Summary: My Top 10 Takeaways from Seth Godin’s Live Q&A Seminar in London 3rd November 2015:
- How to get a billion people saving? Don’t start with a billion people. Focus on the smallest possible number of people you can change…that will allow us to take the next step. We need to change people one by one and then give them the ammunition to become evangelical. We need to figure out the story that our clients will spread.
- Behaviour change: We need to accept that – ‘what we do for a living is change people’s behaviour’. So most of the work we do is tell stories, understand behavioural science and engage in a way that changes people. We have to accept that our job is to change people. Now how can we better understand the people we are trying to change?
- Trust & attention: Earning people’s trust and attention are going to be the critical success factors for many years to come. We all pay a premium for trust and attention. The person or entity that gets the most trust, will get the most customers. How do we do this better as individuals, as a team, as a firm and industry?
- We all tell Stories: People don’t buy what you sell, they buy the story they tell themselves. We need to tell a story that resonates with the person you’re telling it to, and it has to be true. One of the best stories we can tell is that “people like us do things like this”. What will make our clients feel a better sense of belonging with us?
- Understand Worldviews: We need to understand the worldview of the people who you are trying to change, or sell to. To find out someone’s worldview – Ignore everything they say, and watch everything they do. People are different and they have different worldviews. Treat different people differently. We need to tell different stories to different people that resonate with them (but they must be true). How can we learn to see better? How can we quickly figure out what people’s worldview is? How do we get masterful at this?
- Sell the Benefit: We need to find a way of showing potential clients what is the benefit of using our services before they have to pay? We can’t tell people that I’m not going to tell you my secret until you pay… How do we do this better?
- Find your Tribe: As we get bigger we risk getting more mediocre, unless we can say NO. As soon as we can say to a client that you’re not right for me, we start to get the clients you deserve. How can we say no more gracefully?
- Client referrals: A lot of us have a loyal audience that never talks about us. The only reason that people will refer you, promote you and talk about you is if it advances their agenda in some way. What would make them want to promote / evangelicalism for you?
- Client service: How do you get clients to stay for the long run? They need to feel like they belong. Ask yourself what story do they need to tell themselves to feel like they belong. How will they feel that “People like us, do things like this…”?
- Failure is key to good ideas: Human beings are terrible procrastinators. As a result we are less generous, less productive and less happy than we are capable of. We just need to try, it’s an experiment … we’ll only discover afterwards what works and what doesn’t by trying/testing. We have to continuously let our whole organization know what we have tried that doesn’t work, showing that we have failed. That’s how you give people permission to fail, to try and to learn… How can we allow each other to have and express bad ideas, to test, fail and learn?
Our industry be disrupted the way so many others have before. The only question is – When and who can do it?
Our job is to see what others do not see, to imagine what may be. The firms who succeed will be the ones who care more, who gain more trust and pay more attention. We need to get masterful at this!
Main points covered by Seth:
I have tried to organise my notes from yesterday Q&A into topics to make it easier for you to scan and pick out what is most useful and relevant to you.
The next big thing
The search for the next big thing fuels a lot of people’s work. Well this is the next big thing. Stop looking for the next thing and focus on what’s changing all around you today.
We are in the midst of a new revolution (that’s even bigger than the industrial revolution). We are 10 years in and it might be another 10 years before others realize it. Revolutions destroy what is perfect and make the impossible a reality.
Anything that you do where there’s a manual, We will be able to hire someone cheaper or automate in the future to get better results than you to do.
The Internet is a platform that gives each of us tremendous leverage. It is not for watching cat videos, it permits each of us to make a meaningful change in the entire known universe.
Innovators Dilemma – Clayton Christensen. It’s almost always an outsider that disrupts a system. Will your industry be disrupted the way so many others have before. Yes it will. The only question is – When and who can do it.
The first person who really observes the industry and really sees what stories people tell themselves and what it will take to change them will succeed.
Trust & Attention
Earning people’s trust and attention are going to be the critical success factors for many years to come. We all pay a premium for trust and attention.
