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Do you talk to panhandlers? How about the compulsory car-wash – you know, the guys at the corner who swarm your car at red lights and “wash” (actually, smear) your windshield?

The panhandler and the compulsory car-wash guy are both interruption marketers. They spring out at you as you pass by, simply because you’re in their orbit. I bet you enjoy those interruptions, don’t you? You’re really anxious to listen to these guys make their pitch, aren’t you?

How about someone you meet at a conference, or a cocktail party? Do you talk to them? Of course you do. There’s context there, some shared story, even if it’s just the answer to “how did you end up here?”

That, in a nutshell, is the difference between interruption marketing (the old-school ad game: “New and Improved!”, “Prices Slashed!”, “Psst! Look! Over Here!”) and permission marketing (agreeing to listen to a story – a product message – because you have something in common with the story-teller).

Marketing used to be all about the interruption. Just getting the prospect’s attention was enough to start the sales process. In today’s ad-clogged marketplace, the customer is exhausted by all the interruptions, and has gone deaf and blind to blandishments like “New and Improved!” In fact, a marketing message containing that phrase will likely end up in the spam folder or the trash can. With the new-and-improved penis & breast enlargement product pitches.

OK, I can hear you saying “and just how in blue blazes am I supposed to do THAT, Casey?”

You tell a really great story, that’s how.

In Seth Godin’s terrific book “Permission Marketing”, he uses dating as a metaphor for permission marketing. You can dude yourself up and hit a singles bar, proposing marriage to every person in the place, and you’ll certainly accomplish something – perhaps getting thrown out on your ass, or being arrested for harassment.

Or, you can ask one person out on a date, and if it goes well, you can ask them out again –
they’ve given you permission to continue the relationship.

I’ve never been out on a date yet (and I’ve been on LOTS of dates, trust me!) where story-telling wasn’t a key factor in whether or not there was another date. Same holds true for marketing a product or service – you have a great story that draws the person you’re telling it to in, making them wish they were there? The story is selling them on you and what you have to offer.

What’s YOUR story? Your signature story, that says why you do what you do and why you’re so good at it? You need one that’s authentic, that’s truly yours, and that…well, tells your story.

In today’s you-gotta-get-permission marketplace, no story will mean no business. So – complete this sentence: “Once upon a time….”

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