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

« April 2007 | Main | June 2007 »

One, a few, most or all

There are four kinds of marketing situations, and the approach to each is radically different. Yet most of the time, we lump them together as just plain 'marketing'.

If you are trying to sell a house or fill a job, you only need to persuade one person.

If you want to make your book sell a bunch of copies, your restaurant to be filled on Saturday night or your coaching practice to have a full schedule, you need to sell a few people.

On the other hand, viral bestsellers, killer websites and essential conferences hit their stride when most people in a marketplace have been converted. You can't get elected President (most years, anyway) without persuading most of the people who vote.

Lastly, when the market is defined right, there are situation in which you need to persuade all of the people involved. If you need 51 Senators to agree with you on a bill, or if you need the purchasing committee at a big company to buy your software, then you need a unanimous decision.

This four-way distinction is important for two reasons. First, because you often have a choice. You can choose which approach your venture will take on its way to accomplishing its goals. Gandhi didn't need most of the people to change India, he instead relied on a smaller few, but with more passion than most politicians are able to generate.

You could, for example, plan a business that works once almost everyone adopts it (like eBay) or you could alter the business so it works just fine if a much smaller universe of people embrace it (like threadless). Worth noting that neither business would work if just a few people showed up. 37Signals has done a great job of designing web products that only need to be sold to a few people, and then those people do the hard work of getting everyone in their organization to use them.

Here's a quick list of how the four differ:

ONE: You're a needle, the market is a haystack. Make your needle as sharp as you can, put it in as many haystacks as you can afford. Alternatively, you've already decided on your one (the date for the prom or the perfect job). In that case, throw the haystack out and engage in a custom, one-on-one patient effort to tell your story to the person who needs to hear it.

A FEW: Being exceptional matters most. Stand out, don't fit in. Shun the non-believers.

MOST: Amplify the excitement of the few and make it easy for them to spread the story to the caring majority.

ALL: Compromise. You need to be many things to many people, embraced by the passionate but not offensive to the masses. Sooner or later, the issue for the reluctant part of the buyer community is that it becomes more expensive/risky to stand in the way of the group than it is to go along.

Blogs, for now, are almost always about the few. Google and Starbucks and the iPod are exciting stories because they've moved from the few to the most. The most important industry trade shows make huge profits because they've transitioned to the all.

Choose wisely, and realize that as you succeed, the game will change.

Pundits are (nearly) always wrong

Here's why:

Because we measure the wrong thing.

Talk show bookers, business plan competitions, acquiring book editors, movie critics, tech entrepreneurs who run trade shows that try to predict the future, tech bloggers, marketing bloggers... when we're trying to predict whether a new technology or web site or book or song is going to hit, we're almost always wrong.

Take a look at some of the picks for past web2 shows, or see who got hyped on various morning TV programs or see which authors were turned down by five or ten or fifteen publishing houses... "surprise hits" they call them.

[Uncharacteristically, I'm leaving out the names of the clueless and the misinformed (other than me). I'm not sure why, I guess I just don't want to have a fight with people, who, unlike me, are unwilling to admit they're wrong all the time.]

The astonishing thing isn't that we're wrong so often (see below) but that given the amplifying power of our platforms, we're unable to yell loud enough to make our predictions self-fulfilling prophecies. In English: You'd think that being featured by a big publisher or at a big conference would be enough in and of itself to make something undeserving a hit. Alas, only Oprah can do that.

So, why are we wrong? Why does your boss/in-law/friend/VC/editor/pundit always get it wrong?

Because they measure 'presentation.' Not just the PPT presentation, but the way an idea feels. How does it present. Is it catchy? Clever? Familiar? We measure whether or not it agrees with our worldview and our sense of the way the world is.

The problem is that hits change worldviews. Hits change our senses. Hits appeal to people other than the gatekeepers and then the word spreads.

How? Through persistence and hard work and constant revision. By getting through the Dip.

If I have a skill in developing stuff, it's in ignoring these people. Purple Cow was turned down by my old publisher and a few others. Squidoo was dissed by some of the best in the business (the site is about to hit 8 mm monthly page views). The Dip was a hard sell to my agent and my publisher.

No one 'pre-predicted' the astonishing success of Flickr or Google or Twitter or Bill Clinton's first run for President. Sure, it was easy to connect the dots after the fact, but that doesn't count.

Of course, there are plenty of failures to go around (I know that I've got more than plenty). Just because everyone hates it doesn't mean it's good. Execution is everything. Execution and persistence and the ability to respond to the market far outweigh a pundit's gut instinct. But, the thing to remember is this: if everyone loves it, it is almost certain to have troubles.

In fact, my rule of thumb is this: if the right people like it, I'm not trying hard enough.


Maybe the reason it seems that price is all your customers care about is...

... that you haven't given them anything else to care about.

