17 Gems we Learned from Seth Godin in a Live Q&A

This past Tuesday we got to spend some time in the company of our marketing icon The Seth Godin (yes we do believe he should have a ‘THE’ before his name).

Photo 03-11-2015, 10 23 30

If you don’t know who Seth is, seriously go check him out. He is the author of 17 bestselling marketing books, and a true visionary in our field. His book Purple Cow: Transform your Business by being Remarkable, we both credit as one of the books that really founded our marketing belief system, and influenced us from Day 1 to be different, stand out, and push our boundaries both personally and in business.

OK, have we fan-girl’d enough yet?

Anyway, getting back to it, this Tuesday gone, Seth held a very rare Q&A session in London, where from 10am-3pm, he basically answered any question the audience could throw at him. And let us tell you – he didn’t miss a beat. He answered every question fully, passionately and really got us thinking differently about so many aspects of our own business.

We really couldn’t replicate the day in a blog, so instead, we wanted to pick up on as many key points as we could, which got us thinking about marketing, and ask you to think about them too.

ACTION: THINK: We know our articles usually come with action points, but this stuff is so unique on a per business basis that instead, we want you to think about the same things we were thinking about.

So let’s get going.

Tell a story

We wanted to start here, as this was a point that we kept on returning to throughout the day. We need to understand the story we tell in our businesses and our marketing. Marketing is basically great story telling.

Great marketers create an environment that makes it almost impossible for a potential customer to not talk to you. “People buy the story, they get the product for free,” said Seth. What is the story you give to people to spread the word about you?

Seth also repeated this phrase often throughout the day…

People like us, do things like this.

Could you say that for your own business?

Communities/Tribes/Followers whatever you want to call them, need to feel like they belong to something, that is for them. And to flip that on it’s head, people need to feel like if they aren’t part of the community, then they are missing out. Because people inherently want to be in sync with people like them.

THINK: Why is it thousands of people have Harley Davidson tattoos, and nobody has a Suzuki tattoo?

How to sell a pair of reading glasses (and your product)

Here’s a video clip from the event. In this video Seth discusses selling and understanding our customer’s ‘World View.’

THINK: This got us thinking about how we sell our product. What’s the world view of the people you are trying to sell to?

Write 15 bad ideas a day

Somebody asked Seth how he came up with so many ideas to write a blog each day. He said he actually writes down around 15 ideas each day, writes 3, then chooses 1 blog to actually post. Therefore quantity leads to quality when it comes to ideas. Professional brainstormers say more stupid ideas than anybody else, but you have to go through the bad to come up with the good. We practice this in our own business. When we need to think of an idea/solution we play the ‘No Wrong Answer Game.’ We each take it in turns to think of something, and the other person can’t say it is bad/wrong/stupid (even if it obviously is), and eventually the magic answer appears.

THINK: Are you coming up with enough ideas good or bad each day? Most people are scared of coming up with a bad idea because of the fear of failing, but you are missing the point. Bad ideas are necessary.

The cost of failing can be tiny

Seth said he believes 50% of his blog posts are below average. But the scale here is tiny, and the real question is ‘So What!?’ What is holding you back from hitting send, or recording a video, or sending that email. The cost of failing in many situations is so small, yet we get so hung up on the word: failure.

THINK: Are you holding yourself back from achieving great things, by being scared to fail, even though the cost of failing is comparatively tiny.

Going forward, the companies that win are the ones with TRUST and ATTENTION

A big theme of the whole day was this notion of ‘Trust and Attention.’ Yes, these are of course important today, but with the way things are going, they are going to be even more important in the future. So are we building the trust and holding the attention of our own tribes?

A great point Seth made here is that we have the best opportunity to build trust and attention when the chips are down, as this is where we are at our most vulnerable. For some reason though this is where we often loose the humanity. Seth used a great example:

Say a small business accidentally sends out an email to 1000 people that was only meant for 10. What do you think sounds better:

Hi, due to an computer error you may have received an email that was unintended for you. Please ignore this email. We are sorry for the inconvenience.


