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Seth Godin has written 12 bestsellers that have been translated into 33 languages

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All Marketers Tell Stories

Seth's most important book about the art of marketing

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Free Prize Inside

The practical sequel to Purple Cow

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Linchpin

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

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Meatball Sundae

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

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Poke The Box

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

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Small is the New Big

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Survival is Not Enough

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

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The Big Red Fez

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

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The Dip

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

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The Icarus Deception

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

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Tribes

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Unleashing the Ideavirus

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

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V Is For Vulnerable

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

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We Are All Weird

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

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Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?

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THE DIP BLOG by Seth Godin




All Marketers Are Liars Blog




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« August 2013 | Main | October 2013 »

The GIGO buffer

Computer wonks like to talk about garbage in/garbage out. A simple example: if there's a mistake in the way a blog post is encoded, many XML/RSS readers will choke on it, preventing all future posts from showing up.

The IT guys put up their hands and say, "well, if you hadn't had a lousy character, it wouldn't have broken... GIGO."

That's not resilient.

The work of the middleman is to inspect and recover. If your restaurant gets lousy fish from the boat, you don't get to serve it and proclaim garbage in garbage out. No, your job is to inspect what you get, and if necessary, change it.

If the school board gives the teacher lousy instructions, the teacher can easily put up his hands and say, "I'm just doing my job." The great teacher doesn't do that, of course. He provides a buffer between the administrators and the his real customers, the students.

There will always be garbage in. It's up to you as to whether or not there will be garbage out.

Three questions to ask your marketing team

(or your business development team, your fundraising team or your pr folks)...

Who are you trying to reach?

If you say you are trying to reach everyone, I'll know you're likely to reach no one. How specifically can you identify the psychographics, worldview and needs of the people we seek to change?

Why do they decide to support us?

In order to earn the donation, make the sale, generate the buzz, we need to change people somehow. When we change them, what happens? What story do they tell themselves?

What do you need in order to make this happen more often?

What resources, tools or facts need to be present for this to work for you? What do we have to change about our products, our services or our people? How do you know?

Unreasonable clients

Who gets your best work?

If you reserve your best effort for the irritable boss, the never-pleased client and the bully of a customer, then you've bought into a system that rewards the very people who are driving you nuts. It's no wonder you have clients like that--they get your best work.

On the other hand, when you make it clear (and then deliver) on the promise that your best work goes to those that are clear, respectful and patient, you become a specialist in having customers just like that.

One of the largest turning points of my career was firing the client who accounted for a third of my company's work. We were becoming really good at tolerating the stress that came from this engagement, and it became clear to me that we were about to sign up for a lifetime of clients like that.

Set free to work for those that we believed deserved our best work, we replaced the lost business in less than six months.

Years ago, I heard the story of a large retail financial services company that did the math and discovered that fewer than 5% of their customers were accounting for more than 80% of their customer service calls--and less than 1% of their profit. They sent these customers a nice note, let them know that they wouldn't be able to service them properly going forward, and offered to help them transfer their accounts to a competitor. With the time freed up, they could then have their customer service people double down on the customers that actually mattered to them... grease, but without the squeaky wheel part.

No, you can't always fire those that are imperious or bullies. But yes, you can figure out how to dig even deeper for those that aren't. That means you won't take advantage of their good nature, or settle for giving them merely what they will accept. Instead, you treat the good guys with even more effort and care and grace than you ever would have exerted for the tyrants.

The word will spread.

[The other alternative is a fine one, if you're up for it... specialize in the worst possible clients and bosses, the least gratifying assignments. You'll stand out in an uncrowded field! The mistake is thinking you're doing one and actually doing neither by doing both.]

The failure of the second ask

Asking the first time might be brave. Asking again (more forcefully) after you get a no is selfish and dumb.

I think it's the artlessness of it that so offends me.

Someone pitches an idea, tries to make a sale, invites a prospect to participate... and the prospect takes the time to politely decline.

