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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

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Member since 08/2003

« September 2008 | Main | November 2008 »

The plight (and the pox) of the undecided

After Tuesday's debate, one study of undecided voters showed that 35% of them considered the outcome of the debate a tie.

A tie?

I can imagine believing that Obama won. I can concede that some people thought McCain won. But a tie? How could a rational person call it a tie?

Of course, they didn't really mean it was a tie. Just like the prospects who don't buy your stuff but don't say no aren't really in search of more information so they can make a considered decision.

Here's the formula of what's really happening:

Fear of making a decision > Benefit of making a decision.

And that, for marketers, is the pox of the undecided. We think that people are undecided because they don't know enough about our features or our competitors, or because they don't have enough money or they are waiting to hear from their friends. In fact, most of the time, they're undecided because they are afraid of deciding. No is scary and yes is scary.

The reason that so many people don't vote is the same as the reason that so many people walk past your store every day or click past your site every day. Because inertia is compelling. Inertia absolves them of responsibility.

Forewarned is forearmed. Now that you know that your competition is called inertia, you can sell against it more effectively. A ticking clock is a marketer's best friend. A no is better than a maybe, any day. At least you can learn from a no.

The growing productivity divide

Here's a simple quiz:

  • Can you capture something you see on your screen and paste it into Word or PowerPoint?
  • Do you have a blog?
  • Can you open a link you get in an email message?
  • Do you read more than five blogs a day?
  • Do you have a signature in your outbound email?
  • Do you have an RSS reader?
  • Can you generate a PDF document from a Word file you're working on?
  • Do you know how to build and share a simple spreadsheet using Google Docs?
  • Do have a shortcut for sending mail to the six co-workers you usually write to?
  • Are you able to find what you're looking for on Google most of the time?
  • Do you know how to download a file from the internet?
  • Do you back up your work?
  • Do you keep track of contacts using a digital tool?
  • Do you use anti-virus software?
  • Do you fall for internet hoaxes and forward stuff to friends and then regret it?
  • Have you ever bought something from a piece of spam?

Can you imagine someone who works in a factory that processes metal not knowing how to use a blowtorch? How can you imagine yourself as a highly-paid knowledge worker and not know how to do these things... If you don't, it's not hard to find someone to teach you.

Is effort a myth?

People really want to believe effort is a myth, at least if we consider what we consume in the media:

  • politicians and beauty queens who get by on a smile and a wink
  • lottery winners who turn a lifetime of lousy jobs into one big payday
  • sports stars who are born with skills we could never hope to acquire
  • hollywood celebrities with the talent of being in the right place at the right time
  • failed CEOs with $40 million buyouts

It really seems (at least if you read popular media) that who you know and whether you get 'picked' are the two keys to success. Luck.

The thing about luck is this: we're already lucky. We're insanely lucky that we weren't born during the black plague or in a country with no freedom. We're lucky that we've got access to highly-leveraged tools and terrific opportunities. If we set that luck aside, though, something interesting shows up.

Delete the outliers--the people who are hit by a bus or win the lottery, the people who luck out in a big way, and we're left with everyone else. And for everyone else, effort is directly related to success. Not all the time, but as much as you would expect. Smarter, harder working, better informed and better liked people do better than other people, most of the time.

Effort takes many forms. Showing up, certainly. Knowing stuff (being smart might be luck of the draw, but knowing stuff is the result of effort). Being kind when it's more fun not to. Paying forward when there's no hope of tangible reward. Doing the right thing. You've heard these things a hundred times before, of course, but I guess it's easier to bet on luck.

If people aren't betting on luck, then why do we make so many dumb choices? Why aren't useful books selling at fifty times the rate they sell now? Why does anyone, ever, watch reality TV shows? Why do people do such dumb stuff with their money?

I think we've been tricked by the veneer of lucky people on the top of the heap. We see the folks who manage to skate by, or who get so much more than we think they deserve, and it's easy to forget that:

a. these guys are the exceptions
b. there's nothing you can do about it anyway.

And that's the key to the paradox of effort: While luck may be more appealing than effort, you don't get to choose luck. Effort, on the other hand, is totally available, all the time.

