Don't Miss a Thing
Free Updates by Email

Enter your email address


preview  |  powered by FeedBlitz

RSS Feeds

Share |

Facebook: Seth's Facebook
Twitter: @thisissethsblog

Search

Google


WWW SETH'S BLOG

SETH'S BOOKS

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

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

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

linchpin

Linchpin

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

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

meatball.sundae

Meatball Sundae

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

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

permission.marketing

Permission Marketing

The classic Named "Best Business Book" by Fortune.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

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.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

purple.cow

Purple Cow

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

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

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.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

survival.is.not.enough

Survival is Not Enough

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

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

the.big.moo

The Big Moo

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

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

the.big.red.fez

The Big Red Fez

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

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

the.dip

The Dip

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

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

the.icarus.deception

The Icarus Deception

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

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

tribes

Tribes

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

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

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.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

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.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

we.are.all.weird

We Are All Weird

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

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

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.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:


THE DIP BLOG by Seth Godin




All Marketers Are Liars Blog




Blog powered by TypePad
Member since 08/2003

« October 2009 | Main | December 2009 »

Watch the money

"How much life insurance do you have?"

Zig Ziglar liked to say that with that one question, you could tell if someone was a successful life insurance agent. If they're not willing to buy it with their own money, how can they honestly persuade someone else to do so?

If you're in the music business but you never buy tickets or downloads, can you really empathize with the people you're selling to?

My favorite: if you work for a non-profit and you don't give money to charity, what exactly are you doing in this job? I've met some incredibly generous people in the charitable world, but I can also report that a huge number of people—even on the fundraising side—would happily cross the street and risk a beating in order to avoid giving $100 to a cause that's not their own. And the shame of it is that this inaction on their part keeps them from experiencing the very emotion that they try so hard to sell.

Money is more than a transfer of value. It's a statement of belief. An ad agency that won't buy ads, a consultant who won't buy consulting, and a waiter who doesn't tip big—it's a sign, and not a good one.

Getting meta

Wikipedia contains facts about facts. It's a collection of facts from other places.

Facebook doesn't have your friends. It has facts about your friends.

Google is at its best when it gives you links to links, not the information itself.

Over and over, the Internet is allowing new levels of abstraction. Information about information might be worth more than the information itself. Which posts should I read? Which elements of the project are at risk? Who is making the biggest difference to the organization?

Right now, there's way too much stuff and far too little information about that stuff. Sounds like an opportunity.

Boundary makers

Some artists continually seek to tear down boundaries, to find new powder, new territory, new worlds to explore. They're the ones that hop the fence to get to places no one has ever been.

Other artists understand that they need to see the edges of the box if they're going to create work that lasts. No fence, no art.

Can't do both at the same time.

My guess is that you're already one kind of person or the other. When people present you with an opportunity/problem, what's your first reaction? Some people immediately start looking for loopholes or weak boundaries. "You didn't say we couldn't do xxx". For these people, the best and most obvious solution is to completely demolish the problem and play by different rules.

Other people, some just as successful, take a hard look at the boundaries and create something that plays within, that follows the rules, but that is likely to win because of this.

In my experience, either can work, but only by someone willing to push harder than most in their push to be remarkable. Going with the flow is a euphemism for failing.

The people you should listen to

Who do you listen to?

Who are you trying to please?

Which customers, relatives, bloggers, pundits, bosses, peers and passers by have influence over your choices? Should the Pulitzer judges decide what gets written, or the angry boss at the end of the hall so influence the products you pitch? Should the buyer at Walmart be the person you spend all your time trying to please? Your nosy neighbor? The angry trolls that write to the newspaper? The customer you never hear from?

Just for a second, think about the influence, buying power, network and track record of the people you listen to the most. Have they earned the right?

The only holiday that really matters

No gifts, no guilt. Universal, even if it's not celebrated on the same day everywhere.

Whenever I sit down at this keyboard, I feel humbled and quite lucky to have the privilege. Every day is Thanksgiving, because without the people we love and depend on, there'd be nothing.

Thanks for being here, for making a difference and for doing work that matters.

Thank you.

