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THE DIP BLOG by Seth Godin

All Marketers Are Liars Blog

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« February 2012 | Main | April 2012 »

How much for a really small slice?

When the hardware store sells you a single screw for a dime, shouldn't they just give it to you? Especially if you're a good customer?

Shouldn't that singer (you bought all her albums) return the love? You're only asking for a few seconds, a hug, a handshake, an autograph...

It's easier than ever to break your offering into smaller bits, into pieces that are part of the whole but are tiny on their own.

Add up enough small slices and that's the whole cake. Asymmetry is the rule now, not the exception.

Small slices can't be free in the long run, not if that's the only kind of slice there is.

Either you need to figure out how to sell your small slices, or you need to invent some big slices that are obviously worth what you need to sell them for.

"Too long"

You're going to hear that more and more often.

The movie, the book, the meeting, the memo... few people will tell you that they ran short.

(Shorter, though, doesn't mean less responsibility, less insight or less power. It means less fluff and less hiding.)

Nine ideas in search of a blog post

Loud and angry doesn't make you right. It just means that you are loud and angry.

I'm hosting a public event in New York City on May 16th. Save the date, registration opens April 16. More details then.

Sore muscles mysteriously respond to being soaked in a warm bath of water mixed with epsom salt.

"Everything will be alright" is not the same as "everything will stay the same."

If you grow up in a town with sidewalks, a suburb without them seems somehow wrong. Design instinct is cultural, not genetic.

I wish more people would read this post about spam and bcc email.

An interesting milestone in US politics: more and more people don't even like the Congress members they agree with.

One of the cheapest ways to have fun and save money is to check the air pressure in your car tires. Okay, maybe not fun, but still.

The pet supply store near my house now has a bakery section. It's either the end of civilization or the beginning.

The essential question to ask before extending your brand

Are we doing this because it's better?

Or because we can?

As organizations grow, they gain an audience, revenue, cash flow and trust. They add staff and then, soon, they decide it's time to offer something new. Smuckers decides perhaps it should use its shelf space to offer a peanut butter. A corporate coach wonders if he ought to add HR consulting services. A website decides to clone a product made by a smaller company that they can bring to a larger audience...

If you extend your reach because you can, because you have market power, you will probably be doing your existing customers a small service (centralized support or billing or just one less person to deal with) but your brand doesn't increase in stature. You had a chance to bring some of your original magic to the table (after all, it's that magic that got you started) but all you did was bully the competitors out of the way.

On the other hand, if you extend your brand because the new offering is better, magical in the way you can make it magical, then you've dramatically increased not just your market share but your perception as well.

Nike and Apple sometimes fit into the second category--the iPhone and some of Nike's clothing options are clearly different/better. Starbucks did it when they launched their ice cream.

On the other hand, there are literally thousands of organizations (including non-profits) that head down the path of mediocrity by rushing to offer 57 varieties, merely to please today's shareholders, merely because they can.

Why isn't it better?

  • Perhaps you don't know enough
  • Perhaps you don't care enough, or
  • Perhaps you're unable to execute because of committees, the status quo and fear

These might be three ways to say the same thing.

The combination of fear and ignorance (two sides of the same coin) can be paralyzing.

Making big decisions about money

We're bad at it. And marketers know this.

Consider: you're buying a $30,000 car and you have the option of upgrading the stereo to the 18 speaker, 100 watt version for just $500 more. Should you?

Or perhaps you're considering two jobs, one that you love and one that pays $2,000 more. Which to choose?


You are lucky enough to be able to choose between two colleges. One, the one with the nice campus and slightly more famous name, will cost your parents (and your long-term debt) about $200,000 for four years, and the other ("lesser" school) has offered you a full scholarship.

Which should you take?

In a surprisingly large number of cases, we take the stereo, even though we'd never buy a nice stereo at home, or we choose to "go with our heart because college is so important" and pick the expensive college. (This is, of course, a good choice to have to make, as most people can't possibly find the money).

Here's one reason we mess up: Money is just a number.

Comparing dreams of a great stereo (four years of driving long distances, listening to great music!) compared with the daily reminder of our cheapness makes picking the better stereo feel easier. After all, we're not giving up anything but a number.

