Seth Godin: The Practice Of Reaching Those Who Matter With Your Ideas. Virtually Speaking Episode 45
Seth Godin is a remarkable entrepreneur, international best-selling author, and expert on marketing, communication, entrepreneurialism, and leadership. In addition to launching one of the most popular blogs in the world, he has written 20 best-selling books, including “The Dip,” “Linchpin,” “Purple Cow,” “Tribes,” and “What To Do When It’s Your Turn.” His most recent books, “This is Marketing” and “The Practice,” were instant bestsellers around the world. Seth also founded two major companies, Squidoo and Yoyodyne – which was acquired by Yahoo! In 2013, Seth was one of just three professionals inducted into the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame. In 2018, he was inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame as well. He might be the only person in both.
Seth is regularly featured by media worldwide including Forbes, Entrepreneur, The Washington Post, Inc Magazine, Adweek, The Motley Fool, NPR, and by Time Magazine who ranked Seth’s blog, “This is Seth’s Blog,” as one of the top 25 in the world. Seth’s very popular podcast “Akimbo” is listened to weekly by millions. He is followed by millions across the social platforms and his content online has been viewed by tens of millions.
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Seth Godin: The Practice Of Reaching Those Who Matter With Your Ideas. Virtually Speaking Episode 45
Joining us is Seth Godin, a remarkable entrepreneur, bestselling author and expert on marketing, communication, entrepreneurialism and leadership. In addition to launching one of the most popular blogs in the world, he has written twenty bestselling books including The Dip, Linchpin, Purple Cow, Tribes and What To Do When It’s Your Turn. It’s always your turn. His latest books, This is Marketing and The Practice were instant bestsellers around the world. Seth also founded two major companies, Squidoo and Yoyodyne, which were acquired by Yahoo. In 2013, Seth was one of just three professionals inducted into the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame. In May 2018, he was inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame as well. He might be the only person in both.
Seth is regularly featured by media worldwide including in Forbes, Entrepreneur and NPR, The Washington Post, Inc. Magazine, Adweek, The Motley Fool and Time Magazine, who ranked his blog as 1 of the top 25 in the world. Seth’s very popular podcast Akimbo is listened to weekly by millions. He is followed by millions across the social platforms and his content online has been viewed by tens of millions. It is my absolute privilege to have him here. Please join me with the legendary Seth Godin. Thank you so much for joining me here on Virtually Speaking. How are you doing?
I’m great, Chris. It’s good to meet you. Good to talk.
I’m so excited to have you here because you are a man who is influencing a lot of people and you have a lot of great ideas. The cool thing about you is you really are all about ideas. You’re about helping people get their ideas across and how people go about doing that. A lot has changed. You’ve been around as a thought leader for many years, all of the 2000s you’ve written so many great books about it. A lot of people think of you in terms of marketing but you’re not the typical marketer and you don’t think of marketing the same way most people do. Explain how you feel about marketing.
Marketing is advertising. Marketing is not hype. Marketing is not a hustle. Marketing is what we make and who we make it for. It’s the side effects of our work. It’s the way people expect us to be in the world. A brand isn’t a logo. A brand is a promise that we make people about what we’re going to do the next time they interact with us. For me, anything you think of as the marketing we do after we make something, it’s probably a mistake. Marketing starts when you first think about what it is you want to make.Unless you're a fish, being on the hook is the best place to be. Click To Tweet
It’s about really being remarkable. Isn’t it? I think that’s one of your favorite words. Explain a bit of how you feel about that word and what remarkable means to you.
Remarkable means a very simple thing. It means worth making a remark about. It’s not up to me if it’s remarkable. It’s up to the world if it’s remarkable. No one is going to talk about what you do because they like you or because they want you to succeed. They’re going to talk about you. They’re going to remark about you because it helps them. Years ago, I got kicked out of the New York book publishing world because I had a pretty spectacular failure. A dear friend of mine died in a helicopter crash. I wanted to dedicate a book to him but I didn’t have a book and so I wrote a book and the book is called Purple Cow but I couldn’t find a publisher because I was persona non grata. I published it myself. I made 5,000 copies. I put the book in a milk carton and I mailed it in the milk carton to people.
Who did I mail it to? I mailed it to the 5,000 people who sent me $5 for postage and handling because they read my column. I had permission to talk to them. When this thing arrived, a lot of people put it on their desk. Why would you put it on your desk? You put it on your desk because you wanted your coworkers to say, “What’s that?” You wanted people to talk to you about the idea. Why? Is it because you liked me? No. It’s because if your company started talking about making remarkable stuff, your life would get better. The fact that you had one of a limited edition of things raised your status. I gave people something they wanted, which was an easy way to talk about the change they were seeking to make. Too often, we make average stuff for average people and figure out we could hustle our way to a little more market share. I don’t like living in a world like that.
I love the fact that you talk about thinking about the fringe, thinking about the small groups of people who you’re speaking to, who care, who have similar opinions, would be people that you’d want to hang out with or people that you’d want to make a product for. It’s a little bit of a different way of looking at it. The truth is you don’t necessarily need ten million people to buy something. You only need 100,000 or 1 million people.
