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Seth Godin has written 18 bestsellers that have been translated into 35 languages

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or click on a title below to see the list


An intensive, 4-week online workshop designed to accelerate leaders to become change agents for the future. Designed by Seth Godin, for you.



All Marketers Tell Stories

Seth's most important book about the art of marketing




Free Prize Inside

The practical sequel to Purple Cow





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




Meatball Sundae

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



Permission Marketing

The classic Named "Best Business Book" by Fortune.



Poke The Box

The latest book, Poke The Box is a call to action about the initiative you're taking - in your job or in your life, and Seth once again breaks the traditional publishing model by releasing it through The Domino Project.




Purple Cow

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



Small is the New Big

A long book filled with short pieces from Fast Company and the blog. Guaranteed to make you think.



Survival is Not Enough

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




The Big Moo

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



The Big Red Fez

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




The Dip

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




The Icarus Deception

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





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




Unleashing the Ideavirus

More than 3,000,000 copies downloaded, perhaps the most important book to read about creating ideas that spread.



V Is For Vulnerable

A short, illustrated, kids-like book that takes the last chapter of Icarus and turns it into something worth sharing.




We Are All Weird

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



Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?

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



THE DIP BLOG by Seth Godin

All Marketers Are Liars Blog

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Member since 08/2003

« May 2012 | Main | July 2012 »

What's scarce?

The only reason every project doesn't scale to infinity is that something runs out. Time, money, natural resources, new fashions, new customers... something is scarce.

The first question you need to ask about your project is: what's scarce?

The second: how do I get by with less of it?

Big books, little books and the other kind

Words need a place to live. They seem to like it online, where they can be spread and touched and ingested at will.

But online isn't enough, because context is hard to guarantee and commitment on the part of the reader isn't really there.

So I'm not giving up on whatever medium is necessary to get the point across.

Hugh has launched a series of cube grenades about some of my books, here highlighting four from Linchpin. When you see them on the wall (I've got them sitting right behind me as I type this), the words seep in. And when colleagues see them, it's a powerful way to start a conversation. Which is the whole point, no?

One thing I haven't explored in 25 years of making books is creating the big fat significant book, the one that sits on the counter or the end table and gets read now and then--for years. I still remember the art books my mom used to keep throughout our house growing up. Some of them took me literally a decade to get through, but I'm glad I did. My Kickstarter has only two weeks left to go, and while most of it is sold out, there are still some of the big books left. I'm going to place the order for printing these in a week or so (they take months to produce), so if you're at all interested, I hope you'll take a look at the $62 edition today.

A house filled with books is a good place to live.

Do we have to pander?

The road to the bottom is paved with good intentions, or at the very least, clever rationalizations.

National Geographic goes into a cable TV partnership and ends up broadcasting shameless (shameful? same thing) reality shows, then justifies it as a way to make money to pay for the good stuff.

Restaurants serve chicken fingers to their guests' kids, because it's the only thing they'll eat.

Some comedians give up their best work in exchange for jokes that everyone will get.

Brands extend their products or dumb down their offerings or slap their brands on inferior substitutes all in the name of reaching the masses.

And that's the problem with the shortcut. You trade in your reputation (another word for brand) in exchange for a short-term boost of awareness or profit, but then you have neither. Yes, you can have a blog that follows every rule of blogging and seo, but no, it won't be a blog we'll miss if it's gone.

Should Harley Davidson make a scooter?

Yes, you can pander, and if you're a public company and have promised an infinite growth curve, you may very well have to. But if you want to build a reputation that lasts, if you want to be the voice that some (not all!) in the market seek out, this is nothing but a trap, a test to see if you can resist short-term greed long enough to build something that matters.

What's on your list?

"I have kids at home, I don't have a manager, I need to pay off student debt, my boss never lets me, I'm really busy because of soccer season, my knee is acting up, there's already five galas coming up, my RSI hurts when I type, I don't have a degree, I have a degree and can't waste it, I'm not good at that, I tried it before but it didn't work, I've never tried it before, the weather is crazy, isn't it, the election is right around the corner, it's been too long at this job they won't listen to me, I'm going to retire soon, I'm too young, I'll never learn, it's too risky..."

We all have a list. Most of the things on it may in fact be legitimate reasons for no.