The college case is even more clear. $200,000 is a number that's big, sure, but it doesn't have much substance. It's not a number we play with or encounter very often. The feeling about the story of compromise involving something tied up in our self-esteem, though, that feeling is something we deal with daily.

Here's how to undo the self-marketing. Stop using numbers.

You can have the stereo if you give up going to Starbucks every workday for the next year and a half. Worth it?

If you go to the free school, you can drive there in a brand new Mini convertible, and every summer you can spend $25,000 on a top-of-the-line internship/experience, and you can create a jazz series and pay your favorite musicians to come to campus to play for you and your fifty coolest friends, and you can have Herbie Hancock give you piano lessons and you can still have enough money left over to live without debt for a year after you graduate while you look for the perfect gig...

Suddenly, you're not comparing "this is my dream," with a number that means very little. You're comparing one version of your dream with another version.


Unhappiness compounds.

Unaddressed, it compounds into frustration.

And frustration is the soul killer, the destroyer of worker and customer relationships, loyalty and progress.

The solution is pretty simple: address the unhappiness. Change the system or talk about the problem or acknowledge it if that's all that can be done. None of this can happen, though, unless there's communication.

Most open door policies are window dressing. Most, "is everything okay with your dinner?" is rote. True communication, actual intention (and action) in digging deeper, is difficult work. If it doesn't feel like you're working at it, you're probably not doing it right.

"I don't see it"

Venture capital, marketing and pop culture are largely about pattern matching. Something happens, something else happens and it's the beginning of a trend.

Some people (like Clive Davis and Fred Wilson, to pick two) see the trends before others, often without being able to verbalize them.

If you are around people who are able to understand these things before you are, it's worthwhile to call yourself on it, and see if you can get into some discussions about what they see that you don't. I get particularly restless if it's obvious that there's something going on but I can't see it. I can't move on until I see it too.

The more often you match patterns, the better you get.

Episode markers

Our lives are lived in compartments, like panels in a cartoon strip.

Where you sit and when you leave and how you walked in--they are all markers, ways we space things out. Walking into the doctor's office or the principal's office or the parole office are physical acts that change our psyche.

Don't underestimate the power of having a customer walk into the dressing room or on stage or to the cash register. Don't forget that as soon as your audience walked into the conference room, they changed.

One way to change the story, then, is to change the markers. To move people from one spot to another when you want them to change their attitude (inside the movie theatre is very different from the popcorn-sales counter in the lobby).

I'm serious. Get up and move. Start fresh. [Bonus: the cartoon version!]

Extending the narrative

Did you wake up fresh today, a new start, a blank slate with resources and opportunities... or is today yet another day of living out the narrative you've been engaged in for years?

For all of us, it's the latter. We maintain our worldview, our biases, our grudges and our affections. We nurse our grudges and see the very same person (and situation) in the mirror today that we did yesterday. We may have a tiny break, a bit of freshness, but no, there's no complete fresh start available to us.

Marketers have been using this persistence to their advantage forever. They sell us a car or a trip or a service that fits the story we tell ourselves. I don't buy it because it's the right thing for everyone, I buy it because it's right for me, the us I invented, the I that's part of the story I've been telling myself for a long time.

The socialite walks into the ski shop and buys a $3000 ski jacket she'll wear once. Why? Not because she'll stay warmer in it more than a different jacket, but because that's what someone like her does. It's part of her story. In fact, it's easier for her to buy the jacket than it is to change her story.

If you went to bed as a loyal company man or an impatient entrepreneur or as the put-upon retiree or the lady who lunches, chances are you woke up that way as well. Which is certainly safe and easy and consistent and non-confusing. But is it helping?

We dismiss the mid-life crisis as an aberration to be avoided or ridiculed, as a dangerous blip in a consistent narrative. But what if we had them all the time? What if we took the resources and trust and momentum that helps us but decided to let the other stuff go?

It's painful to even consider giving up the narrative we use to navigate our life. We vividly remember the last time we made an investment that didn't match our self-story, or the last time we went to the 'wrong' restaurant or acted the 'wrong' way in a sales call. No, that's too risky, especially now, in this economy.

So we play it safe and go back to our story.