And your lucky number


Someone has created a business dynasty around machines that give you your weight (well, sort of, within a few pounds) and your lucky number. Questions:  Which Turnpike visitors use these machines? Which doctors recommend them? Is the number really lucky? 

Who should you hire?

Most fast-growing organizations are looking for people who can get stuff done.

There is a fundamental shift in rules from manual-based work (where you follow instructions and an increase in productivity means doing the steps faster) to project-based work (where the instructions are unknown, and visualizing outcomes and then getting things done is what counts.)

And yet, we're still trying to hire people who have shown an ability to follow instructions.

I'm almost done with my (sold out) book tour,  and the biggest pleasure of the project was working with people who totally understand what it is to get things done.

Derek in Ann Arbor, Rajesh, Edith and Deepika in Silicon Valley, Matt in Tempe and Phil in Salt Lake each led huge teams of people (with no infrastructure.) They invented, described, networked, wheedled and most of all, organized. They didn't do it because it was their job, and they didn't have organizational authority. They just did it.

That's who I would hire.

The netflixing of everything

Fedex plus smaller plus cheaper equals opportunity.

Consider Meeting Tomorrow. These guys will ship a projector, a sound system, a wireless microphone... whatever you need for a meeting... directly to your hotel or venue. You arrive, it's waiting for you. You drop it off at a Fedex box and move on.

This was inconceivable five years ago. The stuff was too big and too expensive and there was no easy way to interact with the user.

I'm betting that there are hundreds of applications of this idea, especially in the business-to-business area. Stuff that you need, reliably, but not often.

Day old sushi

Sometimes you can't make this stuff up.

As the photo below attests, a profit-minded entrepreneur is trying very hard to make ends meet. The problem with this strategy is obvious. It sends the anti-sushi message. Hey, we're not fresh. We don't even care so much about fresh.

If I ran a quickserv sushi place, I'd write the time the product was created on every single box and would offer a local shelter anything that was more than 55 minutes old. The money they make selling the old sushi can't possibly make up for the horror the full-price customers feel.


Transparency comes to cars

Rick points us to this article about a Saturn initiative. You'll be able to test drive the competition at the Saturn dealership.



Embedded If you look down the left hand column of this blog, you'll see some little blue arrows next to some of my books. (Here's a photo).

Click on any of the buttons and a window pops up, offering you all sort of things you can now do. Places to buy, places to post, ways to bookmark.

After exploring that, take a look at the bottom of each of my posts. There's a 'flare' (perhaps named after the buttons Jennifer Aniston wore in Office Space) that brings the functionality of services like Technorati into the blog at the same time it makes it easy to bring the pithiness of the blog out to Digg, etc. [Sometimes the flare magically disappears... hey, life is a beta. If you don't see it, try the next one down].

The sooner we view the web as a process, not a place, the quicker we will understand it. It's two flows. The flow of information and the flow of attention.

I'm just not that kind of person...

Craig writes in with a story about a Dyson vacuum:

I have a question for you about buying decisions.

A while back I upgraded my Dyson vacuum cleaner when I got a great deal on the latest model. I had been using my old one for about 5 years or so but it was still in perfect working order. I had even replaced a couple of attachments for it via the Dyson website.
I gave my old Dyson to a friend. She had never used a Dyson before and she loved it. So much so that the very next day her own vacuum cleaner was put outside ready for the refuge collection!

But here’s the thing: a few months later the Dyson I gave her stopped working (not sure why, that thing was indestructible) so she decided to buy a new vacuum. Even though the vacuum I gave her was the best she had ever used, she didn’t buy a Dyson.

I was amazed how someone could love a product so much but replace it with an inferior product. I don’t think it was about cost because I told her where she could get an excellent deal on a new Dyson.

This just doesn’t make sense to me so I thought I’d ask if you had any thoughts as to why this happens?

My take: Craig’s friend didn’t see herself as the kind of person who would buy a Dyson. Sure, she might use one, especially if it was free. But buying a weird, fancy-looking vacuum is an act of self-expression as much as it’s a way to clean your floors. And the act of buying one didn’t match the way his friend saw herself.

So many of the products and services we use are now about our identity. Many small businesses, for example, won’t hire a coach or a consultant because, “that’s not the kind of organization we are.” Wineries understand that the pricing of a bottle of wine is more important than its label or the wine inside. The price is the first thing that most people consider when they order or shop for wine. Not because of perceived value, but because of identity.


When there's a gap between someone doing her job and doing the right thing, then management has failed.

Plenty of customer service people would like to do the right thing. They'd like to fix the problem that's presented to them. But frustration hits when the policies and procedures and metrics they've been given to work with won't let them.

For the last two weeks, the audio version of The Dip has been for sale at the iTunes music store. And for many iPods, it doesn't work. Hundreds of people have written to me and let me know. These hundreds of people have written to Apple, too, and they've shared their notes with me.

