Seth Godin's Blog, page 124

October 17, 2011

Marketing-focused almost never works.

That's because no one actually understands what the market wants. When you choose to make something magical instead, when you bring passion instead of calculation to your work, you're as least as likely to get it right as the guy who is selling out.

Hence Charlie's Angels gets cancelled and that derivative movie at the cineplex closes after a week.

Chasing the market is hard, because you're wearing a blindfold.

The real difference between the two approaches is that you're having a ball along the way. The market can sense that.

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Published on October 17, 2011 02:27 • 14 views

One of three things is going on in your head when you're entering into a transaction of any kind:

I'm doing you a favor, bud

Hey, this guy is doing me a favor

This is a favorless transaction

It's interesting to think about how this internal monologue effects the way we do business. A favor, after all, is an investment in a future relationship.

At the famous old-school pizza joint, they act as if they're doing just about everyone a favor. No need to answer the phone nicely or smile or add just a little bit extra to that pie. (Godin's first law of pizza joints: quality is often inversely proportional to niceness). Whether or not they are actually doing you a favor by selling you this pizza, they believe they are, and act accordingly.

On the other hand, when your buddy Lorne Michaels does you a favor and gets his friend Steve Martin to stop by your kid's birthday party, it's really obvious that a favor is being done. So you bend over backwards, you're dancing at the edge of obsequiousness, putting as much extra on the table as you can get away with. After all, he's doing you a favor.

And most of the time, it's the third category: business as usual. My hope is that during business as usual, you're aggressively overdelivering, but still, it's not like they're doing you a favor by transacting with you. It's an exchange, a sustainable transaction, where both sides win.

The disconnect happens when one party in the transaction thinks he's doing the other guy a favor... but the other guy doesn't act that way in return. In fact, when both sides think they're doing the other a favor, it's a meltdown. (The flipside, on the other hand, is great--when both sides act as if the other guy is doing them a favor.)

The shortcut to success is this: why not always act as if the other guy is doing the favor?

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Published on October 17, 2011 02:23 • 16 views

October 16, 2011

Have you ever encountered a really stressed, undertrained gate agent at an airport? She starts yelling into the microphone, strangling her words and insisting, demanding and EMPHASIZING just how urgent it is that David Johnson come to the gate immediately...

It doesn't work, because we shut her out. Like a toddler ignoring his ever more insistent parent, it's so easy to turn off the yelling. Just as we ignore the all caps emails, the flashing banner ad and the sirens in New York.

As a marketer, you resort to yelling more often than you should. There's an alternative...

Whispering piques our interest and demands our attention. Yelling, on the other hand, is a waste of time, regardless of how urgent the issue is.

PS some new posts on the Domino blog you might like...

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Published on October 16, 2011 02:58 • 21 views

October 15, 2011

The email feels like a welcome one. "I'd like to invite you to…"

And then you find out it's a charity gala. 500 people at an expensive hotel, eating a not very good meal and paying a great deal for the privilege. Sure, some of the money goes to charity (but too much goes for the chicken in white sauce). Sure, it's entirely possible you will have ten interesting minutes of conversation, and yes, it may be that you'll hear a speech that will move you.

But I think we can agree that this is a ridiculous way to efficiently raise money for a good cause.

Galas and charity auctions and other events designed to raise money from the inner circle of a community suffer because they're conflating several benefits at once.

First, being invited to a gala feels like a gift. It's nice to be asked, to be noticed, to be included. The socially appropriate response is to accept the gift and say yes.

Notice that the invitation isn't being accepted because it's a good cause, it's being accepted because it's a social obligation.

Second, there's a set of benefits to both the invited and the inviter. The gala is held in a reasonably enjoyable venue, with lots of money spent on wine and food and such, all to benefit the attendees, not the charity. The inviter gets the social gratification of hosting, plus the added benefit of feeling charitable. The guest gets the social benefit of being included in this stratum of society, of having an excuse for a night out, and possibly the commercial benefit (lawyers, brokers, etc.) of being part of a trusted circle.

Again, none of this benefits the charity. [And having a big donor pay for the whole thing changes nothing.]

For this reason, the gala is actually corrupting. Attendees are usually driven by social and selfish motivations to attend, and thus the philanthropic element of giving--just to give--is removed.

Attending an event that's dramatically overpriced for what's delivered to the recipient is a signaling mechanism as well. It says to the other attendees, "I can afford to overpay and so can you, we must be similar, and our hearts are in the right place as well."