The response of the pushy amateur? Either to deny that the objection is true (or important) or to merely repeat the offer, this time with more volume or urgency.

"I can't afford it."

    "Yes you can!"

"It's too far for me to travel."

    "Vietnam isn't that far away!"

"No, I won't be able to."

    "But it's really important!"

The thing is, gainsaying an objection never works. Perhaps someone will make a new decision based on new information. But the only new information you're presenting with your pushiness is information about how selfish you are.

Alternative: "Sometimes, people feel that way. I totally understand. But when they learn . . . they make a different decision."

The truth about the war for talent

It's more of a skirmish, actually.

Plenty of recruiters and those in HR like to talk about engaging in a war for talent, but to be truthful, most of it is about finding good enough people at an acceptable rate of pay. Filling slots.

More relevant and urgent, though, is that it's not really a search for talent. It's a search for attitude.

There are a few jobs where straight up skills are all we ask for. Perhaps in the first violinist in a string quartet. But in fact, even there, what actually separates winners from losers isn't talent, it's attitude.

And yes, we ought to be having a war for attitude.

An organization filled with honest, motivated, connected, eager, learning, experimenting, ethical and driven people will always defeat the one that merely has talent. Every time.

The best news is that attitude is a choice, and it's available to all. You can probably win the war for attitude with the people you've already got. And if you're looking for a gig, you'll discover that honing and sharing your attitude goes a lot farther than practicing the violin all day.

The conservation of drama

Everyone has a set point, a need/tolerance for a certain amount of drama in a life. I'm not talking about important work, I'm highlighting the excitment and tension that surrounds the things that happen to us (or might happen).

The newspaper is always just about the same length, regardless of what's happening in the world.

Politicians seem to have the capacity to deal with a given amount of tough stuff. When the urgent wanes, they make up something new. When there's too much, they decrease their perception of its urgency.

Last example: a restaurant kitchen has a very narrow range indeed. The amount of terror or urgency in a particular kitchen doesn't actually vary that much between a reasonably slow night and one where there are two or three VIPs out front or if its a banquet for a thousand people. We adapt and adjust and most of all, we shift our perception of precisely how important that particular emergency actually is.

It's easy to persuade yourself that this time it's different, that this time the drama is real, and that, in fact, it's all (truly) going to fall apart. In fact, though, it's all imagined. Drama isn't the work, it's our take on the work. Drama doesn't have to exist, certainly not in the way we're living it, not right now. A few days or weeks or years from now, this work will be so commonplace to you, you won't blink.

If drama was an actual external force, how could emergency room doctors, dictators and short order cooks ever survive? They're dealing with so much incoming, they'd melt.

If the drama is helping you and your organization do your work and enjoy it, then by all means, have fun. But understand that drama is a choice.

Q&A: Linchpin: Will they miss you?

Our series this week revolves around the book that has resonated more than any book I have ever published... Linchpin.

My innate optimism is amplified every time I hear of someone who received this book from a friend or colleague and trusted the process enough to actually read it. We're at a fork in the road as a culture and an economy, and the choice to race to the bottom frightens me.

Do we want to work with people that are better, or merely cheaper?

The question for this week's riff is, for the first time, rhetorical. Will they miss you?

That's what the book is about. In a post-industrial age, when jobs get commoditized as fast as possible, the only good ones left are the ones that must be done by a person, not a machine, must be done by someone figuring things out, must be done by an individual willing to put herself on the line.

In the most recent issue of Harvard Business Review, a neo-Taylorist academic waxes rhapsodic about new wearable monitors being used at Tesco warehouses:

At a distribution center in Ireland, Tesco workers move among 87 aisles of three-story shelves. Many wear armbands that track the goods they’re gathering, freeing up time they would otherwise spend marking clipboards. A band also allots tasks to the wearer, forecasts his completion time, and quantifies his precise movements among the facility’s 9.6 miles of shelving and 111 loading bays. A 2.8-inch display provides analytical feedback, verifying the correct fulfillment of an order, for instance, or nudging a worker whose order is short.

