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

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all.marketers.tell.stories

All Marketers Tell Stories

Seth's most important book about the art of marketing

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Free Prize Inside

The practical sequel to Purple Cow

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Linchpin

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

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Meatball Sundae

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

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Permission Marketing

The classic Named "Best Business Book" by Fortune.

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Poke The Box

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

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Purple Cow

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

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Small is the New Big

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

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survival.is.not.enough

Survival is Not Enough

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

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The Big Moo

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

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The Big Red Fez

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

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The Dip

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

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The Icarus Deception

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

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Tribes

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

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Unleashing the Ideavirus

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

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V Is For Vulnerable

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

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we.are.all.weird

We Are All Weird

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

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whatcha.gonna.do.with.that.duck

Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?

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

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THE DIP BLOG by Seth Godin




All Marketers Are Liars Blog




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« April 2008 | Main | June 2008 »

Double, double

I'm standing in line in a strange town, waiting to buy a cup of redbush/honeybush/rooibos tea, the tea so good it needs three names.

There's an angry woman at the front of the line. "Double, double," she says.

The barrista stares blankly. "How can I help you?"

"Double, double!!"

"I'm sorry, do you want a coffee?"

"DOUBLE, DOUBLE!" (At this point, it occurs to me that this might be local jargon for 'double cream, double sugar in a standard coffee').

Sometimes, we get hung up on catch phrases and jargon that work great when everyone understands what we mean, but fail to bring understanding to outsiders. Yelling louder isn't always the answer. Changing your words might work better.

[Graham and others have pointed out that every self-respecting Canadian knows that Tim Horton's coffee chain not only sells the double double but promotes it heavily. So the clueless server was truly clueless. My point stands... when someone doesn't understand what you're saying, saying it LOUDER doesn't usually work.]

Never's not such a long time

"I'll never buy from you again."
"I'll never vote for that candidate if my candidate loses."
"I'll never invest in that stock."

Never seems like a really long time, doesn't it? Practically forever.

Here's the thing. People who say 'never' actually mean, "until my situation or the story changes materially." Making bad decisions in the now to honor absolute statements in the past isn't particularly sustainable. Consumers, short-sighted as they are sometimes, are able to realize this pretty quickly.

In fact, the only thing shorter than 'never' is 'always.'

How to read a business book

I like reading magic books.

I don’t do magic. Not often (and not well). But reading the books is fun. It’s a vicarious thing, imagining how a trick might work, visualizing the effect and then smiling at how the technique is done. One after another, it’s a pleasant adventure.

A lot of people read business books in just the same way. They cruise through the case studies or the insights or examples and imagine what it would be like to be that brilliant entrepreneur or that successful CEO or that great sales rep. A pleasant adventure.

There’s a huge gap between most how-to books (cookbooks, gardening, magic, etc.) and business books, though. The gap is motivation. Gardening books don’t push you to actually do something. Cookbooks don’t spend a lot of time trying to sell you on why making a roast chicken isn’t as risky as you might think.

The stakes are a lot higher when it comes to business.

Wreck a roast chicken and it’s $12 down the drain. Wreck a product launch and there goes your career...

I’m passionate about writing business books precisely for this reason. There are more business books sold than most other non-fiction categories for the same reason. High stakes, high rewards.

The fascinating thing is this: I spend 95% of my time persuading people to take action and just 5% of the time on the recipes.

The recipe that makes up just about any business book can be condensed to just two or three pages. The rest is the sell. The proof. The persuasion.

Which leads to your role as the reader. How to read a business book... it’s not as obvious as it seems.

  • Bullet points are not the point.

If you’re reading for the recipe, and just the recipe, you can get through a business book in just a few minutes. But most people who do that get very little out of the experience. Take a look at the widely divergent reviews for The Dip. The people who ‘got it’ understood that it was a book about getting you to change your perspective and thus your behavior. Those that didn’t were looking for bullet points. They wasted their money.

Computer books, of course, are nothing but bullet points. Programmers get amazing value because for $30 they are presented with everything they need to program a certain tool. Yet most programmers are not world class, precisely because the bullet points aren’t enough to get them to see things the way the author does, and not enough to get them motivated enough to actually program great code.

So, how to read a business book:

1. Decide, before you start, that you’re going to change three things about what you do all day at work. Then, as you’re reading, find the three things and do it. The goal of the reading, then, isn’t to persuade you to change, it’s to help you choose what to change.

