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Business & Leadership

Blogging, Tribes and Trust: Seth Godin’s Wisdom for Businesses and Beyond

7 Minute Read

He’s known as America’s greatest marketer and the ultimate entrepreneur for the information age. He’s written 14 best-sellers that have been translated into 30 languages, and he runs the most successful marketing blog in the world. Dave is such a fan, he’s called him the best marketing brain on the planet and one of his favorite people.

Recently we had the honor of calling Seth Godin an EntreLeadership Podcast guest. He spoke with Dave about his work, marketing in today’s digital world, and small business. Here’s a sampling of their conversation.

Dave: Seth, it’s an honor to have you with us on EntreLeadership. So what is going on in Seth Godin’s world today? What are you working on?

Seth: Well, let’s see. I just finished my 5,000th blog post. I’ve been doing it every day for more than 10 years. It’s been a real testament to the power of dripping. We’re all so focused on the grand opening or the sign says, “Under new management.” We are also focused on how to make this list or that list or that number when we launch something. But what I found is discipline is showing up every single day with the most relevant, interesting and generous thing I can think of. It adds up. There’s not one post I’ve done that changed everything for me or anyone. But I like to think that over time, the practice of chopping wood, carrying water, and showing up has changed me and has changed a lot of people who subscribe.

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Dave: I tried to teach business people all of the time to quit swinging for the fence. Instead, hit singles. Win death by thousand cuts. That’s really what you’ve done, isn’t it?

Seth: What’s fascinating is that we all ask ourselves, Should I go on a sales call today? Should I write a blog this day? Should I do . . . whatever. It’s really easy for the answer to be, Nah, I’ll do it tomorrow.

But if you know you’re going on a sales call every day, sending a nice note to one of your employees every day, or writing a blog post every day, then a different part of your brain kicks in. It’s saying, Oh boy, I owe something. I have an hour left, what am I going to do? Something happens, and your brain won’t let you fail.

Dave: I am convinced your book Tribes might be the manifesto for marketing for the next two decades, and people who don’t understand tribal marketing really aren’t in marketing anymore.

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Seth: Let’s put some meat on those bones for listeners who haven’t had the chance to read it yet. You are a living, breathing example of what I’m talking about. There are 2 million people who are listening to us [on the EntreLeadership Podcast], and that’s less than 1% of the people in the United States. But this group has an enormous amount in common—not just demographically but psychographically. They share a world view. They share a set of goals. They share assumptions about the people they meet and opportunities they see.

So the typical person walking down the street says, “How do I work less?” And a typical person listening to this podcast says, “How do I make more? How do I create more impact?” That emotional connection enables the tribe, this group, to be able to make real impact because they’re doing something similar. And then someone like you shows up and is brave enough to stand and say, “Follow me.” And what you do for a living is keep the tribe in sync. And the tribe needs to be in sync. We need that deep down, from the evolutionary point of view. We need to do what other people like us are doing.

In your role as a leader of this tribe, you cannot command the people to do something. You cannot insist they do something. But because you have permission to talk to them, you can whisper to them. As they get more and more in sync, it means you have more impact, and the revenue follows. You’re not doing it for the revenue, like most of us don’t do it for the revenue. You’re doing it because the output of a synchronized tribe is so powerful.

If you’re really going to run a small business for the future, it’s not going to be because you’re the only store in town that sells something. That’s never going to be true again because of the internet. You’re going to succeed because you are the ringleader, the drum major, the person who keeps your tribe, whatever tribe it may be, in sync because that’s what they want.

Dave: One of your most popular sayings, and I love it, is, “The customer pays three ways: money, trust and referrals.” Can you break that down for us?

Seth: Money is the one that everyone is obsessed with, right? But the other two are trust and referral. So when I trust you, I am giving you something that is emotionally difficult. I am out on a limb. If you violate my trust, I will carry that around far longer than I will carry around the money I lost to you. Getting people to give you their trust is way more difficult than getting them to give you their money. The magic, though, is if people give you their trust and you treat it with respect, they will respond by giving you a referral.

Dave: If Seth Godin today could have a cup of coffee or a bagel with 30-year-old Seth, what would you tell him?

Seth: For eight years, I struggled on the edge of bankruptcy. For eight years, I was alone. I had no support. I was failing. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything because I wouldn’t be who I am now. So I don’t want to tell him something that would skip that part other than reassuring him that everything will be okay.

I think the internet world today is different than it was 20 years ago. And the reason is that you don’t have to pay for laser printing. That means we are all our own media company. Here you are, Dave, with one of the most popular podcasts in the world. But you have exactly the same resources dedicated to this podcast as anyone who listens to this podcast could dedicate to their own. And here I am with the blog that’s one of the most popular in the world. And it costs me $19 a year to run it.

If you could create a media platform for yourself that’s more than snarky stuff on Twitter, you should. It’s generous. It’s the right thing to do, and it builds trust. And it not only builds trust with the people who are listening to you and hearing your stories. It actually builds self-trust. If you can announce out loud your intent and your plan, and you can be transparent and truthful about it, the other part of your brain will read what you wrote and you will start to believe it. It will make it more likely that you will be consistently generous and trustworthy going forward. Listen to more.

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