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Seth Godin has written 18 bestsellers that have been translated into 35 languages

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« November 2005 | Main | January 2006 »

Squid soup, part I: The Myth of the Product Adoption Lifecycle

One of the most important ideas in business writing is certainly Geoff Moore’s Crossing the Chasm. In it, he talks about the bell curve that indicates how any population will respond to a new technology.(Espen Andersen points out that the real source is the Diffusion of Innovations, by Rogers. My apologies to Everett).

Bellcurve2The little green tail on the left represent the few, the brave, the innovators. These are the geeks and the nerds that love new stuff. The black segment next to it are the early adopters (not adapters, that means something else) that embrace new ideas that help them do the rest of their lives more productively. The next group picks up new ideas a little more slowly (these are the folks who bought an iPod last year) and the next group completes the mass market (these are the ones that will buy an iPod next year). The last group are the laggards and they still have a record player.

One of the giant insights of the new marketing is that the only way to introduce a new idea is to move across the curve. Sell to the little tail, they tell the next group, which passes the word on to the mass market. That’s why the little tiny green tail is so valuable... these are the people who are listening, these are the people who will become your marketing force.

So, where’s the myth?

The myth is that marketers think these people actually care.

People don’t care, certainly not about marketers.

The vast majority of new products never show up anywhere on this curve. A new restaurant opens in Manhattan and the foodies don’t materialize. A new consulting practice, based on a challenging and proven idea, opens up but leading edge companies never become clients. A fresh new face decides to run for city council but the political junkies don’t sign her petition.

The truth is that for most ideas, for most markets, nothing happens at all.

Squid soup, part II: Inertia and White food

Whitefood2The secret to true understanding of marketing has very little to do with permission or positioning or product development. It’s not about loyalty or conversations or blogging, either. Those are all essential ideas and tactics, but what really matters is brown rice and squid soup.

Imagine a hotel buffet. Dozens and dozens of items (this is an Amercian buffet, where excess is the key). You can have whatever you want, as much as you want.

The cost of making a mistake at the buffet is precisely zero. There is no time cost, no opportunity cost, no social cost. Put some on your plate, if you like it, you can have more.

So, it turns out at this buffet, the two best items (where best is obviously a loaded word, and in this case best to me means best tasting and simultaneously healthiest) were the brown rice and the squid soup. The brown rice was soft, just a little bit chewy. It was like very good white rice, but with flavor and texture that went beyond white rice. It was nutty and had both texture and flavor. And the squid soup had depth. The squid (yes, the name attracted me to the soup) was as soft as an egg noodle and the broth had tomatoes but didn’t taste like Campbell’s.

You’ve already guessed the punchline. Of the hundreds of people at the buffet, very few even tried either one.

Why?

Inertia.

There is a cost of trying the rice and the soup. The cost is the effort necessary to consider switching. Beyond that, there’s the (tiny) fear of tasting something you won’t like or the effort involved in realigning your worldview if you do like it.

“But I don’t like squid soup,” they say. Well, how exactly do you know that? What chance is there that they’ve previously tasted squid soup and rejected it? Close to zero. But this audience, this market, has a worldview, and it includes the rule: if it’s a weird food and it’s in a soup, I don’t like it. Getting rid of that rule requires effort.

I read a survey three years ago (beware surveys like this one) that said only a third of all Americans had ever tasted a bagel. Now, the bagels that are available in most places are horrible and not bagel-like at all, but the point is that in most areas, most endeavors, most markets, most people, when given the choice, try nothing.

The problem with the bell curve is that most people, in most situations, will ignore your idea.

Football is huge on television in the US, soccer is not: inertia. The fact that General Motors sells any cars at all is related to inertia. It’s not just the middle-America mass market at work here. This explains why an entire race of people on Easter Island became extinct—once they embraced a cultural system that involved cutting down trees, it was too hard to stop, even after they could see the coming danger.

It’s always easier to do nothing (new).

Humans embrace change far more than any animal on the planet. But we’re bad at it.

Of course, you’re not bad at it. You’re always buying new stuff, reading new blogs, trying new ideas. You’re the cutting edge... (which leads to my next post).

Squid soup, part III: The Cutting Edge?

In my last post, I riffed about how little people liked change... and referred to you, my loyal readers, as the self-elected early adopters, the radical new, the folks who embrace big new ideas.

You use Firefox, read a hundred blogs with an open-source RSS reader, have a blog, post your bookmarks with delicious, have a flickr account, you’re a digger and you have built a dozen squidoo lenses. After all, they’re all free, they teach you about valuable new ideas and they’re fun.

Except, if my numbers are accurate, that last paragraph probably isn’t true.

Delicious is a sensation, but far less than 1% of the people online (who are already in the cutting edge of the population when it comes to embracing new tech ideas) have posted their bookmarks. Firefox is demonstrably better than the built-in alternative, and they have market share of less than 20%. Too much inertia. “I’ll just use what’s built in...”