Hi, it’s just Tracy here, I’m really sorry but I accidentally hit F7 instead of F5 and managed to spam all our subscribes with an email probably irrelevant to you. I really am sorry, but hope you are having a great day.

Here’s a video of Seth talking about Trust and Attention:

THINK: Do you have enough humanity in your business, to generate high levels of Trust and Attention going forward?

How to sell B2B to a non-decision maker

Somebody in the audience said he sold B2B, but because he has a premium service much more expensive than the competition, the purchasing department often says NO.

So what do you do?

You must understand that the majority of the time people who work for companies, only care about one thing: “What will I tell my boss?” People want to please their boss, and overtime people have been trained to please by saying “It’s cheaper” or by sticking to the norm. It’s safer that way.

However for important/expensive purchases, what do employees want to tell the boss?

“It’s not going to let us down.”

So it is your job to equip the employee with a story to tell their boss, that has the moral of “It’s not going to let us down.” You have to say, “Look, we aren’t the cheapest, but we do things like this… which is better because… and if you go elsewhere, I hope you are feeling lucky!” Again, it is going back to that notion of the story we tell in our marketing.

THINK: We have been in this situation before, dealing with employees who are accountable to a boss, and listening to Seth, maybe we didn’t equip them with a good enough story to go back to their boss with. Have you ever been in that situation?

Start as small as you can possibly live with, to make change happen

This theory isn’t new but it is always worth thinking about. Starting small is always better than trying to appeal to the masses. Great organisations make change happen, but starting small is a much better strategy.

Seth used another great example. Say you are selling lanterns to villages in developing countries. You may be tempted to turn up in Village A one day, sell 2 lanterns, then the next day move onto Village B, repeating the process. That’s the wrong strategy.

Instead, turn up in Village A every day until everybody in that village has a lantern. Then go to Village B and tell them the story: “Hey, look at Village A, do you want a lantern?”

THINK: Are you focused enough on who your customer is? You need to turn a village before moving on. What’s your first village?

Does growing a business lead to mediocracy?

A lot of companies want growth, but sometimes growing companies risk bringing on new people who in turn lower the value being offered. But it’s a playoff between growth and scale.

Look at the Apple Stores. These were so innovative when they first launched and the Genius Bars were manned by true Apple geeks, 100% passionate about the brand and the product. But as Apple grew their stores, they had to find an infinite amount of people like this, which was impossible. So even though the staff on the Genius Bar are well trained and able to help today, they aren’t the same type of people as the originals.

Looking at growth from a different point of view, Seth told the story of an Ad Agency who reached capacity and decided that to keep the quality of work up, it would be company policy that they would only take on an extra client if they lost a client.

This not only made being a client of this company exclusive, but it allowed the owners to do work they actually enjoyed. If a company didn’t match their brand values, or wanted to do an ad the company didn’t believe they could say “No worries, let’s part ways, we have a waiting list out the door of people to work with.”

THINK: How are you going to grow? Through employing more people? If so, how do you keep the quality up? Can you grow in a different way?

As things move online, own the fact that you have a personal service, and amplify it.

We see this all the time. People can buy things online for incredibly cheap, and the temptation is that you also have to move online and drop your prices. This is what Seth said…own the fact that you have a personal service, and amplify it. Why would you buy a Will from an advisor for a few hundred quid when you can get a cheap one from for around £25 from WHSmiths – because if everything goes wrong you can call the Advisor, and you can feel safe that it has been done properly!

Seth told the story of a company who spent £2million pounds ripping out their voicemail system to guarantee they would always be able to answer the phone within 1 ring.

They made their money back in six weeks.

They amplified it.

THINK: Don’t worry if you have cheaper competition operating solely online. But are you making enough noise about the fact that your service is still personal?

“It’s not for you” is a powerful thing to be able to say

Following on from the previous point, you need to sometimes be willing to say “It’s not for you, you would be better working with my competitor.” We need to be able to enjoy what we do, and work with the right people.

