Marketing is more than reaching out to your target customers. Who better to tell us more about that than someone whose marketing books have stood the test of time? Host, Ben Baker, sits down with Seth Godin who shares with us his incredible expertise in marketing through the courses he is famous for: The Marketing Seminar and the altMBA. Through them, he offers insights on connecting and engaging other people and going deeper into learning how to make decisions and persuade others. Get into this episode and discover what Seth has more to offer.
Welcome to the show that I’ve been waiting for a long time. My guest is the famous Seth Godin. I am honored and thrilled to have him as my guest. He has been someone that I have followed for years. If there’s a hero in my life when it comes to the marketing arena, Seth is it. I am ecstatic to have him on my show. For those of you who don’t know him and I’m sure few of you who watch his show don’t know who he is, think of the books like Linchpin, Purple Cow and Tribes. These are amazing and incredible books that have stood the test of time and have got us to where we are in today’s marketing world. Take the time to look at the books that he’s created, read the books that he has created, think about the books that he has created and you’ll be better for it.
Seth, thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I appreciate you being on this show.
It’s a pleasure. Thanks for the work you’re doing.
Thank you. I can’t believe there is anybody on my show that doesn’t know who you are. You are a prolific orator. That’s the one thing that amazes me of all the things that you do for marketing and for all the things that you do for other people. It’s the amount of rating that I see that comes out of you on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. That’s the one thing that astounds me. How long have you been doing your daily blog?
We’re about to announce the 7,000th post. There was a blog before that, but I can’t find it. The first thing I could call a blog post is probably 1994.Learning is about experience. Click To Tweet
Have you been doing it every day since 1994?
The daily practice probably started in 2002.
That’s fifteen years of daily post.
It’s been fun.
I don’t think I have that much to say.
All I do is I write like I talk. I’ve never met anybody who has a talker’s block. If you get into the habit of writing like you talk, it’s not that hard.
When I get up in the morning and I read your blog, it’s like having a conversation.
That’s the goal.
That’s an incredible thing and I’m trying to learn from that on a daily basis. The show is all about how you add value. My attitude is that every single company is unique. Every single company has something different that they do and something that they can tell a story that is different about who they are, what they do and why they do it. The two things that I want to focus on are your two courses. One that I had the pleasure of being part of is called The Marketing Seminar and the other one is altMBA. I want to talk to you about what they are, who they’re for, why you created them, and what’s the value that people get out of these courses?
Let’s start with the most traditional one first. The Marketing Seminar is now in its third session and it is for people who want to be better at sharing their ideas, getting new business, growing what they do, making an impact for people who don’t think that marketing has to be spam, hype and scammy. Everything we do when we interact with another person, if we’re trying to change them in any way, is marketing. I’ve written books about it. I’ve invented part of it in the direct marketing hall of fame, but a lot of people have trouble doing marketing.
The reason is it’s one thing to look at somebody else’s marketing and say, “Nike succeeded because they have a swoosh.” Not exactly. It has nothing to do with your marketing because we get hung up when we have to look in the mirror. The purpose of the seminar is for 100 days, and you can stay in it for 200 days, to engage with other people, sharing your work, doing their work and getting good at seeing how marketing works. The way that the seminar works is that there are 50 videos from me every other day. Each one lasts five to fifteen minutes long and then people discuss it. They do work and they answer hundreds of questions in a custom discussion board that helps them move forward.
What we have found is that for most of the people who have been through it, they tell us it’s the most effective educational experience they’ve ever had. They do it at their own pace, but it’s powerful and transformative. It takes months and at that time adds up. It’s not a typical video course online where you watch a few videos and say, “I’m done.” AltMBA, it’s different than that. I’m not in the altMBA. There are no videos of me. There are thirteen projects with coaches and cohorts. You write up your work. You’re in a study group. People respond to your work and you respond to their responses. It lasts only 30 days and it runs deep. It’s not an MBA, not at all. It teaches you how to see, how to make decisions, and how to persuade other people of where you want to go. They sit near each other, but they’re not alike.Our attitudes are way more important than what is on our bank account. Click To Tweet
I was lucky enough to be part of the marketing seminar process. For me, it was transformative. The videos on their own were great. For me, the real deep dive was the discourse. It was the ability to be able to take the information that you were giving us and give it life. Give it life is not only for my business but for other people’s businesses, to be able to have those discussions and to be able to get viewpoints that are completely different from your own. That was where I saw the real value. When you were creating this course, what was the process that went through your mind? Because you didn’t just wake up one day and said, “I’m going to create 50 videos.” How do you go about creating something like this that not only do you see the value in, but you know that the people that are going to be looking at this and the people that are going to be engaging at this are going to find value and talk to others about it?
