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

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« April 2008 | Main | June 2008 »

We specialize in everything

If the world is really bigger, if you can find the best in the world to do what you want, no matter what it is you want, does that change things?

If I need an animator, I can find the world's best animator. If I need a bond to insure my movie, I can find the best broker at selling completion bonds. If I need SEO help, get me the world's best SEO person. If I need braces, I can find the best orthodontist in my area. Not the second-best or someone who will try really hard or someone who is pretty good at that and also good at other things. Sure, there are occasional tasks where a diagnostician with wide-ranging experience is important (but I'd argue that that's a specialty in and of itself).

When choice is limited, I want a generalist. When selection is difficult, a jack of all trades is just fine.

But whenever possible, please bring me a brilliant specialist.

If you're shaking your head in agreement with this obvious point, then the question is: tell me again why you're a generalist?

[Forgive me, dear reader, for not being clear enough in the post above. I got a lot of mail, much of it mentioning Leonardo, etc. Here's what I failed to say,

"It's okay to specialize in being a generalist, of course. By that, I mean that there are many problems (like the diagnostic one mentioned above), where someone who can see wide and doesn't have an allegiance to a particular solution is exactly the right person to call. I rely on generalists all the time, and so do you. My point is that you never call on these people when there's a better specialist available. And in the old days, a little town could only support one generalist, so it wasn't an issue. Today, especially in high-value situations, that's just not the case. So, yes, generalize. And specialize in it!"]

Brand magic

Torley points us to brand tags.

It's a simple game where you pick one-word associations to go with major brands. The result pages are actually pretty inane, but the magical way each and every one of these brands compels you to think is fascinating.

I saw the Harley logo and I immediately typed "macho". But it's just a motorcycle. A vehicle, no more macho than any other. Yet the word just popped into my head.

And the same thing happened for the next brand and the next one as well.

Superbrands have a mystical connection with people. Odds are, you can't own one, but there's no reason you can't build a micro one, a local one, a brand that's magical for a smaller group of people.

Working with Apple Tech Support

Sixteen tips for getting your Mac or iPhone fixed:

  1. The contact number is (800) 275 2273
  2. While you're on hold, go to Google and type: Troubleshoot Mac xxx, where xxx represents the error message you got or the sparsest description of what won't work.
  3. If those links don't help you, visit the Apple site and choose your product. Under each product is a discussion forum. Search for your problem.
  4. By now, someone has answered your call. Don't tell them your entire problem. Instead, politely identify yourself, give them the short version and then say, "would you please escalate this call to a yyy specialist?" where yyy is the type of problem you have: wireless or backup or imovie or whatever. Persist.
  5. When you get a specialist on the line, ask politely for her direct phone number in case you get disconnected. After you describe your problem, ask for a case number. If the person isn't being helpful, politely excuse yourself and start over with a new call.
  6. Apple gets lots and lots of calls. As a result, don't expect the person you're working with to immediately be willing to skip over all the troubleshooting steps you tried before you called. They have a protocol. It's easier to just take five minutes to follow that protocol.
  7. If the specialist you're working with is having trouble figuring out what to do next, politely say, "I hope you don't mind, but can you escalate this case to a specialist?" And then wait, patiently, until they do.
  8. If your product is less than thirty days old, and you've gone through the protocol with no success, say, "I'd like an RMA for this product so I can return it and start with one that works. It's under the return warranty, right?"
  9. If you found lots of examples of the same problem in Google, tell them. Point out that this "is not an isolated problem" and suggest that others have solved it by getting a new machine sent to them. Be ready with links, because the rep has Google too.
  10. Engaging in friendly banter doesn't just help you get what you want. It makes the call better for you too. These guys aren't your enemy. In fact, right now, they're the best friend you have in the whole world.
  11. This is the one I should have listed first: go to the Genius bar at your local store. The guys at the Genius bar are much more likely to just swap out your broken hardware and give you a new machine. It might seem time-consuming, but it's probably faster than waiting them out on the phone. Spending $99 on a One to One card is a brilliant investment.
  12. At least once a minute, say 'thank you.' If you thought about it, you'd realize that yes, you do mean it. They're being quiet and calm and trying to help.
  13. If you own a computer, back it up. If you don't, all bad things are your fault.
  14. I have no personal experience in begging or sobbing, but I'm told that in some cases, this is effective.
  15. If you use an email program, clean it out. Regularly. One friend of mine had 27,000 emails in her outbound mail folder, including some from 2002.
  16. Trust me, it doesn't matter how big the readership of your blog is, the folks on the phone are unlikely to care.

Your interaction is a marketing event. Apple is marketing to you. The rep is marketing to you (that's a feature, not a bug). And you're marketing yourself and the problem to them. Clarity and cooperation combined with determination and persistence appear to be the best combination.

What do you know?