I guess the self-marketing question is, "how often do you remind yourself of what's on the list?"

If the first thing you do when considering an opportunity is consult the list, the list is the most important thing in your life, isn't it?

Take this simple marketing quiz

Not so simple, actually, and about more than just classical marketing:

There are a hundred people in a room, perhaps a trade show or a small theatre. What's your choice:

  1. Sit in the back, watch, listen and learn.
  2. Cajole your way onstage so you can make a slick presentation that gets everyone on their feet, buzzing and excited, eager to do business with you or hire you.
  3. Set up a booth in the lobby that energizes and engages 12 of the people enough that they tell their friends, while it disturbs or mystifies two of the others and is ignored by the rest.
  4. Provide a service (like cookies and juice in a box at the exit) that many of the people there are appreciative of but few remember or talk about.

Most people say they choose #2. In fact, most marketers actually do #1 or #4, and it's only #3 that gives you the best chance--create a remarkable product or service, don't depend on getting picked to have a lucky break on stage, and gradually spread your purple cow among people who are truly interested.

Apple and Nike and Starbucks are trotted out again and again as marketing gold standards, because they are beloved by many and ignored or distrusted by few. But these are the outliers, the .0001% that don't represent what actually happens when successful ideas reach the marketplace.

The mass market is no longer. There is almost no room left for the next Procter & Gamble or Google. Instead, you are far more likely to do your best work if you are willing to delight a few as opposed to soothe the masses.

Quick shortcuts (in search of)

There aren't many actual shortcuts.

There are merely direct paths...

Most people don't take them, because they frighten us--too direct, I guess. It's easy to avoid the things that frighten us if we wander around for a while. Stalling takes many forms, and one of them looks like a shortcut.

Things that look like shortcuts are actually detours (disguised as less work).

Opportunity cost

How much does it cost to go to a movie?

Okay, now what's your answer if I told you that while the movie is taking place, you have to miss the final debate in the school board election, in a race where you're tied for first?

Clearly, the stuff you miss has a cost.

Freelancers are very good at having an innate sense of opportunity cost. They realize, for example, that taking on a friend at a discount might be very expensive if it means that other, better paying work is going to have to be turned down.

Now that just about everyone is in the business of selling their time in some form, it's important to be aware that even if something doesn't cost you cash out of your wallet, the opportunity cost is not only real, it's just as valuable. Not only does it cost money to say 'no', it costs money to say 'yes'.

Doing the big work (at the little table)

Most of the day is spent in little work. Clerical, bureaucratic, meetings, polishing, improving, reacting, responding.

The obligation is to carve out time for the big work.

The big work that scares you, that brings risk, that might very well fail.

And we're most likely to do that work when it's least expected, when the table is small, the resources are lacking and time is short.

No need to wait for permission or the lightning bolt of inspiration. The big work is available to you as soon as you decide to do it.

Where does trust come from?

Hint: it never comes from the good times and from the easy projects.

We trust people because they showed up when it wasn't convenient, because they told the truth when it was easier to lie and because they kept a promise when they could have gotten away with breaking it.

Every tough time and every pressured project is another opportunity to earn the trust of someone you care about.

Jumping the Olympic® shark

When a brand becomes a bully, it loses something vital.

So much money, so many egos and so many governments are involved in the Olympics now (and they have so little competition) that it has become a sterling example of what happens when you let greed and lawyers run amok over common sense and generosity.

Going after knitters and improv comedians and authors of children's books, dry cleaners, and Facebook users is not only silly, it's a dangerous symptom of corporate power. In an era when media was a top down enterprise, corporations and media companies had no trouble controlling what was said or spread, because there weren't many media companies and the lawyers all played the same game.

Today, of course, everyone is a media company. In their misguided attempt to stop guerrilla marketers, squatters and media pirates, the IOC has completely missed the point of what a brand is.

It's not a word. It's a set of expectations.

The word 'olympics' (small 'o', no lawsuits please) used to mean a competition. Then it became THE Olympics®, which is fine, but it doesn't change the language. There's still the Olympic Peninsula and the olympic ideal and all the other flotsam and jetsam of how we communicate. Cleaning up the language doesn't make the Olympics® (repeated use of the registered trademark symbol added for emphasis, not because I have to) any more valuable.  If anything, it decreases the value of event because they're making it hard to talk about it.

