C-Suite Network™

Stop Trying to Break Through the Noise – A Conversation with Seth Godin

Marketing Strategy

Seth Godin is someone who needs no introduction. His expertise is unparalleled and how he puts it all together is a master class in perfection. He’s one of those names that everyone knows – whether you are a marketer or not. His blog is one of the most popular in the world and he has a top-rated podcast. His books are best-sellers. He’s even a sought-after public speaker and teacher 


Seth is a busy guy, but he was kind enough to spend time with The C-Suite Network during a recent Digital Discussion on all things marketing and business. 


I’ve known Seth for years and have admired the confidence he shows. While Seth says he cares more about what other people think than he lets on, he had an epiphany of sorts 20 years ago. 


“I don’t like disappointing people, but I find that the best way to be a useful contribution is to be specific about who I’m for,” Seth said. 


He continued, “If your motto is, you can pick anyone, and I’m anyone, you’re in big trouble because the number of anyones out there is going up, and they’re easier to find.” Adding, “Too often, we are pushed by outside forces to be anyone. Our mother-in-law or friends or people (who) care about us push us to be normal to be in the middle to be replaceable. The second thing …(you) can’t be specific and be for everyone. At the same time, you got to figure out who you are for. I am here to solve this problem. If you have something else, I will eagerly send you to other people who need what you have, but I’m here for this.” 


But, there’s more to getting the public interested in your product than a splashy advertising campaign. Seth says that’s what marketing was 15 years ago, and those days are gone. 


“Marketing is what we make, how we make it, who we make it with, how diverse the organization is, what the side effects are — all of those things are marketing choices,” Seth said. “So, by my definition, marketers are always ready with a resilient approach because they understand that the future is going to be upside down.” 


My definition of marketing is the inception of the idea, all the way through customer satisfaction. Seth says you should add one step to that, which is “what the satisfied customer tells their boss or their friends.” 


With that in mind, we got into the three steps all marketers should consider with their product.  


“The first step I’ve been talking about for a really long time. You don’t show up in the chat room, have a Zoom call, and post the link over and over again, hoping that someone will accidentally click on it and buy something from you. That’s spam,” Seth asserted. “You don’t burn trust to get attention. That’s a waste. You have to treasure the fact that someone has a moment to engage with you and if it’s not for them in this moment, it’s not for them. You earn permission.” 


“The second one is getting your arms around the idea that you are doing something chronic and persistent over time that marketing is not about tactics or emergencies or making this quarter’s numbers. Marketing is what journey are we on.” 


“The third thing is that it’s all a story. Money is a story. The products we make are a story. What is the story we are telling? What does the lived experience of our contribution to the world look like and feel like? And would they miss us if we were gone? Because if they’re not going to miss you. If you’re gone, then please don’t show up.” 


Another thing you always hear from marketing people are ways to break through the noise. Seth has some harsh advice for those people.


“Please don’t break through the noise,” Seth said. “Breaking through the noise just makes more noise. The tactical approach that many marketers take is not only not working. It’s making the problem worse.” 


But, what about the internet?


 “The internet is not a mass medium. TV is the last mass medium there will ever be. It’s a micro-medium. There is no homepage of the internet. You can’t reach everybody on the internet. It was so easy to reach 30 million people in 1985. You can’t reach 30 million people today. Stop trying.” 


With that in mind, you have to be creative with your approach. If you think being creative is a skill reserved for artists and musicians, Seth believes you need to change your definition. Creativity is the ability to solve interesting problems and that’s part of every c-suite executive’s job. 


“What do CEOs, playwrights, and filmmakers and musicians have in common?” Seth asked. “They don’t wait for the muse to show up and whisper the answer to them. They have a practice. They do it on the regular. They’re able to put things into the world. When they don’t work, they learn from it, and they do it again.” 


He continued, “Mostly, they aren’t hooked on manipulating the outcome. They are instead focused on the process because if you get the process right, you’re on your way to the best possible path to the outcome.” 


I always talk about “failing faster.” You know you’re going to fail eventually, get over it, figure out what you’ve learned, and move on. That will help you “win faster” next time; which according to Seth, is what we need to focus on. To do this, he offers up Simon Sinek’s definition of two types of games — infinite games with a definite winner and loser or infinite games where you’re not trying to win.   


“We have to figure out what game are we playing when we bring our ideas to the world when we hire someone when we do a partnership when we seek to build our institution,” Seth says. “I’m way more interested in playing an infinite game than winning a finite game because the problem with winning a finite game is, they don’t get to play anymore. In a world where they’re trusting, connections are so important if we keep weaving those together. We get to keep playing.” 


In business, I like to keep playing and winning. 


This post barely touches on my conversation with Seth and the Q&A with our members. If you want to hear more about Seth’s new book, “The Practice: Shipping Creative Work,” how his writing career led to becoming a better speaker, and the difference between skillset and talent. This episode of All Business with Jeffrey Hayzlett, is a must-listen. 

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