Thirsty

I've noticed that people who read a lot of blogs and a lot of books also tend to be intellectually curious, thirsty for knowledge, quicker to adopt new ideas and more likely to do important work.

I wonder which comes first, the curiosity or the success?

What sort of accent do you have?

Not only the way you speak—but the way you write and act. More than geography, accents now represent a choice of attitude.

Let's define an accent as the way someone speaks (writes, acts) that's different from the way I do it. So, if I'm from Liverpool and you're from Texas, you have an accent, I don't.

Occasionally, an accent is a marketing advantage. Sounding like Sean Connery might be seen as charming in a New York singles' bar, or sounding like a Harvard man might help a neurologist in Miami Beach. Generally, though, if I think you've got an accent, it's more difficult to trust you.

Can your writing have an accent? Of course it can. Not just grammar errors, but sentence length, exclamation marks and your vocabulary all tag you. And the fonts, colors, pictures and layouts you choose are part of your accent as well. Most of us have no trouble at all telling where an ad or a brochure came from (shyster, NY ad firm, home business, church flyer... you get the idea). This blog has an accent, but I've discovered that it's one that most of the people who read it can live with.

And your actions have a grammar as well. When your little mom-and-pop Middle Eastern restaurant has a policy (no substitutions!) even when the place is empty, you're speaking with an accent, aren't you? There's no right accent, no perfect set of rules or actions for you to follow. The choice of accent is directly related to the worldview of the people you're choosing to connect with.

Y'all come back soon, y'hear?

Rupert Murdoch has it backwards

You don't charge the search engines to send people to articles on your site, you pay them.

If you can't make money from attention, you should do something else for a living. Charging money for attention gets you neither money nor attention.

Delivering blogs via Twitter

You can receive instant daily updates of this blog by following @thisissethsblog.

I create the tweets automatically using a service called twitterfeed. It's free and it works really well. (PS this is my only presence on Twitter... I'm focused on the blog and my books, and alas can't tweet and do that at the same time).

RSS is my preferred way to read and track a lot of blogs. You can subscribe to this blog via RSS by clicking here.

How to lose an argument online

  1. Have an argument. Once you start an argument, not a discussion, you've already lost. Think about it: have you ever changed your mind because someone online started yelling at you? They might get you to shut up, but it's unlikely they've actually changed your opinion.
  2. Forget the pitfalls of Godwin's law. Any time you mention Hitler or even Communist China or Bill O'Reilly, you've lost.
  3. Use faulty analogies. If someone is trying to make a point about, say, health care, try to make an analogy to something conceptually unrelated, like the space shuttle program, and you've lost.
  4. Question motives. The best way to get someone annoyed and then have them ignore you is to bypass any thoughtful discussion of facts and instead question what's in it for the person on the other end. Make assumptions about their motivations and lose their respect.
  5. Act anonymously. What are the chances that heckled comments from the bleachers will have an impact?
  6. Threaten to take action in another venue. Insist that this will come back to haunt the other person. Guarantee you will spread the word or stop purchasing.
  7. Bring up the slippery slope. Actually, the slope isn't that slippery. People don't end up marrying dogs, becoming cannibals or harvesting organs because of changes in organization, technology or law.
  8. Go to the edges. This is a variant of the slippery slope, in which you bring up extremes at either end of whatever spectrum is being discussed.

So, what works?

Earn a reputation. Have a conversation. Ask questions. Describe possible outcomes of a point of view. Make connections. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Align objectives then describe a better outcome. Show up. Smile.

The magic rule of seven (and the banality of alphabetical order)

2pulldown If you approve or create online forms or deal with consumer interactions, I hope you'll think about the following:

1. If you have more than seven items in a pull down list, you have failed.

Human beings have no trouble keeping seven ideas in their head (hence the seven digit phone number). So, if asked you, "what's your favorite kind of music among: polka, reggae, ska, jazz and country" you can probably juggle those ideas in your head all at once. But if I asked you to pick among 25 movies in a list, it's a lot harder, because you have to keep going back and forth to see if you've got it straight.

So, for example, don't give me a list of possible job descriptions and ask what I do. If it's got 60 items on it and there is no direct match (well, I'm sort of in management and sort a writer and sort of in car repair) then my brain freezes over.