If you want to eavesdrop on my creative process, I’m happy to share that, but I’m not sure it’s transferable. Here is the way I do it. First, you have to find the problem. I don’t wake in the morning saying, “I need to do a new project.” Often, I bump into a problem and the problem won’t let me go. In this case, the problem is education is 200 years old and it’s not scaling. It’s not available to enough people. It’s wasting a lot of time and money. Online education in some ways, is even worse. Online education is sometimes thoughtless. It’s not free and it doesn’t work or it’s free and it doesn’t work. I’ve spent more than a year thinking deeply about this problem. You identify why it doesn’t work. People are afraid because if they’re in spectator mode, they’re not learning. Learning is about experience.
The way you learn a bike is different than the way you learn about the war of 1812. Everyone knows how to ride a bike better than they know the war of 1812. How can we create bicycle-like experiences that scale and are transformative? I spent a year poking at that, looking at it, taking lots of courses with no plan and no understanding of what the right answer is. I hate to disagree with you. One morning I woke up and I said, “I’m going to make 50 videos.” I came up with the entire thing in an hour, but it didn’t take me an hour. It took me a year. Once I had it, I realized that the peer-to-peer engagement and how to be at the core. If I just had that, it would fail because no one would sign up and I couldn’t keep it going.
Then you have the video and I know from Udemy that my video has worked. I can put the two together. The theory was we could transform people until the first week of the first one which you were part of, it didn’t work. I tested it on twenty people we cared about, but it worked for them because they’re careful, they were my friends and they were paying attention. When I brought strangers in, it didn’t work. We were saying to ourselves, “We had to shut it down and give everyone their money back.” Fortunately, Alex, my creative director and I had built three different platforms to run the course on it. We have launched it with one and people said, “We hate this platform,” but I thought they were just afraid of it. We pushed for two more days and then I realized they were right. They hated it. We quickly grabbed this course out of the backup file and moved all 2,000 people to the new one. I was sure it was going to work and it worked. It was great.
I remember being part of those first-day discussion groups and it was like, “I hate it.” It was more the fact that the software itself didn’t seem to allow for the thought process and the creative ability that 1,800 to 2,000 were looking for and you did. You pivoted quickly. I thought you did it on purpose. I figured it was part of the process of teaching us a lesson. I’m willing to give you kudos and credits for that because it was one of those things where you sit there and go, “There’s got to be a lesson in this. There’s got to be a reason he is making us all feel uncomfortable and having all this pain.” We realized, “He is serious about this. We’re pivoting into a new platform.” All of a sudden there was a huge uptake in the engagement. The lesson I learned from that is you can’t be afraid to fail.
That’s lesson one, and lesson two is friction is sometimes a good thing. We’ve run it three times. Each time, it has more impact, but the third time when we’ve removed a ton of friction, there wasn’t the thrill that our students felt. We could tell that the unalloyed joy that led to more coherence didn’t occur as much in the third one because it worked well. We need to think about, “Did that cost us educationally?” I don’t think it did. As people who run it, sometimes being an underdog is a good thing.If you are patient, honest, authentic, and show up for the right people, you can make anything work. Click To Tweet
At least it created the bonding. All of a sudden, we were all helping each other up, and that was it. That was a good thing. I’m not going to give away the course because people should pay good money for it. For me, the value in the course is the people that are in the course with you. One of these things, and you are smart about it, is the fact that you gave people the opportunity to teach each other. The more we can listen to each other, the more that we can engage with each other. The more that we can listen to each other and understand each other, it doesn’t matter what the business is, we’re all going to be better. The course was a microcosm for that. Was that an intended lesson that you were trying to put forward?
You left out one key thing, which is if you went to any of the people in one of these seminars before they took it and said, “Who would you like to be in the course with?” The people they would describe would almost certainly be fancier and have more visible credentials than the people who were the best contributors. The fanciest people didn’t contribute as much as the people who you wouldn’t have picked because it turns out psychographics are way more important than demographics. Our attitudes are way more important than what is on our bank account. People discovering the peer connection that they could make opened the door for them to realize that there’s way more wisdom around it than they thought.
I’m sure that there’s probably a lot of that in the altMBA as well, correct?
It must be a tight cohesive group that you become part of.
We did a reunion and there are 1,500 alumni. You had to pay your way here, buy your ticket and pay for lunch and stuff. I thought twelve or fifteen people would come. One hundred eighty people came out of 1,500. Five came from Australia. The coolest part was no one wanted to talk to me. They all wanted to talk to each other, and that’s the goal. That’s why I’m building these institutions because if I want to give a speech in a building, I can do that, but this is about something way bigger than me.
What is your vision for the future for marketing? You’re at the stage of your career where you have the ability to give back and I appreciate that. What are the things that you are concerned about within the marketing arena? What are the things that you’d like to see people either moving back towards or going towards?