You can't build a brand by trying to sue anyone who chooses to talk about you.

Well, they can't sue all of us. Personally, I never watch the Olympic brand games, and the hype tires me out, but if you want to tweet without using the first person (violating their rules, as if they have the right to tell you what person to tweet in), I think that's just fine.

Before you raise money (assets and expenses)

There are more ways to raise money for your business, project or organization than ever before. There are more angel investors, more online sites, more VCs... it's true that the local bank has largely abandoned this responsibility, but the web keeps reminding us of the opportunities.

Here's the key thing you have to understand before you ask your mom or your friends or the local VC for an investment:

There's a huge difference between spending money on expenses and spending money to build an asset.

Ice at a picnic is an expense. Once it melts, it's gone. Your electric bill, rent--these are costs of doing business, and you should rarely if ever borrow money to pay them.

Assets, on the other hand, are things that sustain or grow in value, that you can use again and again, and that are ultimately worth more than they cost.

A college degree from the right institution is an asset. So is an earned list of 10,000 people who want to hear from you by email once a week. So is a reputation (which some people call a brand).

For entrepreneurs, then, the math is simple: any asset-building opportunity that will generate a long-term profit is worth considering and even worth borrowing money to acquire.

But if your business needs to borrow money to simply pay your expenses, to keep you at a steady state, you're doomed. Unless those expenses are demonstrably building a bigger asset for tomorrow, you're going to regret the investment, because it's not an investment, it's just a waste.

The second thing to keep in mind is this: you probably have to pay the money back. Don't borrow money to pay for an asset unless you can see a clear path to paying it back. That might mean selling the asset later (which is what VCs almost always do) or it might mean building a project where the asset is so profitable you can pay people back directly (which is why it's worth borrowing money to go to Harvard Medical School).

If you sell a percentage of your company (which is what most investors ask for) then you've basically started down the path to sell the whole thing in order for the investors to get repaid. Nothing wrong with that, just be sure you're going in with your eyes open.

When in doubt, raise money from your customers by selling them something they truly need--your product.

One reason politicians (and some startups) are stuck

It may be easier to raise money effectively than it is to spend it well.

Raising money for your marketing budget, your ad budget, your staff--this is a linear process. You can look at others who have raised money before you and emulate and increment and escalate those tactics and raise even more than the other guy.

What's interesting is how bad these very same people are at spending that money.

Marketers at companies big and small spend their money in childish, frightened, copycat ways. They believe that escalating the budget on what has worked before is a professional act, and one likely to work. So they give up insight and initiative and, yes, intuition in favor of scale, and try to scale their budget the way they scaled their fundraising.

Good luck with that. The competition is just as good (or better) than you at raising money, so the only competitive instrument available to you is to be better, not merely louder.

A lesson from a great architect

Architecture is a combination of sculpture and art and engineering and user interface. It is high tech and low tech at the same time, utilitarian and beautiful and virtually always budget constrained.

But do you know what great architects understand?

If you don't get it built, the work doesn't matter.

Great architects are able to be great because they know how to sell their ideas to their clients. (Or, they know how to find clients who will build their ideas. Same thing.)

If you're brilliant and undiscovered and underappreciated (in whatever field you choose), then you're being too generous about your definition of brilliant.





















Reflections on today's Kickstarter

First, thank you to my amazing readers. To say that I had an overwhelming day is a bit of an understatement. The Kickstarter reached its goal in record time, less than three hours after I first posted it. We met and then blew away the stated goal. It means a lot to me that you're so connected and generous.

As promised, I'm going to do a few updates to share data and insights that might help the next person.