THINK: Are you willing to say “It’s not for you”?

Seth’s take on the WHY in Marketing

We’ve talked a lot about the WHY in marketing previously. Seth had an interesting take, that didn’t 100% align with Simon Senik’s view. Have a listen…

THINK: Do you have a why?

Change has an ugly twin brother called tension

This is why people are scared of change. Change is uncertain, change is scary, change brings tension. But you have to make tension your friend, you have to own tension.

THINK: Seth talked about The Monkees and Bob Dylan. We are going to be honest here – we are too young to remember them! But Seth’s point was Bob Dylan constantly evolved – even though he was chastised for it at times, where The Monkees remained constant. Now, Bob Dylan still has sell-out concerts, and nobody listens to The Monkees.

Life is not a focus group. Shun the non-believers.

The trolls and the non-believers need us, because they are afraid to do things differently, and enjoy putting down people that are brave enough to be remarkable.

The best selling books on Amazon have the highest percentage of negative reviews. Because the nature of being a bestseller creates negative reviews.

THINK: Do you listen too much to non-believers, reviews and people who put you down? DON’T! Seth never reads his reviews on Amazon – it’s not going to make hime a better writer.

Nobody ever buys anything on an elevator

We think the idea of the ‘elevator pitch’ is dated and impractical, and luckily Seth agrees. He did however say we should all have ‘Elevator Questions.’ Questions we can ask people to allow them to reveal themselves as our customer or not a customer. If you discover they aren’t your customer, then you haven’t wasted time pitching to them and annoying them. If they reveal that they could be someone in your tribe then go ahead, ask for a coffee.

THINK: Do you have an elevator pitch or an elevator question?

The podcasting problem

When Seth asked who in the room has listened to a Podcast in the past 4 weeks, over 90% of us raised our hands. WOW.

However, Seth explained the issue with Podcasts now is that the market is saturated. There’s only so many hours in a day, and you don’t know what’s in a podcast till you listen to it. So what do you do? You stick to the ones you know.

THINK: So what’s the solution to this problem? We need to encourage our listeners to evangelise our podcast to push it out. We have been trained to think ‘famous’ people should be listened to, yet only when we are famous do people say “What, you don’t listen to [name]!?” So how are we making it easy for people to talk about us? Or how do we get people – who have the same agenda as our podcast (or business in general), to talk about us too?

How Seth’s blog got big

Seth admitted he has spent zero hours on SEO on his blog. So how did it get big? Basically he shared information with people, that they in turn found useful to share. People would forward it to their boss/employee/friend etc. because in turn it would make their (the person who shared) lives better, is the person they shared it with also knew the information!

THINK: Is the content we put out there, useful/shareable/spreadable enough?

How to build a small business

There’s 2 ways to build your small business. Wait for people to find you organically. Or pay for attention. If we pay for attention, knowing the life time value of a client is so important.

For example Amazon worked out the life time value of their customer was $33, so their marketing team could spend anything up to $33 per person to acquire new clients.

If they wanted to spend $33,000 on a new campaign they were allowed as long as they could show how it would bring in 1000 new clients.

THINK: Marketing Budgets often don’t exist in small businesses, but making clever decisions with our marketing (and our money) is easier if we know the life time value of our customers.

So there you have it. This article just scratched the iceberg, but hopefully it got you thinking about some of the key points Seth raised on the day.

If you ever get the chance to go see Seth speak, we would definitely recommend it.

Go check out his blog here >

And his books here >

Inspired by Seth, we wrote this free ebook on what we’ve learned about standing out and being remarkable. You can get it here…



How to ensure your business gets noticed – Free Download

A really successful business isn’t good, isn’t great, isn’t fantastic…it’s REMARKABLE i.e. it gets people to make a remark about it! In this free remarkable ebook, we’ll take you through the steps it takes to make your business remarkable too, so ultimately you’ll get noticed, be remembered and win sales.