AOL users, were, by definition, the cutting edge for years. They were among the first to go online. But then millions got stuck inside AOL’s walled community, not even realizing that AOL ≠ the internet. Inertia became a critical asset for AOL. That satisfied users by giving them what they liked, not by selling them squid soup.

Web 2.0 is off to a rocket-fast start. Little companies growing superfast. But most of the readers of this blog haven’t built a lens or shared their bookmarks or uploaded their photos yet. How come? It’s fast and free and perhaps fun. The answer is pretty obvious—you’ve got other things to do. The cost of deciding to try is too high, because you can always decide later.

All the innovations that pundits like to talk about—from Jetblue to the Prius to Apple—have tiny market share compared to the attention they get or the benefits that people rave about. Because even the cutting edge isn’t in that much of a hurry.

Watch out for the 5% rule
Most new marketing ideas that are any good feel like they might be able to convert 5% of those in the market for what’s being sold.

And of course, only 5% of the population is in the market for what’s being sold.

And only 5% of those in the market are choosing to pay attention.

So it’s really 5% of 5% of 5%. Take 10,000 people. That’s 500, which gets you 25 which gets you one.

1 new customer.

5% isn’t enough. Not if you’re in a hurry!

The punchline
Marketing used to be expensive. Buy a few million dollars worth of ads and you could have a shot at success.

Marketing is now (potentially) much, much cheaper. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. The challenge now isn’t to raise a whole bunch of money. The challenge is to invent a product or service or idea or meme that’s so compelling that the tiny green portion of the curve, the geeks in whatever market you live in, can’t ignore what you have to offer. That, and once they adopt what you’ve got, they can’t help but spread it.

That’s not easy. No one ever said it was. But that’s the challenge anyone with a business to grow or an idea to spread has to overcome.

Quick question

Is marketing the art of tricking people into buying stuff they don’t need?

Or is it about spreading ideas that people fall in love with?

Zero

Nojuice2

Boy am I in trouble.

(actually, this is the second time I've posted with that title... I guess I get in trouble a lot.)

Firemen have good reasons to keep their trucks clean.
Firemen don't sit around all day doing nothing.

I know this.

I was trying to tell a story with a vivid picture. If my house burns down, yes, please, come put it out. And yes, I support the volunteers in all the towns near my house.

And yes, Crossfit may very well be an excellent way to work out.

Of course, your mileage may vary. I frequently contradict myself. As Zig Ziglar told me, "I'm like a cross-eyed discus thrower. I don't set any records, but I keep the crowd alert."

Clean firetrucks

We live in a neighborhood where all the firehouses are run by volunteers. I don’t know how we’d get by without them... they do brave work, with little credit.

One thing you’ll notice is how clean the trucks are. “Why are the trucks so clean,” a friend asked? After all, a clean firetruck isn’t a lot better at putting out fires than a smudged one.

The answer: Because when there isn’t a fire, the firemen wait for the siren to ring. And while they’re waiting, they clean the truck.

Sounds a lot like where you work. Most organizations are staffed with people waiting for the alarm to ring. Instead of going out to the community and working to prevent new fires, the mindset is that firemen are working to put out the fires that have started. Hotel desk clerks don’t write letters or make calls to generate new business—they stand at the desk waiting for business to arrive. Software engineers are often overwhelmed with an endless list of programming fires—and rarely get a chance to think about what they ought to build next.

The structure of most organizations (and every single school I've ever encountered!) supports this. It’s about cleaning your plate, finishing your assignments and following instructions. Initiative is hard to measure and direct and reward. Task completion, on the hand, is a factory orientation that is predictable and feels safe.

In fast-changing markets, clean firetrucks show attention to detail but rarely lead to growth and success.

What a great way to describe a stuck but busy organization. "They sure have clean firetrucks."

Judging a book by its cover

84orwell Pity George Orwell. His classic never got a decent cover.

You can always tell the jacket designer is in trouble when the cover uses irrelevant type design to get the project over with.

But wait. Orwell sells at least a million copies a year.

It's not the cover. It's the book.

Sometimes a great cover can help a lousy book (for a little while).

And sometimes a lousy cover can kill a great book (like Turn of the Century by Kurt Andersen).

But for books, like most things, the stuff inside matters.

The two obvious secrets of every service business

every one...

1. Take responsibility
2. Pay attention to detail

The thing that's so surprising is how little attention is paid to these two, how often we run into people (business to business or b2c) who are totally clueless about them.

You'd be stunned to see a hotel clerk stealing money from the till or a bartender smashing bottles or a management consultant drawing on the client's wall with a magic marker. But every single day, I encounter "that's not my job" or "our internet service is outsourced, it's their fault." More subtle but more important are all the little details left untended.

All the magazine ads in the world can't undo one lousy desk clerk.

All businesses are service business and experience is the product...

Search is hard

Do a Google image search on 1964. It'll find more than 700,000 images for you. If you had to guess, which ones would come up first? The Beatles? Jackie Kennedy?

Actually, on the very first page of the results, you'll find a flyer for a pinball machine from carobinson.com and an issue of Soaring magazine. You'll also find similar results if you type in other years.

