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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

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

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

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

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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« September 2005 | Main | November 2005 »

On Mediocrity

RollsWhy settle?

It's not expensive to make a world-class roll. There are only a few ingredients, the recipe is straightforward (but not easy) and the ingredients don't cost a penny extra.

Mediocre rolls are easier and more predictable. Once you figure out how to make a mediocre, tasteless, soggy roll, you can do it over and over again. Mediocre rolls can be baked by anyone, with very little care. And no one would ever go out of their way to purchase or consume a mediocre roll.

So why do we settle? Why bother being in the food business if you're going to serve something you can't possibly be proud of? Is making that extra dollar so important that all pride goes out the window?

Part of the curse of Wall Street is that enough is never enough. So short-term thinking sets in. Too many companies believe their owners (the stockholders) would rather have them make shlock and alienate customers to turn a little extra profit--even though it's clear that this strategy virtually always leads to doom.

The real story here, though, has nothing to do with the stock market. It has to do with our willingness to settle for work product that just isn't that good--at the same time we vote with our dollars to buy things and experiences that are exceptional.

Peace of mind

Today's Globe & Mail reports that over the last 12 years, the number of armed conflicts in the world has gone down by 40% and the number of extremely deadly conflicts (more than 1,000 battle-related deaths) is down by more than 80%.

A different source reports that New York is the safest large city in the US, with serious crime continuing to drop.

And it's much harder to get sick from bad sushi, too. (has to do with aggressive refrigeration.)

So, what's going on? Why is everyone so tense?

The internet doesn't help. Today, bad news anywhere in the world shows up in your browser in seconds. Second, there are people making a full time living (and increasing their power) by scaring us (and not just on Halloween). And lastly, it's human nature. Vivid images have more impact on us than cold statistics. If I had accompanied this post with a picture of someone in a gutter, the 80% decrease in serious wars over a decade would quickly be forgotten.

Optimism is hard. But it's usually worth it.

The proximity effect

Booksclutter019Imagine a book publisher being upset because her company's books were being shelved right next to competitive books on the same topic...

In fact, books sell far better at bookstores than they do at trade shows or supermarkets or pubs. That's not news to you, I hope.

What about blogs? Blogs are far more read now than they were a few years ago when there were just a few blogs to choose from. And people visiting technorati are far more likely to read and discover a blog than someone who stumbles onto a blog link on, say, eBay.

And tuna? Tuna sells best in the fish store, lying next to the other, lesser fish, on ice.

Too often we're beaten down by comparison shoppers and companies issuing RFPs and commodity buyers who won't take the time to hear our story. Too often, frustrated marketers believe that they'd do better if they just didn't have any competition.

In fact, the proximity effect can work in your favor. It usually does if your product or service is special. The proximity effect gives the consumer confidence. It creates a category where no category existed before. It lets you sell the difference, as opposed to the whole thing.

At a bar, you don't have to sell vodka. You should have to sell why your vodka tells a better story than the other guy's vodka.

Online, this effect is profound. Search engines add value when they present a collection of choices... because your proximity to the "competition" for your reader's attention benefits both of you.

Squidoo samples

When I published everyone's an expert, I promised that today we'd publish some sample lenses. So we did. Included, you'll find a job seeker, an entrepreneur and an activist. I've also included the first draft of my lens, which I built with our lensbuilder tool, not using Photoshop as a mockup tool. See: Squidoo: sample lenses.

The beta starts today, and this seems as good a time as any to thank the four summer interns who took a risk and worked with me for two months on this: Aaron Sagray, Greg Narain  Harper Reed and Corey Brown. Corey's joined our team full time. We did this as an intense, focused exercise, building out every page, every bit of logic and wireframe in a short window... giving us the base to evolve from.

Since August, the astounding Squidoo team has included Corey, Gil Hildebrand, Jr., Megan Casey and Heath Row. These guys have been amazing. You can read about them (and see their lenses) and about board members Tom Cohen and Lisa Gansky on the Squidoo site once we open it to the public in a few weeks.

Understanding the Long Tail

Telarium... really understanding it:

Twenty years ago, probably exactly twenty years ago today, I ran this ad as part of my job as Product Manager at Spinnaker Software. It was my first big ad on someone else's nickel, and while it was filled with compromise and not particularly good, it was my first one.

So, how'd I find it?

Someone is selling it on eBay. (Not any more, I bought it for $5). This guy buys old magazines and sells them online, one page at a time!

Is there a buyer for every page, for every ad, for every headline? Nope. Doesn't matter. Because for this ad, for this page, here I was.

Sort of changes the way one might think about things.

Setting the record straight on Yak Shaving

Turns out it was coined by Carlin J. Vieri, Ph.D. The details are here: Yak Shaving. (Carlin was amplifying my post on how you find yourself doing something you shouldn't be doing just because you think it might be necessary to do the thing you are doing.

Let it be sloganized

Ed sends us to: The Advertising Slogan Generator.

The new rules of naming

For a long time, I didn't like my name. I spent more than 30 years spelling both my first and last name in school and on the phone. It didn't help that I had a little trouble with my S's when I was a kid.