Do elements of our community need gala-like events to lubricate their social interactions? Quite probably. It's a tradition, particularly in certain cities and tribes. But is it a scalable alternative to selling generosity for its own sake?

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Published on October 15, 2011 02:21 • 15 views

October 14, 2011

So many things that would have been money losers then can be profitable today.

When you run your own concert, selling tickets online and renting the theatre out yourself, you might be able to keep 85 cents of every dollar your audience spends on a ticket. In the system we grew up with, by the time the box office, Ticketmaster, the stagehands, the promoters and everyone else takes a cut, you might end up with literally nothing.

Or consider a hardcover book that costs $20. By the time the bookstore keeps half, the publisher keeps a share for the risk she takes, and don't forget shipping and returns... there might only be $2 left for the author. With an ebook, the author might keep as much as $14 a copy... More if he hosts the store and sells it as a PDF.

A hairdresser with direct relationships with customers can give up the storefront location and make more money by charging less and cutting the hair in her home.

A newspaper can happily support a few reporters and an ad guy if it gives up the paper, the offices and the rest of the trappings.

Too often, we look at the new thing and demand to know how it supports the old thing. Perhaps, though, the question is, how does the new thing allow us to think skinnier.

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Published on October 14, 2011 02:00 • 21 views

October 13, 2011

The typical person speaks 10 or 12 sentences a minute.

The atomic method requires you to create a slide for each sentence. For a five minute talk, that's 50 slides.

Each slide must have either a single word, a single image or a single idea.

Make all 50 slides. Force yourself to break each concept into the smallest possible atom. If it's not worthy of a slide, don't say it.

Once you have 50 slides, do the talk in practice. Remove slides and sentences that add no value or don't move you forward.

Now (and only now), start consolidating slides. If two or three or four slides work together as one, then go ahead and make them one. You've got molecules now, not atoms.

At this point, you can either get rid of slides altogether, keep them as is or lump them one more time into bigger ideas. But no (!) bullets please. What a waste those are.

There's more here: Really Bad Powerpoint.

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Published on October 13, 2011 02:49 • 27 views

October 12, 2011

Fledgling sushi chefs spend months (sometimes years) doing nothing but making the rice for the head chef.

If the rice isn't right, it really doesn't matter what else you do, you're not going to be able to serve great sushi.

Most of the blogging and writing that goes on about marketing assumes that you already know how to make the rice. It assumes you understand copywriting and graphic design, that you've got experience in measuring direct response rates, that you've made hundreds of sales calls, have an innate empathy for what your customers want and think and that you know how to make a compelling case for what you believe.

Too often, we quickly jump ahead to the new thing, failing to get good enough at the important thing.

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Published on October 12, 2011 02:01 • 36 views

October 11, 2011

A guy walks into a shop that sells ties. He's opened the conversation by walking in.

Salesman says, "can I help you?"

The conversation is now closed. The prospect can politely say, "no thanks, just looking."

Consider the alternative: "That's a [insert adjective here] tie you're wearing, sir. Where did you buy it?"

Conversation is now open. Attention has been paid, a rapport can be built. They can talk about ties. And good taste.

Or consider a patron at a fancy restaurant. He was served an old piece of fish, something hardly worth the place's reputation. On the way out, he says to the chef,

"It must be hard to get great fish on Mondays. I'm afraid the filet I was served had turned."

If the chef says, "I'm sorry you didn't enjoy your meal..." then the conversation is over. The patron has been rebuffed, the feedback considered merely whining and a matter of personal perspective.

What if the chef said instead, "what kind of fish was it?" What if the chef invited the patron back into the kitchen to take a look at the process and was asked for feedback?

Open conversations generate loyalty, sales and most of all, learning... for both sides.

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Published on October 11, 2011 02:39 • 75 views

October 10, 2011

...competent, inspiring, passionate, obsessed, provocative, impatient, hungry, driven, adoring, inspired, an artist, a genius, someone who cares...?

With all these remarkable, powerful, important options available to each of us, why do so many of us default to competent?

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Published on October 10, 2011 02:39 • 31 views

October 9, 2011

A simple fill in the blank for creating a remarkable service, partnership or experience:

"I was pleased that I got what I paid for, that the food was properly cooked, that they honored their contract, that the roller coaster worked, that there was no trash on the ground and that the staff looked me in the eye. But what really blew me away was _____"

By definition, whatever goes in the blank is an extra, more than you had to do. But what you must do to be considered remarkable. (Remarkable is what we call something we remark on).

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Published on October 09, 2011 02:41 • 18 views

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