The person or entity that get the most trust, will get the most customers, and the most money. A man came to fix his boiler and covered up his shoes (showed respect). Then gave a list of all his neighbours that have used his services, “you can call any of them”. He built trust quickly, he got business
Many organizations think their work is so important that they have to get everything perfect. They are not willing to make mistakes and experiment. It is far more natural to hide, to pretend you don’t make mistakes and to never innovate.
If you’re going to change that, you have to let the whole organization know something you tried that didn’t work, showing that you failed. That’s how you give people permission to fail, to try and to learn… If you made a mistake in previous age it was game-over for you. Today the cost of being wrong is much lower than it has ever been, but we are still acting as if we have a factory.
As a breadwinner how do I make space to fail? Go speak to someone, a new prospect, a lead, a potential customer, user, courageously and generously, set yourself up for interactions that aren’t fatal, but help you see and learn something new. Learning to fail is key.
Professional brainstormers allow more stupid ideas than anyone else. Seth writes his own blogs every day. He writes down up to 10 ideas every day, then types up 3-4, then edits/curates till only one ends up going out on his blog. He says he comes up will a lot of bad ideas, and every once in a while there is a really good one amongst them.
Story is key
All of us buy the story we tell ourselves about the thing we purchase. You get the item for free when you buy the story.
Thousands of people have a Harley Davidson Tatoo but no one has a Suzuki Tatoo. Why do they do it? Is it about the speed or the horsepower? If you ask they will say “this is who I am?” – it says something about them.
In marketing your brand, you should know what it is your customers will say about your product. Great organizations make a change happen.
Harley Davidson turn you from an outsider to an insider, when you buy their stuff, you become one of them, you’re part of a club. Apple doesn’t just produce cool gadgets, hey set out to teach us to have better taste in digital goods, SJ said – “the problem with Microsoft is they have bad taste”. Once you’re hooked on the taste wagon you buy anything that looks better.
The reason selling B2B is hard is because you are dealing with people who don’t care. The thing someone who doesn’t own the company / doesn’t care is thinking when buying something is “what will I tell my boss?”.
So they buy what has always been bought before, how has it always been done, no one wants to be noticed, take the risk of doing things differently. The only thing we are willing to tell/explain to the boss is “It is cheaper.” “Look how much money I saved?”, “Everybody uses them.” That’s the only story business tell themselves, if you don’t have a story.
It is the purchasing department’s job to say no; to say I want cheaper. You need to believe is that your prices are not high. You will be tempted to lower your price, this is the refuge of the marketer who doesn’t know what to do, it is a last resort.
Tell a story that resonates with the person you’re telling it to, and it has to be true. One of the best story we can tell is that “people like us do things like this. What you want to tell the purchasing department, that “these are 4 of your biggest competitors, they all use me/this… Do you want to tell your boss you missed this opportunity to save a few bucks?”
You need to understand the worldview of the people who you are trying to change, or sell to.
Which kind of person works for the government, or works in a school or in the procurement department. What’s their worldview? A Defensive Buyers worldview: “I don’t want to get into trouble, I won’t get in trouble by rejecting you. So we need to tell them “Do you want to be the last person to sign up, then that’s ok.”
No one goes to work, wanting to be shown they are wrong. Only once you have someone’s attention can you educate them based on what they already believe. We can’t try and change people’s beliefs.
To find out someone’s worldview – Ignore everything they say, and watch everything they do. That’s why focus groups are toxic. Your job is not to make something in a factory, but your job is to see. In a very short time, you need to judge others and figure out what their worldview is.
Where to start?
We hold back, we fit in, we don’t share our dreams. We don’t want to be exposed. We procrastinate. Human beings are terrible procrastinators. As a result we are less generous, less productive and less content than we are capable of.
You just need to start, it’s an experiment, we won’t know till afterwards… we discover what works and what doesn’t by trying/testing.
One of the things hard wired in our culture is the fear of being told “you’re not as good as you think you are”. We have to confront this fear, change the story we tell ourselves in our heads and just put ourselves out there again and again.