You’re not even going to get ten million people as much as you want to. Let’s think about it. If you’re organizing a conference and you can get somebody who’s the most famous soccer player in Brazil to be a speaker, that’s not going to work because that person isn’t famous to the people in the room. The fact that they’re famous to other people is irrelevant, that what we seek is famous to the family, famous to the circle, how we find the smallest viable audience, the people who are interested and interesting, who seek to be connected. That’s what this industry is all about. I think it’s lazy to book Barack Obama as much as he’s a superstar because he’s famous to everybody. You’re much better off saying, “Who would this group miss if they weren’t there? How can we be specific?” If you decide to be specific, you’re on the hook. Unless you’re a fish being on the hook is the best place to be.
In this world, I would think you’re more excited now than you ever have been because of the opportunity for everyone and every company to really reach tons of people so much easier. In fact, without a budget, if you do it right, if you do it in a way that you care about, you’re authentic and you’re really talking about something that you’re good at but that means a lot to you. There are going to be some people who are going to like it, agree with it, appreciate it and learn from it. You’re of the mindset of say, what’s important to you, share what’s remarkable about you and what ideas you care about. It doesn’t matter if you have millions of followers. Your followers will be the ones who are faithful to you and be your customers. That’s exciting. With the advent of all of these great places to be a thought leader, from LinkedIn to Instagram to Twitter and a lot of other new things happening like Clubhouse. I guess you’re probably a little more excited for everybody’s sake than you have been because of the opportunities out there.
Let’s remember that in 1987, there were only three TV networks. Unless they screwed up, they got one-third of the audience. That is 1987, the race for mass was significant that you wanted to reach everyone. The internet has never been good at reaching everyone. There is no homepage on the internet. The internet can reach anyone. It can reach someone but it can’t reach everyone. Yet amazingly, marketers spend a premium and they bend over backward to try to reach the largest number of people when the internet’s a micro medium. What that means is you can find your 1,000 true fans. You can delight them, the smallest viable audience and they will tell the others, not you hustling around. People used to brag about Oreos and their Twitter campaign during the blackout at Giant Stadium. They didn’t sell one extra cookie. The old was good for Nabisco, the old days where we can reach everyone with blasé news about a blasé product. Now, attention cannot be taken. It can only be earned and we earn it when we make something worth talking about.
Companies trying to create calls to action and mantras are really out of luck because it’s a lot more specific what people are looking for now and people’s messages need to go into the niche.
If a company’s motto is, “You can pick anyone.” “We’re anyone.” They’re then doomed.” That applies to authors. It applies to conferences. It applies to brands of shaving cream. You’re not going to win the Google search. Someone’s going to win it but it’s not going to be you. On the other hand, if your motto is, “You’ll miss us if we’re not here tomorrow,” then people will go out of their way not to search for the generic but to search for you. Is there a T-shirt shortage in America? Of course not. Yet there’s a line out the door at Supreme. Why are people waiting in line to buy an $80 T-shirt? You can go down the list of just about every brand built in the last many years. The ones that are succeeding are the ones that give people a chance for identity, connection, dignity and a belief in what’s possible, not the ones who are somehow solving some commodity shortage because that’s not really the problem.
Would you say that it’s dangerous that everybody has a voice and that companies are being held to a different standard? Some people might have a bad opinion about their company because of something they’re doing with energy or sustainability. There’s a whole group of people coming after the company negatively in the comment section or online. It seems like there’s a lot more of a complicated way to navigate through what you’re putting out there if you’re a small company or all the way up to a Fortune 100 company. How has that changed?The best organizations exist to make a change happen. Click To Tweet
I think it was Winston Churchill who said, “Democracy is the very worst form of government except for all of the other alternatives.” If there was a way that only constructive, polite, thoughtful, long-term-thinking non-anonymous people were speaking up and nobody else, I would be in favor of that. I don’t know how to make that happen. As Jimmy Wales says, “The antidote to bad speech is good speech.” What we can’t figure out how to do is stamp out all the trolls but we could figure out how to create communities where the right people are invited into the room, given a microphone and a chance to speak up.
There are consequences to actions and for too long, businesses have been able to say, “We made a profit. It’s not against the law.” Those two reasons are no reasons whatsoever to do something you’re not proud of. You can’t have it both ways. Corporations have tried to build brands in which we’re supposed to think of them as people like, “Trust blank.” We trust people. If you want to be treated like people, expect that you’re going to be treated like people. That means that you’re going to be held long overdue accountable for what you say and do.
This is also about intent. This is also about another word that I know you like a lot, which is intent. Where are you coming from? Talk a little bit about that word intent, what it means to you and how it drives everything that you do.