The truth though, is that doing what you've been doing is going to get you what you've been getting. If the narrative is getting in the way, if the archetypes you've been modeling and the worldview you've been nursing no longer match the culture, the economy or your goals, something's got to give.

When decisions roll around--from what to have for breakfast, to whether or not to make that investment to what TV show (or none) to watch on TV tonight, the question to ask is: Is this a reflex that's part of my long-told story, or is this actually a good decision? When patterns in engagments with the people around you become well-worn and ineffective, are they persistent because they have to be, or because the story demands it?

Clearing the decks

SwissMiss points to a great infographic about how professional photographers actually spend their time.


Part of the magic (and the risk) of the internet is that if you want to, you can use your access to tools, markets and media to go even further in the direction of the chart on the right. You can become your own booker, accountant, publicist and more. Hey, it's free! You get to keep all the money!

Of course, it also means you don't get to spend very much time at all doing what you set out to do in the first place, which is shoot pictures, or write music or coach or whatever it was.

The other thing you can do is find the guts and resources to move even more to the left. Hire other people (at huge expense) to do all those things you certainly could do on your own, so you can actually do the work you were born to do.

One thing to consider: finding and retaining a great salesperson is more difficult than you might think, since a great salesperson might very well contribute even more value than you do.

Confidence without guts

Too many MBAs are sent into the world with bravado and enthusiasm and confidence.

The problem is that they also lack guts.

Guts is the willingness to lose. To be proven wrong, or to fail.

No one taught them guts in school. So much money at stake, so much focus on the numbers and on moving up the ladder, it never occurs to anyone to talk about the value of failure, of smart risk, of taking a leap when there are no guarantees.

It's easy to be confident when you have everything aligned, when the moment is perfect. It's also not particularly useful.

Getting confused about causation and correlation

Have you noticed that in most cities, every time there are lots of umbrellas, it's raining?

From this analysis, the obvious way to make it rain is to be sure that everyone has an umbrella, preferably a black one, since that seems to be the kind that's most visible during big storms.

The trappings of successful marketing (or successful anything for that matter) aren't always the causes. Sometimes they are the caused. Just because Apple did something doesn't mean that it was responsible for Apple's success. It may be that they were successful despite some of the things they did, not because of them.

ʎssǝɯ os ʇou sı lɐʇıƃıp

The real world is messy. Signs hang at funny angles (or upside down). There's dirt in the corner. Cables are in disarray.

In the digital world, when something is out of place, we notice it.

It's a mistake to believe that messiness is always a bad thing. The organic feng shui of the real world gives us comfort, it makes things feel real or special or treasured.

Over time, our digital footprints add up and create a cyber world that starts to take on some of that very same messiness. Change a font or a layout or where something is, and it bothers us.

You can take advantage of that need for comfort by making your digital work a little less sterile, a bit less squared off.

When should we add marketing?

In the Mad Men era, we added marketing last. Marketing and advertising were the same thing, and the job was to promote what was made.

In the connection era, the marketing is the product, the service and most of all the conversations it causes and the connections it makes.

Marketing is the first thing we do, not the last. Build virality and connection and remarkability into your product or service from the start and then the end gets a lot easier. Build it into your app, your book, your movie, your insurance policy, and the red soles of your shoes.

What if the product is boring, someone asks...

Well, you get to decide what you make. If you're entering a competitive field and you intend to grow, the best plan is to revisit your starting assumption and make something else.

The ironic truth about sincerity

No one cares how much you care.

That salesperson who will surely die if he doesn't close this sale, that painter who is sweating blood to get her idea on the canvas, that student who just pulled an all-nighter...

In fact, we're hyper alert to the appearance of caring. We want to do business with people who appear to care, who appear to bring care and passion and dedication to their work. If the work expresses caring, if you consistently and professionally deliver on that expression, we're sold.

The truth is that it's what we perceive that matters, not what you bring to the table. If you care but your work doesn't show it, you've failed. If you care so much that you're unable to bring quality, efficiency and discernment to your work, we'll walk away from it.

And the irony? The best, most reliable way to appear to care when it matters--is to care.

Fifty is the new thirty

Baby boomers continue to redefine our culture, because there's just so many of us, we're used to being the center of attention.

