The challenge at the heart of marketing: An interview with Seth Godin

crossroads

Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Seth Godin about his new book: This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See, which in the short time since it’s release in mid-November has already become a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller.

For those that are not familiar with Seth’s work, he is the author of 18, now 19, best-selling books that have changed the way people think about both marketing and work and have included titles like Unleashing the Ideavirus, Permission Marketing, Purple Cow, Tribes, The Dip and Linchpin.

This Is Marketing is a summation of much of Seth’s previous work, a call to action as well as some important new thinking about how we live and work in a world where mass marketing no longer works.

At its core, This Is Marketing insists that if we do work that matters, for people who care, then we don’t have to spend a lot of time relying on many modern-day marketing methods like ‘attention-stealing ads and spammy email funnels’.

To do that we need to learn to truly see and understand the people we seek to influence then we can use marketing to solve their problems and not just our company’s problems. Further, once we are able to do that then they will help us make the impact we seek.

In other words, truly powerful marketing is grounded in empathy, generosity, connection and emotional labor.

The challenge is, according to Seth, is that very few people go into marketing desiring to be empathetic. They go into marketing because they want to put on a show and they want to win.

I asked Seth about this and wondered if this could be something to do with our relationship to the word service and what it means to serve.

He agreed and suggested that one of the most important parts of the book is the part that deals with the idea of status roles, affiliation vs. dominance and how some people have trouble with the idea of service and serving.

He went on to say that many people get caught up with thinking that service and to serve is about subservience. It’s not. It’s much more than that. Look at some of the greatest leaders of our time…..Mandela, Gandhi, Patton….they were all in service to their people.

Seth believes that the root of this problem can be traced back to our worldview and whether we think that life is a zero sum game or not.

He sums it up by saying ‘We need to have humility, whether we want to or not, because the marketplace won’t let us buy arrogance’.

That made me think about the fact that many organizations are failing to meet the expectations of many of their customers and deliver the service and the experiences that they want.

It also made me wonder whether this under-performance could be related to our worldviews and whether these could be holding us back.

Therefore, if you are struggling to deliver the stand out experiences that your customers want then maybe you should start by examining your own world-view, your relationship to the word service, what it means to serve and how you think about your colleagues that work in service positions.

Perhaps, also, you should be asking yourself if you are willing to do the work that will allow you to see and if you are willing to exert the emotional labor that will allow you to be both empathetic and generous and also establish real and meaningful connections with your customers.

If you do that then, perhaps, you will be able to bring about real change.

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This post was originally published on Forbes.com here.

Thanks to Pixabay for the image.

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