Google isn't doing a bad job necessarily. It's just that this is an impossible promise to keep. We've taught ourselves that search engines are magical and clairvoyant, and that 1964 is all we have to type in to find, say, the best possible image for a collage for a birthday party. But my collage is very different in intent than your collage, and of course Google can't make us both happy.

If you've got a website and you offer search, you need to be wary of overpromising. Just like putting an index in a reference book that isn't totally complete. If you appear to be making the promise, your prospect is going to expect that you're going to keep it.

Soaring magazine, anyone?

I think it's inevitable that many users are going to become cynical about the power of search as this problem gets worse (and I think it will) before it gets better.

Where do sneezers come from?

A tale of two workout techniques.

In today's Times (Getting Fit, Even if It Kills You - New York Times.) a story about crossfit.com. Here's the closing quote:

But for Mr. Glassman, dismissals of his extreme workouts merely help him weed out people he considers weak-willed. "If you find the notion of falling off the rings and breaking your neck so foreign to you, then we don't want you in our ranks," he said

His technique, apparently, is growing like crazy.

Compare this nutso approach with the practical vision of Fred Hahn. Fred wants you to lift weights once or perhaps twice a week, do it very very slowly and not hurt yourself. And it works.

So why does crossfit grow faster?

Because of cognitivie dissonance and because the stories are more fun to tell.

Because someone doing it needs to justify her behavior by talking about it.

Because the stories spread.

More often than not, ideaviruses start when the early adopters are dissatisfied with some element of the experience. Pleasing customers doesn't always lead to conversations. Delighting them, enraging them, hospitalizing them or surprising them--that's how sneezers are born.

A New York minute

Nyminute Jason McCants is impressed by how fast Google got these adwords up.

Not me. I'm impressed by the advertisers!

Of course some of these ads are totally relevant. They weren't relevant yesterday, they might not (hope not) be relevant tomorrow, but right now, for that searcher, they're gold.

Useful fear

In the following riff from Jarvis on BuzzMachine, just replace [the newsroom] with the name of your organization.

The first job is to instill fear in [the newsroom]. Oh, there’s fear there now. But it is fear of the unknown. What we need is fear of the known: the facts about falling readership and advertising and the reasons behind both and about new competition. Fear alone won’t lead to a strategy, of course. But until there is an imperative to change inspired by that fear, it won’t be possible to move past the complacency and resistance that populate so many newsrooms now. In later posts, we’ll look at means to replace fear with excitement about new opportunities. But first things first.

Horizontal Knowledge

A great phrase coined by Glenn Reynolds: TCS: Tech Central Station - Horizontal Knowledge.

It's best understood by thinking about its opposite: Vertical Knowledge. The stuff you get from the boss or the MSM or the person at the front of the room.

Whenever I go to a conference, I learn more from the people in the lobby. And the web is one big big lobby.

There's a throwaway line in his post that I really enjoyed. Glenn riffs about the fact that there's no way, in 1993, that anyone could have predicted the Internet of 2003. In fact, critics might say that even if we planned for it, we never could have built it. Then he says:

Actually, that final statement is true. If we had started planning in 1993, we probably wouldn't have gotten here by now.

Planning implies vertical, top down thinking. And in many areas, it's backfiring.

Promotion, self-promotion and [insert ad here]

Mtv Remember the MTV astronaut?

If you ask someone about MTV in the 1980s, they might mention Adam Curry or Toni Basil or Robert Palmer, but odds are what they're visualizing are the promo ads.

The music videos weren't unique. They were provided by the record companies to anyone who wanted to broadcast them. The VJs were largely forgettable. But the promos--they were constant (five or ten an hour) and constantly changing. MTV created an entire gestalt (it even became the inspiration for a pop hit and a video compilation). It turns out that we liked the ads.

Try reading a copy of Vogue without the ads. Totally useless.

And at a trade show (which people invest huge amounts of time and money to attend), the only reason to go is to see the ads, the banners, the paid-for booths and self-promotional speakers.

Public radio is no longer a bastion of silence. Every station is filled with self-promos, often twenty an hour, along with interruptions from sponsors and of course, pledge week. And the bumpers and audio cues that the stations use become part of our experience. We miss them when they're gone.

All as a way of introducing you to my dilemma about blogs.

In email, no one, at least no one I respect or believe, enjoys getting spam. Ads in email don't work because email is a tool, not a medium. If I subscribe to a permission-based email campaign (like those notes from Amazon or a gift certificate on my birthday from Yahoo) then I look forward to it and respond. But ads in the sense of unanticipated, impersonal and irrelevant... not on my agenda, or yours, when it comes to email, or RSS for that matter.

But the blog experience is different. Maybe.

The most popular blog in the world carries more than 25 different ads on its home page. The other most popular blog in the world carries just 1. Clearly, one blog profits more than the other, but it doesn't seem to affect readership.

And what about within the blog? One author I know featured his new book 11 times in a month where he posted on twenty five days. When I launch a new book, it gives me a headache to mention the launch/sales of the book more than twice, unless I'm riffing on an idea. I feel like I'm imposing.

