Archive for the ‘Seth Godin’ Tag

Iconoclasm

Perhaps the key to our present economic dilemma is the good old “Think Globally, Act Locally.”  The phrase has been around for a while, but we’ve yet to really learn its meaning.

Seth Godin, in his infinite practicality, wrote yesterday, If you act small and think big, you are too small to fail. You won’t need a bailout because your business makes sense each and every day. You won’t need a bailout because your flat organization (no matter how large it is) knows about problems long before they’re too big to deal with.”

Trouble is, the idea of wealth as material gain will not be satisfied with acting locally. World dominion is the only dream of big business. The moguls seek horizontal growth, as far as it can possibly reach, and see little value in vertical digging in. More customers is the obsession of big business; deepening the relationship with current customers rarely if ever happens.

How much we are like children! Though we may suspect that world dominion is not only unsustainable but even undesirable, it’s contrary to human nature to turn away from big sparkly things. Give a child a toy that makes noises and lights up and he will learn to scorn the simple sticks and boxes that were his previous delights. But we’ve also learned that playing with everyday objects is far more nourishing to intelligence, creativity, and soul in general than the plastic do-it-for-you toys.

The issues of our time require evolutionary change. We are being called upon to improve the state of humanity on Earth. We are growing up into a time when childishness and selfishness will no longer suffice. It’s time to put away our toys, to devise truly sacred dreams, not merely ambitious ones. It’s time to leave behind the icons of material wealth and create gods that more honestly reflect the human spirit.

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Making vs. marketing

If art is a harmonizing of opposing forces, doing business in today’s economy is a very fine art indeed.  Consider these parallel thoughts put out by important bloggers last week:

Seth Godin: “Great publicity is a treasured gift. But it’s hardly necessary, and the search for it is often a significant distraction …for just about every product, service or company, the relentless quest for media validation doesn’t really pay. If you get it, congratulations. If you don’t, that’s just fine. But don’t break the bank or your timetable in the quest.”

And then those amazing folks at 37 signals, quoting Robert Stephens of Geek Squad in A Geek’s Guide to Great Service: “Marketing is a tax you pay for being unremarkable.”

On one hand, business views marketing as a given, and if you don’t get your brand out there in a big way you’re invisible.  On the other hand, the core truth is that all the marketing in the world won’t help if your product’s no good. 

In the end, all successful marketing is viral.  A good idea will be talked about.  A mediocre idea will be ignored.  People are sociable, gregarious, and love to share the latest cool thing they’ve discovered. 

The point is that 99% of your energy in business needs to concentrate on your product.  Giving marketing any more than a tiny fraction of your time is spinning wheels.  You might be able to charm a few into buying your less-than-adequate product, but the illusion won’t last.  

If you think of marketing as communication, as opposed to trickery or snake charming, you’ll be on the right track.  The key is to be so involved with your making, your product, and passionate about the ways it helps people, that sharing the details is a natural extension of your enthusiasm.

“Truth that resonates”

Not so very long ago, while still in JOB land, I had the assignment to go deliver a talk to a men’s group at the country club.  Driven by my organization’s mission, I was eager to share with as many others as possible, and happily accepted the opportunity.  The gents were cordial enough, and as we dined together I even had a couple of relatively intelligent conversations.  I had a speech planned, and launched confidently into it at the appointed time.  Big mistake.

My speech was serious and passionate.  These guys were mostly half-drunk (and one or two were six sheets gone).  They wanted lighthearted and sexy; I was giving them profound and fierce.  Still, it wasn’t til I was almost done, and caught one of the crowd making obvious signals of distaste to the chairman that I realized no one had heard my message at all.  I had bored and disgusted them, and I left mortified.

Our amazing soothsayer, Seth Godin, came up with this capper yesterday: “Negative or positive, the challenge isn’t just to tell the truth. It’s to tell truth that resonates.”

Giving speeches is tricky, because one wants to prepare, but the capacity to adapt your presentation to the audience must be improvisational.  It’s all about empathy and careful listening.  While staying true to the content of your message, you have to communicate it in language appropriate to the moment.   At ten in the morning, those guys at the country club may have been able to consider what I was saying.  After drinks and dinner at the club, it was simply not a possibility.

Whatever you are promoting, you must care about in your heart.  And then you must forget it, and focus on potential clientele with all your wide open compassion.  Connections between them and your offering will then bubble up naturally enough.  Sticking to your rehearsed agenda can end up being an embarrassing waste of breath.

Whistling in the wind

“The tragic mistake of demographics and media planning is that they overlook the single most important issue: is the person you’re talking to ready to listen?”  – Seth Godin, about a week ago.  As usual, he has a knack for getting straight to the crux of the biscuit.

All my talk about personal branding and knowing your own special gifts is actually for personal benefit and will impact others only if they’re ready to listen.  The teacher arrives only when the student is ready.  You make thrilling discoveries and want to share your good news with others, but you experience only glazed over eyes and polite, dismissive smiles.

Or maybe you blog with passion and dedication but you’re simultaneously aware that no one is listening.  The true power of blogs lies in the comments, and you know this, but no one’s talking.