In general, the responses from Apple that people are reporting are respectful and straightforward. But none of the responses have addressed the problem. Apple could easily take the product down. Or they could change the description in the store with a note that says, "sorry, but it doesn't work on some iPods, we're working on it", or they could email everyone who had bought one and let them know what the plans are. And, yes, best of all, they could fix it.

The amazing thing is that except for the last choice, each approach is free, quick and relatively easy. If the head of the iTunes store focused on this problem for ten seconds, it would go away. The challenge isn't a lack of tools or resources, it is a lack of alignment. For a service rep in this particular situation, "doing my job" means making the person go away, while "doing the right thing" means taking initiative and actually solving the problem. The customer service reps don't have access to the tools (or the authority) to do what the company would actually benefit the most from.

Getting your team in alignment (having their job match their tools match their mission) is perhaps the first job a marketer has to do.

I'm liveblogging this

Enter a new verb. Liveblogging.

When I was in college, WBCN in Boston tried an experiment. They sent DJs to report live from rock concerts. "We're here in the Gahden, listening to Bruce Springsteen..." The thing is, the promoters wouldn't let them play any of the performances on the radio. So all you heard was breathless commentary on what was happening on stage. "Oh, could it be? Yes, it is, YES YES Little Stevie is back on stage..." As you can imagine, the experiment didn't last long. The DJs had fun, but we were bored.

A few times over the last week, I've spoken at conferences where laptops were open and people were online. They were liveblogging, taking notes in real time and posting them online for all to see. At first, this sounds like a fantastic idea. Now, thousands of people can listen on what's happening in a smaller group.

On closer inspection, it doesn't work particularly well. I mean, not only was I there, but I was speaking, yet I can't make sense at all of the posts. That's because most people don't take notes to be read. They take notes to write them. The act of writing things down triggers different areas of our brain, it focuses attention, it makes it easier to remember things. You can read your blog notes later and say, "yeah, I remember that slide..." But for an outsider who's not there, the amount of information that's imparted is small indeed.

Compare these liveblog posts to posts written an hour later, ones that digest and reflect and chunk the information. These are deliberately designed to inform the reader, not to remind the writer.

I don't mean to pick on the medium. I think it's incredibly valuable--for the poster. We're finding a growing dichotomy now, between blogs that help the reader and blogs that helps the writer. And there's room for both.

Too late?

Here's today's entrepreneurial trivia question:

Even after Starbucks had five stores and more than 20 employees, which item was unavailable for purchase at their stores:
Hot Coffee
Frappucino® blended beverage

Actually, it's a trick question. The answer is 'all of the above.' It wasn't until several years after the company was up and running that they realized it would be a good idea to sell any beverages at all. All they sold was beans (but you could get a free taste of coffee if you asked nicely).

It might not be too late to fix your marketing/story/product mix.

Master of none

Paul sends us this classic example of committee thinking at work.We_specialize_in_everything


The Dip is now the fastest-selling book I've ever published. Amazon just lowered the price to $7.77 (at least for now). I appreciate the support. Thanks. (other versions and stores are here).

[More] or (Less)

Many people are arguing for a fundamental change in the way humans interact with the world. This isn't a post about whether or not we need smaller cars, local produce, smaller footprints and less consumption. It's a post about how deeply entrenched the desire for more is.

More has been around for thousands of years. Kings ate more than peasants. Winning armies had more weapons than losing ones. Elizabeth Taylor had more husbands than you.

Car dealers are temples of more. The local Ford dealership lists four different models... by decreasing horsepower. Car magazines feature Bugattis, not Priuses on the cover. Restaurants usually serve more food (and more calories) than a normal person could and should eat.

Is this some sort of character flaw? A defective meme in the system of mankind? Or is it an evil plot dreamed up by marketers?

There's no doubt that marketers amplify this desire, but I'm certain it's been around a lot longer than Jell-O.

One reason that the litter campaign of the 1960s worked so well is that 'not littering' didn't require doing less, it just required enough self control to hold on to your garbage for an hour or two. The achilles heel of the movement to limit carbon is the word 'limit.'

It's a campaign about less, not more. Even worse, there's no orthodoxy. There's argument about whether x or y is a better approach. Argument about how much is enough. As long as there's wiggle room, our desire for more will trump peer pressure to do less. "Fight global warming" is a fine slogan, except it's meaningless. That's like dieters everywhere shouting, "eat less" while they stand in line to get bleu cheese dressing from the salad bar.

As a marketer, my best advice is this: let's figure out how to turn this into a battle to do more, not less. Example one: require all new cars to have, right next to the speedometer, a mileage meter. And put the same number on an LCD display on the rear bumper. Once there's an arms race to see who can have the highest number, we're on the right track.

J.A.M. (Just another meeting)

It was so typical. Eight people, the regular bunch. New client kick-off, business as usual. And it showed.

You've done it before, and before that and before that. A dozen or a hundred or perhaps a thousand times before. The typical meeting, with everyone in their typical roles. Often, people even sit in the same spot.

