If you’re in any way involved in marketing – online or off-line – chances are that you’ve read at least one of marketing guru Seth Godin’s best-selling books. He is the author of 10 books, including “Meatball Sundae,” “All Marketers Are Liars,” “Purple Cow,” “Permission Marketing” and “small is the new big.” Armed with a degree in philosophy and computer science from Tufts University, he began his career as brand manager for Spinnaker Software in Cambridge, Mass. Godin is also founder and CEO of Yoyodyne, an interactive direct marketing company, which was acquired by Yahoo in 1998. More recently, he founded Squidoo, a recommendation website, in 2005. Revenue’s Editor-in-Chief, Lisa Picarille, talked with the author, blogger and in-demand speaker about his unique views on marketing.
Lisa Picarille: How would you characterize the current state of online marketing?
Seth Godin: It works! It’s always worked, but now it really does. And, at the same time, off-line marketing is not working. We regularly see the results marketers are getting with big campaigns fail to meet expectations. At the same time, the power of social media continues to expand.
LP: What are the most important components of successful online marketing?
SG: Making something people want (choose) to talk about. They have power, not you. Also, delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to those that want to get them. And finally, treating people with respect.
LP: Can you give some examples of companies (and/or people) that are getting it right, and why?
SG: Talk about the importance of social media in online marketing – it’s becoming increasingly clear that messages that spread from person to person are far more powerful than those that come straight from a company. So, social media is powerful, but not if it’s manipulated. Then it fails.
LP: Are there aspects of social media that work for online marketers more effectively than others (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, vlogs, etc.)?
SG: Social media doesn’t work for marketers. Social media exists for the users. Sometimes there’s a positive side effect for a marketer who makes something worth talking about.
LP: You often post multiple blog entries each day; where does all your inspiration/topic matter come from?
SG: I look for things that are broken and then talk about them!
LP: If you were to give advice to someone that is just starting out in online marketing, what would you tell them to do as a first step?
SG: Start a blog. It’ll make you humble. And a better writer.
LP: Your book “small is the new big” is a huge success. But do the “Big Guys” really get it? It must be a whole new concept for many companies to grasp that success doesn’t directly correlate to size. That goes against everything they were taught.
SG: Yes it does. That’s where the meatball sundae comes in. This is a new time, a new era and a new industrial revolution. Not everyone will play by those rules, but that’s okay, because those that do will thrive.
LP: I’m curious what role you think customer service plays in marketing, and are online marketers leveraging that facet to their advantage?
SG: Customer service is part of the product now. So, amazing service (e.g., Amazon) is a valid replacement for advertising.
LP: What role do you think mobile marketing will play in the future of online marketing?
SG: Mobile marketing demands permission. You can’t do it as a spammer.
LP: What are the three trends that online marketers should have on their radar for 2008?
SG: Make great stuff. Get rid of the factory. Measure.
LP: What are the top challenges and hurdles that marketers are facing right now?
SG: This whole thing about “prove it,” and show “ROI” is totally bogus. There’s no ROI on TV or other traditional media. Why do I have to prove that the measured thing is better than the unmeasured?
LP: I keep wondering if marketers will become the new “celebrity chefs.” Do you see a time when marketers will be garnering more PR, praise and adulation than CEOs?
SG: I see a time (now) when the great marketers are the CEOs. Like Steve Jobs of Apple and Howard Schultz [chairman and CEO of Starbucks] and Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Corp.
LP: Is there an industry, vertical or niche that is poised to benefit more than others from the evolution of online marketing?
SG: The only people who won’t want to play in this space are those that make commodities, because it makes it more brutal. The neat opportunity is that almost anything can stop being a commodity (bottled water, micro steel mills, etc.)
LP: What is your vision of online marketing five years from now?
SG: When online is everywhere, all the time, it’s all online marketing.