We are all Inbound Marketers: Seth Godin’s Inbound 13 Keynote

Seth Godin is a personal hero of mine. His TED talk on permission marketing is the thing that got me to think beyond the technical SEO world. Getting to see him speak live is one of the main reasons I wanted to come to Inbound 13 in the first place. I mean, the man basically pioneered inbound marketing in 1999, years before Hubspot, Moz or anyone else was even talking about it. If you want to become a full stack, inbound marketer then understanding the principles that Godin talks about are absolutely critical. In fact, my manifesto about inbound marketing is highly influenced by Seth’s works. Plus, he is an incredibly compelling speaker. If you don’t already read his blog, I highly recommend you start right now. I’m also a huge fan of his Seth Godin’s Startup School podcast series. And with that let’s get into the keynote:

Seth Godin - We Are all Inbound Marketers | Inbound 13

This just in, professional wrestling is fake! Once you notice professional wrestling is fake, you begin to see through the facade. In 1991 Seth used the internet for publishing, while Yahoo was being created. He didn’t see the power of the internet and didn’t understand the possibility of what he could make. He focused on what he was good at and what he could do, not what would come next. Because of this he lost about 40 billion dollars, or his share of half of Yahoo.

Before I give you the number one marketing hack I know we have to talk about we got here. First there is Henry Ford. Henry Ford is the man of the century. He figured out how to increase productivity, he used the assembly line to make people more productive. Despite the fact that this was a simple model, it helped usher in a new age of industrialization. This also led to an increase in wages because the factories made so much money. This led to people being replaceable, because people become widgets in the assembly line of production. People aren’t unique in this model and thus can be replaced ad hoc.

Second is the record industry. This industry made money because there was a public good, the air waves, that radio stations used to promote the record businesses. This went away overnight with the digital age. More people are listening to music then ever before, despite the music industry crashing. This is what a revolution does! All the things we used to depend on don’t work anymore. People without money can market incredibly effectively. This is why the people with money think the internet is broken, because they can’t use traditional tactics to drive their marketing.

This led to the TV industrial revolution, you buy ads and get distribution and you sell more stuff. Then you use this process to buy more ads and the wheel goes round. This mass marketing means you create average products for average people. Just make sure you use babies or doctors or celebrities or celebrities who pretend they are doctors and you will sell more products.

The internet is the first media ever that wasn’t invented with marketers in mind. This changes everything. Everybody now has a remote control, nobody has to listen to the outbound marketing anymore. We get to chose most of our consumption.

In the last 8 years, the normal distribution curve has been melting. Money is spreading outside of normal to weird, and there is more weird then normal. Weird has become the new normal. This happens in every market where people care, the normal people are ignoring you and the weird people have run to the edges. Companies like Facebook, Twitter, AirBnB grow by being on the edge. They don’t grow through being normal. They grow through shunning the middle and going after the people who care.

Look at Grand Central Station. People don’t bump into each other very much. People are good at finding their own path and being weird when they need to be.

Not a single person knows how to make a mouse. A mouse takes multiple people to make, this is the connection economy. This is totally different then the industrial economy. Knowing this you won’t spam your inbox on the last day of your quarter, because you know you have to depend on connections with those people in the future.

The #1 shortcut in the connection economy is that there is no shortcut. If people ask this question, they already don’t get it. There are important concepts and ideas, but no shortcuts. These things are coordination, trust, permission (Seth will take a little credit for this one.).

A rule of thumb, that email you were going to send next week, if you don’t send it would anyone complain?

Lastly exchange of ideas, you learn more from each other then you do from experts onstage like me.

Connection is based on generosity and art. Generosity, because no one wants to connect to a selfish person, and art because no one wants to connect with someone who is doing exactly what they were doing yesterday. This is how you earn connections in the new economy.

Daniel Delaney (@danieldelany) ran secret pop up restaurants to sell his special brisket. This allowed him to test his product with real people and then when he got critical mass he opened a restaurant.

Musicians are taught and told to play the music as it is written. This is what we do with our bosses, we figure out how to play it as written. We should play what is in our heart, not what is written. Do you have a point of view, or are you coming back saying; “I agree with everyone what do you want me to do?” Then you are one of the pack, the freelancer waiting for instructions. You boss is saying lets lower prices then we might grow. This is a race to the bottom, the problem with that is that you just might win. You can’t raise your prices because consumers are taught to look for the lowest price. The idea is to be one of a kind, the one people will cross the street to purchase. Be unique.

Who made more money American airlines of TripAdvisor? American Airlines is a commodity, TripAdvisor provides uniqueness. But American Airlines is doing the heavy lifting. By being remarkable and genuine then you are worth connecting with.

Grit is what we look for. Have