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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

« September 2013 | Main | November 2013 »

Godin's first law of pizza

Pizza quality is inversely proportional to flexibility. At some places, the inflexibility can be appropriately confused with callous indifference or even rudeness.

Saying yes to every prospect and every request isn't the point of most organizations. The point is to do work that people seek out, that changes things for the better, to bring ideas that spread to the world.

Some of the legendary families that serve great pizza in New York aren't in the customer service business. They're in the great pizza business.

Saying yes to every request is one way to do business, but it's not the only way.

On owning it

If you announce what you want, if you are clear about what's on offer, if you set goals...

  • the chances of accomplishing your goal go up, and so does...
  • the chance that you will be disappointed

For many people, apparently, it's better to not get what you want than it is to be disappointed. The resistance is powerful indeed.

Every time you use waffle words, back off from a clear statement of values and priorities and most of all, think about what's likely instead of what's possible, you are selling yourself out. Not just selling yourself out, but doing it too cheaply.

Own your dreams. There is no better way to make them happen.

Room at the top

There’s always a spot for the best in the market.

Not the most expensive, but the one that most ideally suits the needs of those that care.

It's easy to get lost in the chaos of mediocre, of discount, of close and cheap. But if you're the best, among the people who care to find and talk about the best, no market is too crowded.

The hard part is figuring out what 'best' means.

Naming tool of the year

When it's time to name your project, you probably want to find a domain for it. And, alas, all the obvious and most of the silly dot com choices were taken a very long time ago.

Time for wordoid.

Scroll down on the left, put a short word in the 'pattern' box and off you go.

1,000 bands

Brian Eno possibly said that, "the first Velvet Underground record may have only sold 1,000 copies, but every person who bought it started a band." [*]

It certainly wasn't a bestselling album, but without a doubt, it changed things.

The scarcity mindset pushes us to corner the market, to be the only one selling what we sell.

The abundance alternative, though, is to understand that many of us sell ideas, not widgets, and that ideas are best when used, and the more they get used, the more ideas they spawn.

Kevin Kelly has inspired 10,000 companies, and Shepard Fairey, a generation of artists.

How many bands will you inspire today?

* Two footnotes here. The first is that like most revolutionary ideas that start a ruckus, the first album was poorly reviewed. It wasn't the obvious next thing, the idea that's easy to celebrate. And second, Eno's quote has been amended over time: "I was talking to Lou Reed the other day and he said that the first Velvet Underground record sold 30,000 copies in the first five years. The sales have picked up in the past few years, but I mean, that record was such an important record for so many people. I think everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band!"

Entrepreneurship => impact

Innovation is something else entirely. Many entrepreneurs use an innovation to make an impact, but the hard part, the part that we're rewarded for, is engaging with the user, the audience, the market. Bringing something to people who didn't think they wanted it, know about it or initially welcome it, and make a difference.

One reason it's so difficult to teach entrepreneurship is that we're not teaching tactics or skills. We're not teaching spreadsheets or finance or even marketing. No, when we encourage entrepreneurship, we're actually trying to get people to the place where they care enough and where they are confident enough to stand up and try to make things change.

Don't tell me what you invented. Tell me about who you changed.

Patrons and assistants wanted

Wouldn't it be great if you had a patron who would pay for you to have the time to be your best creative self?

And assistants to worry about all the details of your messy life?

This is the business school model of success. The industrial age taught executives that patrons (bosses, shareholders, large banks) would pick us and pay us, and that workers (cogs, assistants, functionaries) would do what we told them to do. All you had to do was find the first and you could hire the second.

In an economy based on art and connection and innovation, though, the first is hard to find, and the second is worth less than you might imagine--you still have do all the leaping yourself.

The goal is to be on the hook, not to let someone else do the scary parts.

Two kinds of loyalty

The first kind of loyalty is the loyalty of convenience.

I'm going to look around, sure, but probably won't switch. Switching is risky, it's time consuming. Switching means a new account manager or moving my software or reprinting something. Switching means I might make a mistake or lose my miles or have to defend a new decision.

Corporations are getting ever better at building this sort of loyalty.

Then there's the other kind of loyalty. This is the loyalty of, "I'm not even looking."

This is the loyalty of, "I'm the kind of person that sticks with people who stick with me." This is the loyalty of someone who doesn't even want to know that there's a better deal somewhere else, because, after all, he's in it for the long haul.

The problem with the loyalty of convenience is that the customer is always tempted to look and look some more, and the vendor is always working to build barriers, barriers that don't necessarily increase satisfaction, but merely build a wall of hassle around the (now) trapped customer.

We don't have a common marketing term for this sort of feeling, but 'stuck' comes to mind.

