One of the most powerful business books that I can ever remember reading was entrepreneur Seth Godin’s (self-published) marketing antithesis, Purple Cow. It really resonated with me. It’s not just that it came in packaged as a milk carton – I immediately understood what Godin was suggesting, I believed his message. At last I had found a kindred spirit who shared my passion for doing business differently.
But in the years that followed I wasn’t so sure. There were so many radical ideas, lots of long-winded musings, much of the same stuff reiterated. It didn’t feel remarkable and transformational any more, and I have to admit, I lost a little faith in the Oracle.
Then I had the good fortune to spend a day with Seth in Sydney and I’m in love again. He is an exceptional presenter and his contrarian view on most business topics is wonderfully raw, real and relevant. Seth’s burning desire is to “change the way others see the world” – and I have no doubt he is achieving that in a very big way.
So what did I learn from my day with Seth?
To sum the day up, here are my 7 biggest lightbulb moments (please note that much of this terminology is directly from Seth, so don’t quote me – I’m simply quoting him):
1. TRUST COMES FIRST, THEN THE COMMUNITY FOLLOWS
“Today ideas travel at the speed of light, they don’t care about geography” – the same applies to building communities (or as Seth calls them, tribes). We are all looking for people like us, but opportunity is not created by building a massive list of contacts with no connection or value proposition. The greatest opportunities come from actually building a community with purpose. We form a tribe that trusts us, that thinks like we do, that understands us, that challenges us and that supports us. Tribe geography is largely irrelevant. We build trust by what we say, what we do, how we act and our intentions over time.
2. ATTENTION IS A COMMODITY, AND IF YOU DON’T TREAT IT LIKE ONE, YOU’RE DEAD
In a world where there are so many people, organisations and ‘stuff’ fighting for our attention, it certainly has become a precious commodity. Attention spans are getting shorter and yet the demand for attention is only becoming greater. Attention quite literally has its own supply and demand economy – our customers in particular are asking what their “return on attention” is going to be. If there is no return, they will go elsewhere and we will become less relevant (or worse, totally irrelevant … you might as well be invisible). The moral to the story here is that if you get your customers attention and you waste it, they will stop trusting you and without question, will stop paying attention to you. You’re dead to them. The end.
3. INSTEAD OF LOOKING FOR CUSTOMERS FOR YOUR PRODUCT, FIND PRODUCTS FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS
This was a very powerful point for me. As a marketing man, much of my life has been spent in the pursuit of markets for products and services, whether mine, or my clients. In the world of Seth, it is far more important to firstly build a strong tribe based on trust – one that is formed through meaningful connections – then develop the products or services that they need (as opposed to making stuff and trying to flog it to anyone who will buy it). If we focus on their needs and not ours, the benefits are mutual. This resonates much more deeply with me.
4. WHAT IS YOUR REASON FOR BLOGGING?
I love writing articles, and I write a lot of them. But I have to say I have fallen into the trap of writing articles to generate social media activity. After all, shares, likes and retweets are really the only way to quantify whether an article hits its mark or not, right? To a point, maybe. But retweet doesn’t equal referral. So, should the purpose of blogging be getting retweets or should it be to build trust? Clearly Seth feels it should be trust, and I agree. This means taking a step back, thinking about why you are blogging or writing articles and being prepared to write things that may not get a lot of shares, but will resonate with members of your tribe in a deeper way. Some people might not like them and perhaps others will even write negative comments, but that is not something that we should live in fear of (see lesson 6). Don’t write to be popular, write to be trusted – be open, be vulnerable, be real, be humble.
5. HOW ARE YOU CHANGING YOUR CUSTOMERS?
The most successful organisations change their customers in some way (and in many instances, actually reinvent their customers). Think Apple, Harley Davidson, Facebook and Wotif. Think about how these four iconic organisations have changed their customers, their buying habits, their lifestyle, their communication and their travel. We have to ask ourselves, how are we changing our customers? And if we aren’t, who is? Are our customers deeply connected and trusting of us, to the point where we become a big enough part of their life to evoke change?
6. LEARN TO LIVE WITH TENSION
If everyone loves everything you do, you are not trying hard enough. We need to learn to live with the fact that the outcomes are never certain, and we therefore need to learn to live with the tension that uncertainty creates. For writers and professional speakers like me, this means that if people are not disagreeing with you, walking out of your events, challenging your articles and ideas, you are playing too safe and not working at the edge. The edge is where great things happen! Living with the tension associated with uncertainty of how a concept might be received gives us an edge that playing safe does not. It keeps us alert and on our toes, which in turn makes us high performers.
7. IT ISN’T ABOUT NUMBERS, IT IS ABOUT TRUST
A lot of businesses, particularly in the online space, are obsessed with numbers. How many followers, friends, likes, shares, connections etc do we have? In reality, what is the point of having a million disconnected followers? They are just numbers on a screen that look impressive, but soon amount to very little. It is much more about building a tribe that trusts you, a tribe filled with likeminded people who value you and the products and services you are selling. Spend less time worrying about the numbers and more time sharing valuable and meaningful information.
There is a revolution happening, I see it all around me every day. Entire industries struggling to reinvent themselves, or even survive in a world that they simply do not understand. Some are stoically forging on, changing nothing, living with hope that everything will be OK. Others (the disruptors, the embracers – those living on the edge), are changing everything, challenging the status quo and reinventing the world.
Now is the time to back yourself, believe in yourself, break stuff, find people like you, reinvent, evolve, make connections with mutual, tangible benefits, build trust, accept tension, share, change and challenge.
This is what Seth Godin reminded me of on a sunny Sydney day. Thanks Seth.
BOTH PHOTOS COURTESY OF POLO JIMINEZ