When the story is no longer true

Let me start with a confession: I am an SG addict, as in Seth Godin. You never graduate the Seth Godin School of Marketing because even now, after following him for over two decades and reading every word he wrote, he continues to peel the marketing onion layers.

What I find amazing is that even with multiple best seller books, over a million blog subscribers, Ted talks and a lot more, there are so many of you left who have never heard of Seth. That’s actually excellent news (and the reason Seth continues to share his incredible wisdom).

So why write a blog about Seth? Because if you want to bypass academic courses on marketing and actually understand what marketing is all about, especially in the twenty-first century, then go out and buy Seth’s latest book, This Is Marketing. However, here’s a warning that will save you time and money.

If you follow Seth, if you truly get what he’s talking about, you’ll have to ditch any notion that marketing is easy. If you’re looking for one of those books, webinars, YouTube shorts, Facebook clever ads that will reveal “my secret to getting thirty thousand likes and making six figures a month” save your money.

Many of us (yours truly included) have fallen prey to some very creative and brilliantly crafted webinars that promised to make life easier and more prosperous. The webinars are of course twenty percent substance and eighty percent used-cars salesmanship. There is no magic formula, and there are very few shortcuts to achieving success in business.

Back to my favorite quote in a Smith Barney commercial, “we make money the old fashioned way, we earn it.”

So, if you’ve read every word by Seth Godin, and you’ve followed him for as long as long as I have, this is in essence, Seth’s secret to marketing success; it’s hard work, and you have to earn your success.

In my day job gig as an owner of an outsourced marketing executive, I speak to quite a few business owners and their frustration with marketing is rising at an alarming rate; "I feel like I'm spinning my wheels, wasting much money and other than a few "clicks" very little translates into real business."

Right. Marketing is a science. Marketing is hard. If you need surgery, would you pick a resident who brags about one successful operation or a surgeon with hundreds of hours in the O.R?

Back to Seth. The essence of Seth's marketing wisdom is summed up here: "And then he or she woke up to discover that the story was no longer true." Business success (engagements, conversions, sales) can only take place when we change the stories inside our customers' heads.

How do you know you changed the story, or that the one they told themselves is no longer true? When your 'audience' (prospective and existing customers, or even just strangers) start with a 'wow' and then call their friends.

Great marketing isn't about the end result of creating a new story - it's not the act of creating a story but instead the time-consuming and challenging process by which you get there that matters.

In Seth's words, "do work that matters."

If, like so many business owners, you're frustrated with the lack of results of your marketing, read Seth's book. It will change the story you've been telling yourself about marketing - that if you follow the herd and post on Instagram, send lots of email campaigns and maybe even dabble with Google AdWords, business will grow. That spending money to get a high ranking on SERP (Search Engine Results Page) is marketing.

You don't have to change everyone's story, only the ones that matter to your business. When their story changes, they will help you by telling their friends, in Seth's words, "Ideas That spread."

Here's the thing: Before you spend a penny on marketing start by writing the different types of stories told by your customers. Remember, these are their stories (the voices inside their heads) not their reviews about your business.

One of the reasons I've followed Seth for so many years is the simplicity of his observations - he'll never tell you, "go do this," instead, he shares his insights then suggests for you to think differently, do the work and see what happens.

Marketing works by changing common beliefs - by bringing attention to someone or something that can make a difference in our lives. You don't have to reach for the stars - marketing disruptions like Uber, Amazon, Tesla - start by being able to write your customers' stories, the process will help you understand what's lacking in their lives and how the story can change.

Beware of 19th-century industrial era false views about marketing - that it is advertising or sales and that the only way you get results is by manipulating the customer.

Changing the story requires deep, intimate and genuine exploration into the minds of your customers. It’s hard work and it takes time. Don’t rush it.

Zev Asch