The beauty of the second kind of loyalty, the loyalty of identity and satisfaction, is that the person who isn't even looking is committed, as committed to the relationship as the vendor is. You earn this sort of loyalty, you don't architect it.

You can only focus on creating one sort of loyalty at a time, true?

When free collides with powerful

One of the lessons that Microsoft taught Apple and Google is that ubiquity can be incredibly profitable.

By changing file formats, Microsoft forces every person in an organization to upgrade Word to the current state, because one of the reasons to use Word is that everyone else uses it. This isn't often true for products in the real world--cars and whiskey and apartment buildings inevitably gain variation, whereas software tools are pushed toward a common standard--a new form of monopoly.

The strategy at Microsoft was always to put in power user enhancements, though, so that the power user (the weird one, the one on the edge, the one choosing to care) would hear about the upgrade and insist that everyone else on her team would upgrade as well.

Free, though, turbocharges the movement toward ubiquity at the same time it sabotages the power user. When the 'upgrade' is free, when the new version requires everyone to upgrade and is free as well, that's sort of irresistible. The problem is that free destroys markets even faster than monopoly does, because it's incredibly difficult for competitors without the other income streams to find a reason to compete.

And so, the new version of Pages from Apple is widely reviled by those that want a powerful tool. And the new version of Keynote, a program I use eight hours a day, is on the same path. It has the same one-way path for data structure (the new version forces all old users to upgrade if they want to collaborate) but it abandons a focus on professionals. Features and the goal of building for a craftsman are exchanged for the cross-platform ease and gimcracks that will please a crowd happy enough with free.

There are few deadends in the software business. When a platform gets dumb, the power users push for someone else to come along and make a better one. And when the monopolist gets greedy (as every dominant word processor vendor has) then the people who care take a leap and move to another tool.

In the meantime, the users who made the platform work in the first place spend a lot of time cursing the darkness that used to be light. Too often, power tools in software turn into entertainment platforms instead. There's more money in it.

Does anger follow the laws of thermodynamics?

I have no idea what caused the guy in front of me in traffic to be having a bad day.

Maybe he has a stressful meeting coming up, or his butler burned his bacon at breakfast. Maybe he's having trouble paying his rent, or his industry is under seige. All I know is that he's weaving in and out, giving people the finger and yelling at other cars, all at the same time.

Unlike cupcakes, anger isn't conserved.

If I have a cupcake and I give it to you, I don't have a cupcake any more. But if someone who is angry gives you their anger, now you both might have it.

You've seen it too many times before. Someone is afraid, untethered or just upset about something that happened long before you walked into the room. Unbridled agita is dumped on you, spittle flying, eyes wide, personal invective unfiltered. Just feet away, the angry person is saying, "here," and dumping vitriol in your direction.

All connection gets severed, any chance for positive engagement seems long gone. The opportunity, it seems, is to pick up some of that anger and throw it right back, where it came from.

And now, of course, both of you are having a bad day.

Shared anger destroys trust. It eliminates dialogue. It activates the lizard brain of everyone within earshot, and produces nothing of value.

No credit goes to the person who vents, who opens his spleen and shares his anger. No points for bravery or honesty or getting in touch with his feelings. Anger shared is not anger ameliorated.

Talk about it, don't talk with it. Point it out, and then leave it there, on the floor, where, unengaged, the anger can't help but wither and die.

Our crystal palace

Thanks to technology, (relative) peace and historic levels of prosperity, we've turned our culture into a crystal palace, a gleaming edifice that needs to be perfected and polished more than it is appreciated.

We waste our days whining over slight imperfections (the nuts in first class aren't warm, the subway isn't cool enough, the vaccine leaves a bump on our arm for two hours) instead of seeing the modern miracles all around us. That last thing that went horribly wrong, that ruined everything, that led to a spat or tears or reciminations--if you put it on a t-shirt and wore it in public, how would it feel? "My iPhone died in the middle of the 8th inning because my wife didn't charge it and I couldn't take a picture of the home run from our box seats!"

Worse, we're losing our ability to engage with situations that might not have outcomes shiny enough or risk-free enough to belong in the palace. By insulating ourselves from perceived risk, from people and places that might not like us, appreciate us or guarantee us a smooth ride, we spend our day in a prison we've built for ourself.

Shiny, but hardly nurturing.

So, we ban things from airplanes not because they are dangerous, but because they frighten us. We avoid writing, or sales calls, or inventing or performing or engaging not because we can't do it, but because it might not work. We don't interact with strange ideas, new cuisines or people who share different values because those interactions might make us uncomfortable...

Funny looking tomatoes, people who don't look like us, interactions where we might not get a yes...