Change has an ugly twin brother, and he’s called tension. You have to accept tension if you want to change someone or something.
Are you brave enough?
When people ask “I need to know if it will work before I will try it.” Are asking the wrong question. Once someone else has done it before, if I still ask will it work what people really mean is “I’m afraid.”
It doesn’t matter if it works, what matters is “Are you brave enough to do it?” So you can find out if it does and how you can make it work.
Starting a new business (line)
Anything that is easy to set up or do is harder to market, because it’s harder to stand out. You have to create a community and the need. Almost nobody wakes up and says I have a marketing problem and I can solve it by joining a community.
We need to find a way of showing potential customers what is the benefit of using your service before they have to pay? You can’t tell people that I’m not going to tell you my secret until you pay… Radio gave music producers a free sample… before you buy.
Now imagine you want to create a community that is only open to the top 500 CMOs, but no one has heard of you. Start by getting just 10 CMOs to join. Now the 490 CMOs that are not on it have a problem, because they are worried about what they’re missing out on.
Scaling your business
You scale should be as small as you can possibly live with, then demand will grow and you can grow bigger. If you can start by changing 10 lives, you can get 50, and then you can go online and go to a million … billion.
Figure out what the smallest possible subset for the community is. AirBnB did not start to be the biggest accommodation company in the world, they started small.
The best way to grow (if growth is your goal), is to start with your minimum viable business. You have to keep working till you figure about how to flip one village / one customer / one segment of the market, then you go to the next village and tell them and talk to village 1 / customer 1.
All things to all people
As you get bigger you get more mediocre, unless you can say: We have a lot of people who want to be new clients, but we’re not going to just take everyone on. As soon as you can say to a client that you’re not right for me, you get the clients you deserve.
“It’s not for you”, is one of the most powerful things we can say when you are making your art. You can be happier and more profitable if you are doing work that people will miss when you are gone. Most people do work that someone else can do. If you could, spend your whole day doing work that only you can do.
Find your tribe
Seth has tried to talk to many different types of people over his career, but all were not right. So many times, the people in the audience were telling themselves a story that didn’t match the change he was trying to make in the world. So he kept trying new groups until he found his tribe – people who were trying to make change – “people like him”.
The product adoption lifecycle is important to know. Everyone has a worldview about where they are on that spectrum, for shoes, for technology, etc. The middle of the curve is most of us.
Early adopters are the geeks and the nerds. The middle/majority waits till the technology is cheaper. The laggards have still not given up their VCR. Something new gives some people stress (majority) vs something new gives others pleasure (early adopter).
In between the early adopters and the masses is a big chasm. The gap between “what’s new” and “what works”. Lots of industries have trained us to try and be early adopters. Movies have created a feeling to make us watch the new film in the first week (otherwise they’re off the screens). That’s why they do the mystery and the trailers, etc.
To achieve scale you have to work your way through the curve. You have to decide which curve you’re going to work through. Alternatively you don’t go for scale, just keep focusing on the “new”. Seth didn’t follow the permission marketing adoption curve (after the book, he didn’t do the handbook, course, series, the talk, etc). The audience he wanted to have always wanted “what’s new”, so he focused on that.
Getting people to listen
If you are find your words are landing on deaf ears, with no one listening, you need to ask yourself what it will be like when it has changed; when it has reached its tipping point. You start with the early adopters. When people like us are doing things like this, everyone will do it.
What is the story the person is telling himself. He doesn’t want to look stupid. You are an agent of change. Create an environment that makes them look less stupid by choosing you.
Beaurocrats often feel left out and isolated. How do you get better at addressing their narrative; helping them tell a story?
Marketing is about changing people
When we do our best work, we are not a machine, our best work is changing people that is hugely valuable. We need to own that. “I am going to this meeting to change people”.
If you want to market the importance of customer service to your board, what if you go and interview 10 angry customers on your iPhone, just show that video, and you have now sold the need for customer service. That’s what marketers do. We have to care, we have to own it.
