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Friday, June 25, 2010

8 Transformational Leadership Lessons From Seth Godin


Yesterday in Boston, author and speaker Seth Godin took the stage at John Hancock Hall. The event was part of a tour to promote his new book, Linchpin, and several members of the HubSpot team attended the morning half of the event.  The morning focused on Godin speaking and making his case for change.
What was the key takeaway from these few hours? All of Godin’s ideas and books can be condensed into one simple word: Permission. After listening to Godin discuss a variety of subjects, ranging from the current economic revolution to the failures of higher education, one thing is clear. The man is completely obsessed with permission.

The Two Sides of Permission

Godin uses permission in two vastly different ways to address his points.  It is clear through books like Permission Marketing and Tribes as well as his talk today that he believes effectively marketing to people in today’s culture requires their expressed permission.  An individual or company needs the permission of a group or tribe of people to be able to join and then eventually conduct commerce with the group.
Godin’s other focus of permission is positioned sharply on the other side. While individuals and companies need permission to market products and services outside the company, to make great products, or “art,” as he calls it, employees need to do great work without waiting for permission.  He maintains that most people are great at doing what they are told, but not good at solving problems that everyone else is afraid to solve. He believes that successful companies in the future will be filled with employees who don’t wait for permission and instead tackle the tough problems head-on.

Impossible and Perfect

Impossible and perfect are the two biggest principles stopping people from progressing, says Godin. Industries at certain times are perfect. For example, record companies in the 1970s. During this time, demand for their product was huge. They had free advertising through radio and a strong hold on distribution. Today, the record industry is in shambles because its time of perfection has passed.
Problems seem perfect because they can’t be solved. Revolutions create opportunities for things that seem impossible. For example, when Henry Ford first sought to mass produce the automobile, it was viewed as an impossible task. The balance between impossible and perfect is what stops individuals and organizations from seeing opportunities in front of them. Godin believes we are in the middle of the biggest economic revolution in history.
He explains that now you don’t need a big office building and a large company to create and distribute a product and build a successful business. Instead, he argues that today we need connections and problem solving skills to build great companies. There is no map in this economic revolution. Value today is created by solving a problem no one has solved before.  It is easy to copy others, but the challenge is building your own map.

8 Marketing Lessons From Seth Godin

1. Spamming People Doesn’t Work Like it Used To – People who spam others have determined that it doesn’t pay for itself like it used to. If you look at companies that are growing (e.g. Zappos), they don’t do a lot of advertising.  They do just a little bit of advertising to keep their investors happy, but have realized that personalized messages will always do better than spam.
2. People Like Doing What Other People Are Doing – We like to be like each other. People strive to fit in and find their own groups, so marketers who facilitate this will win.
3. Ideas That Spread Win, and Free Ideas Spread Best – Godin explained that he made more money by giving away his book, Idea Virus, than he made on his previous New York Times best-seller. Free ideas create demand, and demand can always be monetized.
4. Remarks Make Something Remarkable – When people comment on something, then it is remarkable. The old model, which focuses on companies making average products for average people, is not remarkable. Companies that aren’t remarkable can’t grow quickly.  By making products worth talking about, then companies can become remarkable.
5. What We Make and How We Make It Has Changed – In today’s economy, people are buying experiences and conversations. Godin provided the example of LittleMissMatched, a company that sells unmatched socks that provide a point of interest and conversation for young girls.
6. You Have the Opportunity to Lead a Tribe – Tribes exist today, and they’re looking for leaders. You don’t have to have charisma to be a leader. Leading gives leaders charisma. The internet is the ultimate extension of communication to help organize tribes. Don’t waste time trying to convert non-fans; instead, work to strengthen existing tribes.
7. Lots of Alternatives Exist – Choices are now rampant, so people or companies that are perceived as the best or the leaders are more successful. People have been trained to be good at a lot of things, but not to be the best at one niche skill. Difficult opportunities are the ones worth doing.
8. Don’t Be Afraid to Be Indispensible – Lots of opportunities exist to be a linchpin, but most people and companies are scared of being great and indispensible because it’s hard and scary. By overcoming this fear, marketers can become critical to business success.

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