Why are we surprised, then, when the outcome is usually the same as well?

Instead of approaching that moment as JAM, maybe there's a different way. Instead of focusing on how similar this time is to last time, instead of realizing that the similiarities demand similar approaches, maybe, just maybe, the team could focus on the differences. How is this opportunity different? What could we try that might have a radically better outcome?

Different isn't always better, but if all you want is the same, send a memo.

Blow up your home page

Do you really need a home page? Does the web respect it?

Human beings don't have home pages. People make judgments about you in a thousand different ways. By what they hear from others, by the way they experience you, and on and on. Companies may have a website, but they don't have a home page in terms of the way people experience them.

The problem with home page thinking is that it's a crutch. There's nothing wrong with an index, nothing wrong with a page for newbies, nothing wrong with a place that makes a first impression when you get the chance to control that encounter. But it's not your 'home'. It's not what the surfer/user wants, and when it doesn't match, they flee.

You don't need one home page. You need a hundred or a thousand. And they're all just as important.

Great moments in copywriting

"Claudio Giordano opened this highly lauded West Lincoln Road restaurant with one purpose in mind: to fuse his lifelong passion for fishing with reliability and quality, while making his new endeavor creative, affordable and friendly."

No one was offended, nothing was left out, nobody got hurt.

A knife usually cuts through the clutter better than a spoon.

When bloggers do stuff

In the old days, authors wrote. Other people did the marketing, and that was all there was to it.

Now, of course, most blogs are one-person operations. Which means that successful blogs are often run by restless, outward-bound people in a hurry. And a lot of bloggers either have day jobs or passionate sidelines. I think that's a good thing, even when they fail. It's frustrating for me to hear, "stick to your blogging," when people criticize a project created by a blogger--because it's part of the blogging, part of the learning, part of what's unfolding. I'd rather read a book that's informed by the activities (not the reporting) of the writer, and I'd rather read a blog that's based on the successes (and failures) of the blogger.

Which brings us to Hugh Macleod and his work for Microsoft. Some critics think he's selling out. I don't. I think he's having a huge impact on an organization--from the outside--at the same time that he demonstrates how just about any large organization can rethink its role in the world. And he's doing it in front of all of us, without a net.

Which brings us to Guy Kawasaki and his new project. I disliked this project from the very first moment I saw the beta. It's unlikely that it will fail. It will almost certainly generate a lot of traffic and a huge ROI for Guy. For the rest of us, it demonstrates just how easy it is to start a web company today, and just how important it is to create one that makes the world better, not just noisier.


So, how to overcome those that have a reflex to say no?

One way is to flood the zone with people who are likely to say yes.

Unless you're selling to just about everyone in the world, this is far easier than trying to persuade the nay sayers.

My school realizes this. They hold the spring concert the same night at the budget vote. 200 parents at a concert are only a few steps away from the voting booth in the gym. Starbucks realizes the same thing when they put their stores directly in the path of yuppies who like spending $4 for a cup of coffee. You don't find many Starbucks at bus stations.

Instead of focusing on arguing with people who say no, it might be easier to get near the people who like to say yes.

iTunes version

If you bought The Dip from iTunes and are having trouble making it play on your iPod, please drop me a line. Put "iPod" in the subject line. Apple is working to fix a glitch, and I'll email you when I'm alerted that it's been fixed. If you've been thinking of buying the audio version with the intent of playing it on your iPod, please wait a bit. Thanks. And I apologize for the hassle.

[UPDATE: this has been fixed, I'm told! If you didn't get a refund, please email Apple directly and insist. And judging from the mail I've gotten, it should be safe to try again. Thanks for your patience.]


They just announced the results from the vote on the school board budget in my little town.

As usual, several hundred people voted no. In fact, every year approximately the same number of people vote no. The budget passed, it almost always does, but the naysayers get their say.

Here's the interesting part. Also on the ballot was a New York State grant. This would permit the town to use State money (a grant, not a loan) to improve a building. More than 200 people voted no. Even the most selfish person who analyzed this measure would see that there was no downside, selfish or otherwise, to the town. Yet hundreds voted no.

When no becomes a habit, it's very hard to break.

The Troll Whisperer

This is a fantastic essay by Cory Doctorow. I wish it were three paragraphs longer, but it lays out a thoughtful analysis of the flame/idiot/troll phenomenon.

My take: you can't (and shouldn't) treat all customers the same. It's not clear to me that you can always change the attitude of an angry person. But you can avoid bringing down everyone around them.

How to be a great receptionist

Being a pretty good receptionist is easy. You're basically a low-tech security guard in nice clothes. Sit at the desk and make sure that visitors don't steal the furniture or go behind the magic door unescorted.

But what if you wanted to be a great receptionist?

