This Is Marketing - Book Highlights

Seth Godin is one of my greatest teachers. His impressive collection of books has altered the way I create products. He has taught me a lot beyond the books. I have completed his Marketing Seminar & altMBA. These experiences were 1000x more effective than any marketing class I attended in college. He is certainly a change agent for the way we learn online.

If there is anyone to credibly write a book titled "This Is Marketing" it is Seth. I feel like I can never buy another book about marketing again. The book isn't only for someone with a marketing professional title. This is a staple for entrepreneurs and leaders making things to last.

If I tried to summarize the practical wisdom of the book it would involve using one crucial question frequently.

"Who is it for?"

In any moment, if you can answer this question with specifics, the rest of your hard work becomes clearer.

However, that one question doesn't do the book justice, so below I have included the wisdom within that I found to be the most practical and inspiring. Hopefully, this curated knowledge will lead you to also buy the book.


The effective kind of marketing is about understanding our customers' worldview and desires so we can connect with them. It seeks volunteers, not victims. It is focused on being missed when we are gone.

It is easier to make products and services for the customers you seek to serve than it is to find customers for your products and services.

The work of the real marketer is the generous act of helping others become who they seek to become.

An effective marketer spends their time not looking for shortcuts and insist on a long, viable path instead. They don't beg people to become their clients, and they don't feel bad about charging for their work.

You can learn to see how human beings dream, decide, and act. And if you help them become better versions of themselves, the ones they seek to be, you're a marketer.

Five steps to marketing. Invent a thing worth making, with a story worth telling, and a contribution worth talking about. Design and build it in a way that a few people will particularly benefit from and care about. Tell a story that matches the built-in narrative and dreams of that smallest viable market. Spread the word. Show up - regularly, consistently, and generously, for years and years - to organize and lead and build confidence in the change you seek to make.

Committed, creative people can change the world (in fact, they're the only ones who do). You can do it right now, and you can make more change than you can possibly imagine.

The way we make things better is by caring enough about those we serve to imagine the story that they need to hear.

People don't want what you make. They want what it will do for them. They want the way it will make them feel. And there aren't that many feelings to choose from.

If you can bring someone belonging, connection, peace of mind, or status, you have done something worthwhile. The thing you sell is simply a road to achieve those emotions, and we let everyone down when we focus on the tactics, not the outcomes.

Stop being marketing-driven. Be market-driven. Think a lot about the hopes and dreams of your customers and their friends. Change the culture for them.

The essential question is "Who's it for?" It has a subtle magic power, the ability to shift the product you make, the story you tell, and where you tell it. Having a clear answer to the question opens doors for you.

If you have to choose a thousand people to become your true fans, who should you choose?

Begin by choosing people based on what they dream of and want, not based on what they look like. Use psychographics instead of demographics.

Everyone has a problem, a desire, and a narrative. Who will you seek to serve? Bargain Bill, Hurried Henry, or Careful Karla?

What's the smallest market you can survive on? Overwhelm this group's wants and dreams and desires with your care, your attention, and your focus. Make change happen for them and they can't help but talk about it.

A focus on the customer is the only project of a startup. Getting traction separates successful projects from unsuccessful ones.

Your work is not for everyone. It's only for those who signed up for the journey.

There is a significant difference between five thousand and "everyone." And for your work, five thousand of the right people might well be more than enough.

Perhaps instead of talking about prospects and customers, we could call them students instead. What will they benefit learning from you? Are they open to being taught? What will they tell and teach others?

Being able to say "It's not for you" shows the ability to respect someone enough that you're not going to waste their time or insist that they change their beliefs. It's impossible to create work that both matters and pleases everyone.

A simple marketing promise 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 _______.

In entrepreneurship, deliver to the smallest viable market that would find what you made indispensable. Offer them ways to go deeper. Instead of looking for members for your work, look for ways to do work for your members. Show up, often. Do it with humility, and focus on the parts that work.

Sonder is defined as that moment when you realize that everyone around you has an internal life as rich and as conflicted as yours. It is the generous act of accepting that others don't want, believe, or know what we do - and have a similar noise in their heads.

We are not so much interested in features as we are in the emotions that those features evoke.

People are waiting for you. There are underserved customers out there who can't wait to find you, connect with you, and spread the word.

Effective marketers don't begin with a solution, with the thing that makes them more clever than everyone else. Instead, we begin with a group we seek to serve, a problem they seek to solve, and a change they seek to make.

Yahoo! had 183 links on their home page. Google had two. It projected confidence and clarity. You couldn't break it. So it was better - for some people. Now, DuckDuckGo is better. Because it isn't part of a big company. Because it doesn't track you. Because it's different. So it's better - for some people.

A professional will exert emotional labor in search of empathy - the empathy to imagine what someone else would want, what they might believe, and what story would resonate with them.

We take people on a journey; we help them become the person they've dreamed of becoming, a little bit at a time.

Always be testing. Choose your extremes, find the people who seek to change, and show up with your offer. Call it a test if you want to. But it's real life. Another way to think about it is: always be wrong. Well, not always. Sometimes you will be right. But most of the time, you will be wrong. That is okay.

