Pre-SES Seth Godin Webinar

Yesterday’s costume fun may be over, but today is looking even more exciting for me for one big reason: Seth Godin!

Kevin Ryan and the folks behind Search Engine Strategies Chicago have put together a pre-SES Chicago Webinar with Seth so that those of us who are attending Pubcon Las Vegas and haven’t yet mastered time travel can get in on the Seth action they’ll miss by not being able to attend his Chicago keynote. I’m not even going to lie. I’m pretty psyched. So come along with me as I liveblog the today’s webinar and see what happens! (You may want to get some coffee first, this is a long one.)

Seth asks why people don’t search using Why they don’t watch TV Guide videos instead of YouTube ones.

This Is Our Moment To Do Something New!

We need to think really hard about the line that is now in the ground. For the last 6 or 7 years, the people on the Internet have been building the foundation for a new economy. There’s a line that separates one industrial revolution from another. The first one happened in the ’30s and ’40s when radio and TV took over. Betty Crocker had the most popular radio show in America. Thousands of people listened and sent her letters. The people who competed with her had no chance.

He wants to go way back to one of the early industrial revolutions. Josiah Wedgwood invented what we called marketing today. He took advantage of one of the early industrial revolutions and connected threads. One of the threads was being able to ship things by boat. We went from apprentices to having people trained in a certain task and working together. The other thing he built was the idea of branding. He shipped $2 million worth of pottery on spec and ask if people if they’d be interested in the whole set. It established the idea of quality. When Josiah made something that wasn’t good enough, he shattered it. This was heresy at the time, but he saw how the thread enabled a new kind of organization. When he died, he had more than $50 million in the bank. His heirs are still profiting.

Seth says the point is when a new industrial revolution comes along, most people don’t see it. What he’s trying to do in his book is give the people who read blogs and Internet books a tool to walk down to their CEO office and say, "read this, this is our moment, our time to do something new". Huzzah!

The 14 Threads

Seth explains he’s going to talk about 14 threads, none of which are original to him. He says that the organizations that are frustrated today are all left with the same thing – a meatball sundae.

What is a meatball sundae? A meatball is a worthwhile commodity. They are things we need and sold to everyone. The sundae is the hot fudge and the peanuts, the tactics of social media and the MySpace profiles. These things work but they work best when they’re not on meatballs, but when they’re on an organization designed to work with them. One of the reasons Seth started Squidoo was because he wanted a living laboratory that he could experiment with for his book. Marketers must figure out how to use the threads to get where they want to go.

Here are the threads:
Direct communication between producers and consumers: A surprising large number of organizations aren’t centered around the idea of getting a lot of feedback in and out. They’re not open to what the outside world is telling them. It’s hard to get people on the phone. It’s hard to talk to the people who make decisions and teach them what they need to know/ The Internet has opened up these channels. Some organizations are open to these channels and others are closing them down. When you spoil someone and tell them they can have this power and interactivity, and then you don’t let them have it or try and take it away, they leave.

Take individuals and amplifying their voice: Everybody is a critic today and they can be heard. If you have a bad experience with Dell, you don’t call the 1-800 number, you blog about it. If you go to a restaurant, not only do you tell Zagat, but you put it in your Facebook page, your blog, etc. Everybody that an organization deals with is a critic. His point is not that these are hassles to be dealt with. The answer is a different kind of organization that actually likes it when this happens, not just puts up with it

Have an authentic story: Successful companies have DNA that is consistent all the way around. You used to be able to control your message. The White House could control whether people knew that FDR was in a wheelchair. They wouldn’t be able to do that today. Today there are scraps of information all over the place that will show up everywhere. You can’t hide this information, it will come out. Is your story authentic or are you making it up?

We don’t have attention spans anymore: We’ve trained B2B consumers that a 3 hour sales process is too long, that a one minute commercial is worth avoiding and that if they don’t get the idea of a story in one paragraph they should stop reading it. Our attention spans have gotten shorter as a coping mechanism for what we want to spend our time on.

The Long tail: Most of the "Twitter-ati" like to acknowledge that they know what the long tail is. They can describe it. However, there are very few organizations actually embracing it. There are very few organizations talking about the long tail and acknowledging that, yes, they could increase the number of pages on their site by a 100. They could open the door and let employees write a page about what they do. They know this is true, but they don’t do it. Consumers don’t want menus with 8 items on it anymore because they know there are more choices. When you refuse to give them all their options, they leave. People go to the part of the tail that they like.

