The Best of Seth Godin: The Best Seth has Written or Said

On October 25, 2016 By thesuccessmanual Topic: Remarkable, Quotes, Book summary, Mba

This guide belongs to 100 Ways To Be Being Remarkable  Series, a special project that brings you business and self-development advice from The Success Manual.

Seth Godin is the author of six bestsellers, including Permission Marketing, an Amazon Top 100 bestseller for a year and a Fortune Bestseller.  Apart from this colection of Seth Godin's wisdom, you will also find Seth's advice in various chapters in The Success Manual, online as well as in the e-book version.

Looking at Seth's vast creative output, I have decided to summarize from his 3 books only, Unleasing the Ideavirus, The Bootstrapper's Bible and Purple Cow.


Seth's Other Important Books

Tribes:  Where he touches upon the importance of creating a committed group of supporters of your project, this is especially true for website founders.
Permission Marketing: The importance of earning the permission of your audience before you sell something. If you don’t do that, you might not get the kind of results that you will get with permission.
The Dip: Teaches people, especially in the creative industries when to quit and when to stick.
Linchpin: His latest book, where he urges us all to “be” artists - be a Linchpin rather than a cog in the wheel.

Seth's Philosophy
Godin’s ideology combines three elements. First, the end of the TV-Industrial complex means that marketers no longer have the power to command the attention of anyone they choose, whenever they choose. Second, in a marketplace in which consumers have more power, marketers must show more respect; this means no spam, no deceit and a bias for keeping promises. Finally, Godin asserts that the only way to spread the word about an idea is for that idea to earn the buzz by being remarkable. Godin refers to those who spread these ideas as "Sneezers", and to the ideas so spread as "IdeaViruses".

Seth Godin calls a remarkable product or service a purple cow and he enunciated the idea in a book with the same name, Purple Cow.

Seth Godin's Best Quotes
Companies have no clue. They view customer feedback as a cost and a threat, not an opportunity…

If an ad falls in the forest and no one notices, there is no ad.

“Selling to people who actually want to hear from you is more effective than interrupting strangers who don't,”

"All Marketers are Liars"

“If you can’t state your position in eight words or less, you don’t have a position.”

"Small is the new big."

Sneezers - people who spread idea (brand) viruses around. These are the super-social, the style-leaders, the super-nodes.

If someone in your organization is charged with creating a Purple Cow, leave them alone! Don’t use internal reviews and usability testing to figure out if the new product is as good as what you’ve got now. Instead, pick the right maverick and get out of the way.

“Give up control and give it away, ... The more you give your idea away, the more your company is going to be worth.”

If you don't promote it, no one will. If you don't have a better strategy than, "Let's get on Oprah" you should stop now. If you don't have an asset already--a permission base of thousands or tens of thousands of people, a popular blog, thousands of employees, a personal relationship with Willard Scott... then it's too late to start building that asset once you start working on a book.
- advice for writers

On Belief
People don't believe what you tell them.
They rarely believe what you show them.
They often believe what their friends tell them.
They always believe what they tell themselves.

Considered to be one of the most downloaded books of all time, the book says that Interrupting people is an inefficient approach to marketing, and one doomed to failure. Instead marketers should strive to spread ideas.

An Ideavirus is an idea that moves and grows and infects everyone it touches. An Ideavirus is based on customers marketing to each other.

The book refers to hives and sneezers. Hives are the groups of people to whom the idea has some specific relevance, sneezers are the people likely to spread your idea. A successful Ideavirus requires the sneezers and weezers infecting the hive.

There are two types of sneezers: the promiscuous sneezers and the powerful sneezers.
The promiscuous can be motivated by money and rewards to sell ideas to a hive. The powerful sneezers are typically those who have established authority by setting a trend and cannot be bought. A powerful sneezer can be worth many more times a promiscuous sneezer.

Two effective ways of spreading an Ideavirus are thus to reward promiscuous sneezers e.g. The Amazon affiliate program. Or make it easy for powerful sneezers to recommend your idea e.g. Digg/ tags.

Another tactic is to go entirely viral in nature. The more a product is used the better it becomes and spreads. Fax machines, e-mail and Polaroid did this.

The IdeaVirus Formula: An Ideavirus formula comprises a combination of eight variables. There are Sneezers, Hive, Velocity, Vector, Medium, Smoothness, Persistence and Amplifier.


Seven things that can give you tremendous advantages over big businesses in launching a new business.
1. NOTHING TO LOSE. This is huge. Your biggest advantage.
3. Direct CEO handling. Less scope of miscommunication.
5. THE UNDERDOG. Consumers love to root for the underdog.
7. TIME. You can ship when you are ready.

What small companies don’t have
1. Distribution.
2. Access to Capital
3 Brand Equity.
4. Customer Relationships..
5. Great , experienced employees.