Add into that the fact that we're living much longer and careers are becoming more flexible and it's pretty clear that in just about every cultural respect, fifty year olds are living, acting and looking more like thirty year olds every day.

This changes more than personal financial planning. It changes the marketing of every service and product aimed at consumers--and yet most traditional advertisers are stuck in the mindset that thirty is the end of your chance to find a new customer or build a new brand.

Specific promises, kept

We live in a vague world. And it gets vaguer all the time. There are so many waffle words, so many equivocations, so many ways to sort of say what we kind of intend to possibly do...

In this environment, the power of the specific, measurable and useful promise made and kept is difficult to overstate. And if you can do it regularly, on time and without a fuss, we will notice.

[If it's not working for you, perhaps you need to make and keep bigger promises. "Service excellence is our goal," doesn't count.]

We say we want a revolution...

Of course, what we say doesn't matter so much. What we do is what matters, and we have far more influence that we'd like to confess.

We say we want local merchants to offer great service, deep selection and community values, but we cross the street to the big box store to save $3.

We say we want companies to honor their promises and act transparently, but one new product or big discount from a business that has deceived us in the past and we come right back for more.

We say we're disgusted with Congress, but almost all of us vote to re-elect the dufus we sent there in the first place.

We say we hate spam, but we send it. And sometimes buy from it.

We say we'd like people to think first and act later, but we get cut off in traffic and all bets are off.

We say we love art, the brave work that touches us, but we listen to oldies and rarely head out to hear live music or visit a cutting edge gallery.

Hypocrisy may be an epidemic, but the problem isn't in what we say. It's what we do.

Speaking when they care (reorganizing the economics and attitude of customer service)

Advertisers struggle to be heard through the noise. Customer service reps, on the other hand, can whisper.

A few organizations have figured out how to turn customer service into a marketing opportunity and thus a profit center. They figure if they've got your attention, if they're talking to you at a moment when you care a great deal, they can turn that into an opportunity to delight. And being delighted is remarkable and worth talking about.

That means that if your organization has a stall, deny and avoid policy when it comes to customer interaction, you will almost certainly be defeated if a competitor comes up with a scalable way to delight.

Overseas call centers and online chat handled by untrained workers with no incentives seem like clever ways to cut costs during stressful times. What they actually are is scalable engines of annoyance, time-sucking processeses that raise expectations and then totally dash them. Better to not even have a phone number. (You can't call Google but you don't want to call Adobe--which one generates more animus--the inability to call, or the promise, unfilled, of respect and thoughtful help?)

Or consider: Some airlines are starting to realize that a delayed or cancelled flight is actually a chance to earn some remarkability. In the two hours that someone is stranded, they're paying very careful attention to your brand. What are you doing? Notifying them by email that the flight is late, offering them free wifi, even giving them a link to a free book or movie online--none of that costs more than caring...all of them important opportunities to be heard and remembered.

Investing in delight via customer service is cheap to experiment with and easy to prove. Just siphon off 1% of your calls to a trained person who actually cares and wants to help--and see what happens to customer satisfaction and word of mouth. Cancel a few TV ads and you can pay for it--soon it will pay for itself.

The mathematical impossibility of universal delight

Jack Nicholson calls it, "rabbit ears."

If you're hyper-aware of what others are thinking, if you're looking for criticism, the unhappy audience member and the guy who didn't get the joke, you will always find what you're seeking.

For it to be any other way, you'd either have to be invisible or performing for a totally homogeneous audience.

Invisible is an option, of course. You can lay low, not speak up and make no difference to anyone.

That's sort of like dividing by zero, though. You'll get no criticism, but no delight either.

As for finding a homogeneous audience, good luck with that. The one thing that's true of all people is that they are different from one another. What delights one enrages the other.

Part of the deal.

The extraordinary software development manager

Being good at programming is insufficient qualification for becoming a world class software project manager/leader. Too often, we take our best coders and turn them into incompetent managers because it seems like a logical next step, and because we don't pay adequate attention to what we really want from these critical executives. (Hint, this is about many fields, not merely software).