We need to accept that – What we do for a living is change people’s behaviour? So most of the work we do is tell stories, understand behavioural science and engage in a way that changes people. You have to accept that your job is to change people. Now how well do you understand the people you are trying to change?
A lot of us have a loyal audience that never talks about it. What is their worldview? What would make them want to promote / evangelicalism for you?
The only reason that people will refer you, promote you and talk about you is if it advances their agenda in some way.
I recommend someone to you that because it will make me look smarter. “One reason Seth’s blog/books succeed is that he consciously says what people want to tell someone else, so they will forward it to them.”
How do you let clients to stay for the long run? They need to feel like they belong. Ask yourself what story they need to tell themselves to feel like they belong. How will they feel that “People like us, do things like this…”
When you get something wrong, when you have an angry/upset customer if you just sent a robotic professional generic message you will achieve nothing. Instead if a human shows up and makes it personal and apologizes sincerely, you might be surprised.
“I see you” – that simple sentence is at he heart of what we want as humans. Dignity is different than transparency. People don’t want to know everything about you. They want to know that you will treat them with dignity.
Entrepreneur vs Freelancer
As an entrepreneur your only job is to hire someone (better than you) to do what you think your job is, again and again, until you’re only job is to disrupt what you already built.
Freelancers get paid when they work themselves. Seth said that as an entrepreneur he kept wanting to hire myself which left him frazzled. He couldn’t hire others to do his job, he wanted to write his own blogs, run his own classes, etc. Seth is a freelancer.
As an entrepreneur you cannot be the best technical person yourself. You have to be able to leave the building, start a new business line and it should continue to run without you.
You can do art regardless of what you do. Art is not just painting. We all have a fundamental need to make art. Art is anything we do where we don’t hold back, where we immerse ourselves, do it for the sake of doing it. With art you’re ok to fail, because it’s worth doing regardless of success or failure.
Arthur Miller doesn’t hold anything back. People who make art are all in and don’t hold anything back. We need to do art so we can feel alive. But we may need work for work’s sake to be able to pursue art in an unconstrained way.
Is it possible to make a living making art? Sometimes… But if you have to compromise what your art to get enough money, it’s not worth it. Seth advises people that are starting out – Get a job (any job) to make enough money. That allows you to be able to make your art without compromise. But it can’t be art if it doesn’t resonate with anyone. We need to make something people want, who are “People like us?”.
There is a company in NY Mismatched that decided to make socks. It’s cheap to get made. Race to the bottom. ‘Mismatched’ did 40 million dollars in revenue. This company said, our socks are not for everyone, they are for 12 year olds girls who have a fashion problem.
They sell 133 styles of socks that don’t match. It allows people to be noticed, to be able to go and have a conversation. They are targeting a very specific worldview – people who wanted to be noticed, have something to talk about. They gave 12 he old girls something to talk about, gave them meaning, every industry can do this.
People are different and they have different worldviews. Treat different people differently. You need to tell different stories to different people but they must be true.
What is the change you’re trying to make and who are you trying to change? If you can focus on just one group do that. But if you have to market to multiple world views, know that and invest in it.
There are 2 ways to build a team – you either look for misfits (they are really difficult to find) or you look for cogs who’ll do as they’re told.
At Apple now you go to the Genius Bar and get someone working from a manual. That’s the only way they could scale. They don’t care anymore.
Direct marketing is about building a connection directly with the person is paying you. The Internet is the biggest direct marketing medium of all time.
A great business, should aim to acquire a customer for less than they are worth. Amazon believes that the average lifetime customer value is $33, so they will spend anything up to that amount to acquire them.
If you’re not going to be doing direct marketing the only other option is to follow the route of Religious institutions/Alcoholics Anonymous, and be the thing people talk about before the went to sleep. There is no other option. Move so far to the edge that people can’t help but talk about it.
Seth has never done a day of SEO, but his blog has been at the top. His blog got big because the first 100 people he started with got a benefit from sharing it. They needed to share it to use the terms he had invented, that they wanted to use. You have to give people a story, a reason that they would want to share with others, design it that way.