  • Half the people who visited the page watched the video all the way through to the end. I'm guessing that's 5x what happens on YouTube. There's something about the medium of a Kickstarter page that makes the video even more important than you'd think. I'm glad I reshot mine (and made it shorter).
  • A fancy video isn't important unless the product you're selling involves video. Direct and clear beat clever editing and dissolves every time.
  • Scarcity cuts both ways. I stated from the beginning that my goal wasn't to maximize the revenue generated from the page, and it was clear within minutes that many readers were excited to be part of something that was limited. Of course, some people got upset by the very same thing--it's hard to balance scarcity (a signed edition, say) with abundance (spreading ideas far and wide).
  • People are smart. This Kickstarter had ten levels, which felt like a lot when I built it, but I bet the audience could have figured out their favorite choice if there had been twenty.
  • I'm not sure your goal should be to make the topline number as big as possible. The whole idea of measuring the revenue of Kickstarter makes no sense (how much does it cost to make a Pebble watch or record a CD?) No one really knows what your costs are, but it's the costs that matter, not the revenue. That's obvious, yet we're busy talking about what people 'make' on Kickstarter, and many Kickstart builders are trying to structure the offer to push that number up. No need. It doesn't matter. Maximize what's important to you, not the pundits.
  • Folks who put up links to your Kickstarter are generous beyond measure. Even more important is permission to talk to a tribe that cares about you and what you make. Build that first.
  • If you're thinking about skipping the permission step when you build your campaign, please reconsider. This is the one and best secret of Kickstarter.

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to talk about it, watch the video and participate. If you're interested, there are some rewards that aren't sold out. For me, it's back to writing, working on making you the best book I can.

This might work (my new book)

I’ll need your help with this one. [And you came through, big time! The goal is already reached, in less than three hours. Thank you. The Kickstarter is open for another four weeks, and there are plenty of rewards still--check it out.]

My new book launches today--but you won’t be able to read it until January.

Let me explain:

Books take a long time to invent, produce, ship and go on sale. Almost all of that work happens on faith, and it’s then followed by a frenzy of promotion and anxiety, as the publisher and author try to find out if there’s actually desire for the book. Activating the tribe at the end of the process is nerve-wracking and inefficient. For the reader, it’s annoying to hear about a book 32 times from a panicked author who has her back against the wall, and then in every media outlet you turn to.

As part of my 25-year quest to find a better way to make and promote books, I’m launching a hybrid experiment today. The idea is to do it in public, and to use widely available tools that can be emulated by other authors and other publishers if it works.

The problem with traditional publishing is that you do all the work and take all the risk before you find out if the audience is ready and willing to buy the book. And you have only a few days to go from “it’s new” to “it’s over.”

I think there’s a new way to think about this, a hybrid of old and new, one that activates true fans and makes it easy to spread the idea through the tribe and beyond.

It starts with a Kickstarter* page. A lot of the details of what I’m describing are on that page, so feel free to check it out when we’re done here.

A successful Kickstart is great (Amanda Palmer is our hero), but what happens after that? How do you take the buzz and connection and scale it?

My idea: Kickstart + bookstore + ebooks.

The publisher (my key to the bookstore) is only willing to go ahead with the rest of the plan if my Kickstarter works. No Kickstarter, no distribution, the stakes are high. (As you saw at the Domino Project, the ebook part is easy now, but the bookstore is still critical to reach the many readers who find and buy books in stores).

If the Kickstarter works, then all the funders will get to read the book before anyone else, plus there are bonuses and previews and special editions. A few weeks after the early funders (that would be you) get to read it, the book will be available to book buyers for purchase the traditional way (wherever fine books are sold in the US, including digital readers). Of course, the Kickstarter funders get a better price, get it first and get unique bonuses, plus the pleasure of being in early--and knowing that they made it happen. The only way this book becomes real is if my readers get behind it now.

By using Kickstarter early in the process, we eliminate book publisher/bookseller skepticism and create the excitement they need to actually stock and promote the book. Those books you see stacked up by the front window at the bookstore? That’s not an accident. That’s a promotion planned months in advance, based almost entirely on how optimistic the publisher is about a book’s prospects.

So that’s the idea--a way that any author with a following can divide the publishing process into three pieces--get the true fans on board early, give them something to talk about just before the book is in stores, and then use online and offline bookstores to do what they do best and distribute far and wide. It moves the power in the process to where it belongs--to motivated readers and their authors.

It's not easy to build a following, and it takes time, but I hope you'll help me show authors and publishers that it's worth it. Here's a short link you can share:

I’ll update you four times in the next four weeks about how we’re doing. Thank you for helping me make this work, and for publishing your own great idea as soon as you are ready.

* [Three Kickstarter details:

  1. Kickstarter is a free website that allows artists to give their fans a chance to show their interest in a new project.
  2. Kickstarter doesn’t charge you (or me) a thing unless the project meets its minimum. After that, you're charged for what you pledged and you are guaranteed to get the reward you signed up for.
  3. This is the rare Kickstarter where there’s not an unlimited inventory of rewards--every item is limited. When a reward is gone, it's gone.]