2. If you’re going to invest a valuable asset (like time), go ahead and make it productive. Use a postit or two, or some index cards or a highlighter. Not to write down stuff so you can forget it later, but to create marching orders. It’s simple: if three weeks go by and you haven’t taken action on what you’ve written down, you wasted your time.

3. It’s not about you, it’s about the next person. The single best use of a business book is to help someone else. Sharing what you read, handing the book to a person who needs it... pushing those around you to get in sync and to take action--that’s the main reason it’s a book, not a video or a seminar. A book is a souvenir and a container and a motivator and an easily leveraged tool. Hoarding books makes them worth less, not more.

Effective managers hand books to their team. Not so they can be reminded of high school, but so that next week she can say to them, "are we there yet?"

Competition

A few readers have pinged me, asking how I can post to other blogs that write stuff similar to mine. "Aren't you promoting the competition?"

Two part answer. First, I don't think most authors have competition (except television). The more you read, the better we do. That's why bookstores are great places to sell books... even though all the competition is right there.

More relevant to you, the web works when you link out. Hoarding attention (like CNET did for a long time and about.com does like crazy) is a no-win strategy. Shared attention doesn't dissipate, it grows.

Here's some more competition to contemplate:

Bill Taylor on Zappos' amazing buyout offer.

Kevin Kelly on FAQs and NAQs.

Andrew Chen on Metcalfe's Law.

Jeff Widman on wallable.

and, competing with myself, a long Q&A session I did at the Chronicle of Philanthropy today.

Proximity to pain

The closer you are to the point of need, the more you can charge.

Pizza at the airport costs five times more than pizza on the way to the airport.

Tax audit services in the middle of an SEC investigation cost triple what they cost before one.

Scalped tickets cost more than ones bought in advance, by mail.

Emergency towing in a strange town costs more too.

The single easiest way to increase your fees is to get closer to the pain. It's interesting to note that no large-scale advertising ventures are closer to the pain than the Yellow Pages or Google. Both of which are insanely successful.

The new standard for meetings and conferences

If oil is $130 a barrel and if security adds two or three hours to a trip and if people are doing more and more business with those far afield...

and if we need to bring together more people from more places when we get together...

and if the alternatives, like video conferencing or threaded online conversations continue to get better and better, then...

I think the standard for a great meeting or a terrific conference has changed.

In other words, "I flew all the way here for this?" is going to be far more common than it used to be.

If you think a great conference is one where the presenters read a script while showing the audience bullet points, you're wrong. Or if you leave little time for attendees to engage with others, or worse, if you don't provide the levers to make it more likely that others will engage with each other, you're wrong as well.

Here's what someone expects if they come to see you on an in-person sales call: that you'll be prepared, focused, enthusiastic and willing to engage honestly about the next steps. If you can't do that, don't have the meeting.

Here's what a speaker owes an audience that travels to engage in person: more than they could get by just reading the transcript.

And here's what a conference organizer owes the attendees: surprise, juxtaposition, drama, engagement, souvenirs and just possibly, excitement.

I'm on a roll here, so let me add one more new standard:

If you're a knowledge worker, your boss shouldn't make you come to the (expensive) office every day unless there's something there that makes it worth your trip. She needs to provide you with resources or interactions or energy you can't find at home or at Starbucks. And if she does invite you in, don't bother showing up if you're just going to sit quietly.

I've worked in three companies that had lots of people and lots of cubes, and I spent the entire day walking around. I figured that was my job. The days where I sat down and did what looked like work were my least effective days. It's hard for me to see why you'd bother having someone come all the way to an office just to sit in a cube and type.

The new rule seems to be that if you're going to spend the time and the money to see someone face to face, be in their face. Interact or stay home!

Great post on the wienie

From Mark.

Why word of mouth doesn't happen

Sometimes, what you do is done as well as it can be done. It's a service that people truly love, or a product they can't live without. You're doing everything right, but it's not remarkable, at least not in the sense of "worth making a remark about."

What's up with that?

