July 14, 2020

This is marketing by the legendary marketer Seth Godin

I was super excited to receive Seth Godin’s new book ‘This is marketing’ but I have to be honest, when it first came out, it actually was not an immediate buy for me even though I have purchased and own many of Seth Godin’s books in the past. The reason? I just kept thinking that I did not need a book on marketing – it’s one of those things that is an afterthought, an important skill but you cannot market a product or a service if you do not have a good product or service. I also am not a marketer or at a firm that provides marketing services (although sometimes we do that but it isn’t our core business).

What changed for me though is that I see a shift and it is similar to the shift that I saw back when I first graduated university. I saw that the tech industry was booming, even before I graduated and it is one of the reasons why I studied computer science – to take advantage of that boom. Yet, when I graduated, and understanding my own skills and passion for programming and tech, I could not see myself at the top of the tech industry. There were fellow students who finished their programming assignments over the weekend and here was me, struggling to finish the assignment at the last minute before the deadline. I just could not picture myself becoming a top programmer. What I did see though was that there was an opportunity for those in the intersection of business and technology. People that understood technology, understood the business and could translate between the two. Seeing that opportunity made me realize that I needed to develop certain skills. (Liam Neeson voice) a particular set of skills. Therefore, I joined Toastmasters, started thinking about doing my MBA, etc.

Now that I’m in IT consulting, I now see another opportunity – that opportunity is the intersection of business, technology and marketing – which is really a long about way of saying that I am interested in devouring as many books as I can and developing the skill of marketing (and as you can see, I’m starting an e-mail newsletter of books I have read and what I have learned to action the things that I have learned in marketing). This is also a long about way of saying that this book then became an immediate buy for me after I had this realization.

Before I go into what I took away from Seth’s book, I wanted to talk a bit about Seth Godin’s books – his writing is simple and straightforward and this book provides a lot of stories and case studies – almost similar to how you would learn an MBA or a course in school. Each of his chapters are further broken down into specific sub-chapters that are only a page or two long and for some reason, I thought his book would be enormous (but it is actually quite a small book).

Okay, on to what I learned about marketing from the legendary marketer, Seth Godin:

Marketing is not equal to advertising

I think back in the day, I myself would equate marketing to advertising. Even one of my friends who took marketing in school, I at the time, thought to myself, why would anyone want to learn about advertising. But marketing is a lot more than just advertising – in fact, it is all around us. Lots of things that we do is marketing. Every time you ask your boss for a raise, you are in fact, marketing. When you give a speech at your Toastmasters club, you are marketing. When you are trying to convince co-workers to join a project you are leading, you are also marketing. The short of it is – marketing is understanding what your customers want and building that exact thing for them – it’s almost a form of persuasion but not really.

Marketing is about finding locks and fashioning keys for them

Seth talks about this ridiculous idea of fashioning a key and then running around trying to find locks that the keys open. This metaphor is quite apt – how many of us write books or develop products or services to try to find customers to sell to? Of course, this does not make any sense – why not find the locks and then fashion the keys?

Marketing is about finding the smallest audience that cares deeply about what you are providing

Seth references Kevin Kelly’s 1000 true fans theory – if you can find 1000 true fans, that is, people that are loyal to you and buy everything that you produce, you can make a decent living (note: this does not mean wealthy). In the past, organizations used to market to the masses. They would buy ads and those ads would directly translate into sales. The more ads they bought, the more sales they got. Now, technology and the internet are changing that. Customers are more picky. Buying ads do not directly translate into more sales. The ROI is much more difficult to calculate. If customers have a choice, they will want the things that speak to them and their needs – which is why if you are doing any kind of marketing, you have to find the smallest possible audience you can, serve them and their needs and then let it expand from there.

Marketing is a form of story telling

I have written about this before – every time you buy a product or a service, you are telling yourself a story. That story is that because I am this type of person, I buy these types of products. This type of person can be many things: cost, environment, style, fashion, luxury, prestige and probably many more adjectives that I am not listing here. Seth talks about the example of dog food. Dog food did not cost very much several decades ago. You bought dog food and that was that. Nowadays, you can buy anything from really cheap, run of the mill dog food to very expensive, organic, kosher dog food. But let me ask you this – did dogs develop particular tastes for certain foods? As far as I know, and I’m not a dog owner, I don’t think so. What do the different prices mean? They are signals that align with the dog owner’s story that they tell themselves. My dog is my family and I always need the best for my family. My dog is like my son so he needs the very best ingredients for food.

The marketing template

My product is for people who believe ______________

I will focus on people who want ___________________

I promise that engaging with what I make will help you get _________________

Seth provides a simple template to help you with your marketing needs. No where does it say that you are selling a product or a service (well it does say product but you can replace product with objective, service, team, charity, organization or any other change you wish to see in the world)


Lastly, here is one of my favourite sections of the book – Seth provides a marketing reading list for anyone who is interested in developing more knowledge of marketing – I’ve highlighted a few below that I think are particularly relevant for me:

  • Secrets of closing the sale by Zig Ziglar
  • Purple Cow by Seth Godin
  • Selling the dream by Guy Kawasaki
  • The War of Art and Do the Work by Steve Pressfield

What books would you recommend I read to learn more about marketing? How have you developed and put into action some of your marketing skills?


About the author:

Wang is a management consultant, self-published author, Distinguished Toastmaster, co-host of a podcast, Udemy teacher, former Uber driver and all around hustler. He is also obsessed about books and he reads books so that you don’t have to. Want a list of Wang’s top ten formative books in his life and career? Interested in book summaries and recommendations every month? Subscribe to Wang’s e-mail newsletter!

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