Of course, now I think it's fantastic that my grandfather overruled my mom when she wanted to name me Scott. (I think he had an issue with the branding of a type of toilet paper, but that's a different story).

Scott's a tough name in the Google world. Mark is even tougher. Michael is probably toughest of all.

We went through a lot of hoops in naming Squidoo.  I realized as I was explaining the process to a friend the other day that the same logic applies to any product or service or company in our bottom-up world, so here goes:

A long time ago, the goal of a name was to capture the essence of your positioning. To deliver a USP, so you could establish supremacy in your space just with your name. International Business Machines and Shredded Wheat were good efforts at this approach.

It quickly became clear, though, that descriptive names were too generic, so the goal was to coin a defensible word that could acquire secondary meaning and that you could own for the ages. That's why "Jet Blue" is a much better name than "Southwest" and why "Starbucks" is so much better than "Dunkin Donuts".

"Naming companies" flourished, charging clients hundreds of thousands of dollars to coin made up words like Altria.

Then domains came along. Suddenly, people were charging (I'm not making this up), $300,000 for goggles.com. The idea was that if you could grab a domain name (there's only one goggles.com in the entire world), then people could easily find you.

I think many of these rules have changed, largely because of the way people use Google.

If you want Jet Blue or ikea or some other brand, you're just as likely to type the brand into google as you are to guess the domain name. In essence, we've actually added a step in the process of finding someone online. (How else would anyone find Del.ico.us?)

This means that having the perfect domain name is nice, but it's WAY more important to have a name that works in technorati and yahoo and google when someone is seeking you out.

Sort of a built-in SEO strategy.

Flickr is a good name. So is 37signals. The design firm Number 17, however, is not. Answers, About, Hotels and Business are all fine URLs, but they don't work very well if someone forgets to put the <dot com> part in. Do a Yahoo search on radar and you won't find the magazine or the website in the making, and do a search on simple and you won't end up at the very expensive simple.com domain.

If you're trying to make your way as a blogger, calling yourself Doc or Scoble or Seth is a much simpler way to establish a platform than calling your blog "Mike's Blog".

Sound obvious? Of course it does. But books still get titles like "Chip Kidd, Work: 1986-2006, Book One".

So, that was the first task. Find a name that came up with close to zero Google matches. The only English language matches I found for Squidoo were for a style of fishing lure (we bought 6 gross, more on that later).

If I had a choice between a killer domain with a generic word in it or a great word that led to a less than perfect domain, I'd take the first, second every time.

The second thing that's happening with the explosion of made-up unique names is that the very structure of the word now communicates meaning. Web 2.0 names often have missing (or extra) vowels. The "oo" double o is a great way to communicate a certain something about a net company.

"HRKom" doesn't sound like the same kind of company as, say, "Jeteye". This is all very irrational, artsy fartsy stuff, and it's also important.

Altria and Achieva and Factiva and Kalera all sound like companies invented by naming firms. Which is a fine signal to send to Wall Street, but nothing you'd want to name your kid or your web 2.0 company.

The shift, then, is from what the words mean to what the words remind you of. The structure of the words, the way they sound, the memes they recall... all go into making a great name. Starbucks is made of two words that have nothing at all to do with coffee (except for their profits!) and the reference to Moby Dick is tenuous for most of us. But over time, the shape of the letters, the way they sound and the unique quality of the word makes it close to perfect.

So, using the fantastic NameBoy service (also a great name), I found thousands of available domains that managed to sound right and were unique. It took more than a month. Along the way, I almost bought FishEye.com but the owner (who has a charter boat in the Cayman Islands) wasn't budging.

The last thing to tell you is this: you need to sell a name internally. There are two things you should keep in mind:
1. don't use a placeholder name. People will fall in love with it. Find your name, use that name and that's it.
2. don't listen to what your friends and neighbors and colleagues tell you about a name. We had a placeholder name (yikes), I had to change it and everyone hated the new name. For weeks! Now, it feels like it couldn't be anything else.

The entire point of "secondary meaning" is that the first meaning doesn't matter at all (especially since you picked a name with no meaning to begin with). Over time, a surprisingly short time, your unique word, especially if it sounds right, will soon be the one and only word.

"I Just Like It"

The car section of tomorrow's  New York Times features a review of the new Pontiac Solstice. The reviewer compares this convertible to its closest competitor, the Mazda Miata. He finds that the Miata is faster, lighter, better equipped, more ergonomic inside, with an easier to use convertible top and better gas mileage.

He then goes on to rave about the obviously (by the numbers) inferior Solstice.

Why?

For the same reason you've ever lost any sale your organization has ever been up for. Because the customer liked someone else better.

Winners from the last round

It seems as though the Net's obsession with the next big thing is neverending. Today, I got a great reminder of how great the last big thing could be.

I visited with Scott and company at Meetup: Organizing Local Interest Groups.

These guys are rocking. The numbers are astounding (who knew that not only did people enjoy pugs as pets, but they actually pay to belong to a pugs club?) but more important, the connections that meetup fosters are truly important.

Congrats to a real company serving a real need--and generating revenue at the same time.

Worth a look.

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