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SETH'S BOOKS

Seth Godin has written 18 bestsellers that have been translated into 35 languages

The complete list of online retailers

Bonus stuff!

or click on a title below to see the list

alt.mba

altMBA

An intensive, 4-week online workshop designed to accelerate leaders to become change agents for the future. Designed by Seth Godin, for you.

ONLINE:

all.marketers.tell.stories

All Marketers Tell Stories

Seth's most important book about the art of marketing

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

free.prize.inside

Free Prize Inside

The practical sequel to Purple Cow

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

linchpin

Linchpin

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

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

meatball.sundae

Meatball Sundae

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

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

permission.marketing

Permission Marketing

The classic Named "Best Business Book" by Fortune.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

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.

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

purple.cow

Purple Cow

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

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IN STORES:

small.is.the.new.big

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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IN STORES:

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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IN STORES:

the.big.moo

The Big Moo

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

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IN STORES:

the.big.red.fez

The Big Red Fez

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

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IN STORES:

the.dip

The Dip

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

ONLINE:

IN STORES:

the.icarus.deception

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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IN STORES:

tribes

Tribes

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

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unleashing.the.ideavirus

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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IN STORES:

v.is.for.vulnerable

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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IN STORES:

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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IN STORES:

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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Member since 08/2003

Appearing to care

We know that your customers will put up with imperfect, but one thing that they'd like in return is for you to care.

Marketers keep making big promises, and organizations struggle to keep those promises. Sooner or later, it leads to a situation where the broken promise arrives on the customer's lap.

In that moment, what the customer wants most is someone to care.

Almost as good: an organization that consistently acts like it cares.

It's a mistake to believe that you actually have to care the way the customer cares, and that anything less means you shouldn't even try. In fact, professionals do emotional labor all the time. They present the best version of their professional self they are capable of.

When Bette Midler shows up on stage in Hello Dolly, the audience would like to believe that she's as engaged and excited as she was on opening night. And she might be. Or not. What matters is that we can't tell.

If you care, that's great. If you don't, at least right now, well, it's your job. That's the hard part.

Acting as if, doing it with effort and consistency, is what your customers need from you.

Bought

How much does it cost you in tolls to drive across town? In most cities, the answer is nothing.

How much does it cost you to take a bus or subway across town? In most cities, if it's available at all, quite a bit.

How did that come to be?

Mass transit is safer, cleaner and more efficient. It gives more people more access to work and amenities. A city with great mass transit works better for more people. Even those that don't use it. It's at least a useful public good as the streets are.

It's technically easy to put tolls all over a city, wastes no time, and it's economically efficient to make it incrementally free to hop on a bus and expensive to drive a car.

So why haven't we? Why, in fact, are we going the other direction?

Because left to our own devices, we go for the short-term cost savings at the expense of the long-term investment.

Because we like the status quo.

Because there's familiar profit in the car-industrial complex. The extraction industries, the manufacturers, the dealers, etc. It's an ongoing, widespread income stream. This generates cash to pay lobbyists and others to create a cultural dynamic in favor of the status quo.

It turns out that it's pretty cheap to buy outcomes that benefit a minority. And business loves a bargain.

On beating yourself up

Almost everyone does it. I'm not sure why.

After the fact (or even during it) all the blame, second-guessing and paralysis. We say things to ourselves that we'd never permit anyone else to say. Why?

  1. It leaves us bruised and battered, unlikely to do our best work while we're recovering.
  2. It hurts our knuckles.
  3. It distracts us from the work at hand.

Perhaps there's a more humane and productive way to instill positive forward motion. I'm sure there is.

At the very least, this is a dumb hobby.

When in doubt, connect

That's what fast-growing, important organizations do.

Making stuff is great.

Making connections is even better.

The taxi or the cruise ship?

The successful cab owner knows this:

Every ride is custom

People choose a cab precisely because they can ride alone, on their own terms

Empty trips are part of the job, and it's okay, because the next ride will pay for it.

On the other hand, the person who chooses to run a cruise line knows:

Every cruise is designed by me, and people sign up precisely because I chose well

People choose a cruise ship to be with other people, to benefit from economies of scale and to be part of something

Empty trips (or worse, half-empty trips) can put the line out of business

It's pretty easy to get into the cab business. Do a few rides for friends, then list online, or join Lyft, then go full-time.

On the other hand, it's much more difficult to get into the cruise business. There's a critical mass, and the minimum number is a lot more than one customer.

Each business can be a good one if you do it at the appropriate scale.

The warning, and the purpose of the metaphor, is to realize that it's not a matter of gradually going from one to the other. Remember that running a taxi is a fine sort of business, but don't expect to turn it into a cruise ship. And vice versa.

