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Seth Godin has written 12 bestsellers that have been translated into 33 languages

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all.marketers.tell.stories

All Marketers Tell Stories

Seth's most important book about the art of marketing

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Free Prize Inside

The practical sequel to Purple Cow

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linchpin

Linchpin

An instant bestseller, the book that brings all of Seth's ideas together.

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meatball.sundae

Meatball Sundae

Why the internet works (and doesn't) for your business. And vice versa.

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Permission Marketing

The classic Named "Best Business Book" by Fortune.

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poke.the.box

Poke The Box

The latest book, Poke The Box is a call to action about the initiative you're taking - in your job or in your life, and Seth once again breaks the traditional publishing model by releasing it through The Domino Project.

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purple.cow

Purple Cow

The worldwide bestseller. Essential reading about remarkable products and services.

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small.is.the.new.big

Small is the New Big

A long book filled with short pieces from Fast Company and the blog. Guaranteed to make you think.

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survival.is.not.enough

Survival is Not Enough

Seth's worst seller and personal favorite. Change. How it works (and doesn't).

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the.big.moo

The Big Moo

All for charity. Includes original work from Malcolm Gladwell, Tom Peters and Promise Phelon.

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the.big.red.fez

The Big Red Fez

Top 5 Amazon ebestseller for a year. All about web sites that work.

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the.dip

The Dip

A short book about quitting and being the best in the world. It's about life, not just marketing.

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the.icarus.deception

The Icarus Deception

Seth's most personal book, a look at the end of the industrial economy and what happens next.

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Tribes

"Book of the year," a perennial bestseller about leading, connecting and creating movements.

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Unleashing the Ideavirus

More than 3,000,000 copies downloaded, perhaps the most important book to read about creating ideas that spread.

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v.is.for.vulnerable

V Is For Vulnerable

A short, illustrated, kids-like book that takes the last chapter of Icarus and turns it into something worth sharing.

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we.are.all.weird

We Are All Weird

The end of mass and how you can succeed by delighting a niche.

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whatcha.gonna.do.with.that.duck

Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?

The sequel to Small is the New Big. More than 600 pages of the best of Seth's blog.

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THE DIP BLOG by Seth Godin




All Marketers Are Liars Blog




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Active listening

The kind of listening we're trained to do in school and at work is passive listening. Sit still. Get through it. Figure out what's going to be on the test and ignore the rest. Your eyes can glaze over, but don't let it show. Try not to nod off. People are talking, and they'd like the illusion of listening to accompany that. Don't interrupt. 

Passive listening is letting the other person talk.

Active listening, on the other hand, requires that you interrupt when you need a clarification, and it requires that you ask a truly difficult question when the speaker is finished.

If it's worth listening to, it's worth questioning until you understand it.

What is customer service for?

Customer service is difficult, expensive and unpredictable. But it's a mistake to assume that any particular example is automatically either good or bad. A company might spend almost nothing on customer service but still succeed in reaching its goals.

Customer service succeeds when it accomplishes what the organization sets out to accomplish. Google doesn't have a phone number, doesn't want to engage with most users. McDonald's doesn't give you a linen napkin. Fedex used to answer the phone on one ring, now it takes 81 seconds for them to answer a call. None of these things are necessarily bad, they're merely examples of alignment (or non-alignment).

Organizations don't accidentally run ads, don't mistakenly double (or halve) the amount of cereal they put in the box. They shouldn't deliver customer service that doesn't match their goals either.

Here are some uses of customer service:

To create a significant competitive advantage by engaging with customers in a way that others can't or won't. This is what the over-the-top customer service approach of Zappos did. They went from being a commonplace (you can buy shoes from anyone, we're anyone) to a customer delight company that happens to sell shoes. Rackspace does the same thing with technical support. 

To streamline the delivery of inexpensive goods produced in an industrial way: This is the model of most fast food places. Deal with the exceptions quickly and well, and keep the line moving. Part of this mindset is to not make it easy for people to complain, and to treat every complaint in just about the same way. When you get a bag of rancid nuts from Planters, sure, you can visit the website, click a bunch of times, fill in a form and let them know, but they don't use it as an opportunity to earn your loyalty.  "Here, take four coupons, each good for a dollar off one purchase, thanks, we're done."