Computers are smarter than people. Don't use long lists of multiple choice when a simple fill in the blank will suffice. This is why asking for my state in a pull down list is inane. Just let me type in the two letters. (Hint: that's why Google works. It's fill in the blank, not multiple choice).

2. For non-complete lists, alphabetical order makes no sense

Sure, if you want to list a group in which I'm sure to find what I'm looking for (all the authors on Amazon, say) then alpha is smart. But if you're showing me, for example, a menu of items for dinner, or the names of your kids, then surely there's a sensible way to index them that actually adds value. "Here are the appetizers," makes more sense than putting avocado salad next to almond pudding.

You could, for example, list your items by price, or by popularity. But putting the "Melissa" model slightly above the "Sherwood" is just wasteful.

Benefit of the doubt

It's almost impossible to communicate something clearly and succinctly to everyone, all the time.

So misunderstandings occur.

We misunderstand a comment or a gesture or a policy or a contract.

And then what happens?

Well, if we're engaged with someone we like or trust, we give them the benefit of the doubt. We either assume that what they actually meant was the thing we expected from someone like them, or we ask about it.

If we're engaged with a stranger or someone we don't trust, we assume the worst.

The challenge, then, is to earn the benefit of the doubt. How many of your customers, prospects, vendors, regulators and colleagues give you the benefit of the doubt?

If you worked at it, could you make that number increase?

The amateur scientist (that's us)

Many people buy a car (probably their single biggest discretionary purchase) based on slamming a door, kicking a tire and judging the handshake of a salesperson.

We choose a surgeon based on the carpeting in his office and a politician by his hair cut.

During the first week of swine flu vaccines in New York, most parents (more than half!) chose to keep their kids out of the program.

Interviewed parents said things like, "I'm not sure it's safe," and "I wanted to see if it affected other kids..."

No mention of longitudinal studies or long-term side effects. No science at all, really, just rumors and hunches and gut instincts.

This gut-instinct approach served people well for hundreds of thousands of years, but it's pretty clear that it doesn't work in a complex world. Eating salmon at a wedding feels 'safe' because we always have, but of course any professional scientist will tell you that farmed salmon is an ecological disaster. You can't see the problem, so you ignore it.

Audiophiles spend thousands of dollars rewiring the electrical lines in their house with .99999% pure copper, ignoring the fact that the power from the street is in the same old cables. Adding decimal points to our irrationality doesn't change much.

The problem with being an amateur scientist is precisely the reason that marketers relish the opportunity to sell to us, the amateurs: we make stupid decisions, easily manipulated by those who might choose to do the manipulation (on their behalf or on ours).

The news here is not that people are irrational, giving too much credence to the dramatic and the local and the short-term (that's not news), but that people have added a veneer of scientific rationality to their irrational decisions. Armed with Zagats or internet data or some rumor off Snopes, we act as though now we're supremely rational choicemakers.

This is one of the problems with breast cancer screening. It appears to give information, really good information, but in practice, it doesn't. Since the information is vivid, we give it too much credence.

The challenge for people trying to market vaccines or highlight long-term side effects of various consumer choices is that it's much easier to spread a story about exploding cars or hair falling out than it is to spread a story of 'nothing bad happens' or 'no one got the swine flu and died' or 'three years from now, this section of ocean will be dead.' We prefer the vivid anecdote to the dry and statistically useful fact, which in a complex world, is to our detriment.

PS if I was marketing the swine flu vaccine, I'd name it after a kid who died last season and put her picture on the release form. Alas, teaching amateurs like us to be real scientists is going to take a while.

Embracing lifetime value

If you walk into a company-owned cell phone store to sign up for a contract, what are you worth?

Given the huge gross margins at AT&T and Verizon and the standard two-year contract, I think it's easy to figure on more than $2000 in lifetime value.

If you ran a business where a customer represented an additional $2,000 in profit, how would you staff? How long would you make someone wait? If staff costs $25 an hour, how long would that extra person take to pay off?

Few businesses understand (really understand) just how much a customer is worth. Add to this the additional profit you get from a delighted customer spreading the word--it can easily double or triple the lifetime value.

