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Seth Godin's Louisville Seminar Review

Seth Godin paid Louisville a visit today to speak in the newly opened Waterfront Park Place, a truly beautiful building that serves as a posh residency for some of Louisville’s wealthier people. I had the fortune to attend the seminar, and I figured this is as good a place as any to share a little review along with some thoughts creeping into my dome during and after the seminar.

Brief Background 4-1-1 on Seth Godin
For those of you who don’t know about Seth, he’s an author of seven bestselling books on marketing, business, and entrepreneurship. His published titles include: Unleashing the Idea Virus, Purple Cow, Permission Marketing, Survival is Not Enough, All Marketers are Liars, and The Big Red Fez. Did I get all of them? Oh yeah, he also edited and published a follow up book to Purple Cow titled The Big Moo which is a series of essays and articles centered around the “Be Remarkable” theme much like most of his books.

My Overall Impression (if you care)
For those who know me, they know I’m not a big believer in hyping someone because we’re all merely human, but I truly like Seth’s work and thoroughly enjoyed the seminar. I feel as if we think quite a bit alike–not so sure if that’s good or bad for Seth. Ha! It must be all right if he’s produced seven bestsellers because people “vote” strongest with their wallets. Anyway, maybe I’ll be a best-selling author before long and will get the opportunity to work with Seth on some projects someday.

Seth’s Approach
Seth isn’t controversial or far out in his approach, but he’s thought provoking and interjects humor into his message throughout. That was my number one takeaway. Most people today suggest stirring up big time controversy to gain massive exposure or publicity (see Ann Coulter), but I disagree with that approach. If you can make people really think, you’ve affected them in a positive way even if they don’t necessarily agree with your initial theory. Making someone engage in deep thinking is a smarter way to do things versus making them want to ring your neck, wouldn’t you say?

The Savvy Marketing of Waterfront Park Place
Ok, onto the seminar itself. As mentioned, the setting inside Waterfront Park Place is very nice, but I wanted to attend this seminar to hear Seth as much to see how they were going to link selling the real estate within the building with his speech. I knew it was coming, and they didn’t disappoint. It wasn’t over the top or in your face though. It was not totally subtle, but I’d say it was tastefully done. Wonder what they paid Seth to come down for this? Looking at it from a business perspective, they’d likely dwarf whatever they paid him if they end up selling only one condominium (prices start at $350k) to an attendee today. Not a bad ROI if it works out for them. It’s definitely a different approach, but it was well thought out because they had a lot of wealthy business people in attendance that are their likely target–mid 30s to late 40s of which many own their own company. I have considered checking out owning a condo there so the opportunity was worth the effort in my opinion.

“It’s Not About Improving on Yesterday”
Seth started his speech talking about how growth is not about doing better than yesterday and shared a story about the greatest thing ever–sliced bread. The truth of the matter is sliced bread didn’t make the creator any money. Wonder Bread took the idea once it came off of patent and capitalized the most. That story set the table for the remainder of the conference, and the theme was “ideas which spread are the winners;” not some hair brained marketing campaign. If you’re truly remarkable, simply meaning you do something that is worth making a remark, you’re onto something. For far too long, it’s been more about who has the most money because that person can control the messages you see and hear whether it be television, radio, billboards, or whatever–the person or company with the most dough could afford the most exposure. It’s not about exposure anymore–we’re overexposed!!!! This I agree with wholeheartedly. SIDE NOTE: I’m preparing an article on video ads and how they’re going to be everywhere before long that I should be able to share early next week so please look for that.

Average Stuff for Average People
We’re in a society today where the mass market is summarized by average stuff for average people. Things that standout, one way or another, garner the premium dollar. GM loses money on every mid-consumer product they produce, but they make a ton on Hummers. Why? It’s a polarizing product. You either love it or you hate it. Those that love it will pay a premium for it. Same with the Mini-Cooper–BMW can charge a premium for the product because they’re in demand, and they’re targeting a niche market. GM is competing with Toyota and Honda for the mid-market (or the average market as Seth called it), but Toyota and Honda can make a better product for cheaper so they win. Everything in the middle or which appeals to the masses costs about the same.

