoms are even apparent, proteins start clogging the pathways of axons, the nerve cells whose connections and re-connections represent actual thought.

My Favorite Show is 25 This Week

It was Yes Minister, a BBC comedy about the intricacies of bureaucracy.

The Best Copyright Argument

As the Grokster case approaches the Supreme Court the "friends" of the court briefs (called amicus curiae) are flying. The best is the technical brief, from a host of distinguished computer scientists including Dave Farber of Carnegie-Mellon (and the Interesting People list).

BellSouth: Clued-in or Clueless?

Maybe yes, maybe no. It must be admitted that rivals who've merged, and bankers who are selling deals, both have reasons to diss the company refusing to dance. But there's another way for things to go. Because while there will soon be fewer players in the telecomm space, there will also be fewer real assets.

The PHP-Mainframe Revolution

I'll admit that when I read yesterday IBM is putting its corporate might behind PHP, creating a product that combines its Cloudscape database with Zend's PHP tools, my first thought was what's PHP? Then I took a look at the recent output of this blog.

A Giant Falls

Giants fall all the time. In an earlier item today I mentioned one such fallen giant, the playwright Arthur Miller. Computing also has giants, and we're all diminished when one of them falls. As Jef Raskin has fallen.

The Blog Crucible

Paul McMasters is wrong. The problem is not that bloggers are attacking. The problem is that no one's defending. And no one is getting underneath the mob, finding its sources, and placing the same spotlight on its leaders that they place on the powerful.

Lakoff, Technology and Marketing

I still get a newspaper. I read books and magazines. I listen to the radio. So, probably, do you. But all these technologies (and industries) have been "killed" several times by great new technologies. They are all supposed to be dead, thanks to various features of the Web, right now.

Girl Scouts, Kidneys and Slippery Slopes

The United Network for Organ Sharing and the American Society of Transplant Surgeons have rules similar to the Girl Scouts, and for similar reasons. They don't want people buying-and-selling organs, and they don't want to take a single step down the slippery slope leading to that.

Gates Gets a Clue

His message was simple. High schools suck. The words were repeated gleefully as far away as Beijing. "When I compare our high school with what I see abroad I am terrified for our work force of tomorrow." Both my kids are in high school, Bill, and I'm terrified too. But platitudes won't get it done. Neither will all your money.

How Intel Gets Its Groove Back

As it prepares for its developer forum this week, Intel faces an audience of bankers who have not lost faith in it, but who don't understand what it means by "platform."

Media Timidity

Good journalism stories have clear leads, a point of view, and publishers have the courage to defend the results. There is very little good journalism going on today, which may be why the profession's reputation is shot. In today's class we have two examples of this to show you.


The American Diaspora


Table of Contents

ZDNet Open Source

Who Leads Open Source?

Putting Linux on your iPod

Blender Offers Open Source Film Production

Inside IBM's open source strategy

Lies, damned lies, and browser share statistics


Clued-in, Clueless

Clued-in is Intel's 10-year vision and the idea of a big company having one. (Just don't take it too seriously.)

Clueless is reporting on bloggers "losing their shield" on protecting sources. Don't these people know all journalists have lost it?


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