Growth is messy and dangerous. Life is messy and dangerous. When we insist on a guarantee, an ever-increasing standard in everything we measure and a Hollywood ending, we get none of those.

The selfish cynic

Cynics are hard to disappoint. Because they imagine the worst in people and situations, reality rarely lets them down. Cynicism is a way to rehearse the let-downs the world has in store--before they arrive.

And the cynic chooses this attitude at the expense of the group. Because he can't bear to be disappointed, he shares his rehearsed disappointment with the rest of us, slowing down projects, betting on lousy outcomes and dampening enthusiasm.

Someone betting on the worst outcomes is going to be correct now and then, but that doesn't mean we need to have him on our team. I'd rather work with people brave enough to embrace possible futures at the expense of being disappointed now and then.

Don't expect kudos or respect for being a cynic. It's selfish.

The problem with "just"

A few people have dropped me notes referring to the notion that I encourage people to just ship it.

Ship it, certainly. If you don't meet the market, if you don't open yourself to the input and reaction of those you seek to serve and influence, you've done nothing much.

But, "just"?

Not going to let you off the hook with that. The just implies a throwaway. The just has a, "what the hell," element to it. With "just" in the mix, the alternatives seem to be: polish, improve, focus on quality OR just throw it out there.


You ship. You ship your best work, when it's ready. Not after it's ready, not when it's too late to make a difference, and yes, of course, not when it's sloppy or unformed.

But you ship. You're on the hook, you made this, it's ready. Ship. Without excuses.

The complaining customer doesn't want a refund

He wants a connection, an apology and some understanding. He wants to know why you made him feel stupid or ripped off or disrespected, and why it's not going to happen again.

If you have a department that sends out form letters and refund coupons, what you've done is built the ability, at scale, to get rid of people who are giving you a second chance.

When the refund for the broken M&M's or the artificially flavored nuts that should have been delicious, or the $20 inconvenience fee in exchange for the torture you put a frequent flyer through arrives, you've basically sent a form letter that says, "goodbye."

Which is your choice, of course, but if you think that this expression of goodwill is going to be seen as goodwill, you're wrong.

Try candor or inviting them to an online focus group. Perhaps try being human. Try giving them a chance to be a voice of the concerned, energetic customer, a voice that needs to be heard by people who actually make decisions.

Ambassadors and treaties

A great ambassador doesn't show up in a foreign land and start complaining about how everything here is so different. She doesn't insist that people start acting the way they act back home. And most of all, she welcomes the idea that people might have different goals and desires than the people she grew up with--in fact, different than she has.

And every great treaty causes both signatories to change something substantial, something important, in exchange for accomplishing a bigger goal via cooperation.

Your customers need an ambassador. Someone who is open to hearing what they have, need and want, not merely a marketer intent on selling them a particular point of view. Once you understand someone, it's much easier to bring them something that benefits everyone.

And your partners need you to honor the spirit and intent of the deals you do with them. The goal of a long-term relationship isn't to find the loophole that lets you do what you want. Instead, figure out what you're giving up and what you're getting in return.

Companies (and countries) often under-invest in ambassadors and under-value the promises they make in treaties. In the connection economy, it now makes sense to over-invest instead.

Marketing good...

or good good?

Marketing good is the McMansion that looks good at an open house but isn't particularly well built or designed for actual living.

Marketing good is the catalog of gimcracks and doodads that entices the casual shopper but sells stuff that ends up in a closet.

Marketing good is the cover of a magazine decreed by the number crunchers in the newsstand sales group, not the editors and the readers they care about.

Marketing good is sensational or edgy or somehow catchy, but is a service that never gets renewed.

As you've guessed, marketing good isn't actually marketing good, not any more. It's just junk.

Second and third order recommendations and word of mouth and the way we talk about the things that are "good good" is the new marketing.

Your initial response rate, newsstand sales or first episode ratings are a measure of old-fashioned marketing prowess. Now, we care an awful lot more about just plain good. Or perhaps, if you really want to make an impact, great.


Post industrial

Post Top 40

Post newspaper

Post privacy

Post career

Post temperate

Post curation

Post postal

Post cushy

Post gatekeeper

Post sectarian

Post meat

Post picked

Post middle class

If you were hoping for a future that wasn't like the past, where you had no real choice but to carve your own path and make a mark, here it is.

"I don't get it"

Who is teaching us to look deeper?

If you read a blog post, and it begins with an analogy about car dealers, is your instinct to say, "well, I'm not a car dealer..." and then jump to the next post?

When you see something working (or not working) in the marketplace, something you don't understand, do you stop to figure out why it's working (or not working)? Or is it easier to change the attention channel and get back into line?