Last month, after months of working on it, my team launched squidoo, a web 2.0 innovation that we're very proud of. But you're not seeing it on my blog... except for one interview last week. Is that the right thing to do?

The post below this riff is about my new seminar, given next month. The writer part of me wants to believe that my alert, quickwitted readers only need to see it once, and that they're mature enough to make a decision about whether they want to come or not. Of course, I'm completely wrong. I mean you are in that esteemed category, but most people are not. Most people need to see that link three or four times a day, several times a week, and then they'll take action. And they'll be glad they did.

I regularly (as in every day) get email from people who bought this book or that book or even this book and are surprised that they didn't know about it and are glad they discovered it. Does that mean that it's my job to advertise them incessantly, regularly reminding people that they exist?

Imagining for just a moment that there's no self-interest, no profit motive, imagining that the blogger is doing what is in the best interest of the readership--what's the right balance? Is it one ad per page? 25? Is it no promotional links to new projects (from you or from those you respect) or is one the right number?

I thought I had figured it out. The idea was to do interesting things, announce them just once on your blog, and then use those interesting things to inform the stories you tell moving forward. When I riff about storytelling or about anticipated advertising or about viruses, I'm not doing it to sell a book. I wrote the book so I could learn about that topic, so I could start a conversation going, and then I riff about them online because I figure my readers can learn (or at least be entertained) by what I'm discovering... whether or not they buy the book. And this "don't buy, just learn" approach has ended up working out for me.

But when I see how other blogs serve their readers with promotion, MTV style, I wonder... I honestly don't have an answer for you... this is a question, not a rant. If promotion works, if it brings people stuff that they're glad they got and it makes the experience more exciting, then what's wrong with it?

In the same breath, I wonder whether that sort of promotion should really be necessary. I wonder whether readers will think the blogger is selfish or self-serving (when I'm sure I'm really not.) And I wonder about the future of the medium, because the nature of promotion is that "10" is never enough. You always need to be at "11". And when the competition hits 11, that becomes the new 10.

When Katrina hit, blogs broke all their rules about promotion. It was understood by readers and by bloggers that the cause was good enough that people really needed to be pushed. Do you need to be pushed?

Magazines run ads.
Books don't.

What are blogs?

The new whiteboard seminar (you're invited)

It’s back. UPDATE: Seminar is SOLD OUT. Hope to do another one, but not sure when.

By popular demand, the day-long Seth Godin Whiteboard Seminar is going uptown.

Seminarsite Last year, I ran only four seminars (each sold out), so if you’ve been waiting, here’s your chance. No promises about when it might be offered again.

On Thursday, January 26, you’re invited to attend an all-day seminar with me in New York. It will be held in the beautiful Harold Pratt House located at 58 East 68th Street, New York, NY 10021. As you can see from the picture, this majestic brownstone is totally upscale. Most days, it’s the headquarters for one of the most prestigious thinktanks in the world.

WHO IT’S FOR:
Brand managers, CEOs, entrepreneurs... Actually, anyone who’s working to spread a big idea about a product, a service, an organization, a rock group or an open-source piece of software. Anyone with a website. And especially for people frustrated with the status quo.

The seminar is about the way you market, it’s about managing people in times of change, and most important, helping great ideas spread.

In the past, senior managers from Fortune 100 companies have sat next to solo entrepreneurs and even ministers. Non-profits in a hurry to grow have benefitted, and so have long-time marketers from traditional industries. The man running one of the world’s most successful book publishing companies has participated, as did the deputy campaign manager for a nationwide presidential campaign.

Room
Some of the people who have written me the nicest letters afterwards have been CEOs of very tiny businesses. I’ve also been privileged to watch huge companies embrace some of these ideas and run with them. One thing is certain: it will change the questions your colleagues ask, which is the point.

Bring your boss. That’s the big win.

WHAT’S COVERED:
The morning is devoted to a blazingly fast, high-impact overview of several of my books. The purpose is to give you the ammunition to sell these ideas to to the people you work with.

The afternoon is nothing but riffs about your organization and your problems. By taking them one by one and talking them through, you not only get direct feedback on your issues, but you quickly see how there are only a handful of answers to just about all that ails everyone’s marketing challenges. In other words, once you hear other people work through their issues, it’s a lot easier to handle yours.

THE FORMAT:
It’s interactive, but it’s very much my show. I talk a lot, push you a lot and end up exhausted in a heap at the end of the day. The more you bring with you, the more you get back. The best seminars are filled with people with big issues, provocative solutions and a desire to speak up.

THE GUARANTEE:
If you don’t think it’s worth what it costs, send me a letter when you get home and I’ll refund your money. Alas, no refunds for no-shows.

HOW MUCH?
There are ten slots for non-profits. These are available by application (see this file for details). It’s free to the ten accepted, but you pay in advance and I send you a refund if you show up.

A standard seat costs $1,650 for the day. Coffee, lunch and snacks are included. I promise you’ll get to ask your questions and talk about your organization.