Here's a smörgåsbord of reasons:

  1. It's embarrassing to talk about. That's why VD screening, no matter how well done, rarely turns into a viral [ahem] success.
  2. There's no easy way to bring it up. This is similar to number 1, but involves opportunity. It's easy to bring up, "hey, where'd you get that ring tone?" because the ring tone just interrupted everyone. It's a lot harder to bring up the fact that you just got a massage.
  3. It might not feel cutting edge enough for your crowd. So, it's not the thing that's embarrassing, it's the fact they you just found out about it. Don't bring up your brand new Tivo with your friends from MIT. They'll sneer at you.
  4. On a related front, it might feel too popular to profitably sneeze about. Sometimes bloggers hesitate to post on a popular source or topic because they worry they'll seem lazy.
  5. You might like the exclusivity. If you have no trouble getting into a great restaurant or a wonderful club, perhaps you won't tell the masses because you're selfish...
  6. You might want to keep worlds from colliding. Some kids, for example, like the idea of being the only kid from their school at the summer camp they go to. They get to have two personalities, be two people, keep things separate.
  7. You might feel manipulated. Plenty of hip kids were happy to talk about Converse, but once big, bad Nike got involved, it felt different. Almost like they were being used.
  8. You might worry about your taste. Recommending a wine really strongly takes guts, because maybe, just maybe, your friends will hate the wine and think you tasteless.
  9. There are probably ten other big reasons, but they all lead to the same conclusions:

First, understand that people talk about you (or not talk about you) because of how it makes them feel, not how it makes you feel.

Second, if you're going to build a business around word of mouth, better not have these things working against you.

Third, if you do, it may be a smart strategy to work directly to overcome them. That probably means changing the fundamental DNA of your experience and the story you tell to your users. "If you like us, tell your friends," might feel like a fine start, but it's certainly not going to get you there.

What will change the game is actually changing the game. Changing the experience of talking about you so fundamentally that people will choose to do it.

Packaging for retail

Item 1: My Logitech cordless remote (which I like a lot) came in plastic, non-recyclable packaging that weighed twice as much as the remote itself.* The plastic was so well sealed and so thick that I actually broke a kitchen knife trying to open it. (*this is not hyperbole. I weighed it).

This is expensive, time-consuming and positions the product as extremely ungreen.

This packaging is the result of a paranoid retail buyer (the person who orders in bulk for the store, not the buyer at retail) demanding pilfer-proof packaging combined with a lazy brand manager choosing a lousy solution to the challenge presented by getting it into a retailer. "Make it pilfer-proof or we won't carry it," he says. The brand manager doesn't want to take a risk, so she packages it the way they packaged it when the device cost $1,000. Impregnable.

When you buy it from Amazon, of course, a cardboard sleeve would be sufficient. The manufacturer, though, only wants to have one sku, so Amazon sells the wasteful one as well.

So, why not compromise and shrink wrap it to a cardboard backad? A simple piece of cardboard, 8 x 10, impossible to fit under your jacket, much lighter, easy to recycle, cheaper and easier to ship.

Item 2: Those stickers on digital cameras that say things like "8 megapixels". Why is there a sticker on the camera that you don't even see until you've already purchased it?

Because one out of 100 boxes are opened by the store to put on display. By stickering ALL the cameras, they can be sure to get that sticker on the one that gets in the case... I am just fascinated by this. It seems so clever. The mystery is why the digital photos that they provide to Amazon et. al. don't have the stickers affixed.

Lessons: Package your stuff so that it works at retail. Put stickers on things that are going to get unboxed. Create sample kits. Consider offering a second package to Amazon. Think about cutting down weight and customer angst by making pilfer-proof packaging that is lighter, easier to open and recyclable. You save money and you sell more stuff. Oh, and don't ship stuff with styrofoam peanuts. We can do better.

Lenore Godin's son

[Intentionally posted on a day that's not Mother's Day].

My mom always disliked Mother's Day. She had a few good reasons.

First, she pointed out that anytime you do something because you're supposed to, or because everyone else is doing it, it's not worth as much. Flowers the week before or a nice poem the day after were priceless compared to the trudge to the restaurant on the appointed day.

I think this is true of all marketing. Nice words to a customer the day they say they're quitting, or to an employee during an annual review aren't worth much at all, imho.

Second, she didn't understand why it was necessary to commercialize something that worked even better when it was free. Just because you can market something for a profit doesn't mean you should.

As for me, I'm amazed at all the folks who would talk about the lessons they learned from their mom and would act that way, at least for a few hours... but then would spend the rest of the year as if they'd been raised by wolves.

At the CMA conference yesterday, someone asked me about marketing ethics. I said that marketers have to act as if their mom is watching... because even if she isn't, someone else is.

Every day (except for maybe Mother's Day), I try to act like my mom's son. I'm not as good at it as I'd like to be, but it's worth the effort. I miss you, mom.

« April 2008 | Main | June 2008 »