... The efficiency gains it hoped for have been realized: From 2007 to 2012, the number of full-time employees needed to run a 40,000-square-foot store dropped by 18%. That pleases managers and shareholders—but not all workers, some of whom have complained about the surveillance and charged that the system measures only speed, not quality of work.

In this case, of course, the speed of work is the quality of the work. And another no-win job is created, because if someone leaves, another person fills that slot, instantly, and the departed worker is only missed if he often brought in pie for his co-workers at lunch.

In order to create real value going forward, we're going to have to ask harder questions, challenge the status quo and do work that can't possibly be measured or dictated by an armband.

We have to become the linchpin in the system, not a cog.

What works?

We are capable of abandoning, bullying, raping, murdering, belittling, undermining, objectifying, cheating, stealing, ignoring, maligning, spamming, excoriating and arguing.

And the very same people can support, trust, connect, lead, inspire, invent, illuminate and wait patiently.

The extraordinary thing is that we've built a society where the second category pays off more than it ever has before. The media would prefer the former, of course. It's more fun to cover a fight than it is to report on progress. And the fast-twitch world prefers the caveman stuff as well. Tweet your first impression, better hurry. That's what our lizard brain evolved to do, it's our first instinct.

In the connection economy, though, the thoughtful, patient, mature and modern approach wins out.

Because connection is built on trust and generosity, not on snark and short-term wins.

Day trading isn't nearly as valuable as building something that lasts.

When your inner caveman shows up, the question you might ask him is, "will this juicy, satisfying, visceral action in the moment build my connection and weave a platform for my future, or is the price I'm paying for pleasing the crowd the fact that I'm tearing my platform down?"

What if surfing was your job?

Same waves, different day.

The risk of skin cancer. The falling. Sand in your socks. The people hassling you for your spot on the wave. The pressure to do more sets. The other guys at the beach who don't appreciate your style. The drudgery of doing it again tomorrow, when the weather sucks. And then every day, from now on, never ceasing.

Where would you go on vacation?

Your drudgery is another person's delight. It's only a job if you treat it that way. The privilege to do our work, to be in control of the promises we make and the things we build, is something worth cherishing.

The magic of a spec

“If I build this, will it delight you?”

Time spent building a spec that gets a ‘yes’ to this question is always time well spent. The spec describes what victory feels like, not necessarily every element of what's to be built.

A spec is an agreement before the agreement, it moves the difficult job of getting in sync with your client from the end of the process to the beginning.

Creatives of every stripe are so happy to get the assignment, so eager to get to work that we often forget to agree on what we’re setting out to do in the first place. It's fun to nod your head and say, "I understand," but even something as simple as cooking dinner deserves a few more moments of interaction before the knives are sharpened and the oven is turned on.

“I’ll know it when I see it,” is reserved for crown princes, government agencies and well-funded startups. People who can afford to do it twice. Everyone else should use a spec.

I’m not suggesting that there’s no room for exploratory work. Of course there is. But even exploratory work deserves a spec. Don’t tell me the answers in advance, but I certainly want to know the questions.

Writing a spec is a kind of mind reading, which is why it’s so difficult. One half of the partnership has to take the time to not only specifically and precisely write down what’s expected and what the measurements and boundaries are, but then must do the challenging and risky work of engaging with the other half of the team to agree on that spec. Disagreements here are cheap, disagreements later cost a fortune.

The fear, of course, is that the spec will end the project, that without a lot of sunk costs on the table, a spec alone is too easy to renege on. In my experience, the most successful freelancers are also the most successful spec writers. Yes, there's some risk in clearly and vividly making your promises while the client/partner/boss still has time to back out. But professionals take that risk every day.

I have no doubt that one could have boiled down the spec for the Taj Mahal to, “a big white marble house” but somehow, I don’t think it would have ended as well.

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