Unlike many of the books I've written about here in this particular genre, this did not come to me as a review copy, but was ordered used from Amazon, due to having head it referenced over and over again in other sources. Seth Godin's Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers Into Friends And Friends Into Customers is a classic, and is remarkably fresh for being over a decade old. The vast majority of the book would still be cutting-edge today despite its rather hoary vintage (within the Social Media genre), which really indicates just how visionary it was when published. To get a sense of just how old this book is, I present this quote:
Never build anything that isn't fun on a 14.4 modem
... that was, of course, 14.4 kilobits/second, not the 14.4 megabits/second of a good 3G connection on a smartphone! So, obviously, Godin didn't have a crystal ball (he was also predicting the immanent demise of banner ads on the web thanks to those new-fangled “cookie” things that had just been introduced).
Over-all, however, the message here of personal interaction with the customer is as solid now as it was then, and has, to a great extent, only been really implemented by the most savvy of the better marketers, with the greyforce drone army of MBAs still marching to the tried-and-true (as noted here: “nobody every got fired for running an ad”) rather than the better and brighter. As clear a case as Godin lays out here, it is remarkable how rare (and notable) the well-implemented Permission Marketing program is ten years down the line.
Frankly, having been immersed in Web 2.0, Social Media, and assorted cutting-edge web marketing technologies over the past 3 years, this book has a certain bizarre edge to it. It is, if anything, as up-to-date in its calls to action as anything that I've read in my recent spate of books of this type. However, so much of it (like the modem comment above) is incredibly dated, with companies he's trumpeting as “doing it right” being long-lost victims to other trends, and others he takes to task, chugging along with the same-old-same-old quite profitably still.
I would, however, heartily recommend Permission Marketing to all and sundry (OK, to all those with an interest in marketing and modern Internet culture), as it is such a clear-eyed look at how much better so much could be if we just weaned ourselves away from old habits. One of the more fascinating things in here is a general timeline he sketches out of how we got to the “advertising model”, from a century or so ago when most stuff we used around the house was hand (or even home) made, and not mass produced, to the evolution of mass production, “products” (the story of Crisco is particularly fascinating), and branding, and how advertising related to this all.
As noted, I got this via the Amazon new/used guys for a substantial discount (I ordered a “good” copy of the hardcover which I was very pleased to find was closer to “like new”), but it is still in print should you want to run out and pick up a copy at your local brick-and-mortar book vendor (and Amazon has it at a 34% discount). It's a classic, and some of the specifics are certainly dated, but the message of the book (and most of the techniques) is as solid as when it first came out, and this is certainly something that every web marketer/developer should have at hand.