The money maximization distraction

The Rolling Stones have grossed more than a billion dollars in ticket sales and endorsements. Does that mean that they're better than Beethoven, John Adams and Zoe Keating, put together? Were the Bay City Rollers better than Patti Smith?

There are CEOs who make more in a year than 1,000 of their workers. Does that mean that they're 1,000 times more important or productive or worthwhile?

Money is a simple metric, and one that captures a certain sort of information about value and scarcity. But it's wildly inaccurate when it comes to measuring many of the things that actually matter to us. It can mask the emotions and moments and contributions that we work so hard on, the people that we seek to become, the contributions that we seek to make.

Profitable is not the same as important

Popular is the not the same as worthwhile

Expensive is not the same as well-done

And yet, because it's easy to rank and compare and change, we can get seduced into believing that money is the metric that matters the most, that matters all the time. If we only use money to make our decisions about worth, we're going to get it wrong almost every time.

Until we get significantly better at matching money to contribution, we need to embrace the difficult to measure. I'll trade you a great fourth grade teacher for a foreign exchange desk currency trader any day.

The Peter Possibility

Dr. Laurence Peter understood the promise and peril of bureaucracy better than most. Fifty years ago, he wrote, "managers rise to the level of their incompetence." The Peter Principle states that if you do a good job, you get promoted, until you reach a job where you're incompetent, and there you stay... meaning that sooner or later, the entire organization is filled with incompetent people stuck in their slot.

Bureaucracy promises us a safe spot, and it also offers the upside that if you do a good job, you'll get chosen, picked, promoted and will move up. So, keep your head down, do what you're told and you win.

We don't live in that world any more.

And the upside is definitely more positive and a lot more scary:

You (and you alone) get to decide if you want to move "up". If you want to be promoted, have more influence, more leverage and more responsibility.

Fearful that we'll expose our incompetence, we hide. Remembering the lessons of childhood, we wait to get picked. 

But the Peter Possibility points out that we're far more competent than we imagine.

That once we pick ourselves, we have precisely what we need to do generous work.

Feels risky

The gulf between "risky" and "feels risky" is huge. And it's getting bigger.

It turns out that value creation lives in this gap. The things that most people won't do (because it feels risky) that are in fact not risky at all.

If your compass for forward motion involves avoiding things that feel risky, it pays to get significantly better informed about what actually is risky.

The management of whales

In online gaming, a whale is someone who plays far more than the typical player. It's not unusual for 2% of the player base to account for 95% of all the usage.

The same thing is true at the local gym. All the money is made on the customers who pay and never come--the folks who are at the gym or the pool for 5 hours a day use far more resources than you could possibly charge for if everyone acted this way.

The management of whales, then, is a delicate balancing act—the people who love you the most are also costing you the most. If you have too many or they take too much from the buffet, your economics are shot.

In a traditional business, one where people pay based on usage, a whale is the difference between profit and loss. That person who eats at your restaurant once a week, or goes to see Hamilton six or twelve times... This is one of the best uses of customer data. You have the chance to find people who truly are your best customers, and to treat them accordingly. A business that gets this right will outperform one that doesn't by as much as 5:1.

But there are also whales when it comes to word of mouth. Most people tell no one. A few people tell a friend or two. But some people tell everyone. And they do it with authority. With leverage. And with persistence.

A whale like this is priceless. You can't bribe someone into becoming a whale, but you can dissuade them and disappoint them merely by not caring enough to notice.

Best of all, you have a chance to become whale-worthy. To design products and services that are precisely the sort of thing that heavy users will happily use, and that powerful sneezers will happily talk about.

Actually, it's not really about the management of whales at all—it's more like seeing them, leading them and respecting them.

Anti-glib: Knowing what you're talking about

Glibness is a disease that's particularly virulent in Silicon Valley, politics, entertainment and the executive suite. Someone has an insight (or gets lucky) and then amasses power. Surrounded by more than they're willing to understand, they substitute the glib statement, the smirk, the cutting remark. They turn everything into a status-fueled professional wrestling match.

It's usually done out of fear, and, ironically, the fear-induced glib approach merely makes things worse, creating even more fear.

The alternative is to know what you're talking about.

To have done the reading. [I've seen this problem in boardrooms, examination rooms and classrooms across the planet].

To be able to hold conflicting ideas in your head as you consider options.

To know and respect the people who have earned a place at the table of ideas.

To have energetic engagements with people who are more experienced, wiser and more connected than you are.

To admit that you were wrong, because you didn't know what you know now, and then to chart a new path.