So, a chiropractor might see a new patient being worth $2,500, easily. And yet... how much is she spending on courting, catering to and seducing that new customer? My guess is that $50 feels like a lot to the doc. Instead of comparing what you invest to the benefit you receive from the first bill, the first visit, the first transaction, it's important to not only recognize but embrace the true lifetime value of one more customer.

Write it down. Post it on the wall. What would happen if you spent 100% of that amount on each of your next ten new customers? That's more money than you have to spend right now, I know that, but what would happen? Imagine how fast you would grow, how quickly the word would spread.

Here's how you'll know when you've really embraced this--a good customer at your podiatry practice (or supermarket or tax firm) walks out the door in a huff and you turn to your partner and say, "There goes $74,000."

Some books for November

Random thoughts from all over for those of us hungry for new ways to think. This month's list is here.
The previous list was blogged in September.

The reason they want you to fit in...

is that once you do, then they can ignore you.

Breakthroughs and drips

There are only two ways to win in the market.

You can create a breakthrough. A promotion so powerful that people can't help but engage. An innovation so remarkable, people can't help but talk about it. A pricing strategy or ad campaign that breaks the mold and is worthy of attention. This takes huge guts and substantial investment.

Or you can win with consistent benefits, delivered over time. You win by incrementally earning share, attention and trust. This might take years.

Almost all marketing attempts to do neither of these, and of course, fail. Painless and quick are rarely associated with 'successful.'

Debt, equity and a third thing that might work better

If your business needs money, it seems as though you have two choices:

  • Get a loan from a bank
  • Raise equity from an investor, giving up part of your company in exchange

Banks are everywhere, so the idea that they can loan us money seems obvious. And venture capitalists and the companies they fund are in the news all the time... and making a billion dollars sounds like fun.

Here's the thing: for most businesses, most of the time, neither is a realistic option.

Banks aren't in the business of taking risk. Which means that they make boring loans to boring companies for boring purposes. They do everything they can to be riskless. Which means you need to guarantee the loan with your house or with assets worth far more than the loan. Which means that a good idea is not a sufficiently good reason for a loan.

And equity? Well there are two problems. The first is that the number of investments that professional VCs can make is microscopically small compared to the number of businesses that want them. A bigger reason is that if there's no obvious and reliable exit strategy (like going public or selling to a huge public company) then there's no rational reason for someone to make an equity loan. The entire upside comes when you sell, and if you can't easily sell (which is most businesses--they're even harder to sell at a profit than a used car) then there's no VC investment to be had.

But that doesn't mean you're stuck. I'd like you to consider the idea of selling part of your income.

It works like this: you have an idea, a fledgling business or a new market to enter. You find an amateur investor (a wealthy dentist, a retired executive) and raise the money to bring it to market. And in return? The investor gets $xx for every unit you sell. From the first one until forever.

No fancy bookkeeping, no board meetings, no worrying about the accounting. Instead, you pay a royalty on income. The rest is up to you.

Of course, this is exactly how the math of book publishing works. The publisher puts up money and keeps 80 or 90 percent of the income. You get the rest.

It could even run on a sliding scale, with early royalties to the investor being lower, or with a buyout once a certain amount was earned back... If you needed $5,000 for some tooling, perhaps you could offer an investor $100 for every unit you sell until you've paid her $10,000, then $40 a unit forever after that. (typos fixed, sorry).

Need to raise money for a restaurant? It's hard for an investor to figure out how to win by owning equity (because it's so easy for the owner of the restaurant to manipulate profit). But if the investor gets 4% of every check paid, that's money back starting on the first day.

Investors are as irrational as the rest of us. They buy a story and expectation about risk. They buy the excitement of upside. They buy an opportunity to turn one thing into another. Banks want a boring story. Other investors might like this alternative story quite a bit.

My general bias for entrepreneurs starting out is to bootstrap their business, because raising money is so hard and so distracting. But if you've set out to do something that needs cash you can't raise any other way, this is worth exploring. Tell a story to an investor that wants to hear it, and create a cash-flow scenario that makes the investment worth it for both of you.

Learning by analogy

Some people are way better at this than others.