I'd start with understanding that in addition to keeping unescorted guests away from the magic door, a receptionist can have a huge impact on the marketing of an organization. If someone is visiting your office, they've come for a reason. To sell something, to buy something, to interview or be interviewed. No matter what, there's some sort of negotiation involved. If the receptionist can change the mindset of the guest, good things happen (or, if it goes poorly, bad things).

Think the job acceptance rate goes up if the first impression is a memorable one? Think the tax auditor might be a little more friendly if her greeting was cheerful?

So, a great receptionist starts by acting like Vice President, Reception. I'd argue for a small budget to be spent on a bowl of M&Ms or the occasional Heath Bar for a grumpy visitor. If you wanted to be really amazing, how about baking a batch of cookies every few days? I'd ask the entire organization for updates as to who is coming in each day... "Welcome Mr. Mitchell. How was your flight in from Tucson?"

Is there a TV in reception? Why not hook up some old Three Stooges DVDs?

Why do I need to ask where to find the men's room? Perhaps you could have a little sign.

And in the downtime between visitors, what a great chance to surf the web for recent positive news about your company. You can print it out in a little binder that I can read while I'm waiting. Or consider the idea of creating a collage of local organizations your fellow employees have helped with their volunteer work.

One amazing receptionist I met specialized in giving sotto voce commentary on the person you were going to meet. She'd tell you inside dope that would make you feel prepared before you walked in. "Did you know that Don had a new grandchild enter the family last week? She's adorable. Her name is Betty."

In addition to greeting guests, internal marketing can be a focus as well. Every single employee who passes your desk on the way in can learn something about a fellow worker--if you're willing to spend the time to do it, they'll spend the time to read it.

Either that, or you could just work on being grumpy and barking, "name and ID please."

Trusted Ears

Do you ever ask for advice? Do you try out your new ideas on people before they are seen by the public? Probably.

My experience is that the world is divided into several groups when it comes to critiques:

One group likes everything. Tell someone an idea and she'll love it. This could be because she has such esteem for you, or it could be because it's easier than being critical.

Another group hates everything. These folks have discovered that if you are harshly critical early on in a process, it means you won't be responsible for failure of the idea later.

A third group eggs you on. These are the people who push you to make it sharper, more remarkable and, yes, riskier.

The last group pushes you to tone it down. To go ahead, but carefully. To round off the edges.

Yes, there are people who are able to jump from group to group, who have unpredictable insights. I know one person who is unpredictable... except for the fact that she is always 100% wrong about my ideas (if she likes it, we've got trouble).

The interesting thing is that you get a choice. The choice of who to ask.

So, who are you asking?

The Copyblogger Contest

If you've been following along, you can see that I'm more than a little obsessed with landing pages and the offers/links that get people there. We've finally decided to put some money where my mouth is.

Check out this contest. If nothing else, it'll get your boss to focus.

[PS while you're over there, this is a great riff].

No exceptions

Leaving aside the obvious contradiction of strategy (laptop users are more likely to buy books and less likely to steal stuff, so why not let them in the store and offer them a mesh bag to carry about), this sign highlights one of the silliest (and common) policy rules: no exceptions.

No exceptions? Really?

If I gave you a million dollars could you make an exception?

And on top of the unreality of the idea, consider the message it sends to the consumer. "We're so busy and so centralized and so hierarchical that you shouldn't even bother to discuss this with our staff." Or, the short version, "go away."

Why not try a sign that says,

To keep costs down, we require anyone carrying a bag bigger than this square to check it. Our check area is run by Ralph, who is kind and honest, but I hope you can understand that we can't be responsible for any items you might want to check. If this is a problem for you, consider asking for one of our mesh bags, which can safely tote your laptop or camera. Thanks for shopping at the Strand... we're really glad you're here.

If making a sign gets you all stressed out, let someone else do it for you.

Learning from bananas

It turns out that it's a lot easier to peel a banana if you start from the 'wrong' end.

You don't even have to use your teeth.

Here's the thing: I know this. I've tried it. It's true.

I still peel a banana the hard way. It feels like the right thing to do.

Selling change is much harder than you think.

The Dip is now on iTunes

Go to the iTunes store, hit audiobooks. $7.95 for the unabridged edition. Thanks for listening. (Here's the link. Thanks, Eric.)

[I'm told that for some reason I don't understand, this doesn't run on some older versions of the iPod. If you're in that situation, please don't buy from the iTunes store until they've fixed the problem. In the meantime, the CD is at B&N for $5. I apologize for the hassle.]

How to misuse Google Analytics

You may very well already have Google Analytics installed. It's free, it's accurate and it's cool. Google lets anyone with a website measure their traffic and dozens of other metrics. The entire dashboard is focused on how many people come to your site, how many pages they view when they get there and how long they stay.

Given our desire to be popular combined with Google's desire to give users what they want, it's not surprising that traffic is the key driver of the program.