To ignore sunk costs when making new decisions.

The fans of professional wrestling (in all its forms) are entertained by the glib, because it releases them from the obligation to understand metaphor, to look more deeply, to engage with a logical argument.

Everyone else would rather work with people who know what they're talking about, who respect those they work with and most of all, who seek useful outcomes, not just the comfort of a short-term win.

[More here and here]

You've arrived

It's easy to fall in love with the GPS version of the universe.

There, just ahead, after that curve. Drive a little further, your destination is almost here.

Done. You've arrived.

Of course, that's not how it works. Not our careers, not our relationships, not our lives.

You've always arrived. You've never arrived.

Wherever you go, there you are. You're never going to arrive because you're already there.

There's no division between the painful going and the joyous arriving. If we let it, the going can be the joyful part.

It turns out that arrival isn't the point, it can't be, because we spend all our time on the journey.

"My side, right or wrong"

The alternative is, "My side is wrong this time, but we can learn a lot, fix it, and do it better next time."

Which path gets us (however you want to define 'us') closer to what we seek?

Which leads to better standards, desired outcomes and work we're proud of?

Which leads to leaders we can eagerly follow?

Tribal identity is an emotional reaction to a complicated world. But when tribal identity aligns itself with a downward spiral of selfish, poorly considered actions, it leads to suffering, not connection.

Not us vs. them. Sooner or later, it's us.

We can do better. Let's do better.

Ocellate

It means "eye-like" as in the spot on a stingray that makes it appear to be looking at you.

As far as I know, there are no words for nose-like or even ear-like.

We're hardwired to be aware of eyes. We want to be seen, we're afraid to be seen, we need to be seen.

The very best way to engage with your customers is for your organization to develop some more eyes. And the empathy to use them. Not to spy on us, but to see us, understand us and treat us the way we want to be treated—like people.

He deserves it, but do you?

He's a jerk, a two-timer, a double-crosser. He deserves everything you throw at him, your cutting remarks, your sarcasm, your enmity.

You're totally justified in spending a lot of time and energy in evening the score. You are the avenger.

The thing is, it's not clear that we benefit from carrying around all that vitriol. All the time we spend hating is time that we've given away to someone who hasn't earned our time. It's time we're being controlled by someone we don't like or respect very much.

Teaching someone a lesson is often overrated. Doing the lesson teaching in your head helps no one.

What happens if we walk away and make something magical instead?

You deserve it.

Sham surgery

The data shows that more than 600,000 people got arthroscopic knee surgery in the US in 2010. It's expensive and painful.

It turns out that sham surgery works just as well. That just about as many people would have found pain relief from this procedure if they had experienced fake surgery instead.

In an extensive study of elective surgeries (asthma, obesity, Parkinson’s disease, acid reflux and back pain) it was found that more than half the time, people would have had at least a good an outcome if they had only experienced fake surgery instead of the real kind.

That's worth a pause.

Same operating room, same gowns, same perception of pain--but no actual surgery. Half the people would have gotten better, which is awfully close to the number that got better from the real thing. 

(Even if this number is twice as high as you are comfortable with, it tells us something dramatic about the power of suggestion).

If you don't think marketing works, and you're wondering about the power of the placebo, that's all the evidence you should need. That sham surgery on knee pain is virtually as effective as the real kind. Which means it's not a sham at all, is it?

Of course, placebos work on far more than knees. They work on the taste of wine, the effectiveness of coaching and how well we perform at work.

When they say "it's all in your head," they're actually being optimistic and encouraging. If it's in your head, you can do something about it. 

Image (2)

Last call for The Marketing Seminar, summer edition

We teach modern marketing. 

Marketing that doesn't involve spam or tricks or hype. Marketing that sees a world bigger than you currently serve, and a market small enough to actually care about what you make. And marketing that isn't defined by spending all day in social media, pitching average stuff to the masses.

The sprint is on, and we're hoping you can consider enrolling in the only currently scheduled session of the Seminar. If you were waiting, today's the day.

Find out more here. And see the curriculum as well as honest feedback from our students. We've just started our session, and since we're now three lessons in, it's only open for signups for a few more days.

I hope you can join us.

Cultural density

In your organization, how many decisions and interactions are driven by culture first?

While it's possible to imagine an organization that has no culture, one that is merely a context-free meritocracy and game-theory driven machine, that's unlikely.

The higher your cultural density, the more important it is that you get it right.

Be the different one

Leonard Nimoy created one of our culture's singular fictional characters. Gene Roddenberry gave him the opportunity, but it was Nimoy who developed Spock.