1. Distribution: Where is it sold to the ultimate consumer? What middlemen are involved?
2. Sales: Who is selling it for you and how are will they be compensated?
3. Pricing: What do wholesalers and retailers and consumers pay?
4. Production: How do you make it?
5. Raw Materials: Where do you get what you sell?
6. Positioning: How do the ultimate users position the product in their minds?
7. Marketing: How do consumers find out about it?
8. Barrier to entry: How will you survive when competitors arrive?
9. Scalability: How do you make it bigger?

Five attributes of good business models

1. They should be profitable.
2. They should be ‘protectable’: e.g. patents, barriers to entry.
3. They should be self-priming: e,g, people don’t need to buy other things to be able to use your product.
4. They should be adjustable: e.g. have a Plan B, Plan C.
5. There should be an optional exit strategy: when a partner or investor wants to exit the venture.

Successful bootstrappers often use a proven business model.

Four essential distribution & sales questions
1. Who is going to buy your product or service (called product for brevity from here on in)?
2. How much are they going to pay for it?
3. Where will they find it?
4. What is the cost of making one sale?

Do not plan too much.
Because there is no certain of saying how your business will work.

Numbers bootstrappers care about:
Cash in this month:
Cash out this month:
Money in the bank right now:
At the current rate, how many months until no cash left:

Rules for borrowing
1. Don’t borrow money just to cover expenses.
2. Try to avoid personal borrowing at all costs.
3. When you borrow money from friends, spell out the terms.

Two most important sales rules
1. Sell something people want to buy (and know how to buy).
2. Own the Sales Process: because people with power in business are the ones who do the most buying and who do most sales.

Two most important things you can do when hiring people are:
1. Make sure you have a precise, written description of both what the person is to accomplish and the attitudes and behaviors you want to see.
2. Hire people quickly, but hire everyone with a 60-day trial period. If a person isn’t adding enough value to your company, swallow the pain and ask him to leave. By doing that, you .ll feel far less pain than you would in the long run by keeping that person.

Rule 1: Find people who care about cash less than you do: For example, tap your suppliers and customers.
Rule 2: Survival is success.
Rule 3: Success leads to more success: Now, you have cash, reputation, a credit rating and a user base.
Rule 4: Redo the mission statement and business plan every 3 months.
Rule 5: Associate with winners: customers, employees, vendors and peers.
Rule 6: Beware of shared ownership: A 50/50 split is almost never fair. Inevitably, feels cheated. And someone goes for the ride. Don’t give much value to idea alone. It is execution that matters. Spell things out clearly at start. Match compensation with performance. Never confuse profit participation with governance.
Rule 7: Advertise. Spend regularly. Persist at it. Be clear, Test and measure.
Rule 8: Get mentored.
Rule 9: Partner with big corporations

The "Purple Cow" is essentially something remarkable.

Instead of trying to use your technology & expertise to make a better product for your users' standard behavior, experiment with inviting the users to change their behavior to make the product work dramatically better.

If a product's future's unlikely to be remarkable - if you can't imagine a future in which people are once again fascinated by your product - it's time to realize that the game has changed. Instead of investing in a dying product, take profits & reinvest them in building something new.

It's not an accident that some products catch on & some don't. When an idea-virus occurs, it's often because all the viral pieces work together. How smooth & easy is it to spread your idea? How often will people sneeze it to their friends? How tightly knit is the group you're targeting - do they talk much? Do they believe each other? How reputable are the people most likely to promote your idea? How persistent is it - is it a fad that has to spread fast before it dies, or will the idea have legs (& thus you can invest in spreading it over time)? Put all of your new product developments through this analysis, and you'll discover which ones are most likely to catch on. Those are the products & ideas worth launching.

Differentiate your customers. Find the group that's most profitable. Find the group that's most likely to sneeze. Figure out how to develop/advertise/reward either group. Ignore the rest. Your ads (& products!) shouldn't cater to the masses. Your ads (& products) should cater to customer s you'd choose if you could choose your customers.

Make a list of competitors who're not trying to be everything to everyone. Are they outperforming you? If you could pick 1 underserved niche to target (and to dominate), what would it be? Why not launch a product to compete w/ your own - a product that does nothing but appeal to this market?

What tactics does your firm use that involve following the leader? What if you abandoned them & did something very different instead? If you acknowledge that you'll never catch up by being the same, make a list of ways you can catch up by being different.

What would happen if you gave the marketing budget for your next 3 products to the designers? Could you afford a world-class architect/designer/sculptor/director/author?

What could you measure? What would that cost? How fast could you get the results? If you can afford it, try it. "If you measure it, it will improve."

Are you making very good stuff? (as opposed to remarkable) How fast can you stop?

Buy a bottle of Dr. Bronner's. Now, working w/ your factory & your designers, Bronnify a variation of 1 of your products.

How could you modify your product/service so that you'd who up on the next episode of SNL or in a spoof of your industry's trade journal?

Do you have the e-mails of the 20% of your customer base that loves what you do?
If not, start getting them. If you do, what could you make for these customer s that would be super-special?