One way to prototype a business is to find the essential beacons (the extremes) that matter to you and to your audience, and weave them together in a new thing.

Without a doubt, the heart and soul of a thriving enterprise is the irrational pursuit of becoming irresistible.

Your best customers become your new salespeople.

Here's the trust about customer traction: a miracle isn't going to happen. So seek a path, not a miracle. Who can you find right now that would miss it if it were gone? If you can't succeed in the small, why do you believe you will succeed in the large? Who are the 10 that lead you to 100 that then lead you to your 1,000 true fans?

The Grateful Dead are a perfect example of this. They focused on the smallest viable market.

They appealed to a relatively tiny audience and focused all their energy on them. They relied on fans to share the word by encouraging them to tape their shows. Instead of hoping to encourage a large number of people to support them a little, they relied on a small number of true fans who supported them a lot. They picked extremes on an XY axis (live concerts vs. polished records, long jams for the fan family vs. short hits for the radio) and owned them both. They gave the fans plenty to talk about and stand for. Insiders and outsiders.

It took more than a decade before the Dead became an "overnight" success.

A brave entrepreneur seeks advice. It is a productive form of feedback.

They say: "I made something that I like, that I thought you would like. How did I do? What advice do you have for how I could make it fit your worldview more closely?"

When we find the empathy to say, "I'm sorry, this isn't for you, here's the phone number of my competitor," then we also find the freedom to do work that matters.

For most of us, changing our behavior is driven by our desire to fit in (people like us do things like this) and our perception of our status (affiliation and dominance). We need tension to change these because it is easy to stay the way we are.

Marketers don't make average stuff for average people. Marketers make a change. And they do it by normalizing new behaviors.

When we realize that our work is to change "a culture," then we can begin to do two bits of hard work:

1. Map and understand the worldview of the culture we seek to change.
2. Focus all our energy on this group. Ignore everyone else. Instead, focus on building and living a story that will resonate with the culture we are seeking to change.

That's how we make a change - by caring enough to want to change a culture, and by being brave enough to pick just one.

In order to change a culture, we begin with an exclusive cohort. That's where we can offer the most tension and create the most useful connections.

Your work is a tree. It is a mistake to show up with an acorn and expect a crowd. If your work is simply a commodity, a quick response to an obvious demand, then your roots don't run deep. You will be crowded out like many other trees around you.

Tension drives people. The tension we face any time we're about to cross a threshold. The tension of this might work versus this might not work. The tension of, "If I learn this, will I like who I become?"

All effective education creates tension because just before you learn something, you're aware you don't know it (yet).

The way you see the world isn't nearly as important as the worldview of those you seek to serve. The people we seek to serve have a noise in their heads that's different than your noise.

The purpose of our culture isn't to enable capitalism, even capitalism that pays your bills. The purpose of capitalism is to build our culture.

We scan instead of study. This means that the logo you use, the stories you tell, and the appearance of your work all matter. If you remind someone of a scam, it will take a long time to undo that initial impression. That's why so many logos of big companies look the same. The designers are trying to remind you of a solid company. That is the work of "reminds me of." You can do it with intent.

Send a signal that feels like a sign we already trust, then change it enough to let us know that it is new, and that is yours.

The people whoa re seeking to serve are trying to figure out who you are. Make it easy for them to know who you are and where you stand.

A brand is a shorthand for the customer's expectations.

Nike doesn't have a hotel. If it did, you would probably have some good guesses as to what it would be like. That is Nike's brand.

If people care, you have a brand.

If a brand is our mental shorthand for the promise that you make, then a logo is the Post-it reminder of that promise. Without a brand, a logo is meaningless.

It is hard to change people stuck in their ways or satisfied with what they have. It is the neophiliacs, the folks with a problem that you can solve right now (novelty and tension and the endless search for better), that you can begin with.

Always be wondering, always be testing, always be willing to treat different people differently. If you don't, they'll find someone who will.

You can learn a lot about people by watching what they do. And when you find someone who is adopting your cause, adopt them back. When you find someone who is eager to talk about what you do, give him something to talk about. When you find someone who is itching to become a generous leader, give her the resources to lead.

You will likely serve many people. You will profit from a few. The whales pay for the minnows. Seek out and delight a few. And in return, you will be rewarded with a cadre of loyal customers who will buy in for all of it.

Tactics are easy to understand because we can list them. A strategy is more amorphous. It is the umbrella over your tactics, the work the tactics seek to support. And your goal is the thing you will be betting will happen if your strategy works. If you tell your competition your tactics, they will steal them and it will cost you. Telling them the strategy won't matter. They don't have the guts or the persistence to turn your strategy into their strategy. The goal is your shining light. You can change tactics the moment you decide that they're not helping you achieve your strategy any longer.

Advertising is unearned media. It is bought and paid for. The people who seek to reach know it. They are suspicious. They are inundated. They are exhausted.

If you are buying direct marketing ads, measure everything. Compute how much it costs you to earn attention, to get a click, to turn that attention into an order. If you are buying brand marketing ads, be patient. Refuse to measure. If you can't afford to be consistent and patient, don't pay for brand marketing ads.

