Friday, October 16, 2009

Channeling Seth Godin

SethGodin-2007 If you’re a small, unknown company with a new product, how do you connect with customers?  How can they come to know, like, and trust you when they’ve never heard of you; why should they choose you over established competitors?

As I build my own business and counsel my clients, this question looms large.

Seth Godin is a new media marketing evangelist with intriguing answers.  as I watch his presentations and listen to his interviews, I’ve taken away three ideas that really resonate.

  1. Find a niche small enough for you to be the best.

What group of people would think of you as their first, best, and natural solution when they have a problem?  Who shares your interests and passions; who forms a natural community of people committed, in the same way that you are, to your vision of change?

The adventuresome and the forgotten are a natural constituency, people who find believe that their problems are not a mainstream concern. 

      2.    Find a way to stand out.

The way to be known is to be demonstrably the best, to be unconventional, to be able to upset the established order of things.  I have always preferred to compete on understanding the problem, creating solutions that perform, and being first to the market.

If you can keep a sense of energy, style. and fun, while avoiding taking yourself too seriously, I think it’s a plus (see Richard Branson: quite mad, but quite effective).

      3.   Form a tribe.

Find a way to gather people together who are dissatisfied with the way things are and who are as committed to change as you are.  Be willing to provide a forum, bring them together, and to lead a movement.

Old media was about grabbing and holding people’s attention while hitting them repeatedly with the value proposition.  But Godin suggests that providing a forum to connect people is a better approach: they will find you and, if you solve their problem, their word of mouth will draw in others. (This was also the strategy of Marshall Ganz, who created Obama’s affinity strategy for organizing volunteers)

Seth_Godin 2 I’m a small company; my best client has four people.  There isn’t money or time for either of us to follow a traditional marketing plan.  But what each of us needs is a core of committed,well-served customers with focused needs that we can solve better than anyone. 

Putting that principal into practice has absorbed a lot of my reflective time and discussion the past few weeks.

Progress comes from doing small experiments to try out promising ideas, then measuring the results and adapting to the opportunities (or cutting the losses).  So, I’ve created a couple of well-defined interest groups in social media centers. Interestingly, people have spontaneously come to join.

I’m not sure how you would apply it to, say, running a flower shop, but I do like the way it shapes finding constructive approaches to connecting our solutions to customers.  And it actually seems to have some validity in practice.

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