Coke Japan produces a new product every 21 days! How mind boggling is that?

For the most part, everything is good enough today.
Think about this–when you go out of town and are forced to rent a car, do you demand a specific brand of car or model? Not likely because whatever they have is good enough. As long as the car will get you from point A to point B without crapping out on you, that’s good enough. Whatever is close and cheap is what appeals to the masses, and there are so many choices which target the masses that everything becomes cluttered.

Nobody cares about you; be remarkable!
So many firms today market for themselves and not FOR the audience. That’s what’s typical so the firm that truly does something FOR the consumer can gain an edge. That’s being remarkable. People will take notice of remarkable and spread the word extremely quickly. I am going to spend some time thinking about this to come up with a way to make this consulting firm remarkable instead of imitating someone else’s formula. Any ideas? Please share them with me.

“Era of Emotional Marketing”
Do you LOVE a product? If so, how many people have you told? Seth didn’t say this directly, but I believe that’s how Starbucks has grown so quickly–people love it so they spread the word to the point Starbucks has been able to create a mystique about it and people go out of their way to pay a premium just to have that cup of whatever from Starbucks. Personally, I haven’t been hooked by Starbucks, but I admire the business they’ve built. McDonald’s does much the same by appealing to little kids–the kids will kick and scream to get McDonald’s, but they won’t think twice about Burger King. Why is that? They identify with the brand and it becomes one of those things where people feel privileged to have purchased something from there, and they brag about it to their friends. I can hear the kid now saying “I had McDonald’s today!” That’s a pretty powerful hook. Same with the girl who walks into work carrying a cup from Starbucks–the others in the office will generally comment about “eww, you got Starbucks? You lucky dog!” That’s emotional marketing at it’s finest.

“We’re All Fashion Designers”
Seth drew a comparison to everyone being a fashion designer because we often take something that is already working and try to make it bette
r. There’s always something coming along, too. I won’t go into great detail or thought sharing on this statement, but let it sink in for awhile, and let me know what you think.

“Businesses are Consumers Spending Other People’s Money”
This made me think because it’s true if you ponder on it. If we’re spending someone else’s money, we don’t tend to think about it as much as we do if we’re spending our own money, but we do like to spend the money on what we like anyway. Marketing to businesses is no different than marketing to consumers.

“Sell to People Who are Listening”
As marketers, and we’re all marketers of something even if it’s ourselves, we spend massive amounts of time and money trying to appeal to the masses when we’d be far better off if we simply focused on those willing to listen to our idea/message which will help spread that idea/message.

“Why Aren’t You Dating Your Prospect?”
An interesting view taken by Seth that suggests we put a lot into dating yet we attempt to enter business relationships without much thought. Get to know one another before deciding a business venture is worth pursuing. If it’s worth pursuing, it may last a lot longer and produce a lot more fruit if there’s proper effort invested at the outset.

“Anticipated, Personal, & Relevant”
This should be your focus on any marketing message you produce. People don’t care about YOU when you’re trying to sell them something–they care about themselves. Make it something they truly desire, and they’ll reward you with their money.

Hunter vs. Farmer
In the old days, man used to hunt for food to survive. Then came the farmer that produced massive amounts of food without requiring a lot of “hunting.” When someone cultivates a farm, they know where to find the food and the product. When someone hunts, they have to go out and find the food, kill it, haul it back, prepare it, and then they can eat. The farmer steadily produces where the hunter produces sporadically and unpredictably. Targeting = hunting (one-on-one approach); Spreading an idea = farming (more matrix like approach). Which mentality do you think will produce better results over time? The same applies to business.

