Seth Godin is among my favorite thinkers. He has a way of whittling down subjects to their critical essence. He cuts the bullshit with a very sharp knife.
He recently did a Seth-only recording of answers to listener questions from his first podcast interview with Tim which I’ve listened to repeatedly. I thought these notes might be helpful to someone so here they are.
=== From Aug 2016 Q&A podcast.
Find your tribe to lead. You don’t build a tribe. They already exist. Nike found runners. Harley found the “1%.”
Find the smallest possible group to serve. Serve first. Small seems scary and without life boats. Large seems worth it. But small is the most effective. What does this community need to be served best?
You can’t go to someone and say pay me a bunch of money and tell me what to do. Instead what’s valuable is people who: (side: school ought to teach) 1- how to solve interesting problems. how to do a things you can’t look up on the internet. how to do a think where no one can tell you how to do it. 2 - lead. have the guts to say follow me.
To get to do the things we want to do in today’s world, we have to figure out how to move forward. We have to figure out where the fear is.
Your business can be about: 1- engaging with people who trust you 2- delivering value to them 3- making enough money to do it again
Brand alignment. Seth took an approach with his first books that his brand was he was a Stanford MBA who knew more than the editors did about business. They didn’t buy the book. So he deliberately changed his brand. Stopped putting spreadsheets in proposals, wearing suits. Listened to what they needed from him. The mindset requires to commit to the marketplace, not your brand. Can’t sell steam shovels, then life insurance, etc.. No one can figure out who you are.
Meaningful specific vs wondering generality (this looks for the “next thing” all the time…can’t build a brand).
How do you decide what is essential, indispensable or useless for your attention? Comes back to brand, the promise, what you stand for, “to the change you are seeking in the world.” If you are trying to make a specific change it is easy to be specific, even more if you know the person or group you want to change.
it’s not difficult for Nike to decide to do or not to do because they’ve decided what they stand for. Nike isn’t going to sell corn chips. Nike had an agreement with Sears not to advertise in the Sunday circulars. Sears broke that at one point. Nike asked the Sears folks to come to HQ and made them sit in the lobby waiting for a meeting from 9 to 5. The reason? To demonstrate that they are serious about their promise and their business. And their promise isn’t to treat retailers well.
The brand is boundries, a narrative. Online comments, for example, are anonymous, general. They are not the small group. They will push you to be more general. That does not affect change.
To be the purple cow, you can focus on a small group of people and endeavor to be the consistent, regular choice. You get the gig because you are better: at knowing them, being flexible, going the extra mile, keeping your promises. You un-commoditize your work by being human.
To stay focused on a project. At some point you need to decide who you are, decide the scale, decide what the brand is when people hire you, when they engage with you. You have to embrace the the niche you select and find the people who want that thing. Others can’t replicate that because you are focused, they are general. Helpful with conferences, project selection, etc.. Does this help my customers because it helps me make it easier to deliver on my promise.
First published on August 5, 2016