A key moment came in one of the first episodes. Everyone on the bridge was freaking out about something or other, and Spock's line was a simple word: "Fascinating."

Nimoy first delivered it in the same excited, scared tone as everyone else.

The director took him aside and said, "be the different one."

Easy to say, difficult to do.

By being the different one, Spock became a character for the ages, and changed the center of gravity for the series' narrative.

The same thing could be said for your career, or the impact your organization makes.

 

[PS James Hunt just built a very generous site, one that catalogs nearly 250 books written or recommended by me over the last decade.]

Instead of the easy numbers...

What is it that you hope to accomplish? Not what you hope to measure as a result of this social media strategy/launch, but to actually change, create or build? 

An easy but inaccurate measurement will only distract you. It might be easy to calibrate, arbitrary and do-able, but is that the purpose of your work?
 
I know that there's a long history of a certain metric being a stand-in for what you really want, but perhaps that metric, even though it's tried, might not be true. Perhaps those clicks, views, likes and grps are only there because they're easy, not relevant.
 
If you and your team can agree on the goal, the real goal, they might be able to help you with the journey...
 
System innovations almost always involve rejecting the standard metrics as a first step in making a difference. When you measure the same metrics, you're likely to create the same outcomes. But if you can see past the metrics to the results, it's possible to change the status quo.

All deals are handshake deals

The only variable is how specific you're willing to be about who is promising what.

Specific contracts don't completely protect you from dishonorable people. What they do is make it really clear about what it takes to do what you said you were going to do.

Start with a good agreement. But your future depends on doing agreements with good people.

Upcoming speaking and teaching schedule

Today at 1:15 NY time, I'll be doing a Facebook Live, answering your questions about marketing. You can join us here. (Facebook archives these, so it's okay if you don't see it live... but if you're there when it happens, you can post your question). I've done a few of these over the last month or two, and it's becoming a fascinating new medium for sharing ideas.

This Q&A is part of the final rollout of the summer session of The Marketing Seminar, which begins on Monday, so today's your last best chance to sign up.

And then we'll turn this into a doubleheader, at 2 pm segueing the Facebook Live into a conversation about thriving as a change agent in a big company, part of what people learn in the altMBA.

Upcoming events: Boston for the Business of Software conference on September 18. Also, the Smart Hustle Small Business Conference - on November 1 in New York City, and in Raleigh, NC for Internet Summit on November 16.

How much does a ton weigh?

It's not unusual to describe a heavy object in tonnage.

But no one has any idea how much a ton is, really. Is 250 tons a lot? How much?

250 tons is 500,000 pounds. About the weight of 8 houses. Or the weight of 100,000 bricks.

Which is a solid stack of bricks 10 x 10 by 1,000 bricks high. 

It would take you more than 2 months, working 24 hours a day, a brick a minute, to unload that many bricks.

Facts are facts, but images resonate.

Toward dumber

If you want to reach more people, if you're measuring audience size, then the mantra of the last twenty years has been simple: make it dumber.

Use clickbait headlines. Short sentences. Obvious ideas. Little nuance. Don't make people uncomfortable or ask them to stretch. Remind them that they were right all along. Generate a smile or a bit of indignation. Most of all, dumb it down.

And it works.

For a while.

And then someone comes along who figures out how to take your version of dumbness and go further than you were willing to go. Until everything becomes the National Enquirer.

While this downward cycle of dumb continues to be passed from hand to hand, a few people headed in the other direction. Measuring not the size of the audience, but their engagement, their commitment and the change that was possible.

This is an upward cycle, a slow one, a journey worth going on.

Dumber is an intentional act, a selfish trade for mass. It requires us to hold something back, to avoid creating any discomfort, to fail to teach. Dumber always works in the short run, but not in the long run.

Don't confuse dumber with simpler. Simpler removes the unnecessary and creates a better outcome as a result. But dumber does little but create noise.

Everyone owns a media company now. Even media companies. And with that ownership comes a choice, a choice about the people we serve, the words we use and the change we seek to make.

It's only a race to the bottom if we let it be one.

The express and the local

Express trains run less often, make fewer stops, and if they're going where you're going, get you there faster.

The local train is, of course, the opposite.

Some people hop on the first train that comes. A local in the hand is worth the extra time, they say, because you're never quite sure when the express is going to get there.

On the other hand, there's a cost to investing in the thing that pays off in the long run.

Now that you see that, you're probably going to notice it in 100 areas of your life.

The local requires less commitment, feels less risky, doesn't demand a point of view. The express, on the other hand, always looks like a better idea after you've embraced it and gotten to where you meant to go.

Express or local?