But traffic is a red herring. At best, it's distracting, a stand-in for something more useful. At worst, though, it's dangerous, because the quest for traffic causes you to make bad decisions.

Why do you have a site? What's your goal? Is it to sell something? To receive email? To spread an idea? Whatever it is, you can probably measure it. And measure it you should. Every other piece of Analytics data is trivial compared to that one number.

Short version: if you don't understand how to do goal tracking and funnel analysis, don't use Analytics until you do.

Google offers Analytics for a reason. They're not being selfless... they understand that efficient websites are more likely to buy traffic, because those sites can more easily convert traffic into revenue. The purpose of the program, then, isn't to stroke your ego (or make you feel inadequate). Instead, it's a tool to help you redesign your site every single day to make your ultimate efficiency go up.

Impossible markets

Kevin points us to the broken ipod store.

Our life has become a Saturday Night Live sketch. The question is this: now that you can connect anyone, who will you connect?

Absentee Ballots

Very few people vote by absentee ballot (though the number goes up every year). This is interesting because it's usually easier, more convenient and more certain. It's free and it works. If you're going to vote, why wait until the last minute?

Because, I think, people like the idea of COD. They like the certainty of getting something right now in exchange for their effort. They want to know that nothing in the world changed between the day they would have had to send in their ballot and the day of the election.

This leads to two opportunities for most marketers. The first is that you could slice off the portion of the market that likes to order in advance (in a market where that's not really available). So you could sell your product or service long ahead of time and offer a discount or certainty that appeals to this group. Or, you could do the opposite. You could find a product (like Girl Scout Cookies) that are only offered ahead of time and figure out how to sell them in a retail fashion, like at the reception desk at work. Buy a bunch on spec and sell em when they come in.

Which leads, in a surprisingly untortured way, to pub day for my new book, The Dip. For those that didn't pre-order (and the reasons are obvious--what if you forgot how to read between then and now?), here are some useful links. It's out now and you can get it the moment you pay for it:

At Barnes & Noble (less than $10 for members).

The $5 abridged CD audio edition (exclusive to BN).

At Amazon.

And the brand-new free PDF manifesto, with links to 8CR. Feel free to share.

When in doubt, you'll find more info here and here.


Chris points out this article, all about a woman who sells tumbleweed online.

She's grossing more than $40,000 a year, almost entirely to organic search engine traffic.

I would imagine that the slow shipping option would be pretty cheap, as long as you live downwind from her.

The New York Times Effect

Last Wednesday, the Times ran an article (okay, it was more of a puff piece) about a new gelato shop in New York. (It hadn't even opened yet). This little shop, called Grom, was the first US outpost of a successful chain in Italy.

I took a few friends on Saturday night, which was opening day. There were more than 50 people waiting in line on the sidewalk. It had been that way all day. While we were waiting, they completely ran out of product. All gone.

Gluttons for punishment and always eager to do research for my valued readers, we went back Sunday afternoon. Another 40 people in line.

Is Grom a purple cow? Or was it a combination of perfect weather, the perfect street, the perfect time of day and the best buzz rollout ever? If they're busy in February, it means they've got more than just buzz.

Which brings us to the Fugees, a refugee soccer team in Georgia. These are kids who were lucky enough to find a wonderful coach... it's a great story. The team got a write up in the Times a few months ago. Which led to a book deal, and a movie deal and a guarantee of more than $2,000,000 for the movie alone. That'll put a lot of kids through college.

There's no denying th power of this effect. The real question is this: can you count on it? Plan on it? Scale it?

The answer is no. It's a little like planning your retirement by hoping to win the lottery. Nice work if you can get it.

"May I help you?"

... is almost a useless thing to say.

If you want to end a conversation with a teenager, just ask, "How was school today?"

If you want to end a conversation with a customer, just ask if you can help. Instead, ask, "can I get you a hot drink?" or "what's the worst thing about your insurance company?" or "one slice or two?"

Longer and shorter

Content is getting shorter. Much shorter. Call it snack culture if you want. (Josh sends us this one. Of course it's fake.)

At the same time, advertisers are tempted to get shorter as well. To run shorter pre-rolls and shorter ads and pay to get their jelly-bean-sized logos in the corner of the screen.

I think the answer is to do the opposite. To make loooonger ads (put em on YouTube, they're free).

I heard an argument about the Presidential debate from last week. 90 minutes for ten people. Impossible!

Why not start the Debate Channel? 20 hours a week of live debate available online. Get a cable network to run three or four hours of highlights every week as an inducement to the candidates, but it will really be about the Net. If a candidate doesn't show up, the others get more time to talk. Use a chess clock to be sure no one bullies the conversation.

A huge portion of our lives (as marketers, as consumers, as voters, as citizens) has been dominated by the fact that there were three or twenty TV networks. That this was a scarce resource. It's not. Not any more. So, if there's unlimited real estate, what are we going to build?