Three years ago, I published this list, which was very much a riff, not a carefully planned manifesto. It has held up pretty well. Feel free to reprint or otherwise use, as long as you include a credit line. I've added a few at the bottom...

What Every Good Marketer Knows:

  • Anticipated, personal and relevant advertising always does better than unsolicited junk.
  • Making promises and keeping them is a great way to build a brand.
  • Your best customers are worth far more than your average customers.
  • Share of wallet is easier, more profitable and ultimately more effective a measure than share of market.
  • Marketing begins before the product is created.
  • Advertising is just a symptom, a tactic. Marketing is about far more than that.
  • Low price is a great way to sell a commodity. That’s not marketing, though, that’s efficiency.
  • Conversations among the members of your marketplace happen whether you like it or not. Good marketing encourages the right sort of conversations.
  • Products that are remarkable get talked about.
  • Marketing is the way your people answer the phone, the typesetting on your bills and your returns policy.
  • You can’t fool all the people, not even most of the time. And people, once unfooled, talk about the experience.
  • If you are marketing from a fairly static annual budget, you’re viewing marketing as an expense. Good marketers realize that it is an investment.
  • People don’t buy what they need. They buy what they want.
  • You’re not in charge. And your prospects don’t care about you.
  • What people want is the extra, the emotional bonus they get when they buy something they love.
  • Business to business marketing is just marketing to consumers who happen to have a corporation to pay for what they buy.
  • Traditional ways of interrupting consumers (TV ads, trade show booths, junk mail) are losing their cost-effectiveness. At the same time, new ways of spreading ideas (blogs, permission-based RSS information, consumer fan clubs) are quickly proving how well they work.
  • People all over the world, and of every income level, respond to marketing that promises and delivers basic human wants.
  • Good marketers tell a story.
  • People are selfish, lazy, uninformed and impatient. Start with that and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you find.
  • Marketing that works is marketing that people choose to notice.
  • Effective stories match the worldview of the people you are telling the story to.
  • Choose your customers. Fire the ones that hurt your ability to deliver the right story to the others.
  • A product for everyone rarely reaches much of anyone.
  • Living and breathing an authentic story is the best way to survive in an conversation-rich world.
  • Marketers are responsible for the side effects their products cause.
  • Reminding the consumer of a story they know and trust is a powerful shortcut.
  • Good marketers measure.
  • Marketing is not an emergency. It’s a planned, thoughtful exercise that started a long time ago and doesn’t end until you’re done.
  • One disappointed customer is worth ten delighted ones.
  • In the googleworld, the best in the world wins more often, and wins more.
  • Most marketers create good enough and then quit. Greatest beats good enough every time.
  • There are more rich people than ever before, and they demand to be treated differently.
  • Organizations that manage to deal directly with their end users have an asset for the future.
  • You can game the social media in the short run, but not for long.
  • You market when you hire and when you fire. You market when you call tech support and you market every time you send a memo.
  • Blogging makes you a better marketer because it teaches you humility in your writing.

Obviously, knowing what to do is very, very different than actually doing it.

The power of the interface

Here's what happens when you rearrange YouTube to make it work.

Architecture matters.

Marketing the charity auction

How much would you pay for a twenty dollar bill?

In tough times, many schools and non-profits rely on charity fundraisers, and a popular one is the auction. The method is simple: supporters donate things, and then they're auctioned off, with all proceeds going to charity.

If you have a vacation house, the thinking goes, the incremental cost of donating a week is low. And wow, I can buy a week at that house for way less than it's worth. Everyone wins.

If you have a friend who works on the Letterman show, you can get two VIP tickets for free and donate them and someone at the auction gets to go to the show for not so much money.

This bargain hunting is fine as far as it goes, but it never leads to a wildly successful auction, because the story that's told is too small.

If you're only willing to bid $19 to buy a $20 bill at this auction, you're not doing charity, you're bargain hunting. There's nothing wrong with bargain hunting, it's fun, but it's not philanthropy. I think bargain hunting for a good cause is just fine, but wouldn't it be great if the event could raise far more money and change the way people view the organization?

The Robin Hood Foundation raised more than 24 million dollars at their last auction, because people competed to overpay. And that's the secret. The story the charity must tell is: "don't pay $19 for this twenty dollar bill, don't even pay $30, we need you to pay $40!" The satisfaction of overpaying (whether you overpay anonymously or in public) is what they sell, not a bargain.

This is not the easy path. It is much easier to sell your public on bargains than it is to sell them on generosity. The good news is that once you get over the hump, it scales. Bargains scale downward... better bargains are lower-priced bargains, which means you scale to zero. Philanthropy scales upward... better overpaying is more overpaying. A public auction is always a public competition. The challenge is to create social approval for what would otherwise be bad auction skills! Enlist a few stooges in the audience in advance, then start by auctioning off that $20 bill. When it goes for $45 and the winner gets an ovation, you've set a tone.

