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Self promotion

Owen Wilson starred in a really bad movie that came out a few months ago. Most notable: he didn’t go out to shill for it. No Colbert, no Daily Show, no Larry King.

Perhaps he’s nursing a bad cold, but my guess is that he didn’t want to extend his personal brand to promote a movie just because he was in it.

Here’s an interesting dichotomy:

Watch this because I’m in it
I’m in it because you’ll enjoy watching it.


I published a book so I need you to read it
There’s something you need to read, so I wrote about it.


I’m fifty and I just made an album because it was time for me to make one.
These songs won’t let go of me and I want to share them with you because they matter.

The first is me-centric and explains that we’re promoting something that got made because we need to sell it. What we do is make stuff and sell it, and what you do is buy it or watch it.  “I needed to make something to sell, here’s the best I could do.”

The second is you-centric. It starts with the needs and desires of the consumer and ignores the committees, the compromises and the economic realities. It says, “I found something for you, here it is.”

Most of the time, most b2b and most consumer products are sold on the basis of: Yes, there are other choices, but this is the one we make. I’m not sure that’s a good enough reason.

80% of the mail and promotion I get (and 98% of the ads) fall into this category. The enthusiasm of commerce, not of belief and pride.

[Apologies if I’ve given Owen motivations that weren’t accurate. Readers have let me know about his recent troubles, and I certainly meant no disrespect.]

Wishing and hoping

Corey found this great insight into the way people think.

Twistori looks for certain words in the Twitstream.

We’re a pretty spoiled bunch (check out the ‘wish’ column).

The fibula and the safety pin

Walter Hunt patented the safety pin almost 160 years ago.

It looks an awful lot like a fibula, which, of course, is used to hold your toga shut.

My friend Kevin has one (not a toga, a fibula). An old one. He’s very proud of it.

So, the question that Walter Hunt didn’t ask is this, "Why should I bother patenting the safety pin? It’s already been done. I mean, even John Belushi has a fibula."

Just about everything has a strike against it. It’s either already been done or it’s never been done. Ignore both conditions. Pushing an idea through the dip of acceptance is far more valuable than inventing something that’s never existed… and then walking away from it.

Signal to noise

In radio operator lingo, you look for a strong signal to noise ratio. That’s the amount of good stuff (the message) that comes through the static (the noise.) You can use your squelch button to turn down the static, but if there isn’t enough signal, you don’t hear anything at all.

For a decade, the web kept delivering an ever better signal to noise ratio to me. I was able to hear more things, more clearly, in less time. Websites and email and my RSS reader were bringing me signals from everywhere, and processing them (and creating, I hope, new signal) was a joy.

Lately, I’m feeling noise creep.

Lately, the noise seems to be increasing and the signal is fading in comparison. Too much spam, too many posts, too little insight leaking through. I don’t use Twitter, but I know a lot of Twitter users are feeling this. So are folks who go to too many conferences. And don’t get me started on victims of Blackberry cc: disease.

I wish I could tell you the easy answer. I can’t. I just know that the faltering signal is a problem.


I just discovered that some of you recently received a piece of spam that began, "dear first name". Apparently, it was sent to people who signed up for an audio call I did several months ago.

This is obviously not my idea, and I’m really upset about it.

I have no idea who got the note, and it probably would make things worse to email everyone on the list apologizing, so instead I’m posting about it.

This is simple: Permission Marketing means delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who WANT to get them. The key word is want. Make it easy for people to sign up, but then give them exactly what you promise.

If you sign up for thing A and the fine print says you get thing B, that’s not permission.

All I can do is apologize. I’ll try to work harder to make sure that people I work with get this through and through. Sorry.

[Here’s a note I just got from my friend who sent the ouch note:

Dear Seth and Seth Godin fans,

Even the biggest Seth fans like me and supporters of Permission Marketing screw up from time to time.  Today, that person is me.  I have egg on my face and give your readers a glaring example of what NOT to do to communicate with a permission-based list and to build relationships with customers and clients

…I accidentally sent an email to some folks who opted in JUST for the Seth teleseminar series earlier this year.  A big mistake…one that I didn’t realize until it was too late.  To make matters worse, I left the standard "dear firstname" at the top of the email.  What a brilliant disaster and royal mess.  I did exactly the opposite of what I intended to do – to send a relevant message to a small group who gave me permission to send emails like the one I did.

I can’t undo the damage, but I can apologize and can make sure that you and your readers know that it was not intentional.   I can only hope that you trust my integrity when I say that and trust that it won’t happen again.

I have learned the hard way what can happen when you send a hasty email without double-checking whether it’s going to the right people.

Moral: stuff happens. At least it wasn’t on purpose…]

Nearly infinite

Infinite isn’t what it used to be. There used to be an infinite number of stars, and probably an infinite number of kids in high school who didn’t like you very much, but that was about it when it came to a typical human being’s interaction with the uncountable.

But now, infinite is everywhere.