Gaztelugatxe

There's an island off the coast of Spain that houses a church. The church has 230 steps to the top, and it's said that it's worth the climb.

What a great expression. Gaztelugatxe can now mean, "it's a lot of effort, but worth it."

The opposite of fast and easy but worthless.

(Click for the pronunciation of this Basque word...)

The ethics of FTD

When you order flowers online, they're usually delivered by a local florist.

Which means the florist has a dilemma:

He can deliver his very best effort and the most beautiful flowers he has in stock, even though the sender will never know his identity or buy from him again.

Or he can use up the damaged stock and the fading flowers, confident that the sender will never know his identity or buy from him again.

You can average up or average down.

You can hide or you can show pride.

It turns out that the florist who doesn't use up the damaged stock and the fading flowers never seems to have trouble affording better stuff.

In search of enrollment

Back in the day, hitchhikers held cardboard signs with their desired destination city clearly written out. After all, if you're headed to New York, it doesn't make sense to pick up someone headed for Denver (it's a bad idea for the driver and the passenger).

If you've got people on your bus who are headed somewhere you have no intention of going, today might be a good day for them to get off the bus.

Strength through peace

Anticipating doom is brutal. And anticipating brutality is even worse.

It creates an enormous amount of emotional overhead. It makes it difficult to invest, hard to make long-term plans. And it fills us with dread, short circuiting our creativity.

Peace has a dividend. Economic peace, political peace, interpersonal peace. It gives us room to dream, to get restless and to make things even better.

We don't need other people to lose in order for us to win. And keeping score is overrated.

Most of all, it's worth investing in peace of mind. The dividends are huge, and the journey (the way each of us spend our days) matters. 

That's one of the primary benefits of enlightened leadership. It creates a safe space to do important work.

Permission abused is permission lost

It doesn't matter what your privacy policy says, it doesn't matter when your quarterly results are due and it doesn't matter what the database is telling you...

If someone doesn't want to hear from you anymore, you've lost the ability to reach them.

Yes, you can go back to trying to interrupt them, but of course, that's getting more and more expensive.

Permission is valuable and permission is fragile.

The two fears of voluntary education

Voluntary education is different from compulsory, the kind we grew up with.

When you're the victim/beneficiary of compulsory education, it happens to you. You have little choice. Perhaps you choose to open your mind and do the work, but either way, here it is.

Now that we're adults, though, we have choice. Endless choice. Most people choose to learn as little as possible, while a few dive in and find more insight, wisdom and opportunity than they could ever expect. Why do so many people hold back?

  1. "This might not work"

    The truth is that you don't need a license, experience or skill to run a course online. You can post videos, write blog posts and generally just show up and announce you're teaching something.

    As a result, there's a lot of reason for the buyer to beware. The student who spends time and money on a course that doesn't work feels stupid, even stupider than they did before they began. Hopes aren't realized and the disappointment in being ripped off is real.

    The second reason is a bit more surprising...

  2. "This might work"

    This is real, it's disappointing, and it's also the biggest reason people hesitate. We hesitate precisely because the course might deliver what it promises. Because a new experience, a workshop, an event might show you something you can't unsee. It might lead to forward motion, to new opportunities and to change.

    But change brings risk and risk brings fear. Those new horizons, those new opportunities, those new skills--they might not be as comfortable as what you've got going on right now.

And so the challenge. We choose not to learn because it's either going to fail (embarrassing and expensive) or it's going to work (frightening). We get ourselves stuck between a rock and a hard place of inaction.

The door is open to be heroic. To go on the journey from a place of fear. Not to wait for the fear to go away before you begin, but instead to begin precisely because there is fear.

Those that have successfully come before us have figured out how to make this leap. To feel (and embrace) these fears, not to deny them, and to dig in because and despite.

[As you might have guessed, I see this firsthand when I talk about the two workshops I run. Workshops that actually do what they promise. Tomorrow, Friday the 14th, is the last day for first priority applications for the altMBA fall session.  And the Marketing Seminar has just about a week before we close the doors for the last scheduled session.]

The biggest hesitation is the fear of an open door.

The biggest challenge is the question we ask ourselves: Then what will I do?

That's why we're so eager to tweak the little things. Because the little things give us a little more of the same thing that we're already used to.

Hope to see you leap. Because it might work.

In search of the minimum viable audience

Of course everyone wants to reach the maximum audience. To be seen by millions, to maximize return on investment, to have a huge impact.

And so we fall all over ourselves to dumb it down, average it out, pleasing everyone and anyone.

You can see the problem.