1. Clients want useful visibility into the future in terms of costs, timing and deliverables

in fact, it's almost impossible to be too clear, to benchmark enough and most of all, to overdo the work of identifying forks in the road when it comes to decision making. When a client hires a developer or a company embarks on a software project, they are lost. Even something as complex as building a house is dwarfed by the rapid change, shifting priorities and most of all, the requirement for the new, that's involved in even a simple software project.

The indispensable software development manager is aware of this and lays it all out for us.

2. Code is going to be used, reviewed, updated and inspected by people other than the person writing it

At some point in the next [insert time frame], a dozen people we have never met will either be updating or using this code, whether they are people we hire or people we partner with. It's tempting to question the value of an organized architecture and clear code commenting, but again, it's almost impossible for an organization to overdo this. We don't have time to do it over so we have to spend the time to do it right. In software programming only the amateur's approach rewards speed over long-term usability.

3. A great programmer is worth thirty times as much as a good one.

Which means that hiring a good programmer in a competitive field is a killer error. It also means that managing a programmer in a way that accepts 'good' will lead to a fail as well.

4. Programming at scale is more like building a skyscraper than putting together a dinner party

Architecture in the acquisition of infrastructure and tools is one of the highest leverage pieces of work a tech company can do. Smart architecture decisions will save  hundreds of thousands of dollars and earn millions. We'll only make those decisions if we can clearly understand our options.

Or, you can have some newbies hack something together real quick. Up to you.

"It's not business, it's personal"

It's too easy to blame the organization and the system and the bottom line for decisions that a person would never be willing to take responsibility for.

Whenever you can, work with people who take it personally.

Learning from four viral events

March 2012 is a big month for viral ideas that change the way people think about more than just LOLcats. Here are four that happened in the last week or two and each brings its own lessons:

Marilyn Hagerty's review of the local Olive Garden was a huge Twitter sensation, an easy target for ironists in search of something to snark about. The octogenarian (as much fun to type as it is to say) was fabulous in her refusal to take the bait, and this is a classic Internet meme, here today, gone tomorrow. One lesson: you can't count on media stories to pop, and when they do, they are not worth much to the media companies that publish them. You need more than one to make it a business.

The Kony video is the fastest-spreading internet video of all time, and one that is much harder to pigeonhole than an Olive Garden review. The most important takeaway is that this overwhelming pop is unlikely to ever happen this way again. A video this long, on this complex (and previously little known) a topic, for a non-profit--no, this is the exception that proves a bunch of rules. I have no doubt that the success of the video (seen by more people than any single TV show this week) will lead many organizations astray in the naive belief that they can emulate this one. If a non-profit board decides to spend precious resources on a video hoping it will change the world in three days, I think they're misguided.

I don't have the stats of time watched, but my confident guess is that the vast majority of viewers only lasted a few minutes. It's also worth noting that 60,000,000 or more views led to significantly less than a dime donated (on average) per viewer, and that unlike Dollar Shave Club, there was no well-rehearsed method to turn a viewer into a fan into a donor into a repeat donor.

I'm hopeful that good causes and complicated ideas benefit from rapid viral spread among strangers moving forward. My fear is that this looks like an easy shortcut, and it's not.

One thing we can learn, I think, is that production values are rising. For an idea to spread, it's more important than ever that the sneezer (the one spreading the idea) feels comfortable enough to send it along. In the case of the Olive Garden, the sneering tweeter could do so feeling comfortably superior. In the Kony video, the production values were a clue that the story was safe to share.

Dollar Shave Club isn't just a clever online video, it's a business. Of the four, it's the one that was most intentional and was best designed to lead to long-term success. The key distinction: Use the viral spread to gain a permission asset. Then, turn that asset into a profitable business.

Here's how they did it:

First, realize that razors are boring and expensive and that buying them is a bit of a hassle. If you address all three of these issues for the consumer, you don't need to deliver a better razor in order to succeed--all that's necessary is a better way to get the razor in the hands of the buyer. The model of permission is at the heart of the project--the razor business can't possibly pay off if consumers only buy one or two times and then get bored. Instead, Dollar earns the right to send you a bunch of razors every month forever, making the value of a new customer very high. They can invest that value into a clever video and into aggressive pricing. Also very smart: The affiliate program doesn't encourage you to pimp your friends to make money for yourself. Instead, they politely remind you that if you share their affiliate link, you get free razors, the very thing you're encouraging your friends to buy. The symmetry is compelling and successful.