The other day, I was talking to someone about a complex and specialized issue. It's quite possible that this was the first and only time in the history of the world that this precise set of circumstances had ever occurred. He said, "do you have an example of how this has worked before for you?"

I was puzzled. I mean, not only hadn't I ever had this precise problem, but no one in the world had.

It's like the left-handed chiropractor in Berkeley wondering how he can use new technologies and marketing techniques wondering why there aren't more case studies about left-handed chiropractors in Berkeley.

Sure, the industries change, the goods/service ratio changes, regulation changes, names change. Doesn't matter. It's all the same. People are people, and basic needs and wants don't vary so much.

Put aside your need for a step-by-step manual and instead realize that analogies are your best friend. By the time there is a case study in your specific industry, it's going to be way too late for you to catch up.

Teaching the market a lesson

Some book publishers don't like the Kindle. Either they're afraid of it or they've crunched the numbers and they don't like what they see. (Some days, 95% of the top selling Kindle titles are free... demonstrating that digital goods with zero marginal cost and plentiful substitutes tend to move to zero in price).

Worried about the medium, they hold back, delay or even refuse to support it.

Which is fine if you have market power, but you likely don't. No publisher does, certainly. The Beatles couldn't stop iTunes from changing the record business by sitting out the platform, and there's no book publisher who can stop the Kindle alone.

It's tempting to look at a high-momentum market innovation, something that brings efficiency but leaves change in its wake, and try to stop it single-handedly. Tempting, but not so smart, I think. The market waits for no one.

The alternative to joining in is to sit out the game loudly. Don't just hold back your support, organize your peers. Create a (sometimes illegal) coordinated effort to stop innovation. I'm not going to bet much on your efforts, but it will certainly outperform a solo effort.

Quiet, passive-aggressive whining in the corner is both annoying and ineffective.

Hammer time

So, if it's true that to a person with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail, the really useful question is, "what sort of hammer do you have?"

At big TV networks, they have a TV hammer. At a surgeon's office, they have the scalpel hammer. A drug counselor has the talk hammer, while a judge probably has the jail hammer.

Maybe it's time for a new hammer...

One study found that when confronted with a patient with back pain, surgeons prescribed surgery, physical therapists thought that therapy was indicated and yes, acupuncturists were sure needles were the answer. Across the entire universe of patients, the single largest indicator of treatment wasn't symptoms or patient background, it was the background of the doctor.

When the market changes, you may be seeing all the new opportunities and problems the wrong way because of the solutions you're used to. The reason so many organizations have trouble using social media is that they are using precisely the wrong hammer. And odds are, they will continue to do so until their organization fails. PR firms try to use the new tools to send press releases, because, you guessed it, that's their hammer.

It's not just about new vs. old. Inveterate community-focused social media mavens often bring that particular hammer to other venues. So they crowdsource keynote speeches or restaurants or board meetings and can't figure out why they don't have the impact others do.

The best way to find the right tool for the job is to learn to be good at switching hammers.

Can't top this

Getting someone to switch is really difficult.

Getting someone to switch because you offer more of what they were looking for when they choose the one they have now is essentially impossible. For starters, they're probably not looking for more. And beyond that, they'd need to admit that they were wrong for not choosing you in the first place.

So, you don't get someone to switch because you're cheaper than Walmart. You don't get someone to switch because you serve bigger portions than the big-portion steakhouse down the street. You don't get someone to switch because your hospital is more famous than the Mayo Clinic.

The chances that you can top a trusted provider on the very thing the provider is trusted for are slim indeed.

Instead, you gain converts by winning at something the existing provider didn't think was so important.

Worldview Neuralgia (don't call your customers liars)

If I had to pick a book of mine to recommend that you haven't read yet, it would probably be All Marketers are Liars.

The reason you haven't read it, I'm guessing, is that it has a terrible title and had a worse cover. Lesson learned. All the details are right here on this little sub-blog.

[Two other book updates: Purple Cow now comes with a new appendix, written by you, my readers. The rest of the book remains the same. And the best of the last three years of this blog are now collected in the Kindle-only book called Zen Unicorn.]

Choose your customers, choose your future

Marketers rarely think about choosing customers... like a sailor on shore leave, we're not so picky. Huge mistake.

