Seth Godin Teaches Marketing

We’ve reached the end of February, today we’re taking a look at our business read for February, This is Marketing by Seth Godin. I often pick up Seth’s books because they’re easy to read and packed with lots of little and big insights that inspire me, remind me of something, confirm something for me, and of course give insights into being a better business owner and marketer. This book talked about many of the things that I work with my clients on and many of the things I believe can help us make business better for everyone. Let’s take a look at just a few of the lessons in it.

Marketing is about making change happen. It can be evil and it can be used to get people to do bad things like do drugs or steal or send people into foreclosure. But it can also empower people and give them the solutions and support they’re seeking. Marketing gives answers, inspires people to try things, shows what you stand for, activates curiosity, connects people with solutions, and raises awareness. it’s up to us marketers to decide if we’re going to be evil, to spam people, or respect and build on the trust they’re giving us.

Be market driven: this means that your focus is ultimately and primarily on humanity, on people. You remember that you’re marketing to humans, that every customer service interaction is a chance to wow and to care for them, that fear pops up for everyone at different points in time, that you ask people to give you their attention, that everyone is different, and you can do good things for your business by focusing on your true fans, a small audience, rather than those who don’t resonate with your work.

Finally, always be improving. Seth has written many books, and some of the ideas aren’t as applicable as they were when he wrote them. He’s learned things since he wrote his first book, yes, but the bigger impact is on the sheer amount of change that has happened in those years. You can totally go ahead and make something “perfect,” but it’s likely that that thing you make that’s perfect will be outdated or irrelevant in a matter of weeks, months or years, depending on how much transformation is happening in that industry. So instead go ahead and get out there with your well-developed product or service, and back up a not-quite-perfect offering with outstanding customer service that outshines minor imperfections and in-progress work.

What have you learned from Seth Godin?

Assumptions and Honesty

I watch a lot of cop shows. I enjoy some nature and educational programming as well, but my go-to are things like CSI and Cops. More often than not they’re background noise, and I’m not actually watching them, but even with just listening to them as I go in and out of a room or read emails or do paperwork, you learn a lot about the people that we share this world with. I certainly have a greater understanding for the work those who protect and investigate do, and today I thought I’d share a few lessons I’ve learned that we can all apply to our lives and our success.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone run from the cops or commit a crime or lie because they made a false assumption. Sometimes it’s that they think they have a warrant or don’t think they’re that drunk or think someone took a couple of dollars from them, but regardless of what they’re assuming, often they’re wrong. And if they’re not wrong, it’s often something so insignificant their actions end up turning an ant hill into a mountain.

It’s dangerous to let assumptions play too large of a role in your life. They can be helpful in giving you a baseline to work with, but if you choose to operate by assumptions you’ll often end up in trouble or consistently apologizing for being wrong or blowing things out of proportion.

One of the other things that you see occasionally on the shows and you hear about in the news are cops being aggressive. Especially in more recent programing you hear them explain to people why they were so aggressive, and it’s because they want to go home at night. Now, I’m not suggesting at all that violence is the answer or that some in law enforcement aren’t too aggressive, simply that they have a little more leeway than others do when it comes to how they respond towards others.

All of these shows are about people who have lives, want to have lives or want to live. It turns out that that’s what we’re all about too. I assume that I’ll be able to see tomorrow, enjoy food tomorrow, see my partner tomorrow and make a difference in the world tomorrow. It’s an assumption that I’m fairly confident in being able to make, but I just don’t know for 100%. Life truly is a gift, one that can change or be taken from us at any time. If we were to respect each other a little more, listen a little better, be a little more honest, we’d all live a little longer, happier and better.

I’m Not Tired of Love

As we close this month of love this coming week I wanted to share one more thought about love as it has to do with families, communities and relationships. Love comes with challenges and there’s always the potential to be hurt by love. But I believe that it’s worth the risk. Love should teach us many things, it should make our lives richer and more fulfilling, it should give us support and encouragement through life’s challenges, and should create rewarding opportunities and relationships.

The one thing love should not do is make us bitter, unhappy, or tired. Yes, sometimes we’ll feel that way because of other aspects of our lives, but love itself should not make us feel that way. If you really feel bitter or unhappy about a relationship that you thought was love, it probably wasn’t love, or isn’t love anymore. Love, like many other things in our lives often changes and grows and goes through seasons, some of which will be more challenging or less invigorating, but generally it should be one of the more consistently positive aspects of your life.

Overall you should be sustained through the more difficult times both regarding your love life as well as the rest of your life. Love should make us want to share the good with the world, to help others have what we have, to turn the tide from the negative to the positive. Love should inspire us to live full lives, lives that make a positive impact on each of us and the world around us.

If you’re not feeling inspired, maybe it’s time for a talk with your significant other and family. Maybe you need to get serious about what’s going on with you personally and relationally.  Maybe it’s time for some changes.  Life shouldn’t consistently drag us down, and when it does we should have the support in our lives to get back on our feet.

On the other side of that, if you’re doing well or even thriving, it’s your turn to be a support for someone else and give them a helping hand.  Everyone needs a little helping hand from time to time, and a reminder that there’s still love in the world.

