He’s the entrepreneur and marketing guru with 673K followers on Twitter, and his latest book is stuffed with useful insights and practical advice for boosting your brand or product, but some of them will surprise you. In a world that morphs and changes in real time, you have to be ready to throw away old ways of thinking and find a new way of seeing – here are some of the stand out lessons we learned reading Seth Godin’s ‘This Is Marketing’:
What People Want Many startups become fixated on their products, especially if they’re disruptive or a genuine innovations. ‘You might say you’re offering a widget, but don’t believe it. When you’re marketing change you’re offering a new emotional state, a step closer to the dreams and desires of your customers, not a widget. We sell feelings, status, and connection, not tasks or stuff,’ says Godin.
If you’re thinking about asking people what they want, then Godin cautions against expecting any kind of breakthrough. ‘It’s our job to watch people, figure out what they dream of, and then create a transaction that can deliver that feeling.’ This becomes even more important when he points out that people confuse wants with needs (air, food, shelter, health), were bad at innovating ways to deliver on our wants, and that we don’t all want the same thing. ‘The early adopters want something new, the laggards want things to never change.’
If you want the word to spread then you need to build something that works better when it gets spread
New Rules Of Advertising In his book, Seth Godin makes a fundamental distinction between direct marketing – using Facebook and Google ads – and brand marketing. ‘If you run an ad on Facebook and count your clicks, and then measure how many of them you convert, you’re doing direct marketing.’ On the other hand, if you take an advert out in a magazine, or put up a billboard by the side of the road, hoping that people will remember your company the next time they need to make a purchase, then you’re doing brand marketing.
As he points out, many companies are lumping their ad spend into a single pot and expecting the same results from two entirely different beasts. He advises two separate approaches: ‘If you’re buying direct marketing ads, measure everything. Compute how much it costs you to earn attention, to get a click, to turn that attention into an order… if you’re not able to measure it, it doesn’t count.’
The opposite applies to brand marketing ads: ‘Be patient, refuse to measure. Engage with the culture. If you can’t afford to be consistent and patient, don’t pay for brand marketing ads.’ For Godin, everything from the way you answer the phone to your location, to the kind of packaging materials you use is brand marketing, so you’re already spending money on it – the question is do you want to spend more? If so, you need to focus: ‘You definitely, certainly and surely don’t have enough time and money to build a brand for everyone… Don’t try. Be specific.’
Use Scrapbooking Starting with a blank slate can be an intimidating way to build, and it’s also a high-risk strategy. ‘Being wrong from scratch is exhausting. Radical originality doesn’t have a high return on investment, and it will wear you out.’ Instead Godin recommends ‘scrapbooking’, which can apply to a new website, product or email campaign. ‘Find the things that you think those you engage with will be attracted to and will trust. The typefaces, the pricing, the offers, the images, the interfaces… and cut them up, break them down into the original invisible memes within. Then rebuild something on top of those pieces.’
Be Remarkable By Design Godin believes that not all customers are equal. He points out that every good customer gets you another one, because they spread the word in a virtuous circle. ‘Your best customers become you new sales people,’ he says. But it’s not enough just to rely on this effect: ‘If you want the word to spread, then you need to build something that works better when it gets spread.’ He gives the example of the fax machine as a truly remarkable product, which spread not through a clever ad campaign but because, ‘the fax machine works better if your colleagues have one too.’
If you can’t succeed in the small, why do you believe you will succeed in the large?
Miracles Do Not Happen It’s the old-school marketers dream: with the right stimulus of PR, ad buys, influencer marketing and the rest, an average product can be transformed into the next big thing; popular because it’s popular. ‘Here’s the truth about customer traction: a miracle isn’t going to happen,’ says Godin. The old school approach is far more likely to end in expensive failure than a superstar. ‘The alternative is to seek a path, not a miracle. And that path begins with customer traction.’
If you’ve got a tech startup with a new app, for instance, Godin wants to know how many people are using it outside of HQ every day? ‘How often are they sending you suggestions on how to make it better? How many people are insisting that their friends and colleagues use it? As in right now?’ His message is simple: ‘If you can’t succeed in the small, why do you believe you will succeed in the large?’
Seek Advice Rather Than Feedback Asking for feedback, says Godin, is rather like inviting someone to review you: it’s brave and foolish. What you end up with is the responses of your desired audience, the one who ‘has a set of dreams and beliefs and wants that perfectly integrates with this work’, and the accidental audience who ‘gets more satisfaction out of not liking the work… and sharing that thought with others. Both are right. But neither are particularly useful.’
For Godin, asking for feedback is asking to be told: ‘You thought you made something great, but you didn’t.’ Instead, seek advice, ask: ‘I made something I like, that I thought you’d like. How did I do? What advice do you have for how it could make it fit your worldview more closely?’ Rather than a review of your product, you’ve just earnt an insight into the fears, dreams and wants of your customer. ‘It’s a clue on how to get even closer next time,’ says Godin.
Decide What You Stand For Central to Godin’s way of thinking is that the most successful marketing is about making change. Focusing on clicks, followers and leads to sell more of something, is an industrialist’s approach. For Godin, being successful today requires a new perspective: ‘The purpose of our culture isn’t to enable capitalism, even capitalism that pays your bills. The purpose of capitalism is to build our culture.’
He recommends adopting a posture of service, and ‘engaging with the culture to make change.’ Once you decide what change you see to make, then the path to your goals is clear. ‘Once you know what you stand for, the rest gets lot easier.’
WHAT NEXT? Watch Seth Godin explain how mass marketing has been disrupted in the age of the tribe…
You can buy Seth Godin’s latest book This is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn To See now
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