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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

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

free.prize.inside

Free Prize Inside

The practical sequel to Purple Cow

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linchpin

Linchpin

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

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meatball.sundae

Meatball Sundae

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

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permission.marketing

Permission Marketing

The classic Named "Best Business Book" by Fortune.

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poke.the.box

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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IN STORES:

purple.cow

Purple Cow

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

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small.is.the.new.big

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

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

The Big Red Fez

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

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the.dip

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

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

Tribes

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

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unleashing.the.ideavirus

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

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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« August 2008 | Main | October 2008 »

Firefox is missing the point

I'm a devoted FF user, and have been forever.

But the response to Chrome shouldn't be to launch new features.

Here's the problem/challenge: when your friends switch to Firefox, your life doesn't get better.

And the key to growing any piece of software (or just about any product or service, actually) is the opposite. People will recommend something if adoption improves their lives.

Fax machines? Life is better for me if you have one.

Fashion? Life is better for me if I'm not the only one wearing this.

Religious sect? Life is better for me if I'm not the only one in the building.

So, Firefox needs to add functionality that makes the surfing experience better for all users when more users use Firefox.

There are many ways to do this, and you can invent more than I ever could. Systems that allow for rating pages, or grouping them, or communicating (but only with FF users). [worth clarifying: I'm not saying that FF should arbitrarily exclude outsiders from a common form of online communication. I'm saying that FF as a tool can create new forms of communication and collaboration, forms that only work if you have the right technology. So far, web browsing hasn't been about communication among browsers, it's largely a monologue from the site to the user. The browser can be a lot more than that.]

In fact, this sort of functionality benefits any brand or product that can figure out how to create it.

Breakage

The supply and demand curve isn't a curve. It's an abstraction of lots of individual behaviors.

And so, lots of organizations end up hitting a wall with no warning.

My car insurance bill has been steadily rising, year after year, despite the fact that I have a clean record. The logic, I'm sure, was, "well, let's raise it a little and see who quits..."

If revenue increases enough to make up for the few who quit, you come out ahead. So, quarter after quarter, year after year, repeat the same process. Raise it a little, check to see if revenue rises in aggregate, and repeat.

I'd get the bill, sigh about the fee, consider the hassle of switching, pay the bill and move on.

Until last week. Last week the number was too high. Something in my relationship with the insurance company shattered. After all, it's not like they had done anything for me, not like I knew anyone there. It was just momentum. And the number was suddenly enough to make me take action.

19 minutes later, I was at Geico.

The problem for my insurance company is that a whole bunch of people will do this at once. When you hit the breaking point with one person, it might be 1,000 or 100,000 people who do the same thing at the same time. And you don't get a second chance. They're gone.

It's not just money. It's service. Or trust. Or spam.

You can stretch a rubber band for a long time. But then it breaks.

Listening to the loud people

Of course you should listen to your customers.

But which ones?

Should you listen to the loud ones, the ones who call the sports radio stations to complain about the pitching, the ones who post websites about your lousy service, the ones who organize nationwide boycotts? Should you listen to the angry ones, the ones with a limited vocabulary (heavy on profanity, short on spelling) who know how to use email and aren't afraid to use it?

Or, should you listen to the customers that are the most profitable, the most loyal or the most likely to spread word of mouth among the people you want to become your customers?

Here are three common listening mistakes:

  1. Believing that your customers are monolithic, that they all want the same thing.
  2. Believing that loud customers speak for all customers.
  3. Worrying that if you don't satisfy short-term, loudly articulated needs, you will fail.

There's an art here, it's not a science. I'd focus on a few tactics:

  • When someone is in pain, recognize it and address it if you can.
  • You decide, not your customers, where you want to go. Lead, don't follow.
  • Amplify the voices of the people you care about, those with the most value to you in the long run. Give them a platform and make it easier for them to speak to you and the rest of the market.

And here's one thing I'd do on a regular basis: Get a video camera or perhaps a copy machine and collect comments and feedback from the people who matter most to your business. Then show those comments to the boss and to your staff and to other customers. Do it regularly. The feedback you expose is the feedback you'll take to heart.

Free ebooklet, free seats, live event

I'm hoping you can take a look at these two free opportunities:

1. On October 22nd, I'm doing a live event in New York to launch my new book.

If you can make it, you are encouraged to video the event, remix it and if you like, give the talk on your own using my slides (which will be available to every attendee). There are fifty VIP seats and some free seats as well.