Your customers define what you make, how you make it, where you sell it, what you charge, who you hire and even how you fund your business. If your customer base changes over time but you fail to make changes in the rest of your organization, stress and failure will follow.

Sell to angry cheapskates and your business will reflect that. On the other hand, when you find great customers, they will eagerly co-create with you. They will engage and invent and spread the word.

It takes vision and guts to turn someone down and focus on a different segment, on people who might be more difficult to sell at first, but will lead you where you want to go over time.

The why imperative

Successful organizations spend a lot of time saying, "that's not what we do."

It's a requirement, because if you do everything, in every way, you're sunk. You got to where you are by standing for something, by approaching markets and situations in a certain way. Sure, Nike could make money in the short run by licensing their name to a line of wines and spirits, but that's not what they do. 

"That's not what we do," is the backbone of strategy, it determines who you are and where you're going.

Except in times of change. Except when opportunities come along. Except when people in the organization forget to ask, "why?"

If the only reason you don't do something is because you never did, that's not a good reason. If the environment has changed dramatically and you are feeling pain because of it, this is a great reason to question yourself, to ask why.

The why factor is really clear online. Simon and Schuster or the Encyclopedia Britannica could have become Google (organizing the world's information) but they didn't build a search engine because that's not what they do. Struggling newspapers could have become thriving networks of long tail content, but they chose not to, because that's not what they do.

Why?

That's the key question, one that organizations large and small need to ask a lot more often now that the economy is officially playing by new rules.

Upside vs. downside

How much of time, staffing and money does your organization spend on creating incredible experiences (vs. avoiding bad outcomes)?

At the hospital, it's probably 5% on the upside (the doctor who puts in the stitches, say) and 95% on the downside (all the avoidance of infection or lawsuits, records to keep, forms to sign). Most of the people you interact with in a hospital aren't there to help you get what you came for (to get better) they're there to help you avoid getting worse. At an avant garde art show, on the other hand, perhaps 95% of the effort goes into creating and presenting shocking ideas, with just 5% devoted to keeping the place warm or avoiding falls and spills as you walk in.

Which is probably as it should be.

But what about you and your organization? As you get bigger and older, are you busy ensuring that a bad thing won't happen that might upset your day, or are you aggressively investing in having a remarkable thing happen that will delight or move a customer?

A new restaurant might rely on fresh vegetables and whatever they can get at the market. The bigger, more established fast-food chain starts shipping in processed canned food. One is less reliable with bigger upside, the other—more dependable with less downside.

Here's a rule that's so inevitable that it's almost a law: As an organization grows and succeeds, it sows the seeds of its own demise by getting boring. With more to lose and more people to lose it, meetings and policies become more about avoiding risk than providing joy.

Fabulous

This is so cool: because we only look at things we want to look at, only talk about things worth talking about, the amount of fabulous in the world continues to rise exponentially.

Even though we're at the tail end of the great recession, think about all the cool stuff in your life. Not just stuff you can buy, but experiences, works of art, innovations of all kinds... the bar has been raised for what you need to do to be noticed, and the market is responding.

Not only do I notice more fabulous, but it sure seems as though the creators of it are more engaged, dedicated and yes, joyful, than I can remember. If there was ever a moment to follow your passion and do work that matters, this is it. You can't say, "but I need to make a fortune instead," because that's not happening right now. So you might as well join the people who can say, "I love doing this."

Take what you can get (?)

When you're just starting out or when your organization is struggling or when the economy isn't hot, it's very tempting to take what you can get.

You just graduated from law school and you have a lot of debt and the best job you can get is doing collections work. Should you take it?

Your consulting firm is organized around providing high-value work for large corporations, but the only gigs you can get in the consideration set for are small, struggling companies looking to spend a few hundred dollars a day. Should you take them?

The list goes on and on.