Outsourcing: We’re seeing things like which allows individuals to outsource a dinner reservation. If you can describe a job and write a manual for it, it will get done by somebody cheaper. If your organization is about keeping your employees employed, you’re going to suffer. Reward and embrace the idea of keeping the creative people.

Google and the shredding of everything: Google and the other search engines atomize the world. Once it’s turned into molecules, you no longer have control over which pieces people see in which order. If you run a restaurant in a nice part of town, you know that people will stay for four courses. However, if you’re a restaurant located in the mall’s food court, people will go next door to get their dessert. You can’t expect people to enter from the front door. People try to "bundle" things but in an unbundled molecular-ized world, that doesn’t work.

Noise: Today there are infinite channels of communication. With a million radio stations online, 5 million videos to choose from, what we have is the elimination of the bottle neck. Every political candidate should have their own TV channel. Who you know is not nearly as important as who wants to hear from you.

Consumers can now talk directly to consumers without the middleman: Discussion boards mean that your business customers can consult with each other to build a cartel to make you lower your prices. One eBay seller can sell to an eBay buyer person-to-person. A lot of the social networking that is going on allows organization to grow quickly because they’re connecting people.

Shift in scarcity and abundance: This is the idea that stuff that used to be scarce is now abundant (computer time, ability to outsource, etc), while stuff that used to be abundant is now scarce (water, free time, etc.). Organizations that are built around filling people’s spare time need to come up with a new model.

The Newton: The iPhone demonstrated that a big idea can reach a large number of people in a short period of time. Incremental improvement is not going way. The cost of growth is to have a truly big idea, an idea that changes the game forever.

The shift from "how many" to "who": Most marketers are obsessed with the how many. How many people can we reach? How many sales can we make? The belief that being on the Today Show is more powerful than being on BoingBoing is over. If the right people are hearing your message you’re going to do far better than if you’re just reaching masses.

The democratization of the wealthy: We used to know what wealthy people looked like, what they read, what they did, but that’s all changing. The gap between rich and poor is getting bigger, but the number of rich people is going up, as well. The new wealthy class are people that look just like everybody else. They’re diverse. People who tried to predict who those consumers were need to evolve.

New gatekeepers and no gatekeeper:: Rupert Murdoch is the poster boy for this. We’re never again going to have the power to decide who hears what. Gatekeeping is going away. We have new gatekeepers, people like Robert Scoble, but these gatekeepers don’t have that much power because if they upset their audience, the audience will leave and find new leaders to follow.


Click to read that Question & Answer portion we promised you. We’re sorry to make you click through, but otherwise this would officially be the Longest Blog Post Ever.