If you buy three seats for your colleagues, the fourth is free. Buy six and get three free.
Feel free to round up friends and come as a group if you like.

It’s sort of by application, but applying early increases your chances I can find you a slot.

We don’t bill, you have to pay in advance. See this file for details.

THE DETAILS:
Feel free to arrive as early as 8:45 am at the venue. The event begins at 9:15 sharp.

We work all day, right through lunch until 4:30 pm.

It’s in mid Manhattan, in the fanciest neighborhood in North America, so hotels and cabs and airlines should be easy to identify and book. You’re on your own.

BLOG REFERRAL BONUS:
If someone mentions your blog when they register, I’ll pay you $100. One blog per registration, of course, but no limit on bonuses per blog, naturally.

FULL?
When the seminar is full, I’ll edit this post and tell you. Until then, feel free to submit your registration info.

Blog issues

I can imagine how frustrating it is when the phone rings at the Cleveland Plain Dealer and an irate customer is yelling about a missed newspaper delivery.

I mean, you write it, you edit, you put in the pictures, you print it and then you hand the paper off to a 13 year old kid who throws it into the bushes...

So, for those of you frustrated by the missing pictures, missing posts, RSS glitches and other blog noise going on, I promise you (if it makes you feel better) that I'm just as more frustrated.

Hopefully, as the winter solstice passes, the fidelity of blog delivery will increase.

The amazing thing, which a few friends and I were talking about last night, is that all this stuff works at all! Imagine how many free (or close to free) tools we depend on every day. Stuff that was not just impossible but not even conceived of 15 years ago.

This is the fastest idea-to-tool cycle in the history of the planet. Glitches are part of the deal.

Changing behavior

" . . . mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable,
than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are
accustomed."

Pretty recent quote about how hard it is to get people to change. Sent by David Carter.

Written by T. Jefferson, 1776.

The e-consultancy interview

You can find the original here. Pithy, for sure:

. . .

1. Does it perplex you that many big brands still have reservations about the web?

Not at all. Big brands got that way by doing the things that worked over and over. They're not good at the new, and they're horrible at experimenting.

2. Should every business use the internet to communicate? What are the basics of an internet communications strategy?

You should only use the internet if you want your communications to be FAST and you want to reach LARGE NUMBERS with no intermediaries. If you can't handle that, though, you shouldn't try.

3. How can an enthusiastic marketing executive convince a senior board of Luddites to invest in digital?

What works is success. That's how Google got so big. Once people make money paying 10 cents a click, they beg to buy more at 15 cents a click.

The best online efforts have worked because of this incremental approach.

4. You've written about permission marketing extensively, yet intrusion is still a big part of the average internet session. Does this frustrate you?

Not any more. Like everyone else, I ignore it.

What a waste.

5. Interruptive online ads are thought to damage brands, yet we still see an awful lot of advertising clutter on the major publishing sites. What would you say to these publishers and advertisers?

They're not listening, so I can't say much of anything.

If they were listening, I'd ask them to do one thing: measure.

6. About 7 years ago you suggested that banner ads would be finished by 2000. Well, we're still seeing them, but paid-search is now king. Is there a place on the web for display advertising?

I was awfully close to being right, my friend. The value of online banner ads is close to zero. The best display ads are contextual, relevant and interesting. And not banner shaped.

7. Does online advertising have to be purely about response? What about the brand benefits?

There's zero evidence that you can build a brand with interruptions online that don't lead to action. Zero.

8. Something like one in four rich media ads are those horrible floating ads, essentially pop-ups 2.0. Is it just me or is this totally nuts, given the ever-increasing percentage of installed pop-up blockers...?

Not sure how many people have them actually installed, and ironically, most of these are bought by those that measure (spammers measure too). If it works, people are likely to try it...

9. Do you have any insight on the value of a customer who responds to an intrusive call-to-action such as a floating ad, as opposed to something permission-based?

It depends what you're selling. There are many businesses that depend on (and profit from) clueless consumers

10. I guess that the majority of online marketers still perceive the web as an acquisition channel, rather than a customer relationship channel. Would you agree?

I would agree that they perceive it that way, and of course, they'd be expensively and dangerously wrong

11. I think a big trend over the next few years will be a shifting focus towards using the web channel to increase retention, repeat business and referrals. Can you sum up the basic opportunities in this area?

It's like dating. Communication is good. Isolation is bad. No sense letting people simmer with bad feelings, right?

12. Right. So what about email? What’s the future looking like for email marketing?

Not good. RSS, I believe, is the next big thing

13. Yahoo has just added RSS feeds to Yahoo Mail, which will help RSS reach the masses. Right now RSS usage isn't into double figures, but could this be a white knight for email marketers?

It is if they do it right. Abuse your RSS feed and you're invisible (again).

14. What's Squidoo all about?

Squidoo lets anyone build a simple, free web page that points to blogs, online stores, maps and other information on a single topic—any topic. Each page can contain insight, bullet points, links, products and pictures, and each page earns royalties for its creator or for charity.