This is a hard sell. Diet books that say, "eat less, exercise more," may work, but they don't sell many copies.

With that forewarning, here's a bootstrapper's/marketer's/entrepreneur's/fast-rising executive's effort diet. Go through the list and decide whether or not it's worth it. Or make up your own diet. Effort is a choice, at least make it on purpose:

1. Delete 120 minutes a day of 'spare time' from your life. This can include TV, reading the newspaper, commuting, wasting time in social networks and meetings. Up to you.

2. Spend the 120 minutes doing this instead:

  • Exercise for thirty minutes.
  • Read relevant non-fiction (trade magazines, journals, business books, blogs, etc.)
  • Send three thank you notes.
  • Learn new digital techniques (spreadsheet macros, Firefox shortcuts, productivity tools, graphic design, html coding)
  • Volunteer.
  • Blog for five minutes about something you learned.
  • Give a speech once a month about something you don't currently know a lot about.

3. Spend at least one weekend day doing absolutely nothing but being with people you love.

4. Only spend money, for one year, on things you absolutely need to get by. Save the rest, relentlessly.

If you somehow pulled this off, then six months from now, you would be the fittest, best rested, most intelligent, best funded and motivated person in your office or your field. You would know how to do things other people don't, you'd have a wider network and you'd be more focused.

It's entirely possible that this won't be sufficient, and you will continue to need better luck. But it's a lot more likely you'll get lucky, I bet.

Making it real by making it closer

Items in the future are closer than they appear.

If you're going across town, you're very specific: "188 Fifth Avenue, on the east side of the street please."

On the other hand, when you go on vacation, you tell people, "I'm going to Paris," not "we're going to 8 rue du Cherche-Midi." And if you're going even farther than that, you skip the city and country altogether and just say, "we're going to Africa." One day, Richard Branson will take you all the way to Mars--all you get is the name of the planet.

This makes sense, of course. We don't need to know which crater you're going to, just that it's far away.

Marketers spend a lot of time describing a future and making it real. The more general you are in describing it, the farther away people imagine it is. "We're going to launch a new product next year" sounds a lot more distant than handing someone a prototype and saying, "this launches on January 3rd at 2 pm at CES."

Short version: If you want people to embrace your version of the future, talk about it like it's right around the corner, not on another planet.

RSS, Twitter, email subscribers, please read

If you subscribe to a blog, any blog, congratulations. Not only have you figured out how to keep up, for free, with huge amounts of information, you've done it in an elegant and efficient way. While it may be fun to try to remember which blogs you read and then go visit them in some sort of order, RSS and other subscription tools are way smarter.

If you previously subscribed to this blog via Twitter, please read this post from Phil. Due to previously confusing settings, some people signed up in a way that sends updates to all the people following you as well, which is not part of the plan. Phil explains how to remedy this error.

If you subscribe by email, I hope you're happy with the free service we're offering. Most people love it. If not, I can highly recommend a wide range of RSS tools, which can take your browsing efficiency way up.

And if you're not a subscriber (to this blog and others) today is a great day to start. RSS is a little like radio. Every blog and many news services 'broadcast' a tiny little signal that you can't hear, but your RSS reader can. (It's like a radio tuner). You tell the RSS reader which blogs and news feeds you like, and whenever it senses that signal, it goes out and grabs the post for you. Quick and free. With a good reader, you can easily keep up with 100 blogs in less than an hour.

Some media companies don't like RSS because it means you don't see their ads. I, on the other hand, love RSS because my goal is to reach people regularly, not just with the occasional juicy headline.

If you have a reader, the subscription tools you need are on the left hand column of this blog, and near the top of just about every blog or news site you visit.

Nine steps to Powerpoint magic

Perhaps you've experienced it. You do a presentation and it works. It works! That's the reason we keep coming back for more, that's why so many of us spend more time building and giving presentations than almost anything else we do.