Question & Answer
[Kevin talks a bit about a recent Paris event and how the people over there look at Seth Godin as a god. Hee.]
Seth starts the Q&A by summarizing up some of this other points. What he’s trying to say to the search engine optimization world is that SEO has traditionally been a tactical minute-to-minute game. It’s been about figuring out what the search engines want right now and tweaking sites to meet that. That’s over. What we want to do now is to change the very nature of what SEOs do so that regardless of what tactics are hot at the moment, the engines will want to find them because the stuff they’re doing matches the strategies the engines are always going to have.
You should print that little bit out and stick it on your wall. If this wasn’t a free event, that would have been worth the price of admission right there.
On to the questions:
What does the question "is your marketing out of sync?" actually refer to?
It means that when Time Warner sat down to do Pathfinder they were before AOL, before Yahoo and Google, and yet it still failed. It failed because they tried to make the Internet match what would make Time succeed, instead of figuring out what was succeeding and matching it. It’s about changing your marketing so that it’s in sync with what the marketing demands. If you don’t understand the trends guiding it, you’ll never be able to do that.
What are your thoughts on search engine marketing and search engine optimization? Why don’t most companies get it yet? When will they? How do we bridge the gap between SEO and traditional media?
People buy TV ads because their boss did. You can’t get fired for spending more money on it. It’s fun, it looks good and it’s immeasurable, which means you can’t get caught if you make a bad decision. There’s no one to tell you your ads don’t work. When the Internet came along, most of us came to marketers and said, "Congrats, you can now measure the media!" and people ran away screaming. The reason is because they were taking a big chance. Their boss had never bought this media and they were going out on a limb. If it didn’t work, they’d be fired.
Google’s brilliancy was selling ads for a nickel. The big guys didn’t buy any. The people who bought them were the moms and pops out there. Then, when the bigger guys discovered that they worked, they jumped in and bought them for bigger amounts. What search engine marketing is all about is spending a nickel to make a dime. If it works, you can buy as much as you can afford and make a lot of dimes.
As it shifts we’re going to see CPMs go much higher than they go on TV. Why? Because if you have an ad that works, you’re willing to pay any amount to get it. If anything else, it boxes out your competitor. If you can make $86 every time someone clicks, then you’re willing to pay up to $85.95 for that ad.
Is the direct communication environment quickly becoming obsolete?
If you worked in McKinsey and then left and went on your own, the rate you could charge would go down 80 percent. The question is what are people paying for? They’re paying for the story that they can bring it to their board and say, "This is what I want to do and McKinsey says I’m right". People buy the story, not the answer. Big firms sell change and the ability to change the status quo.
As an Internet company exploding in growth, how do you convince the CEO with no marketing background that blogging, social sites and making our company transparent are a priority?
The thing is, it’s not easy. If it was easy it would have happened already. Plenty of big organizations have watched their marketing evaporate. He wrote his latest book because it’s the best he can do. He doesn’t think it’ll work everywhere. If he can get an organization’s top people to buy 20 copies and read them half way through, maybe someone will say in meetings, "that’s a meatball sundae". And if they start talking like that, then they’re closer to having the conversation they should be having. If you’re going to make meatballs, make meatballs. Shut down your site, stop answering your email, and just be a meatball. But if you’re going to do it the other way, then do it the other way. You can’t compromise your way into this medium
Are big slow organizations doomed or can some adapt?
There’s hope. When I look at Viacom investing in causal games, I see inklings of hope from big organizations. But when I go visit a giant, boring media company and I see the vast majority of middle managers are just worried about reaching retirement, I worry. In the next 5 years it’s our job to run the call and to teach the dinosaurs. And the dinosaurs who listen aren’t going to be dinosaurs anymore. They’ll reinvent themselves.
If a senior VP is on the road and he calls in and the receptionist is really rude to him, she’s fired. If the senior VP’s mom buys a product and it burst into flames, that product gets fixed. Why? Because there’s an emotional connect there. The problem is at that level too many have outsourced the Internet. People don’t search, or read their own emails. They can’t make change happened because they’re not angry or passionate enough. The job of people in the trenches is to fold your arms and say no. No, I won’t do that. No, I won’t build that page. These people don’t get fired, it gets kicked upstairs until someone listens and gets an emotional connection to what’s going on. If we say yes, the company is just doomed.
What would you say to those of us doing the disrupting?
The disruptors have plenty of data. I can’t keep up with yesterday’s trend, let alone tomorrows. We need to keep bathing ourselves in what’s going on. The bell curve goes to infinity at both ends. There’s still people who don’t have a VCR and are using television sets with rabbit ears. But it’s also possible to be too far on the cutting edge. If you go too far, the masses can’t keep up with you. As a disruptor it pays to take a step back. The people on Twitter don’t represent the masses. If you get too far way, they’ll never catch up.
Kevin: We have more choices in the way we communicate. Lee Odden recently dragged me into FB and its becoming harder to keep track of your communication vehicles. Will we reach a point where there’s so much noise people stop listening?