Squidoo leverages the power of personal recommendation. The site will eventually host millions of handmade ‘lenses’, each a focused, useful guide to some area of expertise, some glimpse of the net. Instead of aimlessly poking, a lens lets a user see the big picture—a human being’s big picture, the overview you need to get the meaning of the idea.

15. Can you explain more about ‘lenses’?

The heart of Squidoo is the lens. A lens can point the best hotels in London. Or blogs with pictures and articles about Paris Hilton. Or personal accounts about Hurricane Katrina.

A lens can expose a cross-section of the web, a more personal and more humanly relevant take that no computer could ever create. A lens is an easy-to-build page of links and referrals. Two lenses may be on the same topic, but they are never the same — every lens is personal, and every lens is built by a person, a Lensmaster.

16. Soothsayer alert: 5 predictions for 2006?

1. Inventory of adsense begins to catch up with demand

2. Thumbnail photos show up in adwords

3. Web pages get DRAMATICALLY better at teaching and interacting

4. Several large marketers cease to do TV

5. The Supreme Court bans email attachments

Seth was interviewed by Chris Lake, editor. Comments? (mailto: chris@e-consultancy.com) Email me or take them to the (http://www.e-consultancy.com/forum) forum.

If everyone had a foundry

What would the steel industry be like?

This announcement: Alexa Web Search Platform seems like a big deal to me. It means that the haystack that is the web is now easily parsed by any business that wants to leverage huge computing and data power to find needles.

Here come worldwide gimmicks

Stunt Local businesses have always loved gimmicks. Upside down billboards, plush characters with men inside, rude waiters and hot air balloons abound.

It's inevitable, it seems, that with online traffic easily measured and increasingly valuable, that same tactic would move online. And it has, in droves.

A poker site is embracing the tactic with this obviously transparent ploy for traffic. I'm not linking to it here, because I don't want to reward the cheesiness (move along, people, there's nothing to see here, it's just one page), but I want to show it to you as a sign of things to come.

Very quickly, these sites are going to be like car wrecks or rock groups--only the grossest or the loudest (or possibly the most clever) are going to earn the attention of the public. After all, once someone sells the pixels on his site for a million dollars, you don't want to see it again. And once someone cuts off his finger (I think he should have used Photoshop) then what... a head?

1918 and more

Some quotes found by Tom Asacker (go to Thought Pieces and hit his ebooklet).

“We’ve been around way too long, and people have
heard all our lies. We just have to deliver.”
— Rick Wagoner, Chairman of General Motors

and this one, from a book published in 1918, Modern Business:

“Psychologists tell us that the mind is under a continual
bombardment of ideas, all of which are trying to make an
impression on it. The prospect, therefore, does not sit
around with his mind a blank, calmly waiting for someone
or something to capture his attention without a struggle.
The salesman enters a field already well occupied and must
fight for the undivided attention that is a successful sale.”

What goes around, comes around. Thanks to Andrew Rupert for the link.

For Jerry Shereshewsky, on his birthday

Jerry2 A long time ago, it seems, I dedicated the book Permission Marketing to my friend and colleague Jerry Shereshewsky. Jerry stayed at Yahoo! long after I left, and he's still there, ambassador to the world of advertising.

I've been thinking about Jerry a lot lately. As I work on my new project, I find myself telling stories about him and his impact on me, on organizations and on the way people think.

Every once in a while, you work with someone who carries a distortion reality field, someone who impacts everything he touches, causing it to respond. Jerry pushed me and the rest of our team farther,and in more ways, then most of us expected could happen. And he did it with an energy, generosity and love that seems way too rare.

It's hard to believe Jerry's sixty. Thanks, JHS, for the stories, the excitement and the love of everything.

What are you afraid of?

SleddingMore important, what are your prospects afraid of?

We had a snow day here in NY yesterday. Hundreds (thousands!) of kids out sledding. And most of them without a helmet.

Sledding without a helmet is 10 times riskier than taking Vioxx and a thousand times riskier than flying in an airplane. Driving in the passenger seat without a seatbelt (which I saw that ten-year-old doing this morning) is a million times riskier than Lyme's disease.

Yet parents (and regular people too) obsess about the longshots and take crazy chances with the likely dangers.

We can shake our heads and insist that people get more rational ("how can you be afraid of flying!") or we can understand that this is human nature. And by understanding the irrational risks and helping our customers deal with them, we sell them what they really want... peace of mind.

Please hold

I don't get it.

It's the holiday season. Ho Ho Ho. Spend spend spend.

Companies spend a fortune to get you to call. Call 800 CLUB MED to book a room. Call 1-800-WWW-DELL to buy a computer. And it's not just consumer marketing. They want you to call to buy insurance, business travel, hotel rooms and a new energy-efficient roof for your warehouse.

And then, when you call... hold.

Can you imagine visiting Dell's web site and waiting more than two seconds for it to load? Well, it takes more than half an hour to reach a salesperson at certain times if you call Dell. 1,800 seconds. Or call Club Med without a touchtone keyboard and the system hangs up on you...