Marketers Sell Stories We Sell Ourselves
Good marketing involves telling a story that differentiates a product or service from its competition that we can in turn sell ourselves as a reason to buy. It gives us something to identify with; something we can share with others; an emotional tie. Get permission to tell your story then encourage others to tell your story for you. That ties into . . .

“Flip Funnel Over to Turn it Into A Megaphone”
This is a very interesting concept that I hadn’t thought too much about before today. It makes perfect sense–let your idea/message spread like mad versus throwing a bunch of prospects into a “hopper” and hoping they come out the other end as customers. Let others do your marketing and create that buzz–that’s the megaphone approach. I never liked the funnel concept in business anyway!

The Final Takeaway
The “1st person to develop an asset wins!” In other words if you develop something that people truly want, and you’re the first to do it, you win! That doesn’t mean the game is over by any stretch, but you’ll have a pretty good sized lead. It’s easier to get a lead than it is to overtake an established leader in today’s business world. Look at Apple with the iPod and Microsoft with the Zune–which product do you identify with and desire to have? The majority would rather have the iPod because it was first and created the iPod “culture.” Microsoft developed the Zune to improve their income statement and balance sheet. The iPod has made that critical emotional tie in–people are fanatical about their iPods! That’s good for Apple, but it’s also good for the consumer because they continue to develop products to go with the iPod and expand its capabilities.

That’s more or less the entire seminar in a large nutshell from my perspective. If you attended the seminar and have a differing point of view or want to expand on anything shared here, please post it. If you didn’t attend but have a thought or comment on any of this posting, I’d love to hear it.

Thanks for reading, and I hope this stimulated some brain activity.

5 CEOs That Must Go

One of the toughest things for a CEO or business leader to handle is their own transition plan. When you’re in the everyday running of a business, it’s difficult to instinctively know when it’s time to get out of the way. To that end, we’ve come up with a list of five current CEOs that should transition themselves out of the head cheese role.

  1. Bob Nardelli—Home Depot. Good old Bob has managed to screw up one of the best home improvement retailers in the land by taking away customer incentive programs and overdoing cost cutting measures. High level management changes haven’t addressed the root of the problem—Nardelli! Is it any wonder Lowe’s has become the preferred home improvement retailer?
  2. Michael Cherkasky—Marsh McLennan. This guy has seemed to be out to lunch on repeated conference calls and doesn’t seem to understand the company’s business. Revenue has flattened the past three years, and Putnam has declined tremendously. It’s time for someone who understands the business model to take over the helm and get this company growing again.
  3. Meg Whitman—E-Bay. Meg is more concerned with crashing the upscale “benefit” (term used very loosely) circuit and being liked than she is capitalizing on E-Bay’s unique position in the market. They have virtually no competition, but they could do so much more with their cash than an undesirable acquisition of Skype which E-Bay vastly overpaid. That poor decision in itself is enough reason to make a change at the top.
  4. James Tobin—Boston Scientific. The Guidant purchase should seal this guy’s fate all by itself. Talk about an acquisition that made little sense and didn’t contribute to any corporate “synergies.” This bad deal was all created when Johnson & Johnson initially bid on Guidant then backed away once Boston Scientific decided to overbid in their haste to acquire another company. Guidant had all sorts of lawsuits surfacing as others were bidding so it’s a puzzle why both companies didn’t immediately retract their bids and walk away to leave Guidant to figure out their own legal problems. Kudos to J&J for ultimately outfoxing Boston Scientific and James Tobin!
  5. Terry Semel—Yahoo. Yahoo has been slow to act as Google continues to gain world dominance in the search arena. Yahoo should be strategizing for growth and considering buying smaller niche companies, but the management seems to be absent minded to doing anything. Message to Terry: sell the company to Microsoft and enjoy the proceeds.

There you have our short list of CEOs that ought to start their succession planning now if their companies are to return to the glory days of eye-popping growth.

Have comments? We’d love to hear from you.

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