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Seth Godin

“Leadership, on the other hand, is about creating change you believe in.”

Seth Godin is wise and infectiously curious about life, the internet, and everything. He was one of the first people to name the “connection economy.” And even as we’re seeing its dark side, he helps us hold on to the highest human potential the digital age still calls us to. His daily blog is indispensable reading for many of us.

About

Seth Godin is sometimes also known as ‘the ultimate entrepreneur for the information age.’ He is an American writer and has written around 17 books, addressing various aspects of marketing, advertising, business venturing and leadership. He is also a successful entrepreneur, marketer, and public speaker, who became famous for public speaking when he uploaded his e-book ‘Unleashing the Ideavirus’ and made it available for the generic audience for free. He obtained his MBA degree from Stanford Graduate School of Business and worked as a software brand manager before he started ‘Yoyodyne,’ one of the first Internet-based direct-marketing firms, with revolutionary ideas on how companies should reach their target audiences. The publicity of his firm compelled big companies like Volvo, Microsoft, Sony Music, etc. to associate with it, and in a few years ‘Yahoo!’ bought the company and kept Godin on as a vice president of permission marketing. He has produced several critically acclaimed and bestselling books, including ‘All Marketers Are Liars,’ and ‘Purple Cow,’ etc. He founded ‘Squidoo.com,’ a website where users can share links and information about an idea or topic of their choice. He professes the idea of making information available to everyone in the world and starting a global conversation on business and marketing in which everyone from everywhere can take an active part.

Seth Godin was born in New York and went to Tufts University to receive a degree in Computer Science and Philosophy in 1979. He went to pursue a Masters in Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Career

His first job was as a brand manager at Spinnaker Software. He joined the company while doing his MBA and worked there from 1983 to 1986.

In 1986, after quitting his job at Spinnaker Software, he started his own company called Seth Godin Productions with his savings of $20,000. It started off as a book packaging business that he used to maneuver from his studio apartment in New York.

After doing the book packaging business for a few years, he sold it to his employees and launched ‘Yoyodyne’ in 1995. The company was set to use innovative ideas to promote companies among their target audiences.

In 1996, Godin’s ‘Yoyodyne’ became big when venture-capital firm Flatiron Partners invested $4 million US dollars in it in return for a 20% stake. Immediately, the site gained popularity, and companies like Microsoft, Sony Music, Sprint, Volvo, etc. started using its services.

In 1998, he sold ‘Yoyodyne’ to ‘Yahoo!’ for $30 million US dollars after it became a ground-breaking firm in providing marketing services to multinational companies and himself became Yahoo's vice president of permission marketing.

In 2000, he authored the e-book called ‘Unleashing the Ideavirus,’ one of the most downloaded books of all time. It was made available on the internet for free, and since then, the book has been translated in 10 different languages.

Godin wrote ‘Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable’ and published it in 2003. The book represented his thoughts on the relevance of creative advertising in today’s world of abundance and product clutter.

In 2004, to support the ideas he professed, Godin published the website ‘ChangeThis’ aimed at spreading ideas and viewpoints through PDF files. In the following year, it was turned over to 800-CEO-READ, a distributor of business literature in the US.

With the growing popularity of Godin’s flair for writing on marketing, he published another book, ‘All Marketers are Liars’ in 2005. The book got serialized in Fortune Magazine and made it to the Amazon Top 100 bestseller list.

Godin became more ambitious with his writing projects and edited a book called ‘The Big Moo: Stop Trying to be Perfect and Start Being Remarkable,’ which included short essays on marketing by various authors, like Tom Peters, Guy Kawasaki, etc.

He launched ‘Squidoo.com’ in 2006, a community website which allows its users to create pages for subjects of interest. The website was profiled on CNN and in the Washington Post. It soon became one of the 500 most visited websites in the world.

In 2007, Godin published ‘The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit,’ the book that revolutionized the idea of ‘quitting at the right moment.’ It ranked number 5 on the New York Times Best Seller List.

Keeping up with his upbeat, innovative ideas to encourage people in the field of marketing, Godin announced in a blog post that he would offer a six-month alternative MBA program at his office in New York in 2008.

In 2012, he released a manifesto on his website on ‘What do you think we ought to do about education?’ He also started a podcast on the Earwolf network, which followed him as he guided thirty aspiring entrepreneurs.

“There used to be parking meters in New York City that took quarters. And what that meant was that quarters were worth more than 25 cents. One day I was parking on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and a guy comes up to me who from all physical appearances was, use your word, hobo, bum, homeless, needed help. But generally, even on the streets of New York, it’s very difficult to make a living by panhandling because most people tell themselves the story that they’re not going to interact with a stranger, they’re not going to give that stranger money, and it’s not a useful way to help someone.

Well, this gentleman came up to me, and he said, “Excuse me, do you have a dollar for four quarters?” Which is precisely the opposite question that people always ask you. And I was taken aback. Because actually I needed four quarters and was happy to pay $2 for four quarters in that moment. So, I did the transaction with him. And then he said, “Excuse me, do you have a quarter?” And the brilliance of the question, of course, is yeah he knew I had a quarter. He had just given it to me. And we had a transaction that had helped me, so now it was obvious I was going to give him a quarter. In fact, I gave him three because I wanted to reciprocate.