To lower expectations and satisfy customers by giving them exactly what you promised, which is not much: This is the model of automated customer service at most big web companies. They'll do just about anything to avoid an interaction with a human, and they're clear about this, meaning that they should only end up with customers who are okay with this.

To raise expectations and delight customers by giving them way more than they hoped for, which was a lot: This is a truly difficult promise to maintain (Apple did it with the Genius bar, but they rarely surprise there any more). The secret is to find a focus, a budget and a scale where you can actually deploy talented individuals to keep this promise.

To dance with customers in an act of co-creation: This is part of 37Signals' secret. From their book to their blog to their clearly stated point of view about platforms and the way they do business, they invite customers to debug with them in an ongoing dialogue about finding a platonic ideal of utility software. They don't promise perfect, they promise engagement. Over-inform. Speak with respect. Be clear about the invitation. This is a very special sort of customer service, and companies often think they're doing this but end up cutting corners and are merely plodding along, disappointing those that would have preferred to engage instead.

To diminish negative word of mouth: Many large organizations resort to this, the last step in a sad journey. As soon as a wheel gets squeaky, they grease it. But that's all they do unless pressed. The problem is that many of your unhappy customers are too busy to get squeaky, they merely go elsewhere, and the ones who you finally do try to help are so pissed off it's too late.

To build extraordinary trust: This is the initiative taken by an institution to do far more than is expected, at a human level, to earn the privilege of serving again. This is the banker who visits you in the hospital, merely because she heard from another customer that you were ill.

To treat different people differently: One way to reward your best customers is to treat the best of them substantially better than others--the word will spread, others will want to join this group, and those in it will be hesitant to switch to a competitor. But if you make that promise, you need to double down on it substantially, continually improving how you treat your favorites.

To race with competitors to lower customer service costs just a bit more than they will: This is the current progression we see among industrial titans who see customer service as a cost, not a profit center. When you measure this, you can't help to want to drive the cost down, and you will do it just a bit faster than your competitors, because to do it too fast is to risk condemnation. Alas, in just about every industry that the internet has sucked the profits out of, we see this cost-cutting race to the bottom. It's not going to end well.

Because you can: This is awfully rare among public companies, but there are many organizations that treat people as they'd like to be treated. Not to grow market share, but because it's the right thing to do.

So it's clear that good customers with urgent problems left on hold by Fedex is a mismatch between what they built customer service for and what they're doing with it. And that a busy startup that doesn't invest as much time as they could in co-creation communication is not serving the goals of the beta fully. On the other hand, the novelist who doesn't invest time in answering reader mail is probably doing good customer service, since reserving her best efforts to write another great novel is precisely the promise she has made.

Every single person who makes budget decisions, staffing decisions and customer service decisions must to be clear about which strategy you picked, needs to be able to state, "we're doing this because it's congruent with what we say customer service is for."

Obviously, you can mix and match among these options, and find new ones. What we must not do, though, is plan to do one thing but then try to save time or money and do something else, hoping for the results that come from the original plan without actually doing it.

Customer service, like everything an effective organization does, changes people. Announce the change you seek, then invest appropriately, in a system that is likely to actually produce the outcomes you just said you wanted.

Make promises and keep them.

Of course it's difficult...

Students choose to attend expensive colleges but don't major in engineering because the courses are killer.

Doing more than the customary amount of customer service is expensive, time-consuming and hard to sustain.

Raising money for short-term urgent projects is easier than finding support for the long, difficult work of changing the culture and the infrastructure.

Finding a new path up the mountain is far more difficult than hiring a sherpa and following the tried and true path. Of course it is. That's precisely why it's scarce and valuable. 

The word economy comes from the Greek and the French, and is based on the concept of scarcity. The only things that are scarce in the world of connection and services and the net are the things that are difficult, and the only things that are valuable are the things that are scarce. When we intentionally seek out the difficult tasks, we're much more likely to actually create value.

Things we don't see that much any more

Wine coolers, Julia Roberts movies, fondue, Geocities pages, baby on board signs, a line at the Krispy Kreme...

Ubiquitous doesn't mean forever, and popular isn't permanent. Someone is going to fade, and someone is going to be next to take their place.

The tyranny of random numbers

Is that iPhone game really conspiring to put blue squares up at the last minute, just to foil your attempt at a perfect score?

