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Seth Godin has written 12 bestsellers that have been translated into 33 languages

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all.marketers.tell.stories

All Marketers Tell Stories

Seth's most important book about the art of marketing

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Free Prize Inside

The practical sequel to Purple Cow

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Linchpin

An instant bestseller, the book that brings all of Seth's ideas together.

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Meatball Sundae

Why the internet works (and doesn't) for your business. And vice versa.

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Permission Marketing

The classic Named "Best Business Book" by Fortune.

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poke.the.box

Poke The Box

The latest book, Poke The Box is a call to action about the initiative you're taking - in your job or in your life, and Seth once again breaks the traditional publishing model by releasing it through The Domino Project.

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Purple Cow

The worldwide bestseller. Essential reading about remarkable products and services.

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Small is the New Big

A long book filled with short pieces from Fast Company and the blog. Guaranteed to make you think.

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survival.is.not.enough

Survival is Not Enough

Seth's worst seller and personal favorite. Change. How it works (and doesn't).

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The Big Moo

All for charity. Includes original work from Malcolm Gladwell, Tom Peters and Promise Phelon.

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The Big Red Fez

Top 5 Amazon ebestseller for a year. All about web sites that work.

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The Dip

A short book about quitting and being the best in the world. It's about life, not just marketing.

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The Icarus Deception

Seth's most personal book, a look at the end of the industrial economy and what happens next.

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Tribes

"Book of the year," a perennial bestseller about leading, connecting and creating movements.

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Unleashing the Ideavirus

More than 3,000,000 copies downloaded, perhaps the most important book to read about creating ideas that spread.

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V Is For Vulnerable

A short, illustrated, kids-like book that takes the last chapter of Icarus and turns it into something worth sharing.

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we.are.all.weird

We Are All Weird

The end of mass and how you can succeed by delighting a niche.

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whatcha.gonna.do.with.that.duck

Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?

The sequel to Small is the New Big. More than 600 pages of the best of Seth's blog.

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THE DIP BLOG by Seth Godin




All Marketers Are Liars Blog




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Cat food is for people

So is this bag of gluten-free, kale, peanutty dog treats.

And the first birthday party for the kid down the street is for her parents, not her. And the same is true for most gifts we give people (they're for us, and how we feel giving them, not for the recipient, not really). And many benefits the company offers to its employees...

It's easy to imagine that the giver is focused on the recipient at all times. But, more often than not, the way the gift makes us feel to give is at least as important as how it makes the other person (or pet, or infant) feel to receive it.

PS if you think cat food is for cats, how come it doesn't come in mouse flavor?

The handyman, the genius and the mad scientist

The handyman brings attention to detail and craftsmanship to the jobs that need to be done. Difficult to live without, but a household name, not a famous name.

The genius, Thomas Edison, relentlessly tries one approach after another until the elusive solution is found.

And the mad scientist, Tesla or Jobs, is idiosyncratic and apparently irrational—until the magic appears.

Who do you need?

Who are you?

Can we talk about process first?

It's so tempting to get straight to the issue, especially since you're certain that you're right. 

The challenge is that organizations and relationships that thrive are built to go beyond this one discussion. They are built for the long haul, and this particular issue, while important, isn't as vital as our ability to work together on the next hundred issues.

So yes, you're probably right, and yes, it's urgent, but if we can't agree on a process to talk about this, we're not going to get anywhere, not for long.

If the process we've used in the past is broken, let's fix it, because, in fact, getting that process right is actually more urgent than the problem we've got right now. Our meta-conversation pays significant dividends. At the very least, it gets us working together on the same side of a problem before we have to be on opposite sides of the issue of the day.

Fast, easy, guaranteed

...pick none.

That's the work that's worth doing.

There are Kracos

Thirty years ago, I used to work the booth at CES. The software company where I was a brand manager launched its products at the Consumer Electronics Show, which was, at the time, the biggest trade show in the world.