I believe there are two benefits to this reality.  One, knowing that your discoveries may well not translate to anyone else keeps you humble.  Your discoveries add to your personal riches, but do not automatically add to your power in the world.  You may, for instance, broadcast the benefits of using drawing in business communications, but you must not expect that anyone will be able to hear you.  The lack of popular understanding should in no way diminish your momentum; you must still speak your truth.  Just don’t do so in the hope of instant admiration.

The other benefit to whistling in the wind, speaking to deaf ears, or blogging for no one is that the lack of a dependent audience relieves you of social responsibility.  You are not speaking or blogging for anyone’s benefit but your own.  This doesn’t make it easier, because you’re even more challenged to discover truth as opposed to artificiality.  If you can’t count on your fellow humans for feedback and understanding, you’ll be looking to the spirit for guidance, which is what we should all be doing anyway.  You’re alone with the Divine, not a bad place to be.

Balancing act

So, despite all tangents, I’m considering the concepts and practices of branding, in these writings over the past couple weeks.  It seems to me that when you align your brand perfectly with your passion you have achieved success. 

 

When the way you are perceived is the same as the way you think of yourself, you are a happy person.

 

Until you find that sweet equilibrium between your natural urges and the outside world, you are constantly in turmoil.  You know you’re special, but your image is average.  You have a passion for painting, but you spend all your time at work.  You are an expert bicyclist, but everyone knows you as the insurance guy.  It can configure in the other direction, as well:  you’re well respected and powerful, but you harbor an inner self hatred; you have a great job that brings valuable benefits, but an insistent whisper suggests you hit the road.

 

Most of us live most our lives walking this tightrope.  Few actually figure out the balance.  But all of us could work harder at it.  We know that the happier we are, the happier others are around us.  It’s the compassionate thing to work at finding your particular balance in life.

 

Young people and older workers who have given up ambition don’t pay much attention to branding; it’s us middle-agers, struggling to get past Seth Godin’s infamous Dip who concern ourselves with such ultimate challenges.  It’s desperation tactics by a generation that has tried everything else.  It’s the best way we can invent to find our place on this globe.

 

But I’d surely love to convince a few young people or hopeless workers to start considering what their brand might be.  By getting an early start, greater balance may perhaps be achieved; and, on the other hand, it is certainly better late than never.  If everyone is working on developing their brand, I believe we can build a stronger society, a culture characterized by self-knowledge and sharing. 

Obedience and change

“Obedience works fine on the well-organized, standardized factory floor. But what happens when we start using our heads, not our hands, when our collars change from blue to white?”  So questions Seth Godin in his blog this morning.  Such an essential query for all Americans these days. 

I’m reminded of a pertinent quote from Peter Maurin of Catholic Worker fame:  “Industrialism has released the artist from the necessity of making anything useful.  Industrialism has also released the workman from making anything amusing.”  

Though we are hugely indebted to the Industialists for the technological and social advances it provided, we’re also suffering from a serious lack of personal creativity resulting from Industrialism’s ‘obedience.’   On one hand, we’re sorely lacking in self-knowledge; on the other, we lust after a ‘four-hour work week’ and believe we’re entitled to privilege without perspiration.

In my work as a virtual assistant, I’m accutely aware of this phenomenon in the many young people attempting to set up in the business without first gaining skills and experience.  Our current awareness of changing economies and our suspicion that Henry Ford’s ideas are indeed out of date can lead to an unwarranted hubris.  The individual is indeed valuable in his/her uniqueness, and capable of maximizing strengths in a lucrative way.  But the development of personal creativity is an in-depth process, not an instant one.  We have a long way to go before we regain the innovative skills of our pioneering, pre-Industrialist forebears.

When ‘obedience’ goes out of style, chaos is sure to ensue for a time, at least.  Achieving peace and productivity beyond the chaos is possible through serious, dedicated, not-always-pleasant self-investigation and development.

 

Being Remarkable

I attended a webcast the other day with marketing guru Seth Godin (Meatball Sundae) and other experts.  The message there, as well as in so much that I read these days, is that all the tricks of SEO are fast becoming obsolete.  Though some have managed to manipulate the internet to their purposes through technicalities, and achieved high rankings, those days are coming to an end.  Search engines aim to satisfy search results as directly as possible; sites that only peripherally pertain to keywords entered can no longer gain the upper hand.  As ever, Content is King.

The term Godin used quite a bit was “remarkable.”  If you want to succeed, you must be remarkable.  Your website, blogs, articles and other methods you use to attract attention will be of little use unless the content of your offerings is “remarkable,” unless you can manage to stand out from the crowd through your expertise.

Plus ca change …. It has ever been thus, hasn’t it?  The web, after all, does little to make us rich quick.  The onus we bear is as it ever was … we must identify and maximize our true strengths to be successful.  Rather than relieving us of the responsibility to work hard and achieve, the web actually reinforces this basic ethic.

How can we do this?  How can we be “remarkable?”  It’s a lot to ask of any individual. 

So we come round again to creativity.  In practicing creativity, we do not seek to be remarkable – rather the opposite – but the great gift of creativity is that through faithful practice, it reveals the ways in which we are remarkable.  It’s the instrument we’re given for moving beyond mere survival, beyond the mundane, beyond unquestioning servitude to the greatness we each are born to realize.