Thank you for your help.

Snark and fear

The single most appropriate question to someone who attacks, dismisses or trolls: "What are you afraid of?"

It's incredibly easy to tear someone down, easier still to criticize an idea. The more vehement the opposition, though, the deeper the fear.

[Note: tomorrow's blog post will probably be about an hour later than usual, as I'm announcing a new project.]

Note for note

I'm listening to an obscure CD of the Silver Beats, a group of four Japanese lads who play note for note renditions of Beatles songs. They don't speak a word of English. And yet they sing beautifully.

I saw them as an opening act a few years ago, and the novelty was extraordinary.

The thing is, I don't want to see them again. Why would I? It's note for note. No chance for random rhapsodic moments. No chance for total disaster.

Part of the magic of our work is that it's not guaranteed. As soon as it is, we can digitize it or mechanize it or outsource it.

Amplify the positive outliers

The most efficient way to get the behavior you're looking for is to find positive deviants and give them a platform, a microphone and public praise.

The tribe is hyper-aware of what's being celebrated, and when you celebrate those that are moving in the right direction, you create a powerful push in that direction. It's tempting to spend your time extinguishing bad behaviors, but in fact, spreading the word about the superstars is far more likely to change the culture of your market.

"I don't even know what I'm afraid of"

This is the fear that kills brands and b2b sales and individual creativity. It's the fear without a name, without a face, without false facts that can be shot down or arguments that can be reasoned with.

This is the amygdala firing, the lizard brain being triggered without rational explanation.

When we are wrestling against the elusive and resilient fear with no name, often the only choice is to live with it, to care enough about forward motion and practical progress that we can come embrace the inner trembling that won't give up.

In market after market paralyzed with fear, this trembling might be the very best sign that you're on to something.

Seven marketing sins

Impatient... great marketing takes time. Doing it wrong (and rushed) ten times costs much more and takes longer than doing it slowly, but right, over the same period of time.

Selfish... we have a choice, and if we sense that this is all about you, not us, our choice will be to go somewhere else.

Self-absorbed... you don't buy from you, others buy from you. They don't care about your business and your troubles nearly as much as you do.

Deceitful... see selfish, above. If you don't tell us the truth, it's probably because you're selfish. How urgent can your needs be that you would sacrifice your future to get something now?

Inconsistent... we're not paying that much attention, but when we do, it helps if you are similar to the voice we heard from last time.

Angry... at us? Why are you angry at us? It's not something we want to be part of, thanks.

Jealous... is someone doing better than you? Of course they are. There's always someone doing better than you. But if you let your jealousy change your products or your attitude or your story, we're going to leave.

Of course, they're not marketing sins, they're human failings.

Humility, empathy, generosity, patience and kindness, combined with the arrogance of the brilliant inventor, are a potent alternative.

Either, not both

Stand out or fit in.

Not all the time, and never at the same time, but it's always a choice.

Those that choose to fit in should expect to avoid criticism (and be ignored). Those that stand out should expect neither.

How to succeed

You don't need all of these, and some are mutually exclusive (while others are not). And most don't work, don't scale or can't be arranged:

  1. Be very focused on your goal and work on it daily
  2. Go to college with someone who makes it big and then hires you
  3. Be born with significant and unique talent
  4. Practice every day
  5. Network your way to the top by inviting yourself from one lunch to another, trading favors as you go
  6. Quietly do your job day in and day out until someone notices you and gives you the promotion you deserve
  7. Do the emotional labor of working on things that others fear
  8. Notice things, turn them into insights and then relentlessly turn those insights into projects that resonate
  9. Hire a great PR firm and get a lot of publicity
  10. Work the informational interview angle
  11. Perform outrageous acts and say obnoxious things
  12. Inherit
  13. Redefine your version of success as: whatever I have right now
  14. Flit from project to project until you alight on something that works out very quickly and well
  15. Be the best-looking person in the room
  16. Flirt
  17. Tell stories that people care about and spread
  18. Contribute more than is expected
  19. Give credit to others
  20. Take responsibility
  21. Aggrandize, preferably self
  22. Be a jerk and win through intimidation
  23. Be a doormat and refuse to speak up or stand up
  24. Never hesitate to share a kind word when it's deserved
  25. Sue people
  26. Treat every gig as an opportunity to create art
  27. Cut corners
  28. Focus on defeating the competition
  29. When dealing with employees, act like Steve. It worked for him, apparently.
  30. Persist, always surviving to ship something tomorrow
  31. When in doubt, throw a tantrum
  32. Have the ability to work harder and more directly than anyone else when the situation demands it
  33. Don't rock the boat
  34. Rock the boat
  35. Don't rock the boat, baby
  36. Resort to black hat tactics to get more than your share
  37. Work to pay more taxes
  38. Work to evade taxes
  39. Find typos