When you seek to engage with everyone, you rarely delight anyone. And if you're not the irreplaceable, essential, one-of-a-kind changemaker, you never get a chance to engage with the market.

The solution is simple but counterintuitive: Stake out the smallest market you can imagine. The smallest market that can sustain you, the smallest market you can adequately serve. This goes against everything you learned in capitalism school, but in fact, it's the simplest way to matter.

When you have your eyes firmly focused on the minimum viable audience, you will double down on all the changes you seek to make. Your quality, your story and your impact will all get better.

And then, ironically enough, the word will spread.

Focusing on the MVA is a key part of what we teach in The Marketing Seminar.  (Look for the purple circle).

It's easy to talk about in the abstract, but difficult to put into practice. Just about every brand you care about, just about every organization that matters to you--this is how they got there. By focusing on just a few and ignoring the non-believers, the uninvolved and the average.

A shared and useful illusion

Ask a frog or a housefly or a dog to describe the world around us and they'll give you the wrong answer. The frog will talk about moving objects, the housefly will describe things repeated hundreds of times and the dog only sees in black and white.

Of course, our vision of the world is just as flawed, just as fake. We can't see the smells, as the dog does, nor can we visualize things on the edges of the spectrum. We make up a reality based on our particular way of seeing the world.

But, here's the good part: That made-up reality is shared by many people around us, and it's useful. We can use it to make predictions about what's next, we can avoid bumping into people, we can appreciate a sunset.

If the illusion is working for you, stick with it.

Where we run into trouble is when the vision isn't shared, when we assume others can and must see what we're seeing, but they don't. And worse, when the vision isn't actually useful, when our narrative of the world around us isn't working, when it's merely a fantasy, not a tool.

If the way you see the world isn't helping you make the changes you seek to make, consider seeing the world differently.

Drip, drip, drip

Who do you subscribe to?

And who subscribes to you?

Those simple questions determine what you know and what you learn. And they influence whether a business or a charity will succeed, and whether or not lives will be changed.

Newspapers are discovering that without subscribers, they can't do their work. Online voices that were seduced by the promise of a mass audience are coming back to the realization that the ability to deliver their message to people who want to get it is actually the core of their model.

Big hits are thrilling. Launch days, deadlines, the big win... That's easy to sign up for as a creator or marketer. But subscriptions are what work.

Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime... subscriptions. This blog wouldn't exist without the people who trust me enough to read it every day.

Consider the case of charities. If they raise money from consumers, they get almost their entire budget in the last month of the year, or related to some sort of external event. And most people who donate never do so again. Out of sight, out of mind.

Who do you subscribe to?

Who subscribes to you?

Seven years ago, I dedicated my annual birthday post to raising money for charity:water. 665 generous readers like you ended up contributing more than $39,000. Enough water to impact the lives of 3,000 people. On their behalf, thank you.

Five years after that, we did it again, but this time I encouraged my readers (people like you) to donate their birthdays to charity:water. 204 of you raised more than $50,000 and saved even more lives. And again, thank you.

This year, I'm hoping 1,000 people will subscribe to charity:water today. A monthly drip, the best possible pun, drip, drip, drip in a way that not only becomes a habit but gives the organization a chance to plan, because thirst doesn't have a season. Every month becomes your birthday, because you're giving a magical present, paying it forward. I just subscribed for $4,000 a month. If more than 500 of you subscribe at any amount (even $6), I'll double my monthly commitment.

Scott and his team made a film and built a site. You can skip the film if you're busy, but don't skip the box at the bottom of the page.

This is how we change the world.

Literally with a drip, drip, drip.

But what if you're doing it wrong?

Marketing doesn't have to suck.

It doesn't have to be a miserable experience for consumers, and it certainly doesn't have to be a distasteful, creepy or annoying task for the creator.

We don't have to market at people, pin them to the wall, target them, track them, stalk them, trick them, manipulate them and sell them things they don't want. 

Not if we care enough to do something better.

The other kind of marketing, the marketing that's consensual, useful and effective, is possible. This is marketing that we eagerly connect with, marketing that we'd miss if it were gone.

I call this modern marketing, and it's easier than ever to do this effectively.

The second edition of The Marketing Seminar launches today. It's a special summer school program, compressing the 100-day process into just 30 days.

The first session worked beautifully. Thousands of people were transformed by the combination of 50 videos and (more importantly) thousands and thousands of direct online discussions in our 24/7 discussion board. You learn by asking and you learn by teaching.

If you're ready to love what you do and have it work better than ever, I'm hoping you'll check out the Seminar. Scroll to the bottom of the page and if you click on the purple circle before July 12, you'll save $75 because you're reading this blog. Lessons start July 24, so today's a great day to get it sorted.