Could you make a collectible version of your product?

What would happen if you took 1 or 2 seasons off from the new product grind & reintroduced wonderful classics instead?
What sort of amazing thing could you offer in the 1st season you came back (with rested designers)?

Go to a sci-fi con. These are pretty odd folks. Do you appeal to an audience as wacky & wonderful as this one? How could you create one?

Where does your product end & marketing hype begin? Can you redefine what you sell in a ~ way to Dutch Boy?

Do you have a slogan or positioning statement or remarkable boast that's actually true? Is it consistent? Is it worth passing on?

If you're in an intangibles business, your business card's a big part of what you sell. What if everyone in your company had to carry a 2nd business card? Something that actually sold them (and you). Something remarkable.

If someone in your organization's charged w/ creating a new Purple Cow, leave them alone! Don't use internal reviews & usability testing to figure out if the new product's as good as what you've got now. Instead, pick the right maverick & get out of the way.

All of a sudden, it's obvious why you need a permission asset. Give people an e-mail to write to. Write back. You're on your way.

Go take a design course. Send your designers to a marketing course. And both of you should spend a week in the factory.

Make a list of all the remarkable products in your industry. Who made them? How did they happen? Model the behavior (not mimic the product) and you're more than halfway to making your own.

Is there someone (person/agency) in your industry who has a track record of successfully launching remarkable products? Can you hire them away, or at least learn from their behavior? Immerse yourself in fan mags, trade shows, design reviews - whatever it takes to feel what your fans feel.

Can you create a culture of aggressively prototyping new products & policies? When GM shows a concept car @ the NY Auto Show, there's more than ego involved. They're trying to figure out what car nuts think is remarkable. I'm not pitching focus groups here (they're a waste). I'm talking about very public releases of cheap prototypes.

You're probably guilty of being too shy, not too outrageous. Try being outrageous, just for the sake of being annoying. It's good practice. Don't do it too much 'cuz it doesn't usually work. But it's a good way to learn what it feels like to be @ the edge.

What would happen if you told the truth?

Remarkable isn't always about changing the biggest machine in your factory. It can be the way you answer the phone, launch a new brand, or price a revision to your software. Getting in the habit of doing the "unsafe" thing every time you have the opportunity is the best way to learn to project - you get practice @ seeing what's working & what's not.

If you could build a competitor that had costs that were 30% lower than yours, could you do it? If you could, why don't you?

References available upon request? Nonsense. Your references are your resume. A standard resume is nothing but an opportunity for a prospective employer to turn you down. A sheaf of over-the-top references, on the other hand, begs for a meeting.

Visit Millions of resumes, all in a pile, all waiting for someone to find them. If you're in that pile, it's not a good place to be.
Before you start looking for a job, consider what you could do today so you never have to worry about that.
The big ? is this: Do you want to grow? If you do, you need to embrace the Cow. You can maintain your brand the old way, but the only route to healthy growth is a remarkable product.

Explore the limits. What if you're the cheapest, fastest, slowest, hottest, coldest, easiest, most efficient, loudest, most hated, copycat, outsider, hardest, oldest, newest, the ... most! If there's a limit, you should (must) test it.

Is your product more boring than salt? Unlikely. So come up w/ a list of 10 ways to change the product (not the hype) to make it appeal to a sliver of your audience.

Think small. 1 vestige of the TV-industrial complex is a need to think mass. If it doesn't appeal to everyone, the thinking goes, it's not worth it. No longer. Think of the smallest conceivable market, and describe a product that overwhelms it w/ its remarkability. Go from there.

Outsource. If the factory's giving you a hard time about jazzing up the product, go elsewhere. There are plenty of job shops that would be delighted to take on your product. After it works, the factory will prolly be happy to take the product back.

Build & use a permission asset. Once you've the ability to talk directly to your most loyal customers, it gets much easier to develop & sell amazing things. W/o the filters of advertising, wholesalers, & retailers, you can create products that're far more remarkable.

Copy. Not from your industry, but from any other industry. Find an industry more dull than yours, discover who's remarkable (it wont' take long) and do what they did.

Go 1 more. Or 2 more. Identify a competitor who's generally regarded as @ the edges, & outdo them. Whatever they're known for, do that thing even more. Even better, and even safer, do the opposite of what they're doing.

Find things that are "just not done" in your industry & do them. JetBlue almost instituted a dress code for passengers. They're still playing w/ the idea of giving a free airline ticket to the best dressed person on the plane. A plastic surgeon could offer gift certificates. A book publisher could put a book on sale. Stew Leonard's took the strawberries out of the little green plastic cages & let the customer s pick their own - & sales doubled.

Ask, "Why not?" Almost everything you don't do has no good reason for it. Almost everything you don't do is the result of fear/inertial or a historical lack of someone asking, "Why not?"

- "Purple Cow" by Seth Godin

Also Read Peter Drucker's rules of management

The Best of Guy Kawasaki

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