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Twitter: @thisissethsblog





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

The complete list of online retailers

Bonus stuff!

or click on a title below to see the list


All Marketers Tell Stories

Seth's most important book about the art of marketing




Free Prize Inside

The practical sequel to Purple Cow





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




Meatball Sundae

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



Permission Marketing

The classic Named "Best Business Book" by Fortune.



Poke The Box

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




Purple Cow

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



Small is the New Big

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



Survival is Not Enough

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




The Big Moo

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



The Big Red Fez

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




The Dip

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




The Icarus Deception

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





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




Unleashing the Ideavirus

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



V Is For Vulnerable

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




We Are All Weird

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



Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?

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



THE DIP BLOG by Seth Godin

All Marketers Are Liars Blog

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Member since 08/2003

« February 2013 | Main | April 2013 »

Building your backlist (and living with it forever)

Authors and musicians have one, certainly. This is the book you wrote seven years ago or the album from early in your career. The book keeps selling, spreading the ideas and making a difference. The album gets played on the radio, earning you new fans.

"Backlist" is what publishers call the stuff that got published a while ago, but that's still out there, selling.

The Wizard of Oz, Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits and Starsky and Hutch all live on the backlist.

Without a backlist, all book publishers would go out of business in no time. The backlist pays dividends long after the work is over.

Advertisers didn’t used to have a backlist. You paid for that magazine or newspaper or TV ad, and within just one cycle, it was gone, forever.

Today, of course, the work you put on the internet has a good chance of staying there for a very long time. The internet doesn’t easily forget.

That TED talk, then is going to be around for your grandchildren to see. The review of your new restaurant, or the generous connection you made on a social network--they’re going to last.

I almost hired someone a few years ago--until I googled her and discovered that the first two matches were pictures of her drinking beer from a funnel, and her listed hobby was, "binge drinking." Backlist!

Two things are going to change as you develop a backlist:

--You’re going to become a lot more aware of the posterity of the work you do. It’s all on tape, all left behind. Just as you’re less likely to litter in your own backyard, the person aware of his backlist becomes more careful and civic minded.

--You’re going to want people to pay attention to your backlist... in my case, the free videos, various ebooks and printed things I've done over the years. In your case, maybe it's your blog, or the projects you've built or the reputation you've earned.

Your history of work is as important as the work you'll do tomorrow.

Us vs. us

Who would cheat at the church social?

"Hey, I know we were supposed to bring handmade food, but I bought some cheap macaroni salad and dumped it into a bowl and faked it..." "Yeah, well I got in line twice and got more food than anyone else, in fact, one old guy (my cousin!) didn't even get any..." "That's nothing! I didn't bother to bring anything..."

No one brags about subverting a community they care about, because your peers will ostracize you (and why would you hurt a group that you are part of?). No, we feed the community first, then we take our share.

On the other hand, we often return a rental car unwashed, or turn a blind eye to someone sneaking into the movies, or fail to report a mistake in our favor by the credit card company. That's because those institutions are apart from us, not a part of us. They transact with us, charge us interest, take what they can get. This is not a community to be fed, it's merely a way to buy what we need, and the system is impersonal, industrial, apparently made to be gamed.

With online tribes and communities, though, instead of adopting the principle of not peeing in your own pool, it's easy to slip into the same mindset of us vs. them. When you sock puppet wikipedia, or vandalize the comments on a blog, who is being hurt?

One way to look at the web is that it's billions of people, anonymous, a shooting gallery of others. The other way is to visualize the smaller circles, the tribes of interdependent human beings helping and being helped.

When we steal or disrupt or game the system of a community we care about, we hurt everyone we say we're connected to, and thus hurt ourselves.

Online communities are quick to form, but they're just as quick to fade, to become less open and to become less trusting because sometimes we have a cultural orientation toward taking, not giving. We forget to feed the network first, to take care of those we care about.

Here's a possible standard: is it open, fair and good for others? If it's not, the community asks that you take your selfish antics somewhere else.

Call me naive, but I think it's possible (and likely) that the digital tribes we're forming are going to actually change things for the better. But not until we embrace the fact that we are us.

Pitch your tent where it's dry

Silly question: Does it snow in Utah because that's where they built the ski areas?

Of course not. It's obvious that you find the snow and then you build the ski runs.

Years ago, a friend was frustrated by the fact that the toy industry wouldn't license her fabulous ideas for new products. She rarely got meetings, was often disrespected and couldn't make anything happen. In a situation like that, it's easy to question the ideas themselves, and to doubt the quality of the work. When I pointed out to her that the toy business actually has a long and dismal history of acquiring and promoting new ideas, she switched--and the book industry (which publishes thousands of new projects every month) opened the door and the market made her a (huge, and deserved) success.

Whether you're a non-profit fundraiser or someone selling b2b, understanding the profile of what's succeeded before you is a little like understanding where it snows. Sure, it's possible to invent an entirely new market dynamic, to persuade the previously unpersuadable. If that's your mission, go for it. But if your goal is to make your project work, to engage in a way that makes a difference right now, you're better off planting seeds in fertile soil.