Here are some steps to achieve this level of PPT nirvana (Your mileage may vary. These are steps, not rules):

  1. Don't use Powerpoint at all. Most of the time, it's not necessary. It's underkill. Powerpoint distracts you from what you really need to do... look people in the eye, tell a story, tell the truth. Do it in your own words, without artifice and with clarity. There are times Powerpoint is helpful, but choose them carefully.
  2. Use your own font. Go visit Smashing Magazine and buy a font from one of their sponsors or get one of the free ones they offer. Have your tech guy teach you how to install it and then use it instead of the basic fonts built in to your computer. This is like dressing better or having a nicer business card. It's subtle, but it works.
  3. Tell the truth. By this I don't mean, "don't lie," (that's a given), I mean "don't hide." Be extremely direct in why you are here, what you're going to sell me (you're here to sell me something, right? If not, please don't waste your time or mine). It might be an idea, or a budget, but it's still selling. If, at the end, I don't know what you're selling, you've failed.
  4. Pay by the word. Here's the deal: You should have to put $5 into the coffee fund for every single word on the wordiest slide in your deck. 400 words costs $2000. If that were true, would you use fewer words? A lot fewer? I've said this before, but I need to try again: words belong in memos. Powerpoint is for ideas. If you have bullets, please, please, please only use one word in each bullet. Two if you have to. Three never.
  5. Get a remote. I always use one. Mine went missing a couple of weeks ago, so I had to present without it. I saw myself on video and hated the fact that I lost all that eye contact. It's money well spent.
  6. Use a microphone. If you are presenting to more than twenty people, a clip on microphone changes your posture and your impact. And if you're presenting to more than 300 people, use iMag. This is a setup with a camera and projector that puts your face on the screen. You should have a second screen for your slides--the switching back and forth is an incompetent producer's hack that saves a few bucks but is completely and totally not worth it. If 400 people are willing to spend an hour listening to you, someone ought to be willing to spend a few dollars to make the presentation work properly.
  7. Check to make sure you brought your big idea with you. It's not worth doing a presentation for a small idea, or for a budget, or to give a quarterly update. That's what memos are for. Presentations involve putting on a show, standing up and performing. So, what's your big idea? Is it big enough? Really?
  8. Too breathtaking to take notes. If people are liveblogging, twittering or writing down what you're saying, I wonder if your presentation is everything it could be. After all, you could have saved everyone the trouble and just blogged it/note-taken it for them, right? We've been trained since youth to replace paying attention with taking notes. That's a shame. Your actions should demand attention (hint: bullets demand note-taking. The minute you put bullets on the screen, you are announcing, "write this down, but don't really pay attention now.") People don't take notes when they go to the opera.
  9. Short! Do you really need an hour for the presentation? Twenty minutes? Most of the time, the right answer is, "ten." Ten minutes of breathtaking big ideas with big pictures and big type and few words and scary thoughts and startling insights. And then, and then, spend the rest of your time just talking to me. Interacting. Answering questions. Leading a discussion.

Most presentations (and I've seen a lot) are absolutely horrible. They're not horrible because they weren't designed by a professional, they're horrible because they are delivered by someone who is hiding what they came to say. The new trend of tweaking your slides with expensive graphic design doesn't solve this problem, it makes it worse. Give me an earnest amateur any day, please.

Kinds of people

Some people want to do things because they are interesting.
Some people want to do things because they work.
Some people want to do things because everyone else is doing them.

And some people are satisfied/scared/shy/lazy and don't do anything.

Think about blogging or buying a new pair of shoes or voting for a candidate or picking one career over another. Different people have very different agendas. The key in understanding someone's actions is understanding their agenda.

That salesperson who does everything by the book is not interested in the thrill of discovery. That retired steel worker that is hesitating to vote for your candidate is wondering what everyone else is going to do. And that unpredictable blogger keeps changing the rules because the rules bore him.

Look for the guy with a hammer

The old adage is that for someone with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

It's a warning that people who are only good at one thing often believe that the one thing is the answer to every problem. And it's a good warning.

But what if you've decided that in fact, a hammer is exactly the tool that will solve your problem? My advice: hire a guy who only uses a hammer. Odds are, he's pretty good at it.