I've discovered (the hard way) three rules for writing a blog post that will spread:

  • Don't use unfamiliar words or concepts.
  • Avoid subtlety.
  • Try not to challenge deeply held beliefs.

Education, politics, marketing, tourist attractions--they all seem to work better when we keep people moving, behind the velvet rope, input & output, cause and effect, this then that. When the masses conform to the system we've built, the system works a whole lot better.

But who wants to be a cog in that machine? While playing it safe might work, where does it get us?

The best opportunity you've got to grow and to make an impact is to seek out the, "I don't get it," moments, and then work at it and noodle on it and discuss it until you do get it. Analogies and metaphors are your friends. Dense lyrics, almost indecipherable prose, mysterious successes--these are the places where you will leap forward.

I know there is now an infinite amount of media to choose from, an infinite number of experiences to have. But if you skip over the ones that aren't spoon fed to you, all you'll end up with is eating from a spoon.

Time doesn't exist until we invent it

The transcontinental railroads led to the invention of time zones. For the first time, everyone needed to be in sync, regardless of what village one lived in.

A few generations later, we're in all in sync, to the second, thanks to the computers in our pockets.

Time is borrowed, wasted, spent. We find the time, slow down time, take our time. Its Miller, quitting, clobberin time. We focus on the stitch in time, hard time, closing time, not to mention big, daylight savings, race against, first, last, due, nick of...

Time is so variable, so based on our experience, that the absolute measure of time is almost meaningless. Don't even get me started about relativity and time travel.

Time on a long bus trip goes so much slower than time spent doing what we love with people we care about. We'll pay $1000 to buy an hour in some circumstances, but refuse to pay a $5 premium to save an hour in others.

Time doesn't exist, not in a way that matters to most people. The story we tell ourselves about time, though, is the overriding narrative of our day to day lives.

The opposite of 'defenseless'

It might be defended, or defensive.

If you're asking for feedback or coaching or an education, neither is going to help you very much.

The person who has ideas that are well defended isn't going to be able to listen carefully for the lessons that can help him change those ideas.

And the person who is defensive not only won't hear the ideas, but he'll push away anyone generous enough to share them.

Defenseless is the best choice for those seeking to grow.

Understanding luxury goods

A luxury good gets its value from its lack of utility and value. A typical consumer would look at what it costs and what it does and say, "that's ridiculous."

When a good like this (and it might be a service as well) comes to market, it sometimes transcends the value equation and enters a new realm, one of scarcity and social proof. The value, ironically, comes from its lack of value.

The owner of a $12,000 Birkin bag might tell you that it's worth every penny. Obviously, one can carry a wallet and a few other essentials in bag that costs less than 1% of what this bag costs, and we can even imagine making something just like a Birkin for a fraction of the price. But that would be a copy, not the real thing, and so the story, the narrative, the specialness and most of all, the social element would go out the window. A Birkin bag is at its most valuable when your friends admire you for owning it, not when they admire its ability to carry your stuff.

The ring in the blue Tiffany box or the speaker cables that cost more than a car--these are purchased as (perhaps perverse) testaments to the (take your pick) power/taste/wealth of the person buying or owning it.

Discount luxury goods, then, are an oxymoron. The factory outlet or the job lot seller or the yoga studio that's selling the "same thing but cheaper," isn't selling the same thing at all. They don't offer scarcity, social proof or the self-narrative of a splurge. What they sell is, "you're smarter than other people, but you know, you're also a little bit of a fraud because this isn't actually a luxury good, because it's a better value." Circular, but true.

It takes guts to invent a brand new luxury good from scratch. Shinola watches don't tell time any better than a $16 Timex, but they do tell a better story. Their creation is part of that story, but so is the identity of the stores that sell them and the fact that they sell out regularly.

Jean-Baptiste Colbert, who invented the industry (yes, one person invented luxury goods as a category) understood something that flies in the face of the non-scarcity of the internet: social proof among the wealthy is based on beauty plus scarcity plus expense. The fact that others believe a good is overpriced is precisely why a certain segment of the market chooses to purchase it.

This even works in b2b situations. McKinsey certainly offers a luxury good (only the biggest, wealthiest corporations can afford them) as do furniture makers like Herman Miller.

We're also seeing luxury goods being purchased by people not ordinarily thought of as wealthy. A teenager with a rare pair of new sneakers qualifies as luxury in her tribe.

It's interesting to note that first class travel isn't the luxury good it once was. The airlines stumbled, started playing with both service and scarcity, and unravelled the myth. Hence the need for a private jet as a luxury good, even when there's a perfectly fine commercial jet going to that very destination.