[it seems from the trackbacks that I wasn't as clear as I could be, so here goes: the reason you wanted shorter commercials is that they were cheaper to run and you had a shot at stealing attention. But now, you can't steal attention and airtime is free (online). So, since the only people who are going to watch your commercial are the people who WANT to watch it, might as well give them something at least as long as they want to watch...]

More perfect

Most people in the US can't cook. So you would think that reaching out to the masses with entry-level cooking instruction would be a smart business move.

In fact, as the Food Network and cookbook publishers have demonstrated over and over again, you're way better off helping the perfect improve. You'll also sell a lot more management consulting to well run companies, high end stereos to people with good stereos and yes, church services to the already well behaved.

Last opportunity for Dip public speaking tour

We begin to close the reservations for my US speaking gigs this week. Every attendee gets 5 free copies of my new hardcover and the ticket price is $50. I'll be speaking about my new book for about 40 minutes and then taking questions and having a discussion with the audience for up to an hour or so.

The cities: Philly, Tempe, Salt Lake, Silicon Valley, New York and Chicago. The details are right here. I'm trying to be able to offer seats at the door, but it's logistically difficult, so I'm hoping that if you are planning to come, you won't hesitate. See you there.

The magic of auctions

In many auctions, the most irrational person wins.

Here's the proof: eBay offers a service where you can enter your maximum bid. Say you're bidding on a signed Derek Jeter baseball bat. You decide that the most you'd ever be willing to pay for this bat, under any circumstances, is $99. Type it in.

The auction may be at only $15, and eBay will automatically bid $16 for you. If someone else outbids you, eBay keeps increasing your bid automatically, but never exceeds your maximum.

A rational purchaser sees this as a no-lose proposition. If no one else bids more than $80, you get it for much less than you were prepared to pay. If someone else is willing to bid $100, you lose, but that's okay, because you determined ahead of time that it was only worth $99. If it goes for a hundred bucks, no big deal... it's like seeing a diamond ring for a million dollars. You'd like it but you're not willing to pay for it.

The price someone in Texas is willing to pay shouldn't have anything to do with what you think something is worth, should it?

The thing is, very few people who win auctions on eBay use this feature. It's human nature to want to keep what you've got, to want to avoid losing. Even a ten-year-old gets incensed when he discovers he's been outbid.

That's why so many auctions are active at the last minute. Auctions don't work in a rational way.

When you bid $16 for that bat on the first day, you feel terrific. I mean, you just bough a $99 bat for $16.

Of course, you're only the high bidder for a day or so. Then it's not your bat anymore! Someone else has your bat. So you bid $4 more. It's okay, you tell yourself, because, hey, you only spent $4 to get your bat back.

And this keeps going and going until you've spent $200.

A friend of mine spent almost a thousand dollars on a piece of furniture worth $20 using this tortured logic. Human beings are quite willing to repeatedly spend small amounts of money to avoid losing something that they think already belongs to them.

Last thought: the only thing worse than losing a big-time auction is winning one. If you win, you feel like a chump because everyone else in the world dropped out before you. Which is why, if you ever sell something big at auction, you need to bend over backwards to pleasantly surprise the purchaser. It's the only way to overcome auction-buyer's remorse.

Bonus lesson: If you can sell a trial version of the product or service you offer for a small amount of money, do it. (Not 'free', though, cause that'll ruin it). Once someone tries the trial--assuming they like it--then future purchases are easier to justify, because all they're doing is paying a bit extra to keep the item from disappearing...

The essence of Web 2.0

Everything you need to know is right here in this little snippet from a lens I found today:


Powerpoint: it's everywhere

Chris sends us a Powerpoint made by his daughter. (Download everywhere.ppt)

Thinking about Yahoo and Microsoft

So, the Net is abuzz with news that after years of flirting, Microsoft is serious about buying Yahoo. Most of the pundits are busy talking about strategic fit or Google or overlaps or asset valuation.

The real point, I think, is people.

The best things to ever come out of Yahoo, as far as I'm concerned, have been the work of individuals. Not of some hyperbolic purple and yellow machine, but from people, strong-willed individuals willing to buck the bureaucracy. And all the worst stuff the company has done has come out of committees. If Microsoft buys Yahoo, a huge (huge) number of talented people will be even richer than before and will almost certainly walk away.

What we haven't figured out how to predict yet is which people will perform breakthroughs, which people are the ones that will change everything. What we do know for sure is that some organizations are more hospitable to that sort of behavior than others. Microsoft has gotten good at developing pockets of this sort of innovation. The challenge of an acquisition is going to be: Can the combined company make it a lot more likely that mavericks actually bring great stuff to market?

How to write for a billionaire

“I’m sometimes frustrated by the long stories,” Rupert Murdoch says about the Wall Street Journal.

Reaching the unreachable

Marketing, I think, can be divided into two eras.

