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seth godin on marketing
Ash RoyAug 18, 2022 8:36:54 AM6 min read

Seth Godin On Marketing: Why You Should Be Doing It

I remember it like it happened yesterday.

I was on the first floor at the Apple store speaking to a guy named Todd. 

This was during one of my several lunchtime forays across the street (where I worked at a major telecommunications company here in Australia).

I was telling Todd about how frustrated I was with my corporate life (aka prison) and how badly I wanted to do my own thing. 

A few years earlier, a friend named Ben — who reads this newsletter (hey Ben! Thanks for reading) had suggested I consider working in a small business.

I bristled at the idea then, but his words kept coming back to me.

Starting your own business sounded "kinda" exciting. Anything was better than being in a huge corporate machine where creativity and innovation seemed to be confined to MBA case studies and corporate mythology.

I’d started to become more aware of start-ups and the idea of launching your own start-up sounded cool.

There was something about the term … “start-up”. It held so much promise. The promise of a new day perhaps.

“How does one go about creating a start-up?” I asked Todd as I stood there amongst ludicrously expensive gadgets in the Apple store’s understated beauty and striking simplicity.

“I’d like to learn about the whole start-up scene”

"Check out Seth Godin's podcast called Startup School," said Todd.

So, I did just that.

Startup School by Seth Godin was the first podcast I ever heard.

Seth made a lot of sense, and I liked his approach to business and marketing.

At the time I had no idea I'd interview him on my podcast one day, and have the honor of calling him a friend.

Over the next few years, I devoured Seth’s books and most content he’s put out. 

I've learned from several marketers and entrepreneurs over the years but Seth’s advice has been the best so far.


Because he's wise, kind, and understands that success doesn't happen overnight.

He's learned how to earn attention over time and teaches others how to do the same.

He appears to be driven by a different set of principles than most other marketers I've seen. He has a more compassionate approach to the world and is more generous in business than most I've seen.

Seth cares about things besides his bank balance, which is relatively rare in today's business environment. That said, he's presumably in a position to be able to afford that outlook. 

For those of us who're still "in the trenches" it's not always possible to put altruism front and center. We still need to pay our bills.

I hope that when we've reached his level of success, we too will look beyond our own needs, and try to contribute meaningfully to this beautiful planet.

Seth kicked off an initiative called the Carbon Almanac a few months ago. The aim is to promote conversations about climate change — something that's badly needed right now.

Here's a short list of lessons I've learned from Seth over the years. I intend to add to this blog post over time so do check back here from time to time.

Seth Godin on Marketing: Lessons learned so far

I’ve learned several lessons from Seth over the years, but the most important ones are about empathy and generosity.

This empathetic approach isn't about overnight success. No million dollar breakthroughs in two days here. 

This approach is an incremental one and it's the only one I know that works over the long term. 

Empathy is hard and it needs to be cultivated. 

Before you can develop empathy for your audience though, you need to get clear on who the audience is that you’re trying to empathize with.

That brings us to our first lesson:

What change do you seek to make?

Traditional marketing thinking is about selling products by winning the attention of buyers and growing brand presence.

While that’s a perfectly valid approach, it’s less effective today than it used to be back in the days of Mad Men.

Seth recommends we start with asking the question: “What change do you seek to make?”

Don’t worry about how you’re going to accomplish this goal or whether it will work. For now, just get clear on the change you seek to make in the world.

To me, this goes to your core mission. What is the purpose of your business? Why does it exist?

For example

A leadership coach might want to “help overwhelmed, and overworked consultants build self-sustaining businesses they’re proud of which help them get off the time-for-money-treadmill


Who are you trying to change?

Demographics refers to what your ideal customers look like on the outside. It refers to things like their age, income level, where they live, how many children they typically have, etc.

Psychographics is about what these people believe in. What magazines they read and what values they hold dear.

The more clearly you understand their personalities, their worldviews, their fears, and their frustrations, the more effective your marketing will be.

Be specific. Don’t describe what they look like, describe what they believe.

For example: You might be a coach who wants to work with clients who believe in the importance of addressing climate change.

Your clients may not directly work on climate issues, but they might believe that climate change needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

This group of people would respond to the same messages around sustainability and long-term strategies.

They’d be sympathetic to the cause and would respond to messaging around sustainability.

More importantly, asking who you’re trying to change will help you get clear on who you’re not trying to change. Who you’re willing to leave out?

This might mean you’re not willing to work with businesses that don’t engage in sustainable practices e.g. weapons manufacturing companies or organizations that don’t proactively promote sustainable practices.

What are you promising your customers?

In today’s information-overloaded world, I see a lot of marketers trying to steal attention by making outrageous offers filled with promises that seem impossible to fulfill.

You know the ones I’m referring to right?

  • Click this link and find my 5 step strategy on how to make a million dollars in 3 months. It actually works … and today it’s all yours for just $397
  • Download this 5-step formula to instant success online and make your first million dollars within 2 weeks

In my experience, these are scams. They’re promises that are impossible to deliver on.

The truth is it takes time to build a profitable business (a lot of business owners talk about revenue which is meaningless in the context of poor profits).

From what I’ve seen it takes years and years to build businesses that deliver insane value to the market and command a high-profit margin.

Warren Buffet said this about reputation:

"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently."

And this:

"Lose money for the firm, and I will be understanding. Lose a shred of reputation for the firm, and I will be ruthless."

 Making empty promises is damaging to your reputation and your brand. And at the end of the day, your brand is probably the most important long-term asset you have.

My question for you:

What change do you seek to make in the world?

Be sure to check back here from time to time. I intend to add to this post over the coming months.



Ash Roy

Ash Roy has spent over 15 years working in the corporate world as a financial and strategic analyst and advisor to large multinational banks and telecommunications companies. He suffered through a CPA in 1997 and completed it despite not liking it at all because he believed it was a valuable skill to have. He sacrificed his personality in the process. In 2004 he finished his MBA (Masters In Business Administration) from the Australian Graduate School of Management and loved it! He scored a distinction (average) and got his personality back too!