Seth Godin's Blog on marketing, tribes and respect

Last updated Oct. 12, 2018, 10:15 a.m.


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Useful constructs

We find knowledge (and express it) by dividing the world into grids and segments, and explaining how this organization works.

The periodic table is a useful construct.

Useful constructs are replicable and they’re predictive.

If I tell you the rules needed to organize the elements, you’ll come up with the same table as every other scientist.

And if you know where something is on that table, you can make accurate predictions about how the element will behave.

On the other hand, race is not a useful construct. Neither is ethnicity. It’s not a replicable approach—every person who tries to organize other humans by race will come up with a different system. And it’s not predictive—it doesn’t tell us anything about how someone will act going forward.

Engineers build their work around useful constructs. And often, people who are in politics waste their time arguing about constructs that aren’t useful at all.

If we’re going to influence the culture, grow our organizations, lead people and engage in the marketplace, finding useful constructs (as opposed to established superstitions) is essential work.

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Organized for browsing

In the traditional world, most things are organized so you can find them when you’re looking for them. That’s why you keep your tools in your tool chest and the forks in the silverware drawer. That’s why books are stored in alphabetical order, by author.

But in the digital world, finding is easy. Type what you want in the search bar.

What we’re still exploring, and not very successfully, is how to organize things for browsing. How do you bump into the thing you didn’t know you were looking for? How do you decide what your next home improvement project should be, or the next movie you should see?

Dancing along the edge of facilitated discovery is one of the most important frontiers that marketers are challenged to do. And we’re not doing it very well yet.

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Podcasting is the new blogging

Not as a way to make big dollars (blogging didn’t do that either). But as a way to share your ideas, to lead your community, to earn trust.

Podcasting is a proven technology that is still in its infancy. It’s an open mic, a chance for people with something to say to find a few people (or perhaps more than a few people) who’d like to hear them say it.

And podcasting is the generous act of showing up, earning trust and authority because you care enough to raise your hand and speak up.

Over the summer, Alex DiPalma ran the Podcasting Fellowship, and I was lucky enough to be invited along to help out.

I was thrilled at the results.

More than 300 people signed up to be part of it, and the creativity was electric. People from all over the world, from 18 years old to 60, learned how to create a podcast they could be proud of. They didn’t just learn. They did it.

Learning the technology is the easy part. It’s the peer support, the community and the bias for shipping that really matter.

Because you asked, we’re going to run it one more time. You can read all the details right here.

Signups and engagement begin today, the lessons (delivered, no surprise, in podcast format) begin a few days later and we close signups on October 15th. It costs about $10 a day, and there’s an early bird discount if you hurry. You can do it at your own pace, and an hour a day is probably enough to get you going (though you can put more into it and get more out of it).

I’ve said before that my decision to blog is one of the best I’ve ever made for my career, for the work I do, and most of all, for my continued posture of teaching and leaping. If you’ve considered that this might be your moment to leap, I hope you’ll consider investing in The Podcasting Fellowship and joining Alex, her coaches and me in this 45 day journey together.

PS My Akimbo podcast is now in its third season. You can subscribe or hear it at Akimbo. Here are the most recent show notes.

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Considering the vacancy tax

Landlords are notorious for having a bias toward raising the rent. They’re in it for the long haul, they’ve seen downturns before, and while they’re quick to raise rents in good times, they are loathe to lower rents, even if it means sitting with an empty storefront for months at a time.

While this math might be compelling for some landlords, it’s terrible for the cities those buildings are located in.

Empty storefronts deny residents accessible services.

They lead to vandalism and other crime.

And they suck the vibrancy from the neighborhood.

They also deprive the municipality from sales tax revenue, cost jobs and take watchful eyes away from the neighborhood as well.

If we view the ability to have a well-cared for, civil neighborhood as a privilege, it’s logical to consider a vacancy tax for landlords as an incentive for them to lower rents when decreased demand happens because retailers can’t afford the old rent.

It could be something like: For any storefront that’s empty, after two months of vacancy, the landlord has to pay a tax of 20% of the average rent they’d be receiving. All the money would go to neighborhood improvements and policing.

Lower rents create new innovations, which leads to more interaction and more vibrant neighborhoods. And in the long run, it gives landlords an incentive to do what actually generates more of what they seek as well.

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Two money mistakes that founding CEOs make

Raising too little. And raising too much.

The typical go-go small business goes out and raises $200,000 or $400,000 in equity, usually from friends, family and amateur investors. Maybe a bit more or less.

This is a danger zone.

This is funding for your expenses and your salary and it will rarely pay off for you or for your investors. Because, it’s worth remembering, your investors want their money back, somehow, someday soon.

If your goal is to build a significant brand, the sort of consumer products company that so many entrepreneurs dream of, you’re going to need fifty times that much before you cross the chasm.

And if you’re building a direct-marketing company, something you can bootstrap, where you sell high-value products and services to businesses and consumers in a measurable way, then you ought to be making money right from the start. Sure, you might need some equipment, but in today’s Meshed world, that’s easier than ever to outsource.

“And then a miracle occurs,” is something no fundraising entrepreneur ought to ever say.

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