Compared to magical

The easiest way to sell yourself short is to compare your work to the competition. To say that you are 5% cheaper or have one or two features that stand out--this is a formula for slightly better mediocrity.

The goal ought to be to compare yourself not to the best your peers or the competition has managed to get through a committee or down on paper, but to an unattainable, magical unicorn.

Compared to that, how are you doing?

Silencing the bell doesn't put out the fire

Many big organizations have full-time employees who scan the social media, looking for people with a complaint. They swoop in and grease the squeaky wheel, solving the problem of the person who spoke up.

The theory is that these loud complainers are a problem, and the easiest solution is to give them something to make them happy.

Of course, that doesn't do anything for the 95% of the population that has the very same problem but isn't speaking up, right?

When Jeff Jarvis blogged about Dell Hell, he hurt the company very badly. Mollifying Jeff (and those like him) did the company no good in the long run, though, because they didn't deal with the underlying cause, they merely gave the loud ones an excuse to be quiet.

The purpose of the bell is to point to a fire somewhere else. Worry about that instead.

It's not all in your head

But part of it is.

We spend an enormous amount of time trying to get the world to align with the vision we have for what will make us happy or successful.

Whatever "it" is, figuring out how to deal with the noise in your head is probably faster and cheaper than changing the outside world. Not easier, though, merely important.

The unforgiving arithmetic of the funnel

One percent.

That's how many you get if you're lucky. One percent of the subscribers to the Times read an article and take action. One percent of the visitors to a website click a button to find out more. One percent of the people in a classroom are sparked by an idea and go do something about it.

And then!

And then, of that 1%, perhaps 1% go ahead and take more action, or recruit others, or write a book or volunteer. One percent of one percent.

No wonder advertisers have to run so many ads. Most of us ignore most of them. No wonder it's so hard to convert a digital browsing audience into a real world paying one--most people are in too much of a hurry to read and think and pause and then do.

The common mistake is to reflexively come to the conclusion that the only option is to make more noise, to put more attention into the top of the funnel. The thinking goes that if a big audience is getting you mediocre results, a huge audience is the answer. Alas, a huge audience is more difficult than the alternatives.

A few ways to deal with the funnel:

  • Acknowledge that it's there. Don't assume that a big audience is going to easily convert to action.
  • Work to measure your losses. Figure out where in the process you're losing interest and clicks or the other behaviors you seek.
  • If you can, remove steps. Each step costs you dearly.
  • Treat different people differently. If you alter the funnel to maximize interest by the wandering masses, you may very well miss the chance to convert the focused few.


Forbidden to care

The rigid, measured, top down structure of big company customer service makes it almost impossible for the rep to care about you when you call.

One new trend is that if you have a complicated problem or a bit of attitude in your voice, the call center rep will 'accidentally' disconnect you. You're going to hurt his numbers. His yield will go down and it's just not worth it. Let someone else take the call...

When organizations take away all flexibility and power from their frontline employees, they're depriving the people with the highest leverage from doing the most important thing: caring.

The Dip, revisited, plus audio bonus

Five years ago, I published a little book (little even by my standards) called The Dip.

I did a tour, built a small blog and shared what I could about it. It was a very risky book—certainly not for everyone.

Much to the surprise of some at my publishing house, it sold a ton of copies, entirely due to word of mouth.

The book makes a lot of people uncomfortable. Instead of giving a clear, actionable, step-by-step approach to guaranteed success, The Dip points out where we often get stuck, and leaves it to the reader to take the (difficult) steps necessary to move ahead.