If you need cognitive behavioral therapy (the technique proven most effective for many conditions), don't go to a therapist who does six different kinds of therapy, as needed. Go to someone who has only one tool, but uses it beautifully.

Don't go to this person for advice about what sort of therapy you need. You need a generalist for that. Go to this person for her hammer.

If you want a piece of handmade furniture made with hand tools and hand finishes, get it from a craftsman who owns no power tools. And think twice before buying SEO services from a general purpose ad agency.

It sounds like I'm endorsing specialists, but that's not really what I'm doing. What I'm proposing is that when you're forced to choose (as opposed to mix or compromise) your tactics, it pressures you to make better stuff and to make better choices.

This is why the Journal's report that Google is flirting seriously with a big advertising buy is so troublesome. Once you start buying TV time, you just added another tool to your marketing belt. Now, plenty of your development and marketing team will say, "Oh, we'll just buy ads. People will use it!" Suddenly, you don't focus so much on building word of mouth and remarkability into your products, because now you can easily use TV to spackle over less remarkable products.

Bad news for an organization that's so good at one thing (building remarkable products that spread virally) to start pivoting into an area where they're likely to be not-so-good. This will lead to TV-friendly products that aren't viral, along with ads that aren't quite good enough to make them pop. By diversifying their toolset, they'll get less good at their core skill.

Choosing your marketing tactics drives the products you design just as much as the products you design choose your tactics. By having the discipline to run no TV ads, Google forces the organization to use the hammer they're really good at. More tools isn't always better.

Taking photographs vs. giving photographs

Pastry449470059_87fd57e9d3Things flip.

Many cultures long viewed photographs with fear, worrying that a piece of the soul disappeared when a photo was taken.

Today, celebrities hire publicists who have no other job but to get their photographs to appear in print.

Oprah doesn't pay authors to appear on her show, they pay publicists for the privilege... even though they are "giving away" all the ideas in their book for free.

It's a tricky line to walk. Perhaps this pastry shop on Rodeo Drive is concerned that competitors will take photos of all the pastries and then copy them. Of course, all the competitor has to do is buy a pastry, so I'm not sure that's a real problem. Some museums forbid all photography, even without a flash, for no other reason than fear. Clearly a famous painting is worth more than an unknown one--and just as clearly, the artist who painted the image probably wanted other people to see it.

2pastry449470059_87fd57e9d3 This is a hard flip for people to make. Largely it's about control. It's your pastry, after all. A long time ago, bakers gave up trying to stop people from taking free smells of their labor. I wonder if they benefit by letting people (begging people) to take free photos?

When you stand for something

People and brands and organizations that stand for something benefit as a result. Standing for something helps you build trust, makes it easier to manage expectations and aids in daily decision making. Standing for something also makes it more fun to do your gig, because you're on a mission, doing something that matters. Of course, there's a cost. You can't get something for nothing.

It's frustrating to watch marketers, politicians and individuals fall into the obvious trap of trying to stand for something at the same time they try to please everyone or do everything.

You can't be the low-price, high-value, wide-selection, convenient, green, all-in-one corner market. Sorry.

You also can't be the high-ethics CEO who just this one time lets an accounting fraud slide. "Because it's urgent."

You can't be the big-government-fighting, low-taxes-for-everyone, high-services-for-everyone, safety-net, pro-science, faith-based, anti-deficit candidate either.

You can't be the work-smart, life-in-balance, available-at-all-hours, high-output, do-what-you're-told employee.

To really stand for something, you must make difficult decisions, mostly about what you don't do. We don't ship products like that, we don't stand for employees like that ("you're fired"), we don't fix problems like that.

It's so hard to stand up, to not compromise, to give up an account or lose a vote or not tell a journalist what they want to hear.

But those are the only moments where standing for something actually counts, the only times that people will actually come to believe that you in fact actually stand for something.

If you have to change your story because your audience is different (oh, I'm on national TV today!) (oh, this big customer wants me to cut some key corners) you're going to get caught. That's because the audience is now unknown to you, everything is public sooner or later, and if you want to build a brand for the ages, you need to stand for something today and tomorrow and every day.

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