There are two things worth remembering here:

  1. Like bending a sapling a hundred years before the tree is fully grown and mature, the gigs you take early will almost certainly impact the way your career looks later on. If you want to build a law practice in the music industry, you'll need to take on musicians as clients, even if the early ones can't pay enough. If you want to do work for Fortune 500 companies, you'll need to do work for Fortune 500 companies, sooner better than later.
  2. The definition of "can get" is essential. Maybe it seems like this gig or that gig is the best you can get because that's all you're exposing yourself to. Almost always, the best gig I could get is shorthand for the easiest gig I could get.
Surviving is succeeding, no doubt about it. Doing the work is better than not doing the work. Waiting for perfect is never as smart as making progress. But, and it's a huge but, you define yourself by the work you do, and perhaps you need to redefine what you're willing to take and where you're looking for it.

Everyone is clueless

The problem with "everyone" is that in order to reach everyone or teach everyone or sell to everyone, you need to so water down what you've got you end up with almost nothing.

Everyone doesn't go to the chiropractor, everyone doesn't give to charity, everyone has never been to Starbucks. Everyone, in fact, lives a decade behind the times and needs hundreds of impressions and lots of direct experience before they realize something is going on.

You don't want everyone. You want the right someone.

Someone who cares about what you do. Someone who will make a contribution that matters. Someone who will spread the word.

As soon as you start focusing on finding the right someone, things get better, fast. That's because you can ignore everyone and settle in and focus on the people you actually want.

Here's a video that David sent over. I am thrilled at how much this guy loves his job, and I'm inspired by his story of how he turned down Pepsi as a vendor. He turned them down. But everyone wants Pepsi! Exactly. Once he decided he wanted someone, not everyone, his life got a lot better.

The unclicking 84%

Mark points us to this great set of stats.

Basically, all of the clicks for all the ads online come from only 16% of the surfers, and most of them come from just 4% of all internet users.

So, if you optimize your ads for clicks, it means you're ignoring a huge population.

If your business is built around the kind of person who clicks, you win. If it isn't, you either need to not buy ads online or buy ads optimized for attention and familiarity, not clicks.

Imagine that only left-handed people clicked on ads (it's about the same percent). What are you going to do if you make a product for the right-handed portion of the population?

It's okay to make an ad that isn't easy to measure. If it works, that's enough.

When data and decisions collide

Until recently, most of the decisions we were called on to make were based on hunches, insight and a little bit of data. Occasionally, a field like direct marketing would develop into something quite data-driven ("I don't care if you like mailer one, Smythe, mailer #2 did three times, better! Number 2 it is.") but not often.

It took Ignaz Semmelweis more than twenty years (he died before it happened, actually) to persuade doctors that washing their hands could save the lives of mothers giving birth. He had the data, he had the proof, but that wasn't enough to change minds.

Data mining and the proximity of the internet to most of what we do is changing the proximity of proof to decision. Now, you don't need to do a lot of research, the data is just a click away.

What are you going to do when your hunches don't match the data that's now pouring in?

The data shows, for example, that texting while driving is more dangerous than driving drunk. It doesn't feel that way, of course, but will you respect the data and stop, cold turkey?

The data shows that the vast majority of wine drinkers can't tell the difference between a $20 bottle and a $100 bottle. Will that keep you from buying the fancy wine? How much is the placebo effect worth?

The data shows that famous colleges underperform many cheaper, friendlier, smaller colleges. How much is your neighbor's envy worth?

These are just a few of the millions of examples of counter-intuitive data-driven findings. It took Galileo decades to persuade people the light objects fell as fast as heavy ones... even though he was busy dropping them off buildings for all to see. I wonder how long it will take us to get our arms around this avalanche of insight. Probably longer than most of us think, and marketers that jump too quickly to data are going to be disappointed (while lifehackers that use the data are going to continue to have a huge advantage).

Limited edition boxed set available today SOLD OUT!

[We ended up selling more than three a minute. You guys are so cool. We had a few counter problems, but it didn't effect the number we sold...they're all gone, 800 in total, and I won't be able to sell any more. Thank you for the energy and support!]

It seems as though the Apple tablet is unlikely to be ready in time for the holidays... what to get?

How about a boxed (a wooden box) set of five of my books? Very limited (only 800 will be sold, ever). Sold at a discount from retail, with cool packaging, assembled by elves, delivered by Martians, blessed by enlightened goats.

My goal was to make a rare item, even if it doesn’t make any money. More and more, I’m thinking of books as artifacts and souvenirs, as convenient and collectible packages for ideas that spread. I’m hoping that for a few hundred people, this boxed set will be an example of that.