You can imagine that a huge stream of people were constantly walking by, and making our pitch to each and every one of them was exhausting. We were there to get mass merchants to sell our stuff--getting into Target or Lechmere was a victory we needed.

A few hours into the first show, I noticed that some of the people walking by had little creatures on their shoulders. Kraco, the low-cost stereo company, had a huge booth, and they were giving visitors these little stick-on humanoids, made of some sort of wool, to ride along on their shoulder. They were about two-inches high and they looked precisely as ridiculous as you are imagining.

I loved this. These people, these lookers, not buyers, were identifying themselves to us from a distance. The little Kraco man on the shoulder meant, "I am here to waste your time, I am not a professional, what will you give me that's free?" We quickly began identifying anyone with one of these on their shoulder as a Kraco, someone not worth an investment of focus and energy or free stuff.

Alas, the Kracos in your world today don't wear a little man on their shoulder, but that doesn't mean they're not out there. All your prospects are not the same, and if you insist on treating them that way, you will waste your time and your enthusiasm on people who aren't bringing any to your interaction.

In search of meaningful

From the individual who needs to get her idea in front of the right people, to the New York Times, which faces a ticking clock to figure out the digital landscape, all of us are in the media business. There's a gold rush for attention going on, and, given how much the media likes to cover the media, we hear about winners and losers, those doing it right and wrong, and most of all, the template for what we ought to be doing if we want to succeed.

I fear that right now, many are laboring under Buzzfeed Envy.

Since 1989, when I first started doing online media, people have been transfixed by scale, by numbers, by rankings. "How many eyeballs, how big is the audience, what's the passalong, how many likes, friends, followers, how many hits?" 

You cannot win this game and I want to persuade you (and Dean Baquet at the Times) to stop trying.

1. Are you generic? Over the last few years, the Times has lost Lisa Belkin, Nate Silver, David Pogue and other big name writers, not to mention the opportunity to do more with Michael Lewis and the Freakonomics guys. Here's the thing: when you read what these singular voices create, you know where it came from, and you have an opinion about it. 

Buzzfeed doesn't focus on who is speaking, they focus on writing something clickable and shareable and urgent in the moment. Those that want to own a valuable 'brand' like the fact that it belongs to them, unlike the demanding star writer, who might leave at any time. The value all goes to the system, not to the individual contributor.

(Buzzfeed is well on its way to becoming a dominant media company. But the Times isn't Buzzfeed, and neither are you.)

The problem with generic is that it's easy go as well as easy come. The Onion just launched their own sharable silliness and to those that spread it, it doesn't matter at all if the person writing it works for one brand in the genre or the other one. Staying ahead and gaining scale gets more difficult, not less for those in this segment.

Kasey Casem is remembered precisely because he refused to become generic. When he left his show and started a new one, so many people followed him that he was able to buy back the original show and run both of them at the same time. We were connected to him, not the idea of a radio show.

2. Is it for the reader or the search engine? Here's an excerpt from how editors are deciding things at the Times now: "There was praise for headlines that had contained the right words ... to maximize online search results." 

The most important thing any individual or corporate media entity needs to learn is this: One subscriber is worth 1,000 surfers. Newspapers learned this a century ago. The Philadelphia Inquirer created one of the richest families in America on the basis of a focus on subscriptions. And Time magazine has turned into a nearly valueless relic because they forgot to focus on subscribers and pandered to the newsstand and to the listicle instead.

[A subscriber, by my definition, doesn't have to pay with money. Sometimes, it's sufficient to pay with attention.]

3. Would I miss it if it were gone? And here's the key question, the one that gets to the heart of meaningful. When we deliver meaningful content, it means we show up, invited, with words and images that matter. It means that we are trusted enough to be permitted to speak the first few words, and talented enough to keep the attention we've worked so hard to earn. Most of all, meaningful can't possibly work for everyone with a smart phone, for everyone in every potential audience, because there are so many ways to be seen as meaningful, so many different tribes of people thirsting for different kinds of connection.