Obviously, there's a load balancing issue. In order to have enough well-trained operators to answer every call Saturday at 2 pm, they'd have thousands of underemployed people later on.

But instead of punishing the customer, why not reward them?

"Hi, you've reached us when we're too busy. Quick, write down this code: 123x23. Now, give us your phone number. When we call back (within an hour, we promise), give us the code and we'll pay you $20 on the spot for the hassle in getting this order processed."

The problem is that people who build call centers try to lower costs instead of increase revenues. They view what they do as a commodity, not a strategic tool to dramatically increase customer joy.

Marketers have worked hard to jam a huge amount of buying into a real short window of time. Alas, there's a big cost to that.

RSS breakthrough

Rsstroom_reader_restroom759057 Ed points us to rsstroom reader - toilet paper printer!.

My favorite part is the comments. Did you know that the new edition of the American Heritage Dictionary failed to include the word "gullible"? It's true.

odd and end

Ken Weary indirectly commends us to: Amazon.com: Yesterday's Top Sellers > Everything Else.

And six people recommend istockphoto.

The new source for free photos

Ever since Garr Reynold's wrote about my presentation approach on his blog (Presentation Zen: The "Godin Method" of presentation design) the downloads of Really Bad Powerpoint have been going up.

And sooner or later, after people read the ebook (the free ebook) they write me a nasty note, pointing out that Corbis no longer sells digital photos at a reasonable price. In fact, unreasonable is not even close to what they charge.

Here's the good news. StockxChange just launched version 6, and it's better than ever. 175,000 free photos, most of them amazing. They also launched a for-fee site, but this is a great place to start.

Do you produce?

What, exactly, does a producer do?

In the movies, the producer doesn't act, sing, write, put up the money, build the sets or direct the feature.

And yet, no producer, no movie.

I think the producer asks questions. "What next?" "What now?" The producer is always focused on more, whether more is quality, revenue, customer satisfaction or market share.

The job you do, apparently, has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not you have the mindset of a producer. I've been called by talented salespeople who are clearly producers... and by failures who were just following a script. I've worked with people who always manage to make something happen... and with those who manage to have an excuse ready when it doesn't.

Producing is not about making something. It's about making something other people thought couldn't be done--or were too distracted to do themselves.

Posture matters

Ramit Sethi points us to Scott Andrew - lo-fi acoustic pop superhero! > blog > archives > 2005 > 11 > overexposed.

Anyway, it kind of hammers home the lessons I've been learning for the past two years, namely that most of the time, exposure is just exposure. It's one thing to get in front of someone; it's another thing to keep them interested, and another thing to get them to care. It also gives you an idea of the numbers game the Big Labels have to play in order to make the bucks they need to stay in business.

People go to Amazon to buy stuff. They go to MySpace for free stuff and to explore. It's not just what you say, it's where you say it.

The post has some amazing stats about how exposure all by itself isn't enough.

And I think it's an essential lesson in the value of permission... done right... over time. Not all at once.

Working the system, step by step

Eric Tapley sent me this neat site: About the Vintage Red Cross Calendar Builder.

He's got the ideavirus working for him, the long tail, and his website is clear and obvious and quick.

There's a story, the word is easy to spread... boy, I hope this works. I think the secret is not that he's got a centralized web site, but that he'll end up with hundreds of chapters with thousands of members all working in coordination.

A high-profile competition

...for a very good cause.Moocover3

Microsoft has generously donated advertising on the home page of MSN to promote The Big Moo.

This is one of the five most visited webpages on Earth, and it's quite a thing for them to donate us an ad.

As you know, the Big Moo is a book written by 33 people, with 100% of the royalties going to charity. You can find out more about the book and charities here.

THE CHALLENGE:
If you can create the best ad (according the the specs, available in this PDF: Download MSNadspec.pdf) we'll run your ad and promote you as the designer.

I'll also point to three runners-up from my blog and will encourage my co-authors to do so as well.

SO, you do an ad on spec, and if it's great, you get publicity far and wide, leading, perhaps to not just good feelings around holiday time but plenty of new business, and maybe a shot at being on Oprah, if that's your business. Amateurs are welcome to apply.

The objectives:
1. To generate clickthrough to the Amazon page for the Big Moo (this Amazon link).
2. To generate sales of the book at that page.
3. There is no number 3.

The deadline for the contest is a week from today, so if you're going to do it, do it right now so you can submit your entry on time. (12/12 at noon EST. Send a link to your hosted ad to: seth@sethgodin.com)

Every penny we earn goes to charity. You get all the kudos. Microsoft does the right thing. We sell a lot of books. Happy holidays! And thanks.

Out of the corner of your eye

There's no such thing as coincidence.

Of course, the human mind, in its neverending quest to create meaning, invents coincidences all the time.

Weird example:

I'm a big fan of modern art, but I admit that I had never heard of April Gornick.

Tom Cohen, a board member at Squidoo, knows April.