What’s magical about this story is that he understood that the worldview, the story of the typical person on the street of New York, is not “I wish I could find someone I could give a dollar to.” So, people who are making change, and the people you’ve interviewed through the years — that’s what they have in common. That they don’t stand up and say, here is a recitation of things that are true, therefore you must agree with me. What they have figured out how to do is understand the mindset of the person before they even met them. And then put a story into the world that resonates enough to start changing that mindset.”

Quality and effort

It seems as though the opposite of “careless” ought to be “careful.” That the best way to avoid avoidable errors is to try harder, to put more care into the work.

This means that if surgeons were more careful, there would be fewer errors. And that so many of the mistakes that mess things up would go away if people just tried harder.

And this is true. For a while. But then, it’s not effort but systems that matter.

Years ago, I created a trivia game for Prodigy. The first batch of 1,000 questions was 97% perfect. Which is fine, until you realize that this meant that 30 questions had an error. And every error ruined the experience for the user.

The second batch, we tried extra hard. Really hard. Our backs were against the wall, and we couldn’t afford any errors. Our effort paid off in a 50% decrease in errors. We were down to 1.5%. Alas, that’s still 15 game-breakers.

Then, I got smart, and I changed the system. Instead of having trivia writers work really hard to avoid mistakes, we divided our team in half. Half the team used the encyclopedia (yes, it was a long time ago) to write the questions, and they made a photocopy of the source, along with the question, and put it in a notebook.

The other half of the team got the notebook and was charged with answering the question based on the source. They got a bonus of $20 for every question they found where their answer was more correct than the original.

The result of the new system? Zero error for the next 5,000 questions.

We need to put care into our systems. We need to build checklists and peer review and resilience into the way we express our carefulness. It seems ridiculous that a surgeon needs to write her name (with a Sharpie) on the limb that she’s about to operate on, but this simple system adjustment means that errors involving working on the wrong limb will go to zero.

In school, we harangue kids to be more careful and spend approximately zero time teaching them to build better systems instead. We ignore checklists and processes because we’ve been taught that they’re beneath us.

Instead of reacting to an error with, “I need to be more careful,” we can respond with, “I can build a better system.”

If it matters enough to be careful, it matters enough to build a system around it.

Books

Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers Into Friends And Friends Into Customers

Traditional marketing is dead. This is the age of permission marketing. And no matter what sort of marketing person you are – from a digital marketer to a marketing executive in a brick and mortar model of business, you can use this book as a manual. Even for building an online business, this book can teach you what permission actually means and what you need to transform your interruption (read ‘traditional’ marketing).

In this top Seth Godin book, you will learn about what permission marketing is all about and how you can learn and apply it. Plus, you will also learn about different levels of permission.

The Dip: The extraordinary benefits of knowing when to quit (and when to stick)

If you turned your head around, you would see someone, somewhere, talking about the art of ‘never giving up.’ This best Seth Godin book is not about never giving up; rather this book will teach you how to quit and when to give up on something. When you start off anything, it seems exciting. But there will be a time when you hit a low point where nothing seems fun or exciting. According to Seth Godin, it’s a dip. These books by Seth Godin will teach you whether to grow through the dip or to give up.

Tribes: We need you to lead us

Have you ever thought that only they can start a movement, only someone else will take the lead, or teach a tribe? In this beautiful book, Seth Godin will teach you that no matter who you are, you can start a movement, take the lead, and teach a tribe. In this book, Seth Godin talks about how everyone can lead, but in reality, they squander the opportunity. And he also teaches you how you can choose to build a tribe and become a leader.

If you are passionate about something, a cause, a subject, or a project, you can start it, and there are a bunch of people, employees, workers, business owners, or readers who are waiting to connect with you. You don’t need to appeal to the masses; you need to appeal to only those people who are ready to become your tribe.

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable

If you go out in the street and you see a lot of black and white cows, would your jaw drop? No. But what if you just see a purple one? Would you stop and pay attention? You bet, you would. In this great book, Seth Godin talks about the importance of being innovative and creating new, innovative products and services. He also explains why as a business, you need to constantly innovate. He says that the economy is changing, and that business is evolving. And if you want to keep pace with the changing economy, you need to think innovatively.

Seth Godin says you can’t lead the business world until you become innovative and use your ingenuity to create new products and services.

All Marketers Are Liars

In All Marketers are Liars, Godin makes a careful distinction: there’s a difference, he says, between the first moment people get to know a brand and when that brand makes its first impression on them. “People mix first contact and first impression,” he writes. “Even though first impressions are crucial, you never know which input is going to generate the first impression that matters.”

What does this mean? In general, that every impression counts because you never know which one’s going to be the one that lasts. To ensure that the first impression people get is always great, focus on authenticity—when your business comes from a place of authenticity, so will your marketing campaigns. Godin counsels to find the kernel of truth at the core of your business and build your communications from there, rather than layering palatable but vague—or even inaccurate—brand messages on top. The bottom line is that it’s exhausting and useless to stress yourself out by creating the perfect impression, so focus on your core values and on integrity instead.

This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See

This is Marketing shows you how to do work you're proud of, whether you're a tech startup founder, a small business owner, or part of a large corporation. Great marketers don't use consumers to solve their company's problem; they use marketing to solve other people's problems. Their tactics rely on empathy, connection, and emotional labor instead of attention-stealing ads and spammy email funnels. No matter what your product or service, this book will help you reframe how it's presented to the world, in order to meaningfully connect with people who want it.


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