Here's the key flaw in the bigger-is-better reasoning: It's entirely possible to become an important voice merely because everyone is listening. (Walter Cronkite, or the front page of Yahoo in 1999). When everyone is listening, anyone who wants to be part of everyone also has to listen. That's certainly why the most viral viral videos get so many views--the second half of their views are people who don't watch viral videos, but need to get clued in.

There are still some advertisers who want the biggest mass they can find, who will pay extra to reach more people who care less, but those advertisers are going to find someone bigger than you to advertise with.

It's no longer possible to become important to everyone, not in a reliable, scalable way, not in a way that connects us to people who will read ads or take action, not to people who aren't already clicking away to the next thing by the time they get to the second or third sentence.

But it is possible to become important to a very-small everyone, to a connected tribe that cares about this voice or that story or this particular point of view. It's still possible to become meaningful, meaningful if you don't get short-term greedy about any particular moment of mass, betting on the long run instead. And we need institutions that can reach many of these tribes, that can bind together focused audiences and useful content creators.

Newspapers used to work because they were local, delivered and urgent, with few competitors.

Today, all four components have changed dramatically. Craigslist and others have stolen a lot of the revenue that came from local, anyone with email can be delivered, and the news cycle has bypassed the daily rhythm of the newspaper. And few competitors has become infinity competitors.

The future of newspapers (and for anyone making content) is to act more like a magazine, like Fast Company and Wired and The New Yorker of fifteen years ago. The center, the urgent center, of a smaller everyone.

My advice to the Times starts with this: Every reporter (and probably every editor) ought to have a blog (or be part of a focused group blog), and post every single day. That's perhaps 600 blogs, every single day, each charged with finding a group of people who care enough about that voice and that topic to hear about it daily. If a reporter can't write cogently and passionately enough about his topic to gain a following, he probably needs to work somewhere else. And if the paper can organize to hire and train and reward people who can do work like this, if they can figure out how to get out of the 48-page paper mindset, if it can create stars and pockets of true connection, it's inconceivable to me that they won't be able to turn a profit.

Of course, one straightforward act isn't going to change the future of the Times, but it represents a symptom, a visible sign that the focus is changing from making an above-average (or even excellent) newspaper for the masses into creating circles of expertise, organizing tribes, building subscriptions based on attention and publishing outside of the finite world of paper... (And I firmly believe that this applies even more to individuals and smaller organizations than it does to legacy newspapers).

The future of media can't possibly only lie in random mass viral entertainments, generated with the aid of computers and aimed at the lowest-clicking denominator. For most organizations, that can't lead to useful ads, it doesn't lead to subscriptions, and most of all, it doesn't lead to impact. Entertaining the people who click on 50 things a day will get you numbers, but it won't make a difference.

If it's not worth subscribing to a particular voice or feature or idea, if it's not worth looking forward to and not worth trusting, I'm not sure it's worth writing, not if your goal is to become meaningful.

The three questions to ask, then, at every editorial meeting:

Who is this for?

Will we be able to reach them?

Is it meaningful?

And here's the rhetorical question I'd ask the publisher of every media company, from the sole practitioner to the Times: If you had the loyal attention of the powerful, connected, concerned and intelligent people in any given (valuable) tribe or sector, and you regularly showed up with anticipated, personal and relevant content for those people, could you make it into a business?

[More on this (and Clay, too)]

PS From six years ago... Sorry to repeat myself.

Most likely to succeed

"Succeed" is in the eye of the beholder...

Most likely to hit a home run

Most likely to please my boss

Most likely to do the work

Most likely to work for free

Most likely to stick it out

Most likely to change everything

Most likely to be trustworthy

Most likely to attract attention 

Most likely to be invisible

Most likely to be worth it

There are many versions of most likely to succeed. When you're looking for a gig or a client, the category you are placed in by those that choose is up to you. And no category = invisible.

The panda and the bicycle

Many tribes gain in power and connection by finding their opposite, by identifying the choices that members won't make.

"People like us don't do things like that."