Human beings are story-making engines, and when we're confronted with randomness, we make up an egocentric version of what happened, and it involves us.

So when things randomly go well, we give ourselves a pat on the back, a reminder of why we deserved it. And when they don't, we seek out the ghost in whatever machine did us wrong and come up with a reason.

Here's the truth: There is no reason. That's why we define it as random.

All the time we spend inventing reasons is probably better spent responding to what occurs.

Companies don't care about you

Brands don't care about you...

Institutions don't care about you either.

The only people who are able to care about you are people.

The question, then, is this institution owned and organized and run by people who will allow the people who work there to care?

Generally, the answer is 'no', because caring is unpredictable, hard to command and regulate and sometimes expensive in the short run.

What a shame.

How long is your long term?

A simple question with an answer that's difficult to embrace.

What are you willing to give up today in exchange for something better tomorrow? Next week? In ten years?

Your long term is not the sum of your short terms.

The difference between commitment and technique

We spend way too much time teaching people technique. Teaching people to be good at flute, or C++ or soccer. 

It's a waste because the fact is, most people can learn to be good at something, if they only choose to be, if they choose to make the leap and put in the effort and deal with the failure and the frustration and the grind.

But most people don't want to commit until after they've discovered that they can be good at something. So they say, "teach me, while I stand here on one foot, teach me while I gossip with my friends via text, teach me while I wander off to other things. And, sure, if the teaching sticks, then I'll commit."

We'd be a lot more successful if organized schooling was all about creating an atmosphere where we can sell commitment (and where people will buy it). A committed student with access to resources is almost unstoppable.

Great teachers teach commitment.

Spring forward

Sometimes, it takes some prodding to make a leap.

For the next 48 hours (through Friday, March 20), the five-copy pack of my new book is on sale.

Use the discount code spring to save 40% off the discounted price, and get the books for about $8 each plus shipping.

Along for the ride

Like the pilot says, "sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight."

When you're on one of those Disneyland boats, it takes you where Disney wants you to go. That's why you got on. And so you are lulled, a spectator, merely a tourist.

So different, isn't it, from driving yourself, choosing your own route and owning what comes of it?

How long have you been along for the ride? When is your turn to actually drive?

When push comes to hug

This is a much more stable response than pushing coming to shoving, because shoving often leads to something unsustainable.

Hugging is a surprising and difficult response to pushing, but it changes the trajectory, doesn't it?

The one who makes things worse

Every committee or organization has at least one well-meaning person who is pushing to make things more average.

"On behalf of the masses, the uncommitted, the ones who don't care, we need to dumb this down, smooth out the edges and make it more average. We need to oversimplify it, make it a bit banal, stupid even. If we don't, then some people won't get the joke, won't be satisfied, or worse, complain."

And, by amplifying the voice of the lizard brain, he gets under our skin and we back off, at least a little. We make the work a little more average and a little worse.

This is the studio executive who demands a trite plot, with the usual stereotypes and tropes, played by the usual reliable actor types.

This is the record producer who wants the new song to sound a whole lot like the last song.

This is the NGO executive who fears that the new campaign will offend some minor donors...

Yes, it's true that the remarkable, edgy stuff we wanted to make wasn't going to be embraced by everyone. But everyone is rarely the point any more.

In the service of honest communication, perhaps the one who makes things worse should acknowledge that this is what he does for a living. That way, if we want things to be a little more average, we'll know who to ask.

Double and half (freelancer math)

Successful freelancers need to charge at least double the hourly rate that they'd be happy earning doing full time work. (In many fields, it's more like 4 or 5x).

And they need to spend at least half their time getting better at their craft (and helping the market understand and appreciate what they do).

Your mileage may vary, but one sure route to becoming an unhappy freelancer is charging just enough and hoping that the low price will keep you busy all the time. 

[If you're a freelancer with a career or marketing question, I'm recording a course on this topic and will be including reader questions as part of it. The form is open until tomorrow, Monday, at midnight. Thanks.]

Magic and irrational

Today is Pi day, the 14th day of the 3rd month of the fifteenth year... 3.1415

Pi is our most famous irrational number. Not irrational in the sense that it's a foolish argument, a form of wishing for one thing while doing another. No, pi is irrational in a magical, beautiful sense. It can't be cropped off and fit into a box. The closer you look at pi, the more you see, forever.