And finally, my free ebook Stop Stealing Dreams continues to spread, with tens of thousands of new readers every day. There's no doubt I could have dramatically increased the number of viral engagements if I had made a video instead, and if I had created some sort of deadline (free this week only!). On the other hand, one lesson from this sort of gradual viral spread is that while it doesn't happen overnight, it can spread for months or even years into the future.

Here are two books on the topic, a new one by Dan Zarrella and an older one by me.

Information density

How many choices should your customers have? How much information should be presented, how many dials are there to turn, how quickly are you asking for people to grasp concepts and make choices? Consider two options:

When talking to an amateur, to a stranger, to a newbie, to someone who isn't committed, the best path is clarity, which means simplicity. Few choices, no guessing, no hunting around.

When talking to a fellow professional, to a peer, to someone in the same groove as you, the goal is to maximize useful density of choice. Put as much power in the hands of the user as possible.

If you're a frustrated user, it's likely that the marketer/presenter/doctor has made a mistake and either split the difference in how much information and power was conveyed or missed the mark entirely in one direction or the other.

The interface for your mail program ought to be far more information rich than the emergency kill switch at the gas station.

The texture of your sales pitch ought to be deeper and more sophisticated for a return customer than it should be when you're selling door to door.

The menu at a fancy restaurant should probably have more choices and more detail than one at a fast food joint.

One of the reasons to study up on a topic is so that you can earn the right to speak and be spoken to in shorthand, and to be given the pro version of the dashboard. And if you're entering a market, consider offering a super-simple data-poor version if the competition is focused on complexity, or offering a power version if the competition is in a race to offer the user as little as possible.


Everything we do that's important is the result of conflict. Not a conflict between us and the world--a conflict between us and ourselves.

We want to eat another dessert but we want to be healthy and skinny as well. Who is we? Who is the self in self control, and who is being controlled?

We want to stand up and make difference and we want to sit down and hide and be safe.

We want to help others and we want to keep more for ourselves.

It's not a metaphor, it's brain chemistry. We don't have one mind, we have competing interests, all duking it out.

This conflict, the conflict between I and me, is at the heart of being human. One side sells the other. Like all kinds of marketing, it's far more effective if you know your audience. You will do a better job of telling a story (to yourself) if you understand who you are marketing to. In this case, I is marketing to me (and vice versa). The marketing is going on in your head...

Successful people have discovered how to be better at self marketing.

Sovereignty and the new world--the end of nations?

Geography mattered a great deal when resources were in the ground, people had trouble moving long distances and trade was primarily local.

Now, of course, ideas spread fast, and so does money.

Which means that national sovereignty over geography isn't nearly as important as it was. Governments are going to fight a long (and ultimately) losing battle for control.

Multi-national corporations have the upper hand. They have long horizons and better lawyers.

And ideas? Ideas are even more difficult to control than people are.

A habit of attention

At the core of permission marketing is the efficiency of earning, maintaining and leveraging attention.

If you don't have to begin anew each time, you can cut the effort and spending you're putting into reaching strangers. And if the consumer can trust that you won't waste her time, she can spend more time on productive work and less time sorting offers to see what's worth looking at.

The method for accomplishing this: make promises and keep them. Make an offer and then follow through. Don't waste my time.

The advanced method: intentionally design your communications to create a habit of attention. Habits are hard to form and even harder to break, and when properly constructed, they can benefit both sides.

Doing it wrong, relentlessly

According to this post by Neil Patel, I blog incorrectly--missing on at least 7 of his twelve rules.

On purpose.

I'm not writing to maximize my SEO or conversion or even my readership. I'm writing to do justice to the things I notice, to the ideas in my head and to the people who choose to read my work.

The interesting lesson: One way to work the system is to work the system. The other way is to refuse to work it.

Three masters

You can focus on serving your existing customer base by keeping your promises, understanding their needs and organically growing your constituency.

You can focus on acquiring another customer base, on making a different promise to a bigger or more attractive group.

Or you can focus on serving your muse, on making the song in your head real, regardless of who wants to hear it.