It also talked about the short head (in contrast to Chris Anderson's not yet written Long Tail). There's a short head in every micro market, just waiting for someone to fill it.

Just yesterday, the rule of the Dip was demonstrated by Microsoft's overdue cancellation of the Zune, something that should have happened years ago.

As the web becomes every more relentless in separating the average from the exceptional, the simple idea this book uncovers (being the best in the world at your little niche) becomes ever more important.

This week, I got a bunch of mail about the book, and it prompted me to remind you that you might want to (re)read it. Jared wrote (italics mine):

It literally speaks to my heart and convinces me of changes I need to make in my life. I need to quit a bunch of stuff, and try to be the best.

I have a confession to make. This is my second time reading this book, and the first time I thought it was pretty basic and kind of stupid. But I decided to read it again (4 years later) and it is exactly what I need at this point in my life. I absolutely love it.


Anyways, I just want to say thank you for pushing through the dip.

And then, the next day, this graph showed up from Dan in Norway:

The dip

The red dot indicates the day he read the book. I'm not sure what this measures, but it looks good.

I hope the book resonates for you as well. Because it's not a brand new book, you can find used copies for less than $3. And a freebie...listen to the first 10% on audio:

The Dip, first sections


Pest control

Your doctor now spends more of her time doing more non-medical tasks than ever before. Dealing with insurance companies, lawsuits, other doctors, partners and yes, marketing. My doctor's office probably has a special button on the phone system for each of these (okay, not lawyers, but you get the idea).

Just about all of us face the same thing when we engage with the world. The world wants to engage back!

Every interaction leads to a response, maybe three. Every marketing effort leads to the expectation that there will be other efforts. The next thing you know, there's no time left to actually get work done.

That's not news to you. What might be surprising is the logical conclusion:

A big part of doing your work is defending your time and your attention so you can do your work.

No one is going to do it for you and it's not easy or fun. It's work. But worth it.

Winning today (vs. winning tomorrow)

Look around. You're not number one on that bestseller list, or chosen for this RFP or invited to give that talk.

It's frustrating. There are engagements you ought to have, sales you ought to be making, clients that ought to understand you...

One choice is to spend today frustrated that you're not winning with the product you have for the market you've chosen.

The other choice is to focus on what you need to do today to win tomorrow.

The Milgram extension

In his famous experiment, Stanley Milgram gave his subjects a switch and then encouraged them to give (fake) electric shocks to his confederates if they were slow to follow instructions.

The internet has become a giant version of this, except the shocks are real.

You give people a switch and they can shock you whenever they choose, disrupt your day, cloud your horizons and generally make you feel like a failure.

Of course, that switch has always been given to certain members of your family or co-workers or teachers. But now, thanks to the ability of a total stranger to dump his anxiety or anger on you, the switch is easily handed to hundreds or thousands of people.

Extending the circle of people who are able to zap you is human nature. It's easy to do and tempting, too (because it feels as though you're gaining the ability to have others approve of you). On balance, my guess is that a large number of strangers holding on to electric shock buttons is a dangerous situation. But it's up to you.

Understanding stuck

Is there a human being alive who is capable of getting to an airplane who doesn't know how to buckle his seatbelt?

Given that we have 100% seatbelt understanding among the flying population, why do flight attendants repeat the instructions literally millions of times a year? (Low and flat across the waist...)

It's stuck.

Like so many policies, beliefs and procedures in our organizations, this is a ritual that's stuck. To get unstuck, organizations need two things:

a. a vacuum and,

b. a willingness to ignore dissent

Change gets made by people who care, who have some sort of authority and are willing to take responsibility. Often, though, finding all three is tough, particularly when faced with the immovable object of the stuck organization.

One approach to getting unstuck is the clean sheet of paper. Dictate that the speech before flight is going to change, that the menu will be redone, that the qualifications are going to start over, from zero.

Now, instead of needing an unanimous vote to remove something, merely demand that you need a passionate voice to add something.

For years, the Yahoo home page was stuck, with literally hundreds of links on it. No one could take a link off the page, because unanimous consent was impossible. Once Google decided to start with a completely blank page, a different approach was possible.

Move your team across the street, open a new location, completely rewrite the employee handbook, throw out the standard sales script--by creating a vacuum, you give your team permission to invent.

Is more always better?

Sometimes, only better is better.

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