Seth Godin has written 17 books on advertising, marketing, business, and leadership. I had the pleasure of hosting a virtual “Fireside Chat” with Seth, and we dug deep into attendee questions after he and I laid the groundwork for our hangout.
Seth is such a great person to talk with, and he’s usually super busy, so it’s an honor to have been able to spend an hour going over his thoughts on entrepreneurial ventures, trust-building and relationship marketing, and being remarkable.
Persistence, Growth, and Change
“I learned a lot about solving, interesting problems being creative, failing, and failing and failing on the way to figuring out what would work.”
Sometimes you land on an idea or get involved with something that’s unique and profitable for you for a time, even if you’ve got to do things that make you uncomfortable to secure the work. But when you find something you can do that would be too expensive for a company or person to build themselves, they’d rather save money and pay you to do it, then that’s certainly something worth pursuing.
However, sometimes those wells run dry. Either too many people are doing the same thing, or they’re doing it cheaper than you are, or the market just gets so saturated they can’t see you anymore.
On Standing Out and Good Timing
Seth’s 1991 internet-based direct marketing firm was pioneering, to say the least. They were a no-spam solution that spoke to people who wanted to hear from them. He called it “permission marketing”. It was new and different at the time.
When it came time to sell the company (which he did, to Yahoo!), the timing was important to the success of the sale. Just because you have a good idea doesn’t mean that the company you want to sell to wouldn’t just decide they could find someone cheaper than you to just do it for them. You have to be ready to sell the solution as being more viable, buildable, and actually turn a profit for them in the end.
Trust Building and Relationship Marketing
Nowadays, ideas spread beyond the traditional way of advertising. Back when advertising was a screaming bargain for about 75 years, smart business owners kept throwing money at it because it paid for itself. However, about 20 years ago, all of that shifted. For some people, it got to be about hustle and hype and scam and gaming SEO. It was about getting to the front of the line by any means possible.
So now, and for the last several years, there are two ways we hear about things – the first, and more desirable method is when someone you trust tells you about something because they discovered it and think it’s cool. Their status and following go up because they knew about something before you did.
The other way, which is not trustworthy, is what we call influencer or affiliate marketing. The idea of getting paid to talk about something and only talking about it because you got paid to. It works, sure. But only short term until everyone knows about it, and then you’ve got to find something else to push and get paid to push.
Ideally, what we want to do is be the one to build something that’s worth talking about in the first place, and then rely on the customer relationships and trust to grow that loyal customer base that keeps promoting you because what you have is really cool.
Especially in a marketplace where there’s so much noise, if you aren’t remarkable, you stand to be invisible. If you’ve already got an established business, your brand is already out there. So how do you become remarkable?
Being remarkable means you’re someone with something worth talking about. Seth related this to how Alcoholics Anonymous is literally full of nameless people. Yet everyone’s heard about it because everyone talks about this life-changing “product” that makes your life better.
Another example is the Atkins Diet. It exploded the diet industry because it was interesting to hear people talk about how you can eat nothing but bacon all day and lose weight. We see it happening now again, with the Keto Diet, which is just a modified version of Atkins that doesn’t sound like it could kill you – which is quite remarkable!
The point is not to seek out a gimmick to get attention. It’s about doing or talking about something that your audience wants to talk about.
On Authenticity and How To Be Authentic
Authenticity is something that many have talked about as being this Golden Ticket to being worthy of listening to.
The truth is, no one really cares about authenticity and no one is truly authentic. What business owners need to do is be consistently who they are. Don’t pick something you don’t care about that you can’t do consistently. If you pick something that is alien to who you are, then you’ll be really unhappy for a really long time.
In regards to how to be authentic, one of the ways mentioned often is through “storytelling”. While you should absolutely tell your stories because they show a part of who you are, they’re absolutely not going to actually influence a broad range of people to pay you for something.
So what this means is that your reason for doing something is not going to be the same as anyone else’s reason for doing something. Your story and my story are not the same. We need to realize that other people don’t know, want, or believe what we do. And that’s okay, but you have to meet your customer or client where they are – not expect them to meet you where you are.
Find their problems. What’s their world view? How do you build a consistent structure around that and then help them have a forward motion? Because that’s what they want. Be generous, consistent, and an empathetic person who is out there solving other people’s problems, and you’ll get what you need.