There’s an infinite number of books at Barnes and Noble (you can’t read em all, in fact, you can’t even find enough time to know the name of every one, or even just the first name of every author.)

There’s certainly, for all intents and purposes, an infinite number of web pages. And even Facebook, just a small subset of the web, has an infinite number of friends for you to make.

That’s where search comes in. Search makes the infinite finite (at least for a while). With search, we turn the infinite selection on Amazon into a nearly manageable finite selection. Except search (no matter where you look) is pretty lame, and it doesn’t really turn infinite collections into manageable choices. There are thousands of Godins on Facebook, too many for me to count (though one Godin friended a family member and it appears she’s trying to friend every Godin in the world–even though my name is a three-generation old fiction). There’s a lot of haystacks out there, and the needles are really good at hiding.

There are essentially an infinite number of good causes to contribute to, an infinite number of people to help, an infinite number of great records to listen to as well. The problem is finding them. Connecting. Feeling like you were successful and not missing something you really needed or wanted.

Search on the web is now grappling with this. If you know 100,000 words, names and brand names, there are now a hundred trillion different searches you can do… with only two words in combination.  No, you might not want to search on Starbucks Matzoh, but you could. Just knowing what to search for is now as difficult as the search itself.

In the face of infinity, many of us are panicking and searching less, going shallower, relying on bestseller lists and simple recommendations. The vast majority of Google searches are just one or two words, and obvious ones at that. The long tail gets a lot shorter when you don’t know what’s out there.

Organizations that can help us manage the infinite are facing a huge (can I say it? nearly infinite) opportunity.

Cool Squidoo tool

If you have a Squidoo lens, I hope you’ll check this out. (Type in the name of a lens, like sinclairlewis or michelangelosdavid or rick-roll).

Taking it a step further, the idea of being able to check everything you need to know about your blog or website (any website) seems like a powerful business for someone… Technorati and Compete are doing things like this, but no one seems to put it all in one place.

Thanks, Greg

You would think that the Red parking lot, parking lot #8 at JFK, would be the last place you’d find someone who actually cared, never mind someone who pretended to (a pale imitation).

And yet, that’s where Greg works. Greg was the airport parking lot attendant who found the bag carelessly left behind on the third floor of the garage. I called, he grabbed it and secured it for me.

He even turned down the reward I offered him. Next time you fly American, be sure to thank the cashiers as you drive out.

Thanks, Greg. People who care are in short supply. I hope to repay the favor one day.

Pretending that you care

I spent part of the day in New York yesterday.

First stop, an expensive sporting goods store that prides itself on service. I bought some skates, paid and then asked the security guy (the one with all the shelves behind his desk, where people check stuff they bring in) if I could leave my stuff there for ten minutes while I ran an errand.

"No, I’m really really sorry," he said, "but we can’t take responsibility and I’ll get in big trouble if I do. I know it’s a hassle for you…"

I left and did my errand. A little later, on my way back to the car, I had one last street to cross. Suddenly, a motorcade of 20 police cars, sirens roaring, whizzed by, blocking the crosswalk and making me miss the light (if anyone knows why NY City cops are suddenly doing this a lot, please let me know. Where are they going? Why? If it’s an emergency, why don’t they go faster? [Ari knows]).

As I waited for the cops to go by, I watched a meter guy walk up to my car and slowly start to write me a parking ticket. I was being penalized for being a good citizen and waiting for the endless motorcade!

I ran up and begged.

He turned to me and said, "I’m so sorry. I know what a hassle it is, but once I press this yellow button here, I have to finish. But I bet if you go to court and complain, they’ll waive it." Then he reached into his pocket and handed me a lollipop. "Thanks for coming to New York, and I’m sorry."

Except this story isn’t true.

The guy at the sporting goods store just grunted at me. Explained it wasn’t his job and just dared me to return the skates I had just bought. And the meter guy didn’t even bother to acknowledge me or make eye contact.

No, you can’t always hire exceptional people for these jobs. No, you can’t always invest enough time to train them sufficiently. But yes, you can make, "pretending you care," a barely acceptable alternative.

It doesn’t take much to take the edge off an encounter.

[Boy does this sound cynical. How inauthentic! How manipulative! Isn’t it better to just hire people who actually care? Of course it is. But as far as I can tell, that’s a lot harder than it looks–because so many organizations are organized around policies, not caring, and because so many employees have been trained not to care.

So, the essence of the lesson here is this: if people start out pretending to care, next thing you know, they actually do care. They like the positive feedback and they like the way being kind makes them feel. It spreads. It sticks.]

Would you do me a favor?

Just about a year ago, I published The Dip.

It turned out to be one of my most successful books. Perhaps you have a copy–which I appreciate more than you can guess. Now, here’s the favor:

A year later, would you mind sharing your copy? Take it off the shelf and loan it to someone. Someone at work or in your family, perhaps. If I could double the number of people who read the book, it would be pretty cool.