Enrollment in the journey is the first place we start. It’s very hard to get people to do something against their will. If they want to go to Cleveland and you’ve got a bus going to Cleveland, they don’t view the ad as spam because they want to go there. They’re eager to come along. The second part is being clear about intentional action. Who are you making this change for? What change do you seek to make? Michael Shrank taught me the idea that the best organizations exist to make a change happen. If your change is something as trivial as we try to change people from non-customers to customers, fine. It is way better to imagine that you’re trying to turn disconnected outsiders into connected insiders. You’re trying to turn people who don’t have hope into people who do. Who are you trying to change? What change are you trying to make?
Another thing about change that reminds me of is something that you also talk about, which is changing your own habits. Understanding what habits you as a person is in that need to change in order for you to accomplish things. You have some very interesting takes on that. What has habit got to do with success? What does habit have to do with where we’re going to end up as far as reaching our goals?
Part of it is that we become what we do. Here’s an experiment that you could try for a week. The first thing you do when you wake up in the morning every day for the next week, hand-write a thank you letter to someone who can do nothing for you in return. Do that. If you do it for a week, you will become the kind of person that does that. If you have always dreamed of being a writer but you’re waiting for a good idea, simply write three pages a day. Now you’re a writer and then you can become a better writer because you’re a lousy writer the first day but the habit ends up changing who you are. I wrote a book called What To Do When It’s Your Turn. Too often because we’ve been indoctrinated and brainwashed from a young age, the world has done to us, as opposed to us saying, “I’ve got the wheel. Where should I drive?”
You can’t do it all at once. Please don’t quit your job and start a business tomorrow just because I said this. For ten minutes a day, you don’t plan things, you do things, take the initiative, you’ll be amazed at what is possible. It’s something as trivial as every day at 2:00, call one of your customers and say, “How are you doing?” That’s it. Don’t speak again. Listen. Do that every day, day after day. All of these little steps become habits. They become who we are. I’ve written 8,000 blog posts in a row. There’s going to be another one tomorrow. It’s not going to be there because it’s the best blog post I ever wrote. It’s going to be there because it’s Wednesday.
If you were to leave everyone here with a book, some advice, what would your favorite book that you’ve written be? Which do you think is probably the most appropriate or timely book for the world we live in and where we’re headed? What would you say would be the book that you liked the most that you’ve written?
I would say that the book that will change your life the most is the book you write and you should write one, Chris. Lots of other people should write one. Writing a book is the single best way I know to get serious about who you are, what you believe in and what you stand for. In terms of what I can recommend, this is the new one. I wrote it for people who don’t think of themselves as professional marketers. Basically, my argument is that the magic of the creative process is there is no magic. That it is possible to choose to, as a skill, make things better by making better things. It’s not easy but it’s very simple.
Talk a little bit more about that.Good habits save us from the poverty of our intentions. Click To Tweet
The practice is simply the belief that good habits save us from the poverty of our intentions. I quote the sculptor, Elizabeth King, who taught me that. When we look at everyone from Patricia Barber to Spike Lee and in-between whether they’re making music or running a business, the people who are good at it aren’t waiting for a perfect idea. They are simply chopping wood and carrying water. They’re doing it with generosity, with the intent to make a positive change. Scientific breakthroughs aren’t breakthroughs. Scientific breakthroughs are a slog. The same thing is true for creativity. You sign up for this endless slog towards better.
Failure is part of the process. You’re going to fail and it doesn’t matter. You keep going until you get it right, until you hit it out of the park.
What we want to hear people say is not, “This is guaranteed to work.” What we want to hear them say is, “This might not work.” It’s really interesting. I’ve given more than 1,000 talks and every once in a while, I’ll get booked to give a talk and I’ll say, “Would you like me to bring my new stuff? Do you want me to bring my proven stuff that’s guaranteed to work?” I don’t ask that anymore. For every single paid gig, they say, “Bring your proven stuff, please.” I get that but I also understand that forward motion comes from the other guy.
Seth, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate you making time for me, making time for us and being somebody who really spreads ideas and encourages other people to spread their ideas, be creative and go through the process. You’re nothing but an inspiration. This has been an absolute pleasure and an honor for me to have you. Thank you.
Thank you, Chris. Keep leading. Make a ruckus.
You too. Take care.
- Seth Godin
- The Dip
- Purple Cow
- What To Do When It’s Your Turn
- This is Marketing
- The Practice
About Seth Godin
Seth Godin is an Author, Entrepreneur and Most of All, A teacher
Seth is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, and speaker. In addition to launching one of the most popular blogs in the world, he has written 20 best-selling books, including The Dip, Linchpin, Purple Cow, Tribes, and What To Do When It’s Your Turn (And It’s Always Your Turn). His most recent books, This is Marketing, and The Practice were instant bestsellers in countries around the world.
Though renowned for his writing and speaking, Seth also founded two companies, Squidoo and Yoyodyne (acquired by Yahoo!).
By focusing on everything from effective marketing and leadership, to the spread of ideas and changing everything, Seth has been able to motivate and inspire countless people around the world.
In 2013, Seth was one of just three professionals inducted into the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame. In an astonishing turn of events, in May 2018, he was inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame as well. He might be the only person in both.