One place where the luxury goods idea has been underutilized is philanthropy. The rich guy who gives $20 million to a university isn't doing it because the school is likely to spend his money in the most efficient way. He's doing it because they will name a building after him. The building is a scarce good, overpriced for what it appears to deliver, which is precisely why it's a form of luxury.

One opportunity for non-profits is to use their true needs as only part of the conversation about giving. The dreaded gala, for example, is best seen as a luxury good. All the time and coordination and busywork are actually providing utility... not to the charity, but to those attending.

Sorry to drone on... wrapping up then, when luxury intersects with the web, conflicts ensue. First, because the net makes pricing transparent, which inevitably makes some people feel stupid for paying full price (and stupidity doesn't work with the other pillars of luxury). And second, because the new sorts of social proof have to do with how connected and respected you are, not how much you paid for that handbag.

Is Google jumping the shark?

Ron Howard explained that while they were shooting the notorious episode where Fonzie jumped the shark, he knew the show had turned a corner. In the case of Happy Days, the corner was the chasing of ratings at the cost of integrity. In the case of corporations, the corner is usually the chasing of profit at the expense of the original mission.

These places don't run out of creativity. You don't jump the shark because you're empty, you do it because there's pressure to be greedy.

Google has been found to have hacked and stolen user data, circumventing privacy settings. They've recently announced that without asking first or sharing the upside, they may be selling the names and faces of people who use Google + to advertisers, to be included in endorsement ads. People expressing themselves online might soon find themselves starring in ads as unpaid, unwilling endorsers.

How does this happen? Public companies almost inevitably seek to grow profits faster than expected, which means beyond the organic growth that comes from doing what made them great in the first place. In order to gain that profit, it's typical to hire people and reward them for measuring and increasing profits, even at the expense of what the company originally set out to do.

Every company at a certain stage ends up with two sorts of employees... some that work hard to improve the experience and value for the original customers, and some that tear down that experience and value in order to please shareholders in the short run.

It's not surprising, but it's sad.

The irony here is that in the long run, what the advertisers are telling companies like Google they want isn't what is going to build it into an even better company (or even help the advertisers) in the long run.

Advertisers often seem to want pitchmen spraying perfume at every person who walks into the store, inserts stuffed into every periodical, pop up ads, complete data on every individual they target and the ability to spam at will. Great media companies fight back on all of these intrusions, because they know that what actually works is genuine connection built around remarkable products and services.

Innumeracy and the power of choice

This video about income distribution in the USA is extraordinary. First, because it's so well produced, well researched and calm. Second, because it does a beautiful job of making statistics come to life. There's a story behind the numbers, and the producers bring the story to life.

There are two lessons to be learned about communicating about (as opposed to with) numbers here:

  1. As the data from the Harvard study shows, people are incredibly, almost willfully, bad at visualizing and understanding anything beyond really simple distributions.
  2. Giving people the appearance of choice, "if you could organize this, how would you," is a significantly better question than, "what's fair?" By reminding people that they actually do have a voice, you open the discussion wider.

If you agree or disagree with the 92% of the sample that is quoted in the video, my point is still the same: presenting information in this way, in a way that allows people to hear and see and think, is one of the most powerful tools available to people who'd like to make change. It's far more powerful than yelling.

Thank you, Jay

My friend and occasional co-author Jay Levinson just passed away. He was eighty.

Jay helped invent the idea of the modern marketing book, pioneered Guerrilla Marketing (which has nothing to do with gorillas and everything to do with thinking independently and bravely) and influenced several generations of leaders.

But most of all, I want to thank Jay for living a generous life. He never kept a secret, never hesitated to teach, to point something out, to lift someone up.

Jay was at his best when, with a mischievous smile, he'd answer a question, turning a newbie into an expert with one of his many lists or with a clever story. The point of his many, many books wasn't that there was a formula to follow, but that there was an attitude, an attitude that could help just about anyone make a difference.

The core of that attitude was the lighthearted application of generosity, for no other reason than it was the right thing to do.

We'll miss you, Jay.

Better than free

How do you compete with free? How does a wedding photographer or a travel agent—someone who used to make a good living performing a task that was hard to do without them—compete against ubiquitous free alternatives?

There's only one way: Sell something better than free.

Make a product or provide a service that's worth paying for.

You don't need a better way to talk about what you do, or a better gimmick, or a better social media strategy. In fact, you need to reinvent and rebuild what you make for a new reality, a reality where paying for something is an intentional act of buying something way better than the free alternative.

I'm sorry if this seems obvious. It's apparently not obvious to all the frustrated people I encounter who are still trying to sell the old thing in a new market.

Buying is selling

If you're negotiating to buy something--a house, a company, even as the purchasing agent for a big company--you're also selling.

