5 important marketing lessons to learn from Seth Godin

5 important marketing lessons to learn from Seth Godin


This week I hosted the first online meeting of Think Differently: The Book Club - with Seth Godin’s latest bestseller ‘THIS Is Marketingtaking centre stage. I’ve long been a fan of Seth and his thinking around everything brand and marketing, in fact one of his first books ‘Purple Cow: Transform Your Business By Being Remarkable’ was one of the inspirations behind The Branding Man, and I’m currently studying towards becoming a podcast expert through his Podcasting Fellowship. For those of you unfamiliar with his work ‘THIS Is Marketing’ is a great introduction and has already been touted as ‘the first and last book you'll ever need to buy on marketing’. Here I share my thoughts on the most important lessons to be taken by us all in our quest to stand out in an increasingly noisy and competitive world.

1. Stop looking for shortcuts, and start normalising behaviours

Our lives are constantly in a state of interruption. Distraction. A lack of focus. It’s never been easier for us to ‘push’ something in front of someone. But as marketers we often choose strategies that provide a shortcut. That spam. That help us to think that we are welcome in someone’s space. When we have an inbox filling up, and demands from those we work with to make things happen (and fast!) it’s easy to take a band aid approach and revert to traditional ‘spray and pray’ methods of marketing. If instead, we need to take time to make real change happen. As Seth says:

“Marketers don’t make average stuff for average people. Marketers make change. And they do it by normalising new behaviours.”

2. Think like a teacher when it comes to understanding your audience

When I think back to my time as a secondary school teacher, in addition to teaching my subject, I spent a lot of time pitching it against others, especially at the key moments of choice - GCSEs and A levels in particular. As a non-core curriculum subject my students had to choose to study it beyond the age of 14, which means I had to sell it, by answering a question thrown at me every single day: what’s the point?

Now arguably, there were many things on the curriculum that I taught where I was asking myself the very same question, but this became my first taste of marketing, and a shift in perspective that Godin highlights when he suggests thinking about our ‘customers’ as our ‘students. And I’d agree. When we work to understand and create content that addresses the needs of those we seek to serve, we think problem first, and focus on providing solutions.

“If you had a chance to teach us, what would we learn? If you had a chance to learn, what would you like to be taught?”

3. Know what makes a good story

It’s no secret that I am a fan of story telling, even more so after recently finishing the fantastic autobiography ‘Becoming’ from the inspirational Michelle Obama. The hidden power of stories is that they have the ability to take us somewhere. On a journey. If you are a professional working in marketing or branding then you are in the business of selling feelings, status and connections, taking your target audience from one emotional state to another. Stories also present an opportunity for you to deepen their understanding of your unique value, and to build brand loyalty.

“If all you do is offer an alternative, that’s a low-risk path. Take it or leave it.”

4. Embrace your ‘super-users’ with open arms

One of the first things that I did when tasked with launching EY’s apprenticeship programme back in 2011 was setting up a series of focus groups with the school leavers who had already joined the business. I’ve done exactly the same with my latest client who is about to launch a pilot for a new version of an existing leadership programme. Why? Because they’d already made the decision to ‘buy’ their product. The job. The dreams that go with the job. They’re also the ones that are more than likely already sharing their experiences, warts and all, within their networks. After all, we now live in a world where everyone likes to share, however, interestingly where we work often appears to be the one place we don’t always add a filter.

And that’s just one interpretation I’ve made of Godin’s ‘super-users’ - the people you find who readily choose to adopt your cause. Several of my own super-users are probably reading this right now (thank you again for your support), and I know one of them joined them for the discussion around this book. Marketing and branding is about relationship-building. And that’s why i’m always keen to give back, when others give to me.

“Some customers are worth more than others.”

5. You need to earn the attention of your audience, not buy it

Which brings me to my final thought, around earning permission. It takes hard work. You need to show up everyday. Add value. Contribute. Time and time again. I’ve worked now worked in my industry for over 10 years and am a recognised expert in my field. That did not happen over night. It required hard work, effort and a passion for what I do (amongst other things). It was what gave me the confidence to leave my career behind and to pivot towards a new journey as a business owner. The time I’ve spent showing up since 2008 has in many ways given me the permission I needed to speak with authority on the subject of employer branding. It’s given me an audience who listens, who pay attention by choice and who contribute back, and share. An audience who is helping me to grow my business because they believe in what I have to say. I could rely on paying for ‘likes’ but I won’t. I’ve chosen to curate an experience that adds value, and I’d encourage you to consider doing the same.

It’s easy to add to the noise, but more effective when you turn up the volume by all speaking from the same page.

(Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash)


Next meeting:
Wednesday 27th March, 7.30pm
(via Zoom online)

Our next meeting will take place on the evening of Wednesday 27th March, where we will be discussing Daniel Pink’s bestseller ‘To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Persuading, Convincing, and Influencing Others’ - don’t forget to buy your copy and start reading!


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