(Now Seth’s blog is at a size where He doesn’t want to do what he would have to do to make the number of subscribers go up.)
Replace Elevator pitches with elevator questions… No one will buy from you in an elevator. The key to a great elevator question is “Are you the kind of person that benefits from the kind of thing that I do?” Once you figure this out, need to practice a thousand times, once you get it you’ll have a line outside the door.
What is your purpose/why?
Seth doesn’t agree completely with Simon Sinek on finding the “why” first? What is the why for a shoe shiner? The why generally has to follow, we need to focus first on how you want to change people / how you want to make people feel. If the shoes shiner figures out that he has 2 jobs/outputs – The shine he puts on the shoe, and how he makes people feel while he is polishing the shoe… Now if he’s going to make people smile, he has a why.
How do you fire a client?
We need to generously tell people they should go somewhere else. Worldview: if someone is going to feel dis-empowered by what you do, that’s not good. Spend the effort in finding alternatives for them.
How about this – “We can’t serve you as well as you need us to. Here are three people that we have looked into on your behalf who can do what you want better and cheaper”. Now not only have you shown them you care, you’ve given them a good story to tell when they go back to the office.
Dealing with criticism?
Life is not a focus group. You don’t have to listen to everyone. Not everyone is going to get you, but if you spend too much time with them you will lose your footing. The trolls and non-believers need us because they like telling us were not good enough.
Seth has not read an Amazon review of any of my books. “No one becomes a better writer by reading all their 1 star reviews”. Just accept that your books / products / services are not for them. If you are trying to take any tribe from here to there, some people will drop out because they are afraid of change.
This doesn’t mean you should ignore everyone. You need to listen to those people who feel the need for change as much as you do, even if they disagree on how to achieve it.
By calling it a work/life balance we are creating a problem. Work is personal and work/life overlap. If you let people bring their personality and humanity to work… You may be surprised.
Workaholic – is someone who needs to control the outcome because they are afraid, they need to be online all they time because it may go wrong … that wrecks your life.
To do work that matters – you care enough to try to make things better, and if you fail you learn from it and don’t beat yourself for it. The people in our life are the main reason we are here; so let’s not miss that.
Education was designed to create compliant factory workers. It’s not just the schools fault. It’s too easy to blame the school. We need to blame the parents because they are not speaking up enough. We need to ask “what is school for?” If it is to develop people who can create, take risks, build connections and solve problems then let’s not make them robots.
We cannot take our kids out of school… We can home school our kids from the moment they get home till they sleep. We can get them on Wikipedia, writing blogs, starting their own non-profits, speaking up, volunteering, letting them out failing/testing/learning from the time they are 12 years old.
Tell your kids that an A means nothing if you didn’t learn anything, if you want kids that institutions will fall all over to hire.
You can’t blame schools for wanting to avoid parental involvement, because they don’t get the point and are not consistent. Mostly annoying. The alternative is for parents to figure out how to earn their voice. I ran nature tours for the school 6 students at a time. Don’t offer revolution, scale, just start small and work your way up. Can we contribute one thing?
Teachers and administrators have a worldview, how do we give them the dignity they are looking for. If you want to make change, understand that you are changing real people, they have real world views and if you want to change them you have to tell them a story that resonates with their worldview.
Emotional labour is exhausting, but it’s as essential as physical labour. To be a professional means we bring ourselves to the table, even when we don’t feel like it.
We have to be able to say “Follow me, trust me, I have confidence….even when we don’t.” If you don’t feel emotional labour you’re not working hard enough.
Seth’s Closing messages
- There is no doubt you have succeeded already, but when you leave today you need to decide what you will do next? Will you choose to matter?
- Most people do work that someone else can do. You can choose to do work that people will miss if you are gone.
- We have more leverage to reach more people than ever before on earth.
- We don’t need someone to pick us, we don’t need a license, we don’t need permission.
- If you want leverage, if you want to amplify your message, learn to take responsibility and give away credit.
- Learn to postpone the moment you cash in, as you build trust and attention… That’s the new currency.
- We may not be able to change the whole world, but what about our corner of the world.