Marketing split about a couple of years ago, it used to be that marketing and advertising were the same things. If you bought enough TV ads, you did fine. I wrote four books with Jay Levinson of Guerilla Marketing. These little guys were certainly doing okay around the edges, but the mindset of marketing was, “If you are a marketer, you were spending a lot of money.” Jay’s vision happened when the internet came true. Which was no one knows if you are a dog on the internet and money wasn’t the winning factor. Nabisco and the local bakery were even-steven. Big companies can’t stand for that long. They had to figure out how to erect these expensive barriers and then Google and Facebook build up other barriers. What you are left with is on one end, famous brands and big-time celebrities who are using every trick and dollar in the book.
You’ve got people who are hard to distinguish between a Russian troll and a real voice, between somebody who is going to ship their kick starter and some isn’t going to ship their kick starter. As a result, people who aren’t approaching this as a Fortune 1,000 company or one of the five big internet companies have a real trust problem. It was a temptation to raise to the bottom, cut corners, spam, scam, lie and to put PDFs on the screen that cost $49. That’s my mortal enemy. We live in this special moment and to waste it is dividing us from one another, to waste it and scamming other people feels like a sin to me. I have spent the last bunch of years saying, “If you are patient, honest, authentic, and show up for the right people, you can make it work.” I’m hoping that enough of us will keep doing that because otherwise, it’s going to get worse.
Honesty, empathy and trust.
Those are the three and I add humility to that. The humility to not steal someone else’s attention.
I don’t know if you know David Brier. He wrote something called Rising Above The Noise. I find that there is a lot of noise today. Many people want to raise their hands and scream from the rooftops. Nobody wants to listen anymore. Everybody is selfish and everybody wants it to be above them and not about somebody else. My goal, and hopefully I’ve learned this from you, is that the more we can contribute to the benefit of others, the more we win. It’s about helping others be better at what they do and not worrying about my success. I worry about the success of others and my success comes out of it.Tension is always there when growth happens. Click To Tweet
The thing that we have to be careful of is not removing tension. Tension is always there when growth happens. If all we do is say, “Hand me the RFP and I’ll give you the best price,” then we’re cogging the system and no positive change can come of that. We have to dig a little deeper and say, “I’m doing this because it matters.”
It’s finding people that it matters for. The one thing that you did teach me and will always stay is to find the small enough audience that’s viable. Don’t go for men and women as your audience. Find the people that care about what you care about and you can add value to them. That was one thing that you taught me that I thought will probably always stay with me. You don’t have to befriend everybody. You don’t have to market to everybody. You have to market to the people that care about the things that you care about and you can help. When you walk out of the door of a meeting when you get into your car and you drive away, what’s the one thing that you want people to either think about you, a lesson or something that you want people to remember when you walked out the door that’s going to help drive things forward? It’s going to stay with people and it reminds them about your value in the market and the world today?
What I’ve spent for a couple of years trying to do is help people teach other people. What those other people teach, what you teach, or what someone else that has read my work teaches. That’s what I want to be known for. It’s not about me transmitting knowledge directly to other people. It’s about a cultural shift, peer-to-peer and person-to-person. We live in revolutionary times. The revolution has been going on for a couple of years and it’s not going to last forever. In that revolution, we are defining our culture. We can define it like a Kardashian celebrity worshiping and the fight between people who hate each other or we can weave together tribes of people who care about each other, who do work for their pride and who don’t need to be anonymous. I’m hoping that I can help people see it’s not someone else’s job to do that. It’s your job to do it and it’s my job to do it. Every one of us has this little keyboard here and it’s connected to 2 billion other people. You have all the tools you need and you have to say, “Let’s go.”
That’s a great place to stop. Seth, thank you.
Thanks for the work you do. It has been a pleasure.
I want to thank everybody for reading. It has been an absolute pleasure and honor to have Seth Godin on my show. It is all about building tribes. It’s all about understanding who are the people that you are trying to serve. Why do they find you valuable? Why do they love you? Why would they tell your story to others? What are the unique, different little things that you do that get people’s attention, make them want to engage with you and make them want to care and buy from you? Think about those little things and move the needle forward. I want to thank you.
Seth Godin is an Author, Entrepreneur and Most of All, A teacher
Seth is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, and speaker. In addition to launching one of the most popular blogs in the world, he has written 19 best-selling books, including The Dip, Linchpin, Purple Cow, Tribes, and What To Do When It's Your Turn (And It's Always Your Turn). His most recent book, This is Marketing, sold faster than any previous title, go figure.
Though renowned for his writing and speaking, Seth also founded two companies, Squidoo and Yoyodyne (acquired by Yahoo!).
By focusing on everything from effective marketing and leadership, to the spread of ideas and changing everything, Seth has been able to motivate and inspire countless people around the world.
In 2013, Seth was one of just three professionals inducted into the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame. In an astonishing turn of events, in May 2018, he was inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame as well. He might be the only person in both.
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