In the Business of Data and Privacy

On many of the lists that came out in the beginning of this year regarding the direction that business will take this year was the topic of privacy. Last year saw a number of data issues, and an increase in people being more aware of the digital decisions they’re making. More emails, more social posts, more audio, more content of all kinds is being created every day, and on an increasing pace. Today I thought we’d talk about data, privacy, and how all of it ties into ads and marketing.

Whether we’re talking personal or professional, no one really wants their information stolen. So it goes without saying that people and businesses need to be more conscious of the information they’re putting out into the world, that protections are improving and kept updated, and that people’s information is respected and not taken advantage of when information is shared.

From a marketing and business perspective I think it’s great that we’ve got so much data to tap into, it gives us the ability to spend our marketing dollars smarter because we’re able to tap into the people we want to target and not those who would never buy from us. The other side of it is that we have to be more respectful than ever of the information we’re given or able to tap into, because it’s easier for trust to be broken and for us to lose a potential life-long customer because we spammed them or were disrespectful of their trust.

From a customer perspective, they’re still willing to provide their information, as long as there’s a clear reward and their information and privacy is respected. It’s one reason why it’s so important to have not only an unsubscribe button in all emails but also a link that will allow them to update or remove information including email address and physical address. If you’re requiring information more than name and email up front, make it clear why you’re requiring that information, and consider if it’s really necessary at that moment or if you’re just trying to squeeze information from them.

So what are your thoughts as a business and a consumer when it comes to data and information? What is your company doing to help protect your customers and take advantage of the information that’s available?

Wisdom from Washington

Today is President’s Day in the US, it’s also George Washington’s birthday, so today as both the first president and his birthday, I thought we’d take a look at some insights and wisdom from Washington’s life.

One of the first things that people think of when they think of Washington is that he was the first president of the US. Whether he was the best ever or the most innovative doesn’t really matter, it matters that he was brave enough to step up and take on that responsibility and opportunity.  Firsts aren’t always the best, but someone has to be willing to step up and take on that chance if we ever want to get to something great.

One of the other things people think about with regard to Washington is the story of the cherry tree. In the story Washington is asked if he cut down a cherry tree and it’s said that he says that he can’t tell a lie and subsequently he admits that he did chop down the cherry tree. While no one ever tells the truth all of the time, and whether or not that story is true, it is a theme for Washington, because he said “Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light.”

In line with being truthful, I want to end by talking about the topic of the day which is ultimately leadership. Washington said: “I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.” President or not each of us have a choice with how we lead our lives, and the character with which we live and interact with others. If Washington is as upstanding of a man as most believe him to be, what statement would he make about your character?

Which president or leader are you considering on this President’s Day?

An Attentive Partner

This week has been one for the books.  I’ve seen lots of examples of love, and I’m so thankful.  It seems like the world has really stepped up and embraced the topic of love this week, from galentine’s day to pet love to children love to the very traditional meaning behind Valentine’s Day, romantic love.  With Valentine’s Day being on a Thursday this year both my partner and I had very full days and didn’t really celebrate on the day of (a frequent occurrence for holidays because my partner is in both the restaurant and wedding industries).  But that doesn’t mean that we didn’t take time to express our love and remember all of the great years we’ve had together.

I know how challenging it is to keep a relationship alive and healthy, especially for a long time.  I think one of the reasons that relationships don’t last is because we’re used to how fast things change and have to be purchased and aren’t as focused on things lasting forever.  So to then switch to expecting relationships to last for years let alone decades, while we’re not commitment-phobes, it’s a big perspective switch.

Whether you’re interested in having a long term relationship or one that lasts as long as it lasts there are somethings you can do to help that relationship work well.  I talk often about the importance of communication, of course things like having similar interests and hobbies and opinions about things help as well.  The two things I want to focus on today that go hand-in-hand are awareness and attention.

Awareness and attention mean that you’ve got your senses open to your partner and to what’s going on in their life.  If you’re not paying attention to them and what’s going on in their life they may someday feel that they’re not truly wanted by you or that you don’t really care about them.  Being aware of what’s going on doesn’t mean you stalk their social feeds or scroll through their phones each night, it means that you take the time to look at them and listen to them, to know what’s going on in their life and what is affecting them.  It means sharing the little things with them, checking in with them throughout the day, and actively building memories and sharing experiences with them.

Valentine’s Day may be over, but that doesn’t mean that the love should end.  I encourage you to commit to your relationship anew each day, for as many days as you’re blessed to be together.  What have you learned about relationships since last Valentine’s Day?

Customer Service for the Ages

Today I want to talk about customer service, specifically regarding people contacting you or reaching out to you with questions or issues.  Customer service is one of the make-or-break aspects of a company.  They make people love or hate your company.  Depending on how it goes a person may be less likely to buy from you in the future, or at the very least not recommend you to others.

There are one or two companies I absolutely dread reaching out to because it has become consistently increasingly difficult to understand the people I speak with, either on the phone or virtually, and therefore to get my issue solved (I recently had one of them tell me the issue with my account was that I was shipping to 3 locations that are nowhere near any locations I’ve ever shipped to, which I told them was absolute bunk (to be polite), and hung up).

