Don't Miss a Thing
Free Updates by Email

Enter your email address

preview  |  powered by FeedBlitz

RSS Feeds

Share |

Facebook: Seth's Facebook
Twitter: @thisissethsblog





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

The complete list of online retailers

Bonus stuff!

or click on a title below to see the list


All Marketers Tell Stories

Seth's most important book about the art of marketing




Free Prize Inside

The practical sequel to Purple Cow





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




Meatball Sundae

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



Permission Marketing

The classic Named "Best Business Book" by Fortune.



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.




Purple Cow

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



Small is the New Big

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



Survival is Not Enough

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




The Big Moo

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



The Big Red Fez

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




The Dip

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




The Icarus Deception

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





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




Unleashing the Ideavirus

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



V Is For Vulnerable

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




We Are All Weird

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



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.



THE DIP BLOG by Seth Godin

All Marketers Are Liars Blog

Blog powered by TypePad
Member since 08/2003

« February 2007 | Main | April 2007 »

Noimpactman makes an impact

Handicapped_2 Ever since he was written up in the Times last week, No Impact Man has been causing shockwaves. Here's a guy who, with his family, is going without... reducing his intake to local foods and his output to a tiny fraction of the typical American's.

I was at the Union Square Market last week, buying some local eggs. A well-dressed woman marched up and handed two empty cardboard egg trays to the farmer, for reusing (a step better than recycling).

Suddenly, $40 an ounce for raspberries flown in from Chile isn't so sexy any more.

Now, people look at someone driving a Chevy Suburban the same way they look at a fit person parking in a handicapped space. "Why," they wonder, "do you need to do that?" It's sort of a mix of suspicion and pity.

The richest and best-educated people in our economy are shifting, and pretty quickly. They're just as willing to spend money as they always were, but now it's not focused on fancy organic stuff at the Whole Foods Market or giant bulletproof cars from Germany or private jet travel. Instead, the market is trying as hard as it can to spend time and money without leaving much of a trace.

I think this story has legs and is going to be around for a long time. Zero is the new black.

Shortcuts that aren't so short

The cab drivers in my little village are an angry and bored lot.

It doesn't matter where you are going, they'll find a shortcut. Back roads, vacant lots... they'll drive two miles out of the way to miss a light.

I thought about this when I read a blog post describing the best way to get the most out of a Squidoo lens. The author said you should make sure that the keywords and title are perfect and limit outbound links so that you can be sure that people will only do what you want them to. Others spend time studying the algorithms of Google and Yahoo to figure out the very best way to jump ahead in the rankings for their blog or corporate site. Is it reciprocal links or careful metatags? What if I create some sort of ring so that the  spider won't realize the scam?

Hey. It's not so hard. If you make great stuff, people will find you. If you are transparent and accurate and doing what's good for the surfer, people will find you. If you regularly demonstrate knowledge of content that's worth seeking out, people (being selfish) will come, and people (being generous) will tell other people. It turns out that it's easier and faster to do that than to spend all your time on the shortcuts.

There are some airlines that spend all their time dreaming up ways to lobby the government and others that spend all their time making flying a better experience. There are restaurants that dream up ways of charging more for bottled water, and others that work hard to create an experience worth bringing a group to enjoy.

All I know is that the cab drivers in my town are still angry about that light.

Neat Amazon feature

You can see which books cite a book you like.

Try doing that at the local library...

A penny, a nickel, a dollar...

(or a dime). Right?

That was the chant I expected to hear from the street fundraiser yesterday in New York. Over and over again, she chanted, "A penny, a nickel, a dollar..." and then just when the meter demanded "a dime," she said, "a quarter."

It was wrong. All wrong.

And it worked. Precisely because the rhythm didn't work, the pitch did.

Purple Cow Redux

Godinatfridge Roger Anderson wrote in with some questions about the original Purple Cow promotional strategy. Since it's been so long, I thought I'd quickly recount it here, because there are some useful lessons for all products.

I self-published the book in paperback. I did this because few publishers were interested in a short book on the topic, and were dubious about the future of the web as a promotional tool.

I printed 10,000 copies of the book. I also contacted International Paper to have them print me 10,000 milk cartons. This turned out to be more difficult than I imagined. They print almost all the milk cartons in the United States and weren't particularly motivated by a $2,300 order. I paid in advance, though, and submitted all my materials on time.