Here's a chance to join with others and do work we're proud of.

Caring is free

In the short run, of course, not caring can save you some money. 

Don't bother making the facilities quite so clean. Save time and hassle and let the display get a little messy. Don't worry so much about one particular customer, because you're busy and hiring more people takes time and money.

But in the long run, caring pays for itself.

Caring is expensive, but it also generates loyalty and word of mouth.

In the long run, an organization that puts in extra effort gets rewarded. 

Not to mention that caring makes us all more human. Worth it.

The rationality paradox

If you see yourself as an engineer, a scientist, or even a person of logic, then it's entirely possible that you work to make rational decisions, decisions that lead to the outcomes you seek.

The paradox is that you might also believe that you do this all the time, and that others do it too.

But a rational analysis shows that this is far from true. Almost every choice we make is subconscious. We're glitch-ridden, superstitious creatures of habit. We are swayed by social forces that are almost always greater than our attraction to symbolic logic would indicate. We prioritize the urgent and most of the decisions we make don't even feel like decisions. They're mostly habits combined with a deep desire to go along with the people we identify with.

Every time you assume that others will be swayed by your logical argument, you've most likely made a significant, irrational mistake. 

Your actions and your symbols and your tribe dwarf the words you use to make your argument.

Does it help?

Isn't this the essence of design thinking?

I have a great wool hat that I wear in the winter. Does it help?

Well, that depends on what it's for.

If it's designed to keep me warm, then yes, it helps.

How about that meeting you're going to, that website you're updating, that question you're about to ask?

What's it for?

Does it help?

If it doesn't help, or you don't know what it's for, perhaps it's time to revisit your choice.

 

[PS we're about to launch the summer session of the Marketing Seminar. We got great feedback on the last session, and you can sign up here for first dibs and more details on the next one.]

Simple approach to the things you check

The data, the dashboard, the comments, the statuses, the likes, the rankings:

Check them half as often and do twice as much with what you learn.

Then, after you've gotten good at that, repeat the math:

Check them half as often and do twice as much with what you learn.

The cost of independence

Freedom comes with choice and choice comes with responsibility.

Why do people willingly give up their freedom to a boss, a method or even a despot?

Why do successful entrepreneurs who start a new company take on investors even when they don't need the cash?

Why do so many choose to go into debt when they might be able to avoid it?

Sometimes, we willingly sacrifice our freedom because it creates an other, someone to blame. It gives us hard boundaries and eliminates potential choices. And mostly, it lets us off the hook, because someone else is driving the bus.

Trying to drive from the back of the bus might feel less risky, but it rarely leads to much agency, influence or control as to where the bus actually goes.

Careful what you do with the keys.

Whose business are you minding?

Industries have rules. Rules and benefits.

Hollywood requires agents, casting calls, big budgets and content aimed at a certain part of a certain market. If you follow enough of the rules, the thinking goes, you get a multi-million dollar budget and the red carpet.

Broadway requires a certain length, certain compromises, certain deals. This creates scalpers and hangers on and small audiences filling small theaters. And, if you follow just enough of the rules, you might end up with Hamilton. Perhaps one in 10,000 pull this off.

Publishing requires a fealty to the book and to the bookstore, alliances with the right cultural forces and a willingness to create scarcity. If you're persistent and very, very good, you can get picked by the New Yorker and you get picked by Little, Brown and you end up with The Tipping Point. Perhaps one in 100,000 pull this off.

Outsiders who want in, who want to make their mark in movies or investment banking or in politics often decide that minding the business of their industry is the way to reach their goals. After all, it's the insiders that win the awards and get the benefits that go to people who are by and for their industry.

But what if instead of focusing on the industry, you focused on the change you seek to make? On the audience you seek to serve. On doing your customers' business, not the industry's...

It's not in any of the manuals, but the door is wide open, the path is far wider and you can start today.

Just because you can doesn't mean you should

It might be a market you can enter, but that doesn't mean it will reward your time and effort.

It might be an all-you-can-eat situation, but there's a difference between all you can eat and all you care to eat.

You might be kindly invited to participate, to weigh in or to engage...

But that doesn't require you to change your priorities, to exchange the important for the urgent.

Your Bob Dylan story

I know dozens of people who have a story about meeting, or nearly meeting, or somehow engaging with Bob Dylan.

And just about everyone they know has questions about him, about those encounters, about what it was like.

My guess is that these stories began to spring up long before he was a Nobel Prize winning legend.

The question, then: Who has a story about you?

Two confusions

Those things you're bad at? You're not nearly as bad at them as you fear.