The set includes Tribes, The Dip and Meatball Sundae. Also included is the fancy new Purple Cow (new because it includes twenty more pages of user-suggested purple cows) and the extra-fancy new All Marketers are Liars (new because it has a new cover--a better cover, actually, more on that later--and a new foreword).

If you want to buy any of the books individually (no box), use the links you can find here. If you’ve read some or all of these before, even better! What would make a happier gift for the clueless marketer in your life? The details are here, so be sure to read the fine print.

I’m sorry if they sell out before you get there, but first come first served seemed like a fair way to handle it. Remember, one per customer! If you pay for more than one, we'll donate extra payments to charity.

Thanks for reading and have fun!    Credits: Box, sleeve, design, elf fulfillment, goats.

Ms. In-between

The either-or world continues to decay, confronted by a shifting economy and the tools of the net.

It used to be easy to tell if someone was a journalist. Either you were or your weren't. So giving special privileges to journalists was easy. Parking permits, press badges, first amendment protections... no problem, you're a journalist. Everyone else? No way.

It used to be easy to tell if someone was an entrepreneur. Either you had a full-time job or you ran a business. So we could treat employees the same (health insurance, no moonlighting) and assume that the few that didn't have jobs were full-time freelancers or entrepreneurs.

It used to be easy to figure out who did the buying at an organization. The purchasing department did. So we knew who to call on.

Now, of course, it's all jumbled up. Everyone is a journalist, of course, but just a few do it for a living. Everyone is a freelancer, or, at the very least, always looking for the next gig. Everyone with a credit card can do the purchasing, they just expense it.

Society hates this. It means we need to make up new rules, FTC disclosures, legal principles, safety nets and more.

Marketers love this, because it means change and that means opportunity.

If the only reason you're only wearing one hat is because you've always only worn one hat, that's not a good reason.

Help your customers avoid taking responsibility

It's interesting to see that people are much better at putting up with things that happen to them than they are at living with the consequences of a bad choice.

When you can blame someone else (or the gods of spite, chance and bad luck) it's emotionally safer than it is to acknowledge you made a lousy choice.

If the weather is freakishly bad on your vacation, you can embrace pity from your friends, and spend your angst cursing the storms.

On the other hand, if you book a trip in the middle of hurricane season, you've got no one to blame but yourself.

This is a great opportunity for marketers and others that want to engage with the public. If you can figure out how to communicate, "it's not your fault," then people will be grateful, and they'll return. It might not be right, it might not be mature and it might not be the behavior society wants to advance, but it works.

Even better, figure out how to teach your customers to enjoy taking responsibility. It's the long term solution that builds a healthy relationship between customer and vendor... you coach them on good choices and they embrace what happens after they make them.

Attention lust and Olympic craziness

For many organizations and individuals, attention is the most precious resource. The pursuit of attention for our ads, or our city or our careers dominates all else.

How else to explain the silly math that is used to justify Olympic hoopla? Can imagine how little patience people would have for the IOC and their internal politics if they didn't have a show that so many people wanted to watch?

Almost every city that has hosted an Olympics regrets it financially. The TV networks spend billions. The advertisers pay for it. The hoopla is vast and loud.

For what?

For the attention. It's the attention that gets cities to put up with the ridiculous system for choosing host cities and gets the TV networks to ship camera crews half way around the world. It's the attention that turns the Olympic committee into vigilant trademark and copyright police. It's easy to cut countries or companies willing to bankrupt themselves for pride or attention a little slack. After all, the Olympics is a magical event.

Except it's not. The same craving for attention happens every day in every organization in search of just one more pair of eyeballs. As marketers discover that more eyeballs does not equal better, the quixotic quest for attention will start to abate.

The formula is simple but depressing: marketers have been lousy at harvesting attention because there was just so much of it. So it was more like strip mining than careful, efficient use of a natural resource. Now that attention is harder to get, people are overpaying for it and the Olympics is just one example. The alternative is to create focused, intense networks that ignore the masses. For most marketers, that's exactly what we need.

« October 2009 | Main | December 2009 »