Insisting that you're "right" isn't nearly as effective as building your organization in a place that's conducive to what you're trying to accomplish. Right is meaningless if it doesn't lead to a connection, and complaining about a wet sleeping bag gets you no sympathy.

Communication is a path, not an event

The other day, I heard the CEO of a large corporation drone on for twenty minutes. He was pitching a large group of strangers, reading them a long, prepared speech that was largely irrelevant to their needs. They weren't there to hear him and in fact, weren't even able to hear him over the buzz in their heads... this was classic interruption, no permission granted.

If you'd interviewed the 150 people in the room an hour later, no one could have told you a single thing about what he had said.

If your tactic is to have a one-shot, the equivalent of a pickup line in a singles' bar, it's pretty hopeless. You can't sell anything complex or risky in this way.

On the other hand, what if he had taken three minutes (just three) to say, "Let's talk." Give out his personal contact info or an easy way (and a good reason!) to engage with his staff. And then give up the podium and let the event go forward.

Don't sell us anything but the burning desire to follow up. The point of his talk wasn't to get a new customer (impossible), nor was it to get through the talk and get it over with (silly and selfish). No, the point of the talk should have been to open the door to have a better, individual conversation soon.

"Let's talk," uses today's interaction to make it more likely you have one tomorrow. And a dialogue leads to connection, which leads to trust which leads to engagement.

Yes, it's surprisingly difficult in today's oversaturated communications world to succeed even with an offer of "let's talk," but it's demonstrably better than the alternative.

Drip, drip, drip.

On feeling small

"To make us feel small in the right way is a function of art; men can only make us feel small in the wrong way." E. M. Forster

The small feeling produced by art comes from dancing with our muse and allowing our inspiration to take us somewhere the resistance would rather avoid. We feel small in the face of magic and connection. Feeling small gives us the guts to create something bigger, bigger than ourselves, the art of human connection and the gift of generosity.

On the other hand, the critic who seeks to beef himself up at our expense diminishes no one but himself.

Important, not very good, could get a lot better

A recipe for personal and brand triage...

We invest our time in hopes of a return, prioritizing the important, but sometimes, we waste it on the urgent instead.

What's worth focusing on improving? How about a combination of these three:

  • The important
  • That you currently don't do very well
  • That you're capable of doing a lot better if you invested effort and time

Eliminate the things that don't matter, that you're never going to get better at or that you're already good at. What's left are the places where you have the opportunity to change your position in the market.

Habit #7

The habit of being easily persuaded by mass media

The habit of doing it right instead of doing it over

The habit of responding to nastiness with nastiness

The habit of failing to trust people who care

The habit of wasting time in meetings

The habit of being on time

The habit of avoiding things that cause fear

The habit of reading ahead

The habit of doing more than promised

The habit of expanding personal knowledge and experience

The habit of skepticism

The habit of close talking

The habit of generosity...

There's a million habits out there, some good, some bad, all learned. Every habit (your market, your family, your organization has) was formed because people got rewarded for it, at least in the short run.

The thing is, every habit is changeable with effort.

"You've got ping, but they've got no pong"

It's almost impossible to have fun playing ping pong with someone who doesn't care, won't try or isn't any good.

The same thing is true of just about anything that matters in the connection economy. A consultation with a surgeon, creating a new conference or working in partnership with an ad agency... If you're going to create something worth building, it's going to be because there's an infinite game going on, not merely blind obedience and tired conformity.

You can take a great deal of responsibility for creating this mutual enthusiasm, and you can put the effort into creating an environment and a story where it's likely to happen.

Connection requires energy and insight and enthusiasm from both sides, and if your partner isn't responding, look hard at why. Of course, if you can't bring your half, stay home.

Choose your customers first

It seems obvious, doesn't it? Each cohort of customers has a particular worldview, a set of problems, a small possible set of solutions available. Each cohort has a price they're willing to pay, a story they're willing to hear, a period of time they're willing to invest.

And yet...

And yet too often, we pick the product or service first, deciding that it's perfect and then rushing to market, sure that the audience will sort itself out. Too often, though, we end up with nothing.


The real estate broker ought to pick which sort of buyer before she goes out to buy business cards, rent an office or get listings. 

The bowling alley investor ought to pick whether he's hoping for serious league players or girls-night-out partiers before he buys a building or uniforms.

The yoga instructor, the corporate coach, the app developer--in every case, first figure out who you'd like to do business with, then go make something just for them. The more specific the better...

The moment of highest leverage

It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, don’t waste it.

You’ve already won (or you’ve already lost). Right now, you can choose to do what’s in your heart, you can bring your real work to the world, instead of a lesser version, a version you think the market wants. After all, what do you have to lose?

When it feels like it’s hopeless or when it appears to be a lock, why not?

So you bring your true self to the work, your unadulterated effort, without negative self-talk and the sanding off of the interesting edges. Instead of compromise, you bring us vision.

Of course, when we see that reality, the kamiwaza of what you’re able to do when you’re not second guessing or giving up, the odds of transformation go way up. In fact, you haven't already lost, because your magical, vulnerable work changes everything.

You won’t get this chance again soon (unless you choose to). So go.

« February 2013 | Main | April 2013 »