2. Changethis.com has made it to 50 issues in print.

This is really exciting for me, since I was lucky enough to have some amazing interns help me launch the site years ago. By my estimate, four gazillion useful, provocative PDFs have been distributed since launch. If each one had been made out of chocolate instead of digits, they would have made a pile taller than the Empire State Building.

If you'd like to see my latest free manifesto, the PDF is right here.

[remembering]

Is it worth doing?

What was my impact?

Will it matter in the long haul?

What sort of connections did I create?

Wherever you live, whatever you do, you have an obligation.

How often should you publish?

How many movies should you star in next year?

How many records should you release? How many songs should you write?

How many times a week should you post to your blog?

And when should my next book come out? Or your next newsletter or that next cartoon? What about Nike--they launch more than one product every day. Is that too many?

A lot of the stuff marketers make is unanticipated, impersonal, irrelevant junk that consumers merely tolerate.

But some of it is not spam, it's content. Stuff worth reading, worth paying for (at the very least, worth paying attention to.)

So, how often?

This discussion is usually filled with superstitions, traditions and half-truths. Daily comics come out every day because that's when newspapers always came out. And newspapers came out once a day because it was too expensive to publish three times a day (and advertisers and readers wouldn't support the extra expense.)

When movies were met with great fanfare and often stayed in the theaters for months, it was suicide for a big movie star to do three or four movies a year. But in a DVD/YouTube world, there's not a lot of evidence that this pace makes as much sense. Saturday Night Live was on every week because there's only one Saturday a week, but if it had launched today, it's hard to see the benefit of it being a weekly...

I'd like to propose that you think about it differently. There's frontlist and backlist.

Frontlist means the new releases, the hits, the stuff that fanboys are looking for or paying attention to.

Frontlist gets all the attention, all the glory and all the excitement. They write about frontlist in the paper and we talk about the frontlist at dinner. Digg is the frontlist. Siskel and Ebert is the frontlist.

Backlist is Catcher in the Rye or 1984. Backlist is the long tail (the idea) and now, the Long Tail (the book). In a digital world, backlist is where the rest of the attention ends up, and where all the real money is made.

Backlist doesn't show up in the news, but Google is 95% backlist. So is Amazon.

Sitting in a meeting yesterday, I brainstormed a term, "haystack marketing." I googled it to see if someone else was using it. You guessed it--number one match was an article I wrote eight months ago. Google doesn't forget even if you do.

So, here's the strategy:

  1. Assemble a tribe, a group of true fans, followers, people who have given you permission. Give them all the frontlist they can handle. Make it easy for them to spread the word, to Digg you or bring a friend to your movie or buy your new book for their friends. If you create too much content for this crowd, then you're publishing too much. They care, and they want to hear from you.
  2. Promote your backlist. Invest significant time and money to make your backlist available, to recirculate it, to have it adopted as a textbook in English class or featured on Netflix or part of a retrospective on TV. Take all that money you waste in frontlist marketing and spend it on the backlist instead.
  3. Repeat. Frontlist becomes backlist, backlist grows, fan base grows, it scales.

Frontlist reaches your fans. Your fans spread the word, and eventually your backlist reaches everyone else. The backlist turns some people into fans, who then look for the frontlist.

The bestselling fiction authors (with one exception) all got hassled by their publishers for writing too often. Erle Stanley Gardner, Agatha Christie, Stephen King, JK Rowling... all but one had to write under a pseudonym because their publishers said they wrote too much. Nonsense. They wrote for their tribe, they give their followers just barely enough to read. Not too much, not by a long shot. And then, they were lucky enough to have persistent and talented publishers that managed to get their backlist read, over and over, by millions of people. People who turned into fans.

Key assertion: you don't publish it unless it's good. You don't write more blog posts than you can support, don't ship more variations of that software than your engineers can make marvelous. But given that you've got enough bench strength, enough remarkability to spare, now what?

When I look at my work, I think I'm in sync with my readers--one blog post a day feels right, while ten (which some bloggers pull off) wouldn't work for us. One book a year feels right, while three a decade (which Malcolm Gladwell does) wouldn't work for me or my core readers.

On the other hand, I do a lousy job of self-marketing my backlist. I have no doubt that a more patient push of The Dip would have doubled the numbers of books I sold (but posting about quitting all the time would have annoyed you guys to no end). It's still selling well, but given the base of sales (a big frontlist launch can lead to even bigger backlist, of course), more focus on the backlist would have been a profitable choice. The thing is, organizations can do this far better than an individual author can.