Recently I shared an article about the 55+ demographic and their careers with my newsletter subscribers which got me thinking about how they’re living longer and wanting/needing to stay in the workforce for longer.  Can they be part of the solution to poor customer service?

They have a better grasp of language than most people do, light years better than those who are taught a second or third language for (cheap) customer service purposes.  Many are also very friendly and can add a great level of personal touch to what can be challenging moments.  Many of them have great minds and can be taught to use the computer and knowledge that’s on it to perform the simple tasks that customer service typically deals with.  They can work from any location thanks to today’s technology, and it may even add some extra benefits like increasing socialization and helping with consistent income to help with end-of-life expenses and more.  I would say those are some pretty convincing reasons why you could add some older adults to your customer services.

If you currently outsource your customer service to someone in some other country, I encourage you to consider if you’re really doing your company a service by doing this or if you’re hurting it.  There are ways that you can spread the love through your business and the people you interact with, what are you doing to spread love?

Reality Check Question

Every so often I come across a question that not only makes me think, it’s one that I think you would benefit from considering in your life. Today I’ve got a question that you can apply to many different aspects of your life, from business to personal to relationship to health to success to finance to parenting. Like many good questions it’s open-ended and challenges you to not only consider what is but what could be. Ready?

Is this my reality forever?

I know that I talk about changes, goals and victories all the time, and that’s because they’re a reality for everyone and usually on a very regular basis. But sometimes I think we forget to think beyond the moment, beyond the panic, beyond the frustration, beyond the change. I also think we sometimes get wrapped up in the issues and the downhill roll we may seem to be going through.

Doing a quick check on yourself, your direction and your attitude with this question can help you get perspective and find the motivation and hope to move through your current situation and into a reality you prefer if you’re not happy with your reality. It can also remind you to slow down and enjoy your reality as it is, if it’s something you will likely have only once or twice in your life.

So the next time you start getting wound up or frustrated by life or feel like it’s running past you, I encourage you to stop for a moment and ask “Is this my reality forever?”

A Little Valentine Treat

This week I bought my partner some little pint containers of ice cream. I don’t do it every week, but they were on sale this week and I thought it would be a nice treat for him (and us). We like ice cream, not as much as some people do, like my brother (he buys several gallons at a time), but a night or a couple nights each week it’s a nice treat to have. Over the past few months I’ve gotten some different kinds of ice cream and ice cream treats for my partner to try and he’s enjoyed them, which makes me feel good.

But my favorite part of all of this is when I see my partner going to the kitchen freezer. I love being in the room and hearing or seeing his reaction when he opens the freezer door. I always wait silently while he goes to look and pretend innocence when he asks me with surprised pleasure and happiness how those ice cream treats got there. I love surprising him with them and hearing his excited reactions to finding them. It’s one of the only things I enjoy about our freezer being on top of the fridge: the treats are front and center at eye level when you open the door.

It may not sound like a really big deal to you but it’s these little ways that we care about each other that make a big difference for our relationship. With Valentine’s Day less than a week away, it’s the perfect time for you and your partner to get into a habit of doing nice things for each other, and not just on Valentine’s Day but throughout the year. Relationships aren’t built on one or two days a year alone, they’re built on countless little moments, words, actions and thoughts. Whether those thoughts are positive and empowering or dangerous and hurtful determine the health, longevity and satisfaction of your relationship. What little things will you do this week to show your partner how much they mean to you and how much you value the relationship you two have?

Advice from Edison

This month is the birthday of Thomas Edison. He was an incredible inventor and businessman, and was involved in power generation, communication, sound and motion pictures. He’s famous for his work with the lightbulb and in the US alone he holds over 1,000 patents. He also kept some pretty important company in the business world of the time: Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone. Today I thought we’d take a look at a few things Edison said and how they apply to our businesses and leadership today.

Reinvention, reworking, tweaking and trial and error are key throughout the life of your business:
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Consistently work with a good head on your shoulders:
“The three great essentials to achieve anything worth while are: Hard work, Stick-to-itiveness, and Common sense.”

Perspective and community/teamwork may be the answer:
“Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.”

Don’t just accept things as they are, keep growing:
“There’s a way to do it better – find it.”

Most people are more capable of doing great things than they (or others) may believe they are (are you restricting yourself or your team?):
“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.”

Imagination and creativity are useful for many aspects of business, not just product development:
“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

Business does have a serious side, but laughter and fun are important too, no one is serious all the time:
“I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.”

It’s unlikely that AI or anything else will truly make people obsolete:
“There is far more opportunity than there is ability.”

There’s nothing wrong with taking an idea and developing it beyond where it currently is or giving something your own twist:
“I start where the last man left off.”

There’s getting stuff done and then there’s productivity:
“Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.”

Consistent action and follow through are key:
“The value of an idea lies in the using of it.”

Giving up means you’ve failed, trying something different means you can win:
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

I encourage you to do a little creative inventing in your business this week, don’t just accept things as they have always been.  You never know what value a little brainstorming can reveal.