And those things you're great at? Probably not nearly as good as you hope.

We beat ourselves up a lot, but often focus on the wrong areas, avoiding the soft spots and doubling down on the places where we are well armored.

Mirrors are a fairly new invention. For millennia, we had little idea what we looked like. And only in the last two generations have people had any clue about what they sounded like. Today, even though we're surrounded by sound, video and light reflecting on us, not to mention comments and the social media maelstrom, we're still quite bad at self-judgment.

You're better than you think you are.

Four ways to improve customer service

  1. Delegate it to your customers. Let them give feedback, good and bad, early and often.
  2. Delegate it to your managers. Build in close monitoring, training and feedback. Have them walk the floor, co-creating with their teams.
  3. Use technology. Monitor digital footprints, sales per square foot, visible customer actions.
  4. Create a culture where peers inspire peers, in which each employee acts like a leader, pushing the culture forward. People like us do things like this. People like us, care.

You've probably guessed that the most valuable one, the fourth, is also far and away the most difficult to create. Culture is a posture that lasts. It's corroded by shortcuts and by inattention, and fed by constant investment and care.

Big company or small, it doesn't matter. There are government agencies and tiny non-profits that have a culture of care and service. And then there are the rest...

Creating discomfort

If you're seeking to create positive change in your community, it's almost certain you'll be creating discomfort as well.

Want to upgrade the local playground? It sounds like it will be universally embraced by parents and everyone who cares about kids. Except that you now bring up issues of money, of how much is enough, of safety. Change is uncomfortable.

It's way easier to talk about today's weather, or what you had for lunch.

Usually, when we're ready to launch something, we say, "this is going to help people, this is well crafted, I'm proud of it."

What's a lot more difficult (but useful) is to say all of that plus, "and this is going to make (some) people uncomfortable."

Worth reconsidering?

The status quo is powerful indeed. We add layers, patches and small improvisations, all to shore up something we don't want to reconsider.

If we had a clean sheet of paper, and could design something that actually worked, what would we do about:

  • Big-time college sports
  • School taxes based on location, and school spending based on income
  • Development costs, transparency and patents related to pharmaceuticals
  • The Electoral College and gerrymandering
  • Allocation of electromagnetic spectrum
  • Stagnant oligopolies
  • What's taxed and what's not
  • School curriculum
  • Online identity
  • Infrastructure priorities

The free market doesn't always do things as well as an enlightened institution can. And institutions often need our help to become more enlightened.

Sometimes, we need to take a deep breath and decide to do it again, better. 

Training customers

If you frequently run last-minute sales, don't be surprised if your customers stop buying things in advance. You're training them to wait.

If you announce things six or seven times, getting louder each time, don't be surprised if your customers ignore the first few announcements. You've trained them to expect you'll yell if it's important.

If you don't offer someone a raise until they find a new job and quit, don't be surprised if your employees start looking for new jobs.

The way you engage with your customers (students/bosses/peers) trains them on what to expect from interactions with you.

Drip, drip, drip.

Better than it needs to be

Why not?

Why not make it more generous, more fair, more insightful than it needs to be? Why not deliver the service with more flair, more care and more urgency?

Why not do it because you can, not because you have to...

You are more powerful than you think

Highlights from an annotated list of 17 rules for the new world of work:

You are more powerful than you think
It’s bigger than you
Leaders are made, not born
Leveling up is a choice
They say you can’t, we know you can
Dance with fear
See, assert, change
Overwhelmed is temporary
Out loud, in public
Hard work is far better than busy work
The crowd is wrong. The critics are wrong. Useful feedback is precious...
Management matters. So does leadership...
“Here, I made this.” Or possibly, “Here, we made this.”
See the end before you begin the journey
Culture defeats everything
It’s personal

Applications are now open for the next two sessions of the proven altMBA workshop. It's time to level up.

"Is judgment involved?"

No judgment, no responsibility.

No responsibility, no risk.

There's a fork in the road. If you seek out roles without responsibility, you might just find a sinecure. 

This is the hot job for undifferentiated job seekers at the placement office, the job where a famous company will tell you what to do all day.

Alas, those are the jobs that will be deleted first. The jobs that come with little in the way of respect or stability. These are the jobs that big companies automate whenever they can, or create enough rules to avoid any variation if they can't.

The other choice is a job loaded with judgment calls. One where it's extremely likely you'll make a decision you regret, and get blamed for it. One where you take responsibility instead of waiting for authority.

It turns out that those are the best jobs of all.

[PS if you're organizing for social good, consider applying for this free program from Civic Hall in New York. I hope to see you there.]