And that sort of irrational magic is at the heart of our best work. Meeting spec works fine as long as you're the only person who has to meet spec. But in any competitive environment, fitting into a box does us little good.

To be transcendent and irrational is to always have a few more digits to spare, to demand that you not be rounded off and filed away. To be human.

Apologies, owed

Money owed accrues interest. Banks and credit card companies thrive on this. The borrower gets to keep using the money, and the lender ends up with more in the end.

Apologies owed, on the other hand, accrue nothing whatsoever of value, to either side.

Forgiving a financial debt costs your balance sheet. Forgiving an owed apology frees you to be generous again.

Privilege

We really don't understand privilege until we've lost it.

It's pretty easy to criticize or misunderstand those that complain about privilege (of any kind), but in fact, we have no idea what it is to be in those shoes, not right this minute.

Pumpkin seeds

You can do two things with pumpkin seeds. Eat them, an excellent source of protein, or plant them, and watch a successful seed bring back 100 more.

The farmer who plants the seeds aggressively, without regard for, "hey, be careful, I could have eaten that seed," often ends up with many more pumpkins and many more seeds. On the other hand, the person who guards all the seeds and then eats them ends up with not much.

And of course, money works the same way. Time, too.

Avert your eyes

When there’s a wreck on the side of the road, we can’t help it. Despite our best efforts, we look at the accident, sometimes even slow down to get a really good look.

Why?

To remind ourselves it’s not us. To reassure ourselves it’s not someone we know. Phew.

Rubbernecking is our way of reassuring ourselves.

Often, though, we do precisely the opposite when it comes to the apparently unfixable, to the enormity of horrible events, to tragedies.

(Enormity doesn't mean "extra enormous." It refers to the emptiness of something so horrible and large we have trouble comprehending it).

Time magazine produces a cover that we can't bear, so we don't buy that issue. We don't see the billboard. A disease appears uncurable, so we don't talk about it. It's easier to talk about the little stuff, or events with hope.

We also do it with science, to facts about the world around us.

There’s a long history of denialism, defending the status quo and ignoring what others discover. That two balls of different weights fall at the same speed. That the Earth rotates around the Sun. That the world is millions of years old. That we walked on the Moon.

The denials all sound the same. They don’t come from stupidity, from people who aren’t smart enough to understand what’s going on. They come from people who won’t look.

Why deny? It's a way to avert our eyes.

Two related reasons, internal and external.

The external reason is affiliation. What happens to one's standing when you dare to question the accepted status quo? What are the risks to doing your own research, to putting forth a falsifiable theory and being prepared to find it proven wrong? What will you tell your neighbors?

When adherence to the status quo of our faith or organization or social standing looms large, it’s often far easier to just look the other way, to feign ignorance or call yourself a skeptic (n.b. all good scientists are actually skeptics, that’s how they build careers… the difference is that the skeptical scientist does the work to prove to her peers that she’s right, and acknowledges when she’s not). 

There’s more data available to more people than ever before. And the prize for using statistics and insight to contradict the scientific status quo is huge. If a thesis doesn’t sit right with you, look closer, not away. Do the science, including acknowledging when your theory isn’t right.

The internal reason is fear. The fear of having to re-sort what we believe. Of feeling far too small in a universe that’s just too big. Most of all, of engaging in a never-ending cycle of theories and testing, with the world a little shaky under our feet as we live with a cycle that gets us closer to what’s real.

Part of being our best selves is having the guts to not avert our eyes, to look closely at what scares us, what disappoints us, what threatens us. By looking closely we have a chance to make change happen.

More trouble than it's worth

In five words, that's one secret to delight. When you do the work that others can't possibly imagine doing, you set yourself apart.

Seeking out the things that are more trouble than most people think they're worth is a powerful place to be.

The hard part, of course, is actually doing something that appears to be far more trouble than it's worth.

Job creation/job destruction

For years before 1992, experts warned that the fisheries in Eastern Canada were in peril. Industrialized fishing processes (sonar, trawlers, etc.) were pulling dramatically more cod out of the Atlantic, and the fishery was severely threatened.

Insiders ignored the warnings, shouting about job preservation instead. 35,000 workers were directly involved, with more than 100,000 people supported as a result of the fishing trade. Jobs needed to be defended.