The first, the biggest, the baddest and the most impressive was the era in which marketers were able to reach the unreachable. Ads could be used to interrupt people who weren't intending to hear from you. PR could be used to get a story to show up on Oprah or in the paper, reaching people who weren't seeking you out.

Sure, there were exceptions to this model (the Yellow Pages and the classifieds, for example), but generally speaking, the biggest wins for a marketer happened in this arena.

We're watching it die.

The latest is the hand-wringing about the loss of the book review sections from major newspapers. Book publicists love these, because it's a way of putting your book in front of people who weren't looking for it. Oprah is a superstar because she has the power (the right? the expectation?) of regularly putting new ideas in front of people who weren't looking for that particular thing.

Super Bowl ads? Another example of spending big money to reach the unreachable. This is almost irresistible to marketers.

Notice the almost.

In the last few years, this model is being replaced. Call it permission if you want, or turning the world into the Yellow Pages. The web is astonishingly bad at reaching the unreachable. Years ago, the home page banner at Yahoo was the hottest property on the web. That's because lazy marketers could buy it and reach everyone.

Thanks to the Long Tail and to competition and to a billion websites and to busy schedules and selfish consumers, the unreachable are now truly unreachable.

If I want a book review, I'll go read one. If I want to learn about turntables, I'll go do that. Mass is still seductive, but mass is now so expensive, marketers are balking at buying it (notice how thin Time Magazine is these days? Nothing compared to Gourmet.)

And yet. And yet marketers still start every meeting and every memo with ideas about how to reach the unreachable. It's not in our nature to do what actually works: start making products, services and stories that appeal to the reachable. Then do your best to build that group ever larger. Not by yelling at them, but by serving them.

Where are they now? Post-bubble treasure hunt


Have you seen these people? Are you these people?

A few months ago, I showed my friend Dave a poster I had in my basement. I thought it was astonishing that so many of the people that were at the top of their game in 2000 appeared to have disappeared.

Well, Dave ran with the idea and came up with an entire site devoted to the poster, the Dip and the hunt for the missing people.

He asked me for some advice, but it's his gig. I hope you enjoy it. Get your friends to help and let's see if we can figure the whole thing out.

Where's the bluetooth microphone? And an archive tool?

Why doesn't someone make a wireless bluetooth lavaliere microphone? It would be perfect for Skype calls, and also make it easy to give a speech. The bluetooth would magically hook up to your laptop, the laptop could jack out to the speakers. If it exists, I can't find it.

While we're at it, I really need a TypePad plug in that would highlight relevant archival posts automatically. If you look to the left, there, in little teeny tiny print you'll find all the archives for the last several years worth of posts on this blog. But most of you will never read any of them, even though a few are sort of good. One or two are even great posts. So, without completely interrupting the discussion with extraneous links, how do I point deep into the archives?

Do business books work?

Every year, more than a thousand new 'business' books get published in the US. Not textbooks or manuals, but general interest books about how to do business better.

Some sell a few hundred copies. Some sell a few hundred thousand. One or two might sell a million. Out of a potential audience of 30 or 40 million white collar workers in the US.

Do they work or are they an utter waste of time?

I'll admit to being biased (wow), but my mail is an interesting barometer. Here's a self-selected group of people, a fairly large one, fortunately, that takes the time to write in and tell me what helped and how. Not only do my books seem to help, but the general consensus from this group is that many different books from many different authors help. There are plenty of clunkers, lots of dramatically overwritten brochures masquerading as books. But mixed in with the drek are books that change everything.

If we're going to be honest about it, we should agree that the best business books are either useless (in which case rational business people should avoid them) or they're useful.

So here's my real question:

If you went to a doctor who told you that she hadn't read a scholarly article or taken any training since med school, would you stick around? What about a lawyer who doesn't read law journals or a dentist who never bothered to read up on the newest case studies?

Never mind the professions. What about the machine shop down the street? Think the $18 an hour machine operator is supposed to read the manual that came with the new machine? Who cares if he doesn't like to read?

Why does our bizarre national fear of reading have anything to do with this? We read stuff all the time (email, stop signs, the comics) but for some reason, people think it's fine to draw the line at books. (Typical annual per capita purchase rate for hardcover books in the US: one).

True story: I was doing a speech for a bunch of twenty-something campus reps for a clothing company. One young lady raised her hand. She pointed to Purple Cow (about 160 pages long) and said, "If we only have time to read twenty pages, which twenty pages should we read?"

Fortune 1,000 companies have literally hundreds (or thousands) of salespeople. Why aren't each of these salespeople required to read the latest sales book from Jeffrey Gitomer? Compared to the cost of training, it's almost free. Compared to the cost of not doing anything, it's a bargain.

Can you imagine web designers who proudly proclaim that they never read up on Ruby on Rails or metatags? So how come so many marketers are comfortable announcing that they've never read anything by Guy?

Now, repeat the entire post substituting 'business blog' for 'business book'.

« April 2007 | Main | June 2007 »