Seth: No. Once you’ve given up enough permission, you stop giving it up. Once you have a lawyer to do your will, then ads for new lawyers are avoidable. Once you’ve had enough social connections for the day, you stop seeking out new social communities. Once you have enough people asking you for favors, you stop growing your social network. We’re going to start getting deeper and deeper with the people we’ve got, instead of looking for new ones.
Comment on the future of filtering.
I think we’re one inch on the ten mile rode. What everyone really wants is the perfect admin from the movies that hands you nothing but the good stuff all the time. We’re going to have filters of filters. People will gain reputations as being master filters. They’ll be the new middleman. What we’ll end up with is further leverage to people who can break the mold, people who are remarkable, and less and less opportunity for people who can do nothing but busy work. It’s the insight that comes from that that will matter.
What are your thoughts on Google’s open social network? Do you think Facebook is a fad or will it really stick?
Facebook is largely a permission marketing tool. What it’s doing is saying, "I give you permission to contact me in a spam free way". There’s this land rush of people trying to build the largest circle of ping-able people. The challenge you have is that Facebook only offers a binary choice – off or on. [Seth says he doesn’t friend random people on Facebook. Sorry, Susan.] You have a challenge as a marketer to figure out how to interact with people the way they want to be interacted with.
Is Facebook a good business? If you look at the banner ads, it’s certainly not. Running semi-intermittent disruptions isn’t a good model. The challenge is to run ads people want to get. What needs to happen is for many people to say that Google with the ads is better than Google without the ads. Most people today would say that Facebook without the ads is better than Facebook with the ads.
In terms of Google’s new open social network, it’s a brilliant move, it’s an obvious move. If they do it properly it will take away a lot of the wind in Facebook’s sails. It will make Facebook work better because people are looking for their home place where they can aggregate all their social graphs.
How can minions get someone important to listen? (hee!)
Each one of us only gets a few cycles. Hooking them up to an organization that doesn’t leverage them is a total waste. Some people are quite happy in big organizations because they’re getting listened to and making change. Others are really frustrated. You have to ask yourself if you’re on a dead end. If you are, either leave a make a difference somewhere else or accept your fate.
Have you ever actually eaten a meatball sundae?
Kevin says he had some Swedish meatballs with Ben & Jerry’s. He recommends using the caramel ice cream.
Seth says it has been 10 years since he’s eaten anything from a cow. Mmm, cow.
Are there marketers who get the meatball sundae faster than others?
I think so much of it has to do who’s your boss and who was your boss when you learned what you learned. Some view the Internet as the fastest way to spam journalists. They’re not getting any of the real stuff because the DNA of their organization is about spamming journalists. It’s about how you approach the situation. Now we’re seeing more strategic marketers come on. They’re discovering how to truly do this in a way that works.
What do you think about marketing ethnography to connect with people with low attention span?
[Seth asks Kevin to stall while he googles "marketing ethnography". Heh.]
Marketing is about sharing ideas and sharing ideas about marketing isn’t easy. Something like marketing ethnography is a really useful tool to help people understand how to think differently about marketing. Selling the answer, communicating the emotional people need to understand something they couldn’t without it.
Do you think that coming up with these amazing terms is a better way to engage the CEO? Or are we alienating people?
Both. Different strokes for different folks. Some people want to be really academic about it. They like having a word like "brand ethnography" because it feels like its worth more than a "hunch".
How should corporations redesign the hiring process to hire innovative thought processors?
We often hire so that we don’t get in trouble, so that the status quo gets maintained. That’s why 2nd and 3rd generation corporations are stuck. Everyone is hired to do what they’re supposed to do. If you want your organization to change, you have to hire people who are going to change it. What do those people look like – people who have successfully changed other organizations or people who can’t help themselves. If you bring those people in and support them, the word will get out. Support them even when they fail. Bring in the fearless problem children. The people who have a bigger whiteboard than everyone else’s.
How does all this relate to SES Chicago. Read the book or go to the show?
Kevin says it’s a combo, heh. Every attendee gets a copy of the book. Today’s Webinar is just intended for the bloggers.
Seth says that you can get everything online. Several things happen when you go to a show. If you bring a client with you, they’ll see the energy that’s around them and that you’re not a lone kook. And that many of those kooks are quite successful. Something magical happens when you’re in a room that’s a little too small and a little too full (and a little too cold!).
How should corporations use blogs to reach their customers?
Blogs don’t reach people, people reach blogs. No one has to read your blog if they don’t want to. Blogs need to be a magnet, not a microphone. It needs to be a place people go to interact with you. Be quick, candid and interesting because they could be spending their time doing something else. The mistake corporate blogs make is that they do things that won’t get them in trouble. If that’s what you’re going to do, you shouldn’t have a blog.
And that’s it! Seth thanks the bloggers. Aw, you’re welcome Seth!
And with that, wrists are dead. Must rest. Send Chocolate.

Lisa Barone is a writer, content marketer & VP of strategy at Overit Media. She's also a very active Twitterer, much to the dismay of the rest of the world.

See Lisa's author page for links to connect on social media.

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