In 1992, the catch dropped 99%. Every single job was lost, because the entire system collapsed.

It's easy to defend the status quo, except when the very foundation you've built everything on disappears. Incrementalism ceases to be a good strategy when there's a cliff on the route.

The narcissism of minor differences

Really?

You're arguing about that trivial difference between us?

Substantive disagreement is rarely the issue that splits tribes, destroys thriving groups or wastes time at meetings. Instead, it's our desire to carve out a little space for ourselves in a group that seems to agree on almost everything.

The work is too important to sidetrack about the things we disagree on.

Point out this narcissism when you see it and move on to the important stuff, to amplifying the things we agree on.

[HT to Ernest Crawley who has one of the coolest resumes ever. And then appropriated by Freud.]

"That can't be a legal parking space..."

"Because if it was, someone would already be parking there."

If you're sufficiently pessimistic about new opportunities, it probably pays to stop driving around. Opportunity is often where you decide it is.

Samples and shipping and more

Here's an audio excerpt from the download/CD program I recently released via SoundsTrue as a fundraiser for Acumen. (Also on Amazon). I hope it resonates with you:

Listen to The comparison trap from Leap First by Seth Godin

Listen to Unleash the demos from Leap First by Seth Godin

And, in response to many requests from people who love the fast (and sometimes free) shipping that Amazon offers, we've decided to now offer the two-pack of Your Turn on their site as well. (Click on "see all buying options" to get the 2 pack offer). 

To get us off to a good start, it's discounted for the next week, two copies for less than $28. You can always buy the multi-packs on the original site as well. (And here's a ChangeThis sample of the book).

The asymmetry of decay

When things get a little better every day, we take the good news for granted. It takes almost no time at all for the improvement to turn into an expectation and for the expectation to be taken for granted.

But when things decay, we can't stop thinking about the loss, extrapolating the pattern all the way to doom, and then living with that doom, long before it arrives.

This is a bug in the system of our culture, but that doesn't mean we can't work to hack it. When we curate our media intake (and create our own) and when we decide what story to tell ourselves (instead of accepting the story of someone with different objectives than ours), we can rewire our inputs and the way we process them.

Same facts, different experience. On purpose.

Labor unions in a post-industrial age

The us/them mindset of the successful industrialist led to the inevitable and essential creation of labor unions. If, as Smith and Marx wrote, owning the means of production transfers maximum value to the factory owner, the labor union provided a necessary correction to an inherently one-sided relationship.

Industrialism is based on doing a difficult thing (making something) ever cheaper and more reliably. The union movement is the result of a group of workers insisting that they be treated fairly, despite the fact that they don't own the means of production. Before globalism, unions had the ability to limit the downward spiral of wages.

But what happens when the best jobs aren't on the assembly line, but involve connection, creation and art? What happens when making average stuff isn't sufficient to be successful? When interactions and product design and unintended (or intended) side effects are at least as important as Frederick Taylor measuring every motion and pushing to get it done as cheaply as possible?

Consider what would happen if a union used its power (collective bargaining, slowdowns, education, strikes) to push management to take risks, embrace change and most of all, do what's right for customers in a competitive age...

What if the unionized service workers demanded the freedom to actually connect with those that they are serving, and to do it without onerous scripts and a focus on reliable mediocrity? 

What would have happened to Chrysler or GM if the UAW had threatened to strike in 1985 because the design of cars was so mediocre? Or if the unions had pushed hard for more and better robots, together with extensive education to be sure that their workers were the ones designing and operating them?

Or, what if the corrections union, instead of standing up for the few bad apples, pushed the system to bring daylight and humanity to their work, so that more dollars would be available for their best people?

There's a massive cultural and economic shift going on. Senior management is slowly waking up to it, as are some unions. This sort of shift feels risky, almost ridiculous, but it's a possible next step as the workers realize that their connection to the market and the internet gives them more of the means of production than ever before.

Without a doubt, there's a huge challenge in ensuring that the people who do the work are treated with appropriate respect, dignity and compensation. It's not happening nearly enough. But in an economy that rewards the race to the top so much more heavily than cutting costs a few dollars, unions have a vested interest in pushing each of their members to reject the industrial sameness that seems so efficient but ultimately leads to a race to the bottom, and jobs (their jobs), lost.