That's because it isn't a faceless transaction involving a list price and a credit card. The purchase involves faith and trust and risk and someone caring enough about the other person to do more than seek the highest possible/lowest possible price.

If you hope to buy for less than the clearing price, or get better work than average, in fact, you are selling when you're buying.

A friend was selling his house, and every time he showed one particular prospective buyer a new feature, the buyer discounted it, demeaning its value. This is a common strategy--denigrate the thing you are hoping to buy, question the judgment of the seller, make them feel desperate. After all, the thinking goes, a desperate person will sell for less.

Perhaps. But more often, a person being made to feel desperate will take her valuable goods somewhere else, to someone who cares more.

Why not say, "that's fabulous! It makes the house worth even more, well done." Recognizing the good work of those you hope to buy from puts you on precisely the same side of the table as the seller.

The brutal purchasing manager who uses RFPs like a club and nickels and dimes (not to mention dollars) suppliers--do you think he's actually getting their best work? When we're talking about emotional labor, it's not often about the money, it's about how the transaction makes the seller feel.

Or consider the used car dealer. His business is only as good as his inventory, of course. So where to get the cars that get sold? One strategy is to only buy cars from desperate folks, folks with no options. (Or to make the people you meet with feel desperate). What sort of inventory does that leave you with? Last resort cars from people with no options. When the dealer who sold me a car recently tried this tactic with the car I hope to sell, I walked away.

The good stuff is more likely to be sold to people who care. The things you'd like to buy are probably going to be sold by people who have other options now.

Your hall of fame

Baseball, sure, but also roller derby and other worthy endeavors have a Hall of Fame.

It says a lot about an industry when it cares enough about its work (and the people doing it) to go to the trouble of organizing this story. The music industry is particularly good at this--not only do they have a hall of fame, but they have gold records, Grammy awards and multiple ways to highlight and honor people doing the work.

Why doesn't your company have one? A wall honoring the driver who broke a stupid company policy and got the shipment there on time... A diorama highlighting a particularly generous middle manager who always managed to find the resources to make something happen... A little glass box holding the purchase order that an heroic salesperson brought back from her long trip...

I got a note a few weeks ago, letting me know I was being inducted into the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame. 101 people --Eddie Bauer, Lillian Vernon and of course, LL Bean--are there (real people, all of them). And also my friend Lester Wunderman, who pioneered the very idea of Direct Marketing and helped launch the American Express card. Three of us are joining this year--Don Peppers and Martha Rogers are the real highlights (if you haven't read their books, you should). Their first book (1996) completely upended my view of the world.

The thing about direct marketing is that it's always been a bootstrapped industry. Lillian famously started at her kitchen table, a few blocks from where I was born (she took her last name from "Mt. Vernon"). Buy some stamps, do some tests, repeat. That approach, the leverage that comes from having big-time media for low-budget money, is here for all of us. We are all direct marketers now.

That means you don't need a permit or permission to start your Hall or your walk of fame. The web makes it easier than ever to have a virtual institution, one that exists solely to find and highlight people that might be worth highlighting. You should start one.

Even better, in a world where we can chart our own course, you could figure out a path that gets you in to the Hall you care about. Not tomorrow perhaps, but, drip by drip, over a career.

The easiest way to disagree with someone to assume that they are uninformed, and that once they know what you know, they will change their mind. (A marketing problem!)

The second easiest way to disagree is to assume that the other person is a dolt, a loon, a misguided zealot who refuses to see the truth. Their selfish desire to win interferes with their understanding of reality. (A political problem!)

The third easiest way to disagree with someone is to not actually hear what they are saying. (A filtering problem!)

The hardest way to disagree with someone is to come to understand that they see the world differently than we do, to acknowledge that they have a different worldview, something baked in long before they ever encountered this situation. (Another marketing problem, the biggest one).

There actually are countless uninformed people. There are certainly craven zealots. And yes, in fact, we usually hear what we want to hear, or hear what the TV tells us, or hear what we expect, instead of hearing what was said, and the intent behind it. Odds are, though, that we will make the change we seek by embracing the hard work of telling stories that resonate, as opposed to dismissing the other who appears not to get it.

The Show Me State (of the art)

I could ask you to bear with me through this urgent and important post, but I'm not optimistic that many people will.

The punchline matters more than it ever has before.

"Show me what this is about before I commit to it."

And the follow up: "Now that I know what it's about, I don't need to commit."

It started with the coming attractions for upcoming movies. By packing more and more of the punchline into the TV commercial or the theater preview, producers felt like they were satisfying the needs of the audience to know what they were going to see before they bought their ticket. Instead, they trained us to be satisfied by merely watching the attractions. No need to see the movie, you've already seen the best part.