Worth noting that you can successfully choose among the three, as long as you're consistent in your actions and goals.

Fear, scarcity and value

The things we fear are probably feared by others, and when we avoid them, we're doing what others are doing as well.

Which is why there's a scarcity of whatever work it is we're avoiding.

And of course, scarcity often creates value.

The shortcut is simple: if you're afraid of something, of putting yourself out there, of creating a kind of connection or a promise, that's a clue that you're on the right track. Go, do that.

Why lie?

"We've decided to hire someone with totally different skills than yours..." and then they hire someone just like you, but more expensive and not as good.

"We're not going to buy a car this month, my husband wants to wait..." and then you see them driving a new car from that other dealer, the one with the lousy reputation.

"I'm just not interested..." and then you see the new RFP, one you could have helped them write to get a more profitable and productive outcome.

People lie to salesmen all the time. We do it because salespeople have trained us to, and because we're afraid.

Prospects (people like us) lie in many situations, because when we announce that we''ve made the decision to hire someone else, or when we tell the pitching entrepreneur we don't like her business model, or when we clearly articulate why we're not going to do business, the salesperson responds by questioning the judgment of the prospect.

In exchange for telling the truth, the prospect is disrespected.

Of course we don't tell the truth--if we do, we're often bullied or berated or made to feel dumb.

Is it any surprise that it's easier to just avoid the conflict altogether? Of course, there's an alternative, but it requires confidence and patience on the part of the seller and marketer.

Someone who chooses not to buy from you isn't stupid. They're not unable to process ideas logically, nor are they unethical or manipulated by others. No, it's simpler than that:

Given what they know and what they believe, the prospect is making exactly the right decision.

We always make our decision based on what we know and believe. That's a tautology, based on the definition... a decision is the path you take based on what you know and believe, right?

The challenge, then, it seems to me, is to realize that perhaps the prospect knows something you don't, or, just as likely, doesn't believe what you believe. Your job as a marketer is to figure out what your prospect's biases and worldview and fears and beliefs are, and as a salesperson, your job is to help them know what you know.

If you keep questioning our judgment, we're going to keep lying to you.

My first recommended book list of 2012

I think that books remain the tool of choice for changing the discussion and for impacting the way people think. There's really no better way for an individual to speak up with authority.

I hope you find something on this list that resonates with you.

And if you haven't read it yet, don't forget to download my new free ebook, Stop Stealing Dreams. After a week, it's been tweeted more than 4,000 times, with over 100,000 readers and more than 22,000 search matches.

Finishing well

It's not enough to finish the checklist, to hurriedly do the last three steps and declare victory.

In fact, the last coat of polish and the unhurried delivery of worthwhile work is valued all out of proportion to the total amount of effort you put into the project.

It doesn't matter how many designers, supply chains, workers, materials and factories were involved--if the box is improperly sealed, that's how you will be judged.

Sight reading

When I played clarinet in high school, I never practiced. I blamed it on my dog, who howled, but basically I was a lousy music student.

At my weekly lesson, though, the teacher would scold me, guessing that I'd only practiced three or four hours the week before. I was so good at sight reading that while I was truly mediocre at the clarinet, I was way better than anyone who had never practiced had any right to be.

We often test sight reading skills, particularly in job interviews. In that highly-charged encounter, we test the applicant's ability to think on her feet. That's a great idea if the job involves a lot of feet thinking, but otherwise, you're inspecting for the wrong thing, aren't you? Same with a first date. Marketing yourself to a new person often involves being charismatic, clever and quick--but most jobs and most relationships are about being consistent, persistent and brave, no?

Ashamed to not know

Society changes when we change what we're embarrassed about.

In just fifty years, we've made it shameful to be publicly racist.

In just ten years, someone who professes to not know how to use the internet is seen as a fool.

The question, then, is how long before we will be ashamed at being uninformed, at spouting pseudoscience, at believing thin propaganda? How long before it's unacceptable to take something at face value? How long before you can do your job without understanding the state of the art?

Does access to information change the expectation that if you can know, you will know?

We can argue that this will never happen, that it's human nature to be easily led in the wrong direction and to be willfully ignorant. The thing is, there are lots of things that used to be human nature, but due to culture and technology, no longer are.

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