This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn To See

Every marketer should savor and soak in the words of Seth Godin’s masterpiece, This Is Marketing. In an industry known for manipulation, Seth cuts deep to the heart of what marketing truly should be.

This book is about conscience and change. There are some books worthy of an annual read. This Is Marketing is one of these books.

Summarizing this book is nearly impossible–you have to read it. However, here are some key takeaways that are resonating with me as I reflect on my calling to help great companies develop and execute Revenue Growth Strategies.

Marketing Is About Motivating Change That Benefits Others

Confession. I’ve been guilty of saying, “Marketing supports sales.” After all, I am a recovering sales rep. While the end result of effective marketing is revenue growth, the reality is that marketing is about creating positive change. As someone who wants my life to make a positive impact on the world, this affirms my passion about marketing.

“If you see a way to make things better, you now have a marketing problem.”

Bingo. It begins with a motive, a heart, to make the world a better place. In my case, that means helping great companies grow revenue so they can create meaningful work and give back to their communities. As I think about the client I’m working with today, GoldSky Security, they want to protect great businesses from the devastation of cybercrime. I think about the Kingdom Missions Fund where I get to serve on the board. This group wants to help missions find innovative ways to fund their programs while reaching more people.

Simply saying, “We want to sell more stuff and make more money” is NOT enough.

Marketing must have an altruistic, meaningful motive behind it. Otherwise, it’s just manipulation.

According to Seth:

  • Marketing seeks more. More market share, more customers, more work.
  • Marketing is driven by better. Better service, better community, better outcomes.
  • Marketing creates culture. Status, affiliation, and people like us. Most of all, marketing is change.

He says, “Change the culture, change your world.” As marketers, we make change happen.

We Solve Problems Because We Give a Rip

Nobody cares about your product or service. They care about the problems you can solve.

“Marketing is the generous act of helping someone solve a problem. Their problem. It’s a chance to change the culture for the better. Marketing involves very little in the way of shouting, hustling, or coercion. It’s a chance to serve, instead.”

It begins with a heart to serve. Larry Levine, my co-host on the Selling From the Heart Podcast, continually reminds me that the heart of service is the core of all sales success. I think the same is true for marketing.

Seth agrees: “The true north, the method that works best, has flipped. Instead of selfish mass, effective marketing now relies on empathy and service.”

Observe Before You Try to Serve

“Marketing requires seeing.” The heart of service should drive us to see others and our world differently. If you look, “You can learn to see how human beings dream, decide, and act. And if you help them become better versions of themselves, the ones they seek to be, you’re a marketer.”

How much time are you spending talking to your best clients? What can you do to observe?

So much of marketing feels like we have a product to sell, so we better figure out how to shoe-horn it into as many accounts as possible.

What if instead, we observed before we tried to serve? What if we looked at our Ideal Clients and Prospects with a heart to observe. serve, asking, “What problems do they have and how can I help?”

The Importance of Stories

Story is the ballgame, not statistics, features, or bloviating self-congratulation. “Persistent, consistent, and frequent stories, delivered to an aligned audience, will earn attention, trust, and action.”

Seth says that the way to sell stories is using this formula. “People like us do things like this.”

Stories serve another function: creating tension. How do you create change? “You can do this by creating and then relieving tension.” A story builds the tension and then resolves it. Simple. Powerful. Doable.

This works for everything a marketer creates: elevator pitches, web pages, videos, testimonials, case studies, brochures, presentations… All of these can motivate change by building tension and resolving it.

The Outcomes Buyers Really Want

Theodore Levitt, the father of modern marketing, was famous for sharing the drill bit analogy with his students: “People don’t buy a drill bit, they buy the hole the drill bit creates.” (As someone who has a wood shop and loves building things in my spare time, this illustration always resonates with me!)

Seth kicks it up a notch and continues the drill bit story, surmising that the hole might be to put up a shelf. The shelf might be used to hold a piece of art for the person to look at and feel comfortable in their home. The net result might be the admiration of friends that come over and see the art.

Ultimately, Seth concludes. “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill bit. They want to feel safe and respected.” He goes on to observe, “They want what it will do for them. They want the way it will make them feel. And there aren’t that many feelings to choose from.”

This aligns well with Donald Miller’s StoryBrand framework. Every buyer (hero) has a problem. That problem exists on three levels: external, internal and, philosophical. When you get down to the internal and philosophical levels, that’s where the magic lies.

The net result of this is what we talk about in Revenue Growth Engine: buyer’s don’t buy products, they buy outcomes. However, we do ourselves (and our clients) a disservice if we simply keep the outcomes at a business-results level. Results are part of the equation, but we need to go deeper to the true emotional impact.

“If you can bring someone belonging, connection, peace of mind, status, or one of the other most desired emotions, you’ve done something worthwhile. The thing you sell is simply a road to achieve those emotions, and we let everyone down when we focus on the tactics, not the outcomes.”

Marketers Create Experiences

Soon I’ll be reviewing The Experience Economy by Pine and Gilmore. They are famous for saying, “Welcome to the experience economy.” They said this in 1997!

True competitive advantage does not come from products since for the most part, they are commodities. It doesn’t come from great service because service is expected. True differentiation is found at the level of experience.

Seth believes the function of a marketer is to create experiences. This is part of the story. “Using a product, engaging with a service. Making a donation, going to a rally, calling customer service. Each of these actions is part of the story; each builds a little bit of our connection. As marketers, we can offer these experiences with intent, doing them on purpose.’”

Summary

There are so many nuggets to be found in This Is Marketing by Seth Godin. However, more than the actionable items, what I love about this book is its heart. It truly made me feel proud to be a marketer. As Abraham Lincoln famously said, this book appeals to the “better angels of our nature.” For that alone, it now sits on my shelf of books to read each year.

Originally Published on Revenue Growth Engine.

About the Author

Darrell Amy: Start Your Revenue Engine

Darrell Amy

Darrell is passionate about helping generous leaders and their organizations grow revenue and impact. He’s the author of Revenue Growth Engine and the soon-to-be-released book, Exponential Growth. Darrell motivates audiences as a professional speaker, sparks ideas in growth mastermind sessions, and serves on the board of several innovative companies.

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