Today, I did a search for a gas station near my house that would put snow tires on my wife's car. Typed in my town and the word GAS into google.

Guess what the seventh match was?

The art of April Gornick.

Of course, I never would have noticed this if Tom and I hadn't been discussing April the week before. My point, and I do have one, is that search makes it far more likely that you notice something that you weren't expecting. Bookstores are great at situational selling, at exploiting the proximity effect to help you discover something you didn't think you were looking for. Amazon isn't nearly as good at that (though they're trying.)

I think it's inevitable that Google will start featuring thumbnail photos in adwords--it will dramatically increase the chance that a surfer's subconscious will pick out a tiny detail that leads to a click.


Missing a simple truth

At the end of the day, people are in a hurry to leave the garage.

If you design a parking garage that's harder to get into and easier to leave, it'll work better. stark raving calm � Round and Round; Or, How Not to Design a Parking Garage.

Architecture, again.

The needle, the vise... and the baby rattle

Babyrattle1 Most ventures that want to grow do some sort of marketing. And that marketing can be divided into two things that work. And one that doesn't.

The needle uses simple physics to work. Apply pressure to a tiny, carefully selected area and you're going to get penetration. That's why a 92 pound nurse can give you a flu shot... the tiny surface area of the tip of the needle has no trouble slipping into your skin.

Permission marketing is about the needle. The right person, the right message, the right moment. Anticipated, personal and relevant messages that get through to the person you need to reach.

The needle doesn't happen all at once. You need to have the right combination of reputation, product and prospect.

The vise uses a different principle of physics to work, but it works as well. The vise is about providing increasing amounts of pressure over the entire area. And because of the nature of a screw, you can create huge amounts of pressure over time without overexerting yourself. Get your hand stuck in a vise and you'll see what I mean.

The vise approach works, for example, with Starbucks, or with the local doctor's office or in grassroots politics. Show up often enough, be in enough places, engender enough support from one individual after another, and sooner or later, your investment in spreading the word pays off.

What doesn't work? What doesn't work is the annoying baby rattle.

Babies will occasionally get quite energetic in using a rattle to get attention. But then they get bored and move on to other techniques. Sooner or later, they come back to the rattle, frustrated that nothing seems to work.

Most marketers, and just about all struggling marketers, are rattlers. They try some gimmick or technique or product, focus on it for a little while, then lose interest and move on. After a while, out of frustration, they come back to re-try, just to prove to themselves that they're doing everything they can to get the word out.

"Hey!" the blogger says, "I build a blog just like that Dummies book says, but it's not paying off. Let's do a podcast instead." And then on to the next thing.

The best marketers, of course, use the needle and the vise at the same time. They don't assault, they don't demand, instead they earn attention. And they apply their marketing pressure so consistently and in such a measured and relentless way that sooner or later, they profit from it.

One commercial website I know is spending millions tightening their vise. Unfortunately, the offer and the site design is so confused (and unappealing) that it's unlikely they can make the system pay. If they figured out where to apply the pressure, what offer would appeal, how to reach the right person in the right way... their leverage would triple.

The ironic thing is that ad agencies have been backed into a corner and mostly do rattling. It's the high-cost, high-profile, high-risk part of marketing, and the kind that rarely works. What a shame that some of the smartest people in our field aren't allowed (by their clients and by their industry's structure) to get behind the scenes and change the product, the strategy and the approach instead of just annoying more people with ever louder junk.

a beautiful thing

Found via a Squidoo beta tester.

I share it here without prejudicial comment. Have fun. Prosper.

Amazon Mechanical Turk - Welcome.

(amended: I thought this was a joke. I was wrong. Is that worse than thinking something is serious when it's really a joke?)

Don't change, sue

I continue to be puzzled by the car industry's ongoing fight against better mileage (Bennington Banner - Headlines.) Imagine how moribund the computer industry would be if processors never got faster. You'd only buy a new computer when your old one got too dusty.

If mileage requirements went up, people wouldn't buy FEWER cars. They'd buy more cars, more often. Yes, there's no question that short-sighted consumers are regularly seduced by low initial prices or big car styling and buy a car that costs them a lot more in the long run. But if mileage standards go up, those cars cease to be an option. What happens instead is that there's movement, always a car a little better as they march to the standard, which gives you a reason to upgrade.

The result would be a race to make better and better cars (and to buy cars that are cheaper and cheaper to operate.) If the cars are cheaper to run, then, over time, people will actually be willing to pay more for them, won't they?

If I were a big company CEO facing such an incredible level of uncertainty about the key input to my product (the price of gas), why wouldn't this be a great way to simultaneously level the playing field (ten years from now, which is plenty of time to get ready).

It's like the cigarette companies. Think about how much they would have pocketed in profits if they had supported a ban on advertising ten years ago. Billions and billions of dollars...

In the face of change, reactionary stuck companies don't look to marketing or innovation. They sue.

real good for free

Not one, but two unsolicited commendations in a row.

Check out Pandora. Web 2.0 plus music plus affiliate plus free plus cool.

[reposted]

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