The night before the print job went to press, the phone rang. It was my sales rep, informing me that they, "weren't going to be able to print my job." Uh oh. The problem? Someone high up had read some of the copy on the carton and didn't like it.

"I didn't realize that International Paper was in the censorship business," I said. He replied that they weren't censoring the carton, merely refusing to print it.

The offending paragraph: "If this were actually milk, it would be pasteurized and homogenized. Pasteurized involves heating it up to kill any new organisms inside, while homogenization involves mixing it to make it all the same. If this sounds like your organization, perhaps you need this book." They also didn't like the line, "Please don't drink from the carton!"

Instead of calling the ACLU, I just deleted the paragraph and knew I'd have a story for the ages.

Then, Fast Company was kind enough to run an excerpt from the book in the magazine. This is an important part of the story, because this is where the permission marketing part kicks in. Fast Company's 100,000 loyal readers had already given me permission to talk to them. They were listening. If I were doing this today, I'd use my blog, just like you could use yours...

At the end of the article, it said something like, "If you want a copy of Seth's new book for free, send $5 to cover shipping and handling and if there's any left, he'll send you one."

Meanwhile, I had found an epsom salt packaging facility in New Jersey to turn the printed cartons into folded cartons and to stuff the books inside. (Don't try this at home! The factory was a godsend and very hard to find.)

If you sent in your money, we made a mailing label, slapped it on the carton, put on a stamp and mailed it to you. No other packaging. [BONUS! If it's August 23, 2010 and you're reading this, you are eligible to win a free milk carton, I'll mail it to you if you win. Here's the form].

So the carton arrived, and already the mailman is talking about it. The folks in the next cube notice it. Many people opened the carton from the bottom and left the carton on their desk. It led to conversations. Which was the point.

THEN, the last step: On the side of the carton, it gave a web address where you could buy more. But since we sold the first 5,000 in just a week or two, the website only offered one option: if you wanted more, you had to buy a dozen for $60. Why a dozen? So you'd give them away. More conversation.

At the end of the process, I had moved 10,000 books to just the right people, created 10,000 conversations (or more) and broken even. I didn't need anyone's permission (except maybe International Paper) and got exactly one great break (Fast Company, now replaced by blogs).

[My publisher wants me to mention that they were then insightful enough to buy the hardcover rights and that so far they've sold (if I count Taiwan) [way] more than a quarter of a million copies.]

I think this process scales (not the milk carton part, the remarkable part) and works for things other than books. There are two steps that are difficult but not impossible. First, build an audience that wants to hear from you. Second, create something they want to talk about and make it easy for them to do so.

Wish I had it...

For more than ten years, when I was managing dozens of brainiacs, bizdev people and salespeople all at the same time, I was using a cobbled together suite of Mac programs. Stuff like SnapMail and FileMaker Pro. It was a pain and it never did quite what I wanted it to.

I wish I had been able to use Highrise.

Spammers, and proud of it

People in new media often wonder when the giants are going to roll in and just take over everything. After all, with their talent and leverage and money (and more money) they ought to be able to see what's going on online and just run with it.

No need to worry. Consider the case of Reed Elsevier (no link on purpose). They're a division of the company that publishes Variety and LexisNexis and Publishers Weekly and various trade shows around the world. And they're totally clueless. And apparently proud of it.

Over the last few weeks, I've received several meails, all the same, all from real people at Reed. They baldly (and boldly) ask me to swap links with them as part of a scheme to move up the Google rankings. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I don't do that, nor does any reputable blog I know of.

Surprised by their corporate background, I've responded to them, twice. And both times, the response has amazed me. Not, "sorry, we didn't know," but "If our content can't be found then it does not matter and there is no point to providing this information to our users (or being in business on the web w/a B2B content site). It is both a benefit and a service to our B2B users to have relevant information be returned in their google, yahoo, etc searches. We would be providing a poor user experience if we ignored search engines since many users start their search in this fashion."

Worth noting that their site is a disaster of bad organization, big ads and little content. Worth noting that their site has no traffic as far as I can tell.

They wrote to me again today. I'm on their list, so are you and they're going to keep hammering away because, 'hey, it's just my job.'

Translation: it fits our business model to be ranked highly, so we'll go ahead and cheat to get there.

Welcome to Twitterworld

I found out yesterday that my friend Elizabeth Edwards might be sick again. In the short time I've been able to spend with her, she touched me with her kindness and insight. So, naturally, I was checking the web today to see what was up. Along with millions of other people, I care about her.

