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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

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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

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?

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

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« June 2009 | Main | August 2009 »

The confusion

We frequently confuse internal biochemistry (caused by habits and genetics) with external events. If we didn't, marketing wouldn't work nearly as well.

Our brains are busy processing chemicals that internally change our moods, but find a way to rationalize those mood changes based on events and purchases in the outside world. We often act as though money can buy joy, but of course, it works better when we're joyful in the first place.

We don't say, "I'm genetically pre-disposed to mild depression," or "I haven't exercised in a while and I spend a lot of time watching TV," instead, we say, "I'm disappointed because I don't make enough money and my boss is mean to me." And yet, someone in the very same circumstances seems much happier than we are. And somehow, nothing ever happens in our career that makes everything all right forever.

We don't say, "I'm grouchy because of hormones." Instead, we say, "He deserved that outburst. He was being a jerk." Of course, he was the same guy last week and you sort of liked him.

We don't say, "When I dress and act like the people around me, I can feel safe as a member of their tribe." Instead, we think, "I feel good when I'm with my friends."

We don't say, "I have a very complex relationship with money because my parents spoiled me." Instead, we say, "Hey, the bank gave me a credit card so it's okay to buy things that I deserve."

We don't say, "I eat to drown out the way I feel about my mom," instead we say, "Hey, if it's on a salad bar, it must be good for me. And anyway, next month is my birthday."

The external world is remarkably consistent, and yet we blame it for what's going on inside of us. People who think the world is going to end always manage to find a new thing that's going to cause it to end. People itching to be bummed out all day long will certainly find an external event that give their emotion some causal cover. The thinking happens long before the event that we blame the thinking on.

Products are remarkably similar, yet we use their marketing stories as an extension of our self-image and self-esteem. Should a new phone really make you that happy?

Colleagues are almost always trying to work with us, yet it's easy to blame them when anxiety about other events triggers time-honored patterns in our behavior.

Hang out at the mall two weeks before the prom. Can those items on the rack really pacify the raging anxieties of the teenagers waiting to buy them (or is the social triggers that do it)? Watch McKinsey doing a multimillion dollar consulting gig for a Fortune 500 company. Are they really telling the board something that couldn't have been discovered by a few talented folks in the finance department? Or are they paying for peace of mind?

Marketers spend billions of dollars identifying common biochemical events, and then they launch products and services with stories that align with those events. As a result, we spend money on external forces in an attempt to heal internal pain. Marketers want the equation to be, "if you buy this, everything will be all right."

I wish it were so easy.

Everyone else reads it

The reason the New York Times matters isn't about the delivery of news (it's old by the time it arrives) or even the analysis (which is often spotty or wrong or banal or biased or boring). No, the reason it matters is because everyone else reads it.

That's the reason certain trade shows matter.

Or industry journals or blogs.

You can change the definition of "everyone" and customize it for your industry or passion, but the fact is, we need to read what everyone else is reading in order to have a sense of being in sync. If it's in there, it matters, because everyone else read it.

If a publication like this doesn't exist, go ahead and create it, because you'll profit.

The internet eliminates the friction and the barriers that made it natural for there to be just a few media outlets per sector. This change led to an explosion in choices. But as things settle down, we're busy searching for the thing that 'everyone else' who matters reads.

The moment 'everyone else' stops reading Conde Nast magazines or Publishers Weekly or other trade journals, they fold. It'll happen almost overnight, because reading them in isolation, without a connection to the community just isn't worth it.

What should I do on your birthday?

On July 4, birthday of the USA, we're supposed to blow off fireworks, eat hot dogs and buy a Chevrolet.

On Columbus Day, birthday of an early imperialist, we're supposed to shop and march in a parade.

On Martin Luther King Jr. day, marvelously, we're supposed to participate in a national day of service.

So, what should we do on your birthday?

With all due respect to Hallmark, the idea of sending people cards and presents on their birthday seems both selfish and small-minded. It seems to me that we could think bigger.

On the birthday of your company or brand, what would you like your customers to do?

On your birthday, what should your friends do? Let's say you have a shoe buying fetish. Perhaps on your birthday, your friends could buy shoes--for themselves, not for you. Share the joy, right? Or perhaps buy shoes for their friends?

On my birthday, it would make me really happy if people started a project, launched an idea or engaged in a difficult interaction that made something good happen. Make a difference day.

What's your story?

What to do with special requests

The bike shop is busy in June. If you bring your bike in for a tune up, it will cost $39 and take a week.

A week!

What if someone says, "I have a bike trip coming up in three days, can you do it by then?"

At most bike shops, the answer is a shrug, followed by, "I'm sorry, we're swamped."

The problem with telling people to go away is that they go away. And the problem with treating all customers the same is that customers aren't the same. They're different and they demand to be treated (and are often willing to pay) differently.

So, why not smile and say, "Oh, wow, that's a rush. We can do it, but it's expensive. It'll cost you $90. I know that's a lot, but there you go."

Outcome: Maybe they'll still leave. But maybe they'll happily pay you for the privilege of doing business with you. Why should this be your choice, not theirs?

If you do tax accounting for mid-size businesses, why not offer a special last-minute service? A service in which you process shoeboxes filled with unsorted papers? A service that costs less but happens during your slow season?

There are two really good reasons to turn down special requests:

1. because you're marketing yourself as extremely busy and perfectly willing to turn down good work.

2. because you want to market yourself as someone who is a rigid artist, a stick in the mud or a crotchety perfectionist. This works great for pizza places.

The purpose of a book cover

(and I think it works for lots of products)

Is the purpose of the cover to sell books, to accurately describe what's in the book, or to tee up the reader so the book has maximum impact?

The third.

It's the third because if the book has maximum impact, then word of mouth is created, and word of mouth is what sells your product, not the cover.

Tactically, the cover sells the back cover, the back cover sells the flap and by then you've sold the book. If those steps end up selling a book that the purchaser doesn't like, game over. So you have to be consistent all the way through and end up creating a conversation after the purchase. Books are better at creating conversations than most products (when was the last time you talked about a pool cue), but there's lots of opportunity here, no matter what you make.

Some ways that a book cover can accomplish its mission:

  • Iconic (because iconic items tend to signal 'important')
  • Noticeable across the room (you see that lots of other people own it, thus making it likely that you'll want to know why)
  • Sophisticated (because this helps reinforce that the ideas inside are worthy of your time)
  • Original (why bother reading a book you already know)
  • Clever
  • Funny
  • Generic (reminding you of a genre or another book you liked, not generic as in boring)

I don't know about you, but I judge books by their cover every day.

The risk/reward confusion

Riskreward2
It's easy to to adopt the policy of avoiding risk at all costs, that whenever possible, the products you launch or the engagements you have should be flawless and without downside.

Here's the problem: in most endeavors, a small increase in risk can double the reward. It's the second doubling of reward that brings serious risk with it. But the first leap is relatively painless.

In the chart above, notice that going from point A to point B brings almost no incremental risk. It might feel scary, but rationally, it's not. Doubling reward again from B to C, though, brings significant incremental risk. It's this second doubling that gets you through the Dip, that leads to a breakthrough, that makes you remarkable.

But I'm not even talking about that. I'm just hoping you'll warm up by making the tiny leap of avoiding all risk. Riskless is hardly worth your effort.

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