[Example: In the last month, four of my books have been mentioned in the NY Times. (The Dip, All Marketers are Liars, Meatball Sundae and Small is the New Big.) All backlist. All to people not in our tribe. This is far more useful and surprisingly, predictable, than the hit or miss nature of frontlist promotion. In my case, I think I'm putting my skills to better use when I'm writing, but that means I need to figure out how my backlist is going to get noticed. If you've got a team, part of the team should obsess about the backlist, honing it, editing it and promoting it, while the rest work to generate (as opposed to promote) the frontlist.]

The opportunity isn't to give into temptation and figure out how to recklessly and expensively market the frontlist. It is to adopt a long and slow and ultimately profitable strategy of marketing your ever-growing backlist.

A life-changing internship

The Acumen Fund fellowship is the most coveted, competitive job I know of. If it's not for you, consider telling an extraordinary friend about it.

In the meantime, Tom Friedman's new book is already #1, and deservedly so. Please buy four, three for the skeptics in your life.

And while I'm rambling, in the category of "you can't make this stuff up," Robert points us to a site that has uncovered the one and true source of the Meatball Sundae:

Hotbeef540x405

Spin

Large_spinners Humans are lie detectors.

We hear stories. We enjoy them. We try them on for size. We're looking for falsehoods and we sniff them out.

We value the truth and we enjoy it. And we're always wary about the occasional lie.

That's why political season is just so w e i r d.

The spinners lie constantly. They lie with a straight face. They lie sentence after sentence, relentlessly.

Like the uncanny valley, we don't really know what to do in the face of non-stop lying. Is this person an alien? Do they think we're stupid? How are we supposed to respond to the onslaught of disrespect?

Some people suspend disbelief and just believe all of it. In an internet era, I'm wondering if that's going to continue to be true. Once we see video evidence of a few lies, it all starts to unravel (or ravel, depending on your use of English). A cynic would say that the ravelling is a pleasure to watch, and the media enjoys it too.

But the spinners continue to spin, as relentlessly as ever. I wonder if this election is going to mark the end of classic spin or the beginning of a whole new class of even slicker lying.

And since most marketers follow the lead of politicians, I wonder what it means for the rest of us? Is there new slack for truthiness? Is the jaded consumer even more likely to stand by as marketers continue to fabricate falsehoods by the yard? I'm amazed at corporate spokespeople who utter complete falsehoods, rationalizing that it's just their job.

All I know for sure is that it gives me a headache. I think there's a huge opportunity for a trusted media source that takes on spin from all quarters and throws it back in the face of the spinner. Show them video of themselves from last week and ask them to respond. Oh, I'm probably just being a hopeful idealist.

Time

Here's the #1 most overlooked secret of marketing, of growing your organization, of building trust and creating for the long haul. Actually, it has two parts:

Show up on time. It doesn't cost anything to keep your promises when it comes to time. Show up for the meeting when the meeting starts. Have the dry cleaning ready when you promise. Ship on time. Return that phone call. Finish the renovation ahead of schedule.

Boy that's simple. Apparently, it's incredibly difficult.

If you want to build trust, you need to be trustworthy. The simplest test of trustworthiness for most people is whether or not you keep your promises, and the first promises you make are about time.

Cherish my time. The second part is closely related. It has to do with respect. You respect my time when you don't waste it. When you don't spam me. When you worry about the 100 cars backed up on the road and figure out how to get us moving more quickly. You respect me when you value my time more highly than your own.

If you want someone to think you're selfish, just ask for a minute of their time and then waste it or use it for your own ends. Or automate the process so three minutes of your time wastes three minutes of the 1,000 or one million people on your list.

In a society where so many people have enough, few people have time to spare. When you waste it (by breaking a promise and being late) or abuse it (by viewing your time as worth more than mine), we respond by distrusting you, ignoring you and eventually moving on.

Getting used to infinity

Batfliesintostands I have a new thing to collect.

I collect pictures of crowds stunned by a baseball bat heading their way. I don't collect photos where anyone is injured, just the ones where people are all weirded out.

This, of course, is a crazy thing to collect, but the fascinating thing is that it's possible at all. All of us grew up in a world of content scarcity, and now we live in a world of content infinity.

That means, for example, that finding a rare song is essentially banal. There are no rare songs (except on LP). It means that finding a photo of what you're looking for isn't the hard part, it's deciding what to look for in the first place.

Of course, it's not just photos or music. It's service providers, freelancers, employees, charitable tools, places to live, vacation spots, dogs to adopt, people to date.

If you find a great baseball bat flying in the stands photo, I'm hoping you'll send me one. In the meantime, don't be afraid of infinity. There's a lot of it going around.

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