The goal of a non-profit seeking money needs to be to create an environment in which the community congratulates itself on overpaying.

Breaking the glass

Theclock2 John sends us this astounding thought piece.

It's a clock, turned off, not ticking, showing no progress, encased in glass.

When you're ready to make the leap, to commit, to make something happen, you break the glass. The sculpture is ruined. All you have is shards of broken glass. And a working clock. It's alive and it's changing and moving forward.

Analogy, anyone?

Four more words

Connect like-minded people.

My previous post only captured one part of the equation... the work of the marketer marketing to (or at) the consumer. It leaves out the future, which involves finding and leading and empowering the tribe of people who surround your organization.

While the obvious successes are sites like Facebook or Flickr or Twitter, this idea of connection is far more pervasive than that. Starbucks connects people, and so does Apple. Accounting firms have the opportunity to create value by connecting their clients to each other, and so do trade shows.

So, I guess we’re up to eight words, or seven if you believe in hyphens.

The Media markets

The product they sell is drama.

When I went to business school, we spent an entire 90 minute class on how to read the Wall Street Journal. That's a rare treat... being taught how to understand and psyche out the media.

With the vast bulk of our news coming online now, it's worth taking a second to look at the way mainstream media markets drama. You know and I know that they're doing this, but maybe it'll strike a chord with someone...

Take a look at a screen shot from the front page of today:

Mediamarket I put a green checkbox next to every statement on the page that might be considered 'true' but could certainly be considered irrelevant, or at least unimportant compared to the actual 'news'.

The page would have been more accurate if it had said things like, "Obama gains more than 200,000 votes over Clinton" or "Obama campaign further extends delegate lead, picking up 12 more delegates" or even "Obama pummels Clinton in the bigger state."

That's not dramatic, though, and as William Randolph Hearst taught us a long time ago, the goal is to sell newspapers, not to report the news.

There isn't media bias in favor of Hillary (my friend Jeff is the first to point that out). Nor is there media bias in favor of floods. There's media bias in favor of drama.

Most of us are inclined to believe that government officials, doctors and the media are making an effort to tell us the truth. Actually, just like all marketers, they tell us a story.

All the News That Fits (do what you're great at)

The New York Times, like all newspapers, is in big trouble.

Unlike other papers, though, they've got a shot. And we can all learn a lesson about focusing on the great (by looking at what they should be doing, anyway).

All the News That's Fit to Print used to be the motto they lived by. Of course, now, all the news that fits = the web. Unlimited space and free newsprint means the web can actually hold all the news. "Fit" is a big question mark.

So, where can the Times excel?

I'd argue they have two opportunities:
1. If it's in the Times, it's true
2. If it's in the Times, it's important

I should clarify. By 'true', I mean vetted as well as can be vetted, I mean more true than other places. They can never reach this level of course, but they can try harder than most and they can be transparent and they can admit when they're wrong and correct it. Lots of noise online, not so much truth.

By 'important', I mean 'important because everyone else is reading the same thing.' So, for example, the NY Times bestseller list is important. A half page story about the last factory making washboards is important. A glowing, thoughtful review of an overlooked opera is important. It's important because the Times becomes one of the last cultural touchstones, the thing the other smart people read.

The mistake the Times is making, over and over and over again, is that few of the stories in the paper are edited with these wins in mind. I'm just not sure that anyone there has a list of what they're great at, or want to be great at.

Monday featured TWO stories about Barbara Walters and her new book. Why? We don't need the Times for 'truth' here, and while it may be important to Knopf and to Barbara, it's not really that important to us.

Sunday, my local version of the Times featured an in-depth restaurant review of the Olive Garden! And it was for a location 30 miles from my house (they're saving money by combining regional editions). Ouch.

If I were editing the Times, I'd look at every single editorial feature, every single article and ask if it met either of the two things the Times could stand for. If not, that piece should be gone, deleted, unassigned. No sports section, for example. If you can't be the best in the world, don't bother, because someone else is going to get my attention. The Times needs 50 more bestseller lists, 20 more trusted stories about real political fact and insight, ten more cultural touchstone features... and a lot less filler, a lot less copycat stuff and nothing, nothing about Barbara Walters.

[Not because I don't like Barbara Walters. Merely because a link to the other sites that can happily review and sell me her book is far more effective than wasting time and resources flogging a book that needs no flogging. Pick 20 books a day and point to them, don't write vapid features about three every week. The Times does better when they find something we don't know about and celebrate it instead.]

These choices represent the same quandary you face. Your product line, your choices, your services... if you obsess about doing the thing you are great at and let the mediocre stuff go, you'll do far better.

What are you great at? What if you did it exclusively?

« April 2008 | Main | June 2008 »