So the vegan tribe obviously chooses to not eat meat. And during the key formative years, the Apple tribe wouldn't deign to buy Microsoft products. The Amish build solidarity and define themselves by the machines they choose not to use, and for a long time, many professional photographers wouldn't use digital cameras.

The smart choice is to understand that tribal identity is based on choices, not on facts, based on allegiances, not the intentional disregard of the rest of the world. Some sects of the motorcycle tribe don't wear helments... not because they believe it's safer (and thus denying the obvious) but because it's a choice they want to make.

Shortly after Copernicus rocked the world by proving that the Earth goes around the Sun (and not vice versa), many religions condemned this insight, "people like us don't believe things like that."

The problem is this: science is not the opposite of a tribe, just like the panda is not the opposite of the bicycle and the avocado isn't the opposite of the semicolon. Facts are different than choices. The scientific method is a process, a series of questions and iterations that is distinct from what any particular observer chooses to believe. So yes, professional scientists have a culture and belong to various tribes, but no, that culture is not the same as the scientific method. And yes, scientists are often wrong, but scientists following the method correct their mistakes.

The same thing is true about accounting. When your balance sheet or your direct mail numbers don't add up, don't blame the process that counted them.

Tribes thrive when they connect and coordinate and synchronize. They work when they create a cultural connection. But they can't thrive when they merely embrace (or deny) the reality of the world around them.

You can choose not to ride a bicycle, but it makes no sense to deny that bicycles exist, regardless of how important your tribe thinks the panda bear is... unrelated ideas, ideas that don't benefit from being put in opposition to one another.

As you organize and lead your tribe, then, the opportunity is to be crystal clear about what you stand for, but to give the alert observers within your clan the ability to stick with you and what they believe without having to pretend that the world outside doesn't actually exist.

Micro marketing and the called bluff

Just ten years ago, what difference could you possibly be expected to make?

How could you make music without getting picked by a record label, or help the local community garden more than showing up on Saturday to pull weeds? How could anyone expect you to change a conversation, or raise enough cash or move the needle more than a little?

Today, armed with Mailchimp and Indiegogo and Vimeo and Meetup and a dozen other nearly free tools, you can make quite a ruckus.

You can organize a hundred or a thousand people and get them in sync with a weekly newsletter. You can tailor goods or services or a cause to a small group of people that really want to hear about it and really want to spread the word. You can self publish to your thousand true fans, you can host an event or a dozen events, you can enable your work to become famous to the crowd that matters.

Pick yourself.

If you care enough.

Worldview and stories

Why did McDonald's post signs saying, "More than a billion sold"?

Why do some people pay big money to go to galas that support charities, but not donate otherwise?

Why was the guy on the plane yesterday reading The Fault in Our Stars, years after it came out?

Why are some hipsters getting their tattoos removed?

What makes so many people vote against their long and short-term interests?

How come it's so easy to like or dislike a person, a brand or a politician before we even get to know much about them?

What's a fair price to pay for a decent bottle of wine?

Do doctors cure people more often than alternative medicine?

Is it worth owning a Leica?

When was the last time you took something out of the library?

Do you fly a flag outside of your house?

Enough with the facts and figures and features and benefits. They rarely move people into action. It's our worldview (the way we acted and believed and judged before we encountered you) and your story (the narrative we tell ourselves about who you are and what you do) that drive human behavior.

We make two giant mistakes as marketers:

We believe that everyone has the same worldview, that everyone in a group shares the same biases and expectations and dreams as everyone else... and,

We believe that the narrative is up for grabs, and we ought to just make the thing we make.

An accurate description of a worldview has nothing to do with you or your mission... it's the way a person acts without you in the room. In the case of McDonald's, it's the worldview of: I don't want to take a risk in this transaction, and one way to do that is to follow the crowd.

And the story is the (true) narrative that unlocks that worldview and turns it into action.

Tell me what your ideal customer believes, at the most emotional and primordial level, and then you can tell me the story you'll craft and live and deliver that engages with that belief.

[More on this]