If you can't see the funnel, don't buy the ads. If you can measure the funnel and it costs too much for you to afford ads, don't buy the ads. Fix the funnel first.

We remember what we rehearse.

The market has been trained to associate frequency with trust. If you quite right in the middle of building that frequency, it is no wonder you never got a chance to earn trust and enrollment.

Make a product or service that people care enough to search for specifically. You cannot win in a generic search, but you will always win if the search is specific enough.

Price is a story. Low price is the last refuge of a marketer who has run our of generous ideas. When you are the cheapest, you are not promising change. You are promising the same, but cheaper.

It is helpful to give free ideas that spread. Then you can offer expensive expressions of those ideas that are worth paying for.

When people are heavily invested, they often make up a story to justify their commitment. And that story carries trust. Lowering your price doesn't make you more trusted.

What your customers want from you is for you to care enough to change them. To create tensions that leads to forward motion. And if you need to charge a lot to pull that off, it's still a bargain.

Treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention. This is how you can gain their permission. The simplest definition of permission is the people who would miss you if you didn't reach out.

Permission, attention, and enrollment drive commerce.

It is worth noting that whether something is remarkable isn't up to you, the creator. You can do your best, but the final decision is up to your user, not you.

People aren't going to spread the word because it's important to you. They do it because it is important to them. Because it furthers their goals because it permits them to tell a story to themselves that they're proud of.

Marketers spend a lot of time talking, and on working on what we're going to say. We need to spend far more time doing. Talking means focusing on holding a press conference for the masses. Not talking means focusing on what you do when no one is watching, one person at a time, day by day.

Whatever your funnel looks like, you can fix it.

1. You can make sure that the right people are attracted to it.

2. You can make sure that the promise that brought them in aligns with where you hope they will go.

3. You can remove steps so that fewer decisions are required.

4. You can support those you are engaging with, reinforcing their dreams and ameliorating their fears as you go.

5. You can use tension to create forward motion.

6. You can, most of all, hand those who have successfully engaged in the funnel a megaphone, a tool they can use to tell the others. "People like us do things like this."

The first thousand customers, if they are the right people, are practically priceless.

The peer-to-peer movement of ideas is how we cross the chasm - by giving people a network effect that makes the awkwardness of pitching change worth the effort. The bridge is built on two simple questions:

1. What will I tell my friends?
2. Why will I tell them?

It is never the case that people will tell their friends because you want them to, or because you ask them to, or because you worked hard. Give them a why. Make things better by making things better - things that have a network effect, a ratchet, a reason for sharing.

Not only are early adopters eager to go first, but they are eager to talk about their experience.

The one question that every business buyer asks herself is, "What will I tell my boss?" You are marketing the answer to that question: "If you choose this, you can tell your board/investors/boss that you..."

Your job is to help them finish that sentence with a narrative about status, fear, affiliation, belonging, dominion, safety, commitment, insight, or any of the other emotions they seek.

The tribe would probably survive if you went away. The goal is for them to miss you if you did.

Marshall Ganz articulated a simple three-step narrative for action: the story of self, the story of us, and the story of now. It goes like this...

I was like you. I was in the desert. Then I learned something and now I am here. Of course, I am not alone. I did not do this alone and I see in you the very pain I saw in myself. Together, we can make this better.

A better ruleset for leadership:

1. Put people to work. It is even more effective than money.
2. Challenge your people to explore, to learn, and to get comfortable with uncertainty.
3. Find ways to help others on the path find firm footing.
4. Help others write rules that allow them to achieve their goals.
5. Treat the others the way you want to be treated.
6. Don't criticize for fun. Do it when it helps educate, even if it is not entertaining.
7. Stick with you tactics long after everyone else is bored with them. Only stop when they stop working.
8. It is okay to let the pressure cease now and then. People will pay attention to you and the change you seek when they are unable to consistently ignore it.
9. Don't make threats. Do or don't do.
10. Build a team with the capacity and the patience to do the work that needs doing.
11. If you bring your positive ideas to the fore, again and again, you will raise the bar for everyone else.
12. Solve your own problems before you spend a lot of time finding problems for the others.
13. Celebrate your people, free them to do even more, make it about the cohort, and invite everyone along. Disagree with institutions, not with people.

The tribe is waiting for you to commit. They know that most marketers are fly-by-night operators, knocking on doors and moving on. But some, some hunker down and commit. And in return, the tribe commits to them. Because once you are part of a tribe, your success is their success.

The best marketers are farmers, not hunters. Plant, tend, plow, fertilize, weed, repeat. Let someone else race around after shiny objects.

Word of mouth is formed by a connection thanks to tension. If the right sort of tension is created, the will have to tell someone else. Because telling someone else is what humans do. Telling others about how we have changed is the only way to relieve our tension.

The better you are trying to teach or sell to the right person is worth far more than what you are charging. If you are selling a widget for $1,000, the only people who buy it will buy it because they believe it is worth more than $1,000. Help them understand this value. It can become a bargain. A gift.