Seth Godin’s Latest Business Tips

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Marketing ninja Seth Godin might be the most famous of the many self-help gurus for entrepreneurs. His many books, starting with his breakthrough Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends, and Friends into Customers, to last year’s Whatcha Gonna Do with That Duck? And Other Provocations, share one thing in common: they discuss ways in which business owners can add value to people’s lives, not take away.

Godin is famous for challenging assumptions, and as every DJ owner knows, banking on assumptions can be dangerous for business. Here are some recent edicts from Godin.

How Marketing Strategy Has Changed: Marketing and advertising used to be exactly the same thing in 1965. Advertising was a magical message for turning money into attention, and then you could turn that attention into trust, and you could turn that trust into profit. Most of the culture of marketing is still built around the idea of interrupting strangers and getting them to do what you want. In the last 20 years since I wrote Permission Marketing, that has been turned on its ear, and in fact, marketing is now about storytelling. It’s about ideas that spread. It’s about being remarkable. And it’s about talking to people that want to be talked to instead of yelling at strangers.

The Growth of Online Engagement: What Facebook and Twitter have taught us is that we crave connection. Ultimately, online connection is a very sad substitute for the real kind. We’ll take it if it’s our only choice, but what we really want are those life-changing interactions that we remember and that we can build a career around. I will share with you a recent obsession of mine.

If you go to an event and you see they have set the room up with 10-top round tables and they are about to serve a banquet that is designed to feed a large number of people in a short period of time, you have just seen failure. They have tried to industrialize the process and get it over with. No one ever creates a human interaction at a table for 10. No one ever meets a stranger and starts a relationship in that sort of setting. When we start processing people instead of connecting people, we are sacrificing our biggest asset, which is this ability to make chemistry and magic happen.

What Facebook and Twitter have taught us is that we crave connection. Ultimately, online connection is a very sad substitute for the real kind.

Handling “No”: The difficult task is to turn around a No.

It’s not, “No, I’ve thought about it, but I’m not interested,” but, “No, I feel like saying ‘no,’ whatever you’re offering, the answer is no.” If the fractious child or the skeptical prospect or the frightened boss is coming from a place of no, your proposal just isn’t going to work.

Shaking that rattle or waving that spreadsheet isn’t going to work, because it’s not going to be judged on the merits. The facts are irrelevant… if your partner (and yes, the person you’re with right now is your partner, engaged in a dance that will end with yes or no) is in search of a no, nothing is going to go right.

The best path, then, is to first work on the “no,” not the pitch or the facts or the urgent thing you need approved right now. First, talk about the dance, and the goals, and how it feels to get to a yes. Then tell me your story.

Email Failures: Just because you have had a previous relationship with someone doesn’t mean you have permission to email them. Permission marketing is anticipated, personal and relevant messaging. The simple measure is this: Would they miss you if you didn’t mail them? If not, then you’re fooling yourself into thinking you have something you don’t.

Blaming the tool. There is a wealth of powerful email tools out there (like Mailchimp). If your email campaign isn’t working, it’s almost certainly not their fault. Don’t waste time looking for a better pencil—learn to write better.

Your mailmerge is broken. Dear <first name> is far worse than no mailmerge at all. Here’s the simple test: if you’re not willing to spend 15 seconds per name reviewing the list and cleaning it up (why did you email me six times?), then don’t expect that we have 15 seconds to read what you wrote. If you have 4,000 names, that’s 1,000 minutes. Don’t have 1,000 minutes? Don’t send the mail.

Text is what humans send. Corporations send HTML and pretty graphics. Either can work if expectations are set properly, but if you’re a human, act like one.
Why are you emailing me? If you can’t tell me in six words what you need me to do, it’s unlikely I’ll be able to guess. The thing you need me to do better be fun, worth doing and generous. If it’s not, I’m not going to do it, no matter how much you need me to do it.

When does this end? If you’re going to send me a series of notes to promote something, does it go on forever? Telling me what’s ahead is more likely to earn you permission going forward. “Oh good, the next one!” If people aren’t saying that, you’ve failed.

Pinging everyone, at once. Why on earth would you hit SEND ALL? Send 20, see what happens. Send 20 different ones, compare. Send 50. Now send all.

If your email promotion is a taking, not a giving, I think you should rethink it. If you still want to take the time and attention and trust of your 4,000 closest friends, think hard about what that means for the connections you’ve built over the years. There are few promotional emergencies that are worth trading your reputation for.

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