For an hour, hundreds of news stories stated (with authority) that John was going to leave the campaign because of Elizabeth's relapse. And then the campaign announced the real news. So in the next hour, one by one, all the media which minutes ago had been so certain of the facts turned around and printed new facts. And the thing is, it looks like someone in the Edwards camp changed their mind, when actually, there was exactly one announcement.

In the old asynchronous days, of course, we would have only heard the last story, the real one.

Same thing happens with rats at the KFC or with your brand. When the news cycle is reduced to seconds, rumours become facts even when they're not true.

Inventory and Risk

Google made some waves by expanding their PPA program. Here's the way I think about online ads:

  • PPV (pay per view). This is the traditional way ads are sold in other media. Mostly because it's the only choice. You charge for every thousand people who 'see' an ad, where see is a pretty vague term that means circulation or estimated eyeballs.
  • PPC (pay per click). This is one of the core elements of Google's success. The publisher charges not for views but for someone actually responding to the ad by clicking on it. (We helped create this notion in 1998 at Yoyodyne).
  • PPA (pay per action). This is the new new thing which is actually not so new. In this case, the marketer only pays when someone actually does something valuable, like apply for a mortgage or buy a book from Amazon.

PPA isn't new of course. Ever since Amazon has had an affiliate program there's been widespread PPA. Put an Amazon link on your site (there are plenty to the left if you want an example) and if the book gets sold, the site makes money.

There are two forces at work here: risk and inventory.

If you've got a ton of unsold inventory, you're willing to take more risk with your ads. Hey, if no one buys an ad, you've wasted that moment, wasted that impression. So you might as well take what you can get.

Google's network has a ton of inventory. Vast number of page views, perhaps in the bazillions every day. With that much supply, PPV (banner ads) won't work. I remember when banner ads cost $60 per thousand. Now they're often down to a penny per thousand. All because they don't work so well and because the supply is so high.

PPC was a brilliant compromise, because both sides take a risk. The publisher is risking saleable ad space on the hope that the ad will actually lead to a click (and then they get paid). The marketer is risking the fact that many clicks don't actually turn into something valuable, in which case they pay for clicks that don't pan out.

PPC rewards publishers that create content that attracts action-oriented readers. PPC rewards marketers that create ads that actually match the content on their landing pages, and rewards marketers that convert surfers with attractive offers of permission.

Of course, this sometimes leads to click fraud, where people click on ads with no intention of taking action. I think click fraud is overrated as a problem, certainly compared with circulation inflation at magazines or bored surfers or couch potatoes.

In a market filled with supply, though, it's easy for marketers to demand a better deal. So some buy PPA ads. Amazon, for example, has nearly a million affiliates. From a marketer's point of view, no need to be picky. If someone wants to sign up, let them. There will be no click fraud, of course, because you only pay if someone buys something.

Which leads to the biggest reason that this doesn't scale. There's a huge incentive for marketers to cheat. Marketers have an incentive to run PPA ads that don't work so well... unless they work great. For example, a car dealer should do a PPA ad that pays when a car is sold, not when someone calls the dealership. Why not?

There are very few sites built on Amazon affiliate revenue alone, mostly because the affiliate deals don't convert often enough to make them worth what's paid.

Over time, the interests of the publisher and the marketer diverge. And the user, the surfer, the person that all this is directed to, is the ultimate arbiter. If the ads are boring or dishonest or ineffective, we just ignore them. And then everyone loses.

I'm not 'against' PPA. Squidoo is filled with affiliate links, after all. I think, though, it's premature to expect that many ads are going to switch to this model. And I guarantee that the last publishers to switch will be the ones you most want...selected, focused, high-demand media that actually works.

One last thought: Gil is waiting for Google to go Buddhist and offer PPN: Pay per no-action. Breathe in, breathe out.

Definition: Mashup

The mainstream media doesn't understand what a Mashup is. You should. It's not a 'lift' or a 'copy' or even a parody. A mashup is a distinct way of spreading ideas.

When a DJ takes two records and melds and mixes them into something new, that's a mashup. When an Obama supporter takes a twenty year old commercial and splices it with some campaign footage, that's a mashup too. Online services can be mashups as well, like the Google search box on the bottom of this page.

Expect to see tens of thousands more, on every conceivable topic.

« February 2007 | Main | April 2007 »