SportsCenter piled on by showing fans a supercut of every great or heroic play of the weekend--a sports fix without investing the time or living through the drama of the game itself.

Record albums used to require not only listening to the entire side (no fast forward on an LP) but actually getting up and flipping it over. The radio wasn't going to play anything but the A side of the single, so if you liked an artist, you surrendered yourself to 45 minutes of her journey, the way she had it in mind.

A performance artist was on the local public radio station the other day. He didn't want to talk about the specifics of his show, because giving away the tactics was clearly going to lessen the impact of his work. No matter. The host revealed one surprise after another, outlining the entire show, because, after all, that's his job--to tell us what we're going to see so we don't have to see it ourselves.

We don't want to organize the course or go to the lecture or read the book until we know precisely what it's going to be about.

College wasn't like this. You committed to four years, you moved somewhere, and then you saw the curriculum. That's part of why it works. A huge part.

We hesitate to surrender our commitment so easily today. It's easier to read the 140 character summary or see the highlights or read the live blog, so we can check the box and then move on.

But move on to where?

To another box to be checked? We become like the tester in the ice cream factory, surrounded by thousands of flavors, but savoring none of them.

We each have a fixed amount of time. One thing you can do is invest it in knowing the summary of what 23 people said. The other thing you can do is to commit to living and breathing and learning from one of those people. Perhaps you will get more by being exposed more deeply to fewer.

One reason an audiobook can change your life is that you can't skip ahead. And the other reason is that you might listen to it five or six times, at the pace of the reader, not at your pace.

My full-day live seminars have impact on people partly because I don't announce the specific agenda or the talking points in advance. It's live and it's alive. I have no certainty what's about to happen, and neither do the others in the room. A morphing, changing commitment by all involved, one that grows over time.

Yes, I get that there's never again going to be a need to buy an album or to listen to all the songs in order, that you can get the quick summary of any book you're expected to have read, that your time is so valuable that perhaps the only economic choice is to live a Cliffs Notes version of your life.

[Oh, that's right, Cliffs Notes' sales are way down because they're too long.]

In fact, you could do that, but when you do, you've surrendered to efficiency and lost some life, some surprise and a lot of growth.

Looking a gift card in the mouth

"You qualified."

I'd just purchased $102 worth of stuff at the sporting goods store, and the clerk happily handed me my ten dollar gift card. What a nice surprise. I turned around to the stuff next to the checkout, searching for a $6 item I could now purchase, for free.

"Oh, sorry, you can't use it today. It becomes valid tomorrow."

Not only that, but I noted that it expires in four months.

Not so much of a gift. A manipulation. I better hurry back, the thinking goes, or that thing of value in my wallet will disappear.

Just as insightful is the recent promotion that they did at Staples. Pay $15 to buy the ability to save 10% on most things in the store (not online) for the next sixty days. It turns out that most people spend about $50 on a visit, which means that part of the card pays for itself in that first visit. But, and it's a big but, you've now purchased something that feels like a debt, one that you can only profit from if you head back, and soon.

These, of course, are not gift cards at all. They are motivational cards. And they work.

People are not machines, and purchasing just about anything is as much about emotion and the story we tell ourselves as it is about economic calculation. Charging you for the chance to save money one day is one more step in a dance about feelings.

Understanding marginal cost

How much does it cost Wikipedia to have one more person read an article? How much does it cost Chanel to produce one more bottle of perfume? How about one more digital copy of a Grateful Dead concert?

The cost of the next item produced is called 'marginal cost'. It doesn't include set-up fees, rent, years of training, insurance or all the other huge costs an organization might pay. It's merely the cost of one more unit.

In a competitive, undifferentiated market, the price will generally be lowered by competitors until it is just above marginal cost. Think about that... If it costs a dollar to make something, and your competitor is selling for $1.10, then in an efficient market, you have every incentive to sell your item for a penny less than that. It's better than not selling it.

There are many implications of this, the first being the explanation of why so much stuff online is free. Free is a magical concept, the place where trial and virality live. If the marginal cost of a new user is virtually zero (and in an ad supported business, a new user is actually profitable, not a cost) then it's no surprise that it's hard to charge for your app when there are other apps that do precisely what yours does.

Big, established companies have traditionally had a difficult time understanding this concept. The market for ebooks, for example, ended up in Federal court because otherwise smart people in book publishing couldn't get their arms around the idea that their marginal cost of an ebook delivered by Amazon was precisely zero. No paper, no shipping, no ink.

Their response was to talk about all of their fixed costs (which are real, and which are important). Things like typesetting and advances and editing and promotion...

But none of those things are marginal costs. That means that someone entering the market, someone with nothing to lose, is happy to wipe out as many fixed costs as he can and then price as close to zero as he can get away with. It's not nice nor does it feel fair, but it's true and it works.

The only defense against this race to marginal cost is to have a product that is differentiated, that has no substitute, that is worth asking for by name.

If your product has a low marginal cost and a traditionally high price, particularly if it's one of a kind in its market, then you're in a great position to benefit from sampling. Which is why vodka companies are happy to sponsor parties and why cell phone companies will do almost anything to get you in the door.

Until you understand the true marginal cost of your products or services, you can't make smart decisions about pricing or customer acquisition.

Industries with zero marginal-cost products and services are inherently unstable until someone figures out how to become the king of the hill, the leader, the one worth picking because everyone else is. When that happens, the truth above about efficient markets goes away... because a market with one dominant leader isn't efficient any more.

Learning from those that went first

A month ago, I invited my blog readers to join in a new online/offline school. More than 12,000 people signed up for the rollout, and the first groups started meeting a few days ago.

The initial feedback has been absolutely fabulous. At first, people hesitated to invite others to join them in this process, but once they pushed themselves forward, many discovered the magic that comes from engaging face to face around learning.

If you were hesitating (or just busy), it's not too late to join in.

1. Click here and find out about what this is about.

2. Subscribe to the Krypton/blog newsletter and get the updates going forward.

3. Go ahead and organize a group and start, as soon as you can. Now is better than later. There will be new free courses released every month going forward.

You can catch up on the posts to date (and find the current free course) by reading the Krypton blog, from the bottom up.

Learn together.

On going over your time

There’s never enough time to get your message across. Even Fidel Castro, famous for giving six-hour speeches, had plenty more to add.

If you’re given 8 minutes, take 8 minutes minus 7 seconds, not 9 minutes. The extra minute is selfish. The extra minute doesn’t actually make that much of a difference in how much you are able to communicate.

In fact, it’s the non-verbal communication we remember, and if you are rushing, apologizing and stepping on the toes of the person after you, that’s what the audience will take away.

Coordinate and amplify

If you've got an idea or you're working in marketing, the temptation is to seek out and evangelize those that 'don't get it,' to find and sell to the skeptics.

In fact, real change comes from finding and embracing and connecting and amplifying those that are inclined to like you and believe in you.

Ideas spread from person to person, not so much from you to them. So find your biggest fans and give them a story to tell.

Decoding "art"

Of course, it started with craft. The craft of making a bowl or a tool or anything that created function.

As humans became wealthier, we could seek out the artisan, the craftsperson who would add an element of panache and style to the tools we used.

It's not much of a leap from the beautiful functional object to one that has no function other than to be beautiful.

Art was born.

When art collided with royalty, religion and wealth, a match was made. Those in power could use art as a way to display their resources and to insist that they also were deserving of respect for their taste and their patronage of the artistic class.

And that would be the end of it, except the camera and commercial printing changed the very nature of art on canvas (and mass production changed sculpture). When anyone could have a print, or a vase, or a photo, art's position as a signifier and a cultural force was threatened.

Fountain1Hence the beginning of our modern definition of art, one that so many people are resistant to. Art doesn't mean painting, art doesn't mean realistic and art doesn't mean beautiful.

Marcel Duchamp created a ruckus with 'Fountain', which appeared in an art exhibit in 1917.  An upside-down urinal, Duchamp was saying quite a bit by displaying it. The second person to put a urinal into a museum, though, was merely a plumber.

About forty years later, Yves Klein created 'Leap Into the Void.' Long before Photoshop, he was playing with our expectations and our sense of reality.

Between Duchamp and Klein there were two generations of a redefinition of art. Art doesn't mean craft. And art isn't reserved for a few.

Art is the work of a human, an individual seeking to make a statement, to cause a reaction, to connect. Art is something new, every time, and art might not work, precisely because it's new, because it's human and because it seeks to connect.

Once art is freed from the canvas and the dealer and the gallery, it gains enormous power. Politicians and science fiction authors can do a sort of art. Anyone liberated from the assembly line and given a job where at least part of the time they decide, "what's next," has been given a charter to do art, to explore and discover and to create an impact.

LeapintothevoidWhen I write about making 'art', many people look at me quizzically. They don't understand how to make the conceptual leap from a job where we are told what to do to a life where we decide what to do--and seek to do something that connects, that makes an impact, and that yes, might not work.

Five hundred years ago, no painter would talk to you about ideas, or even impact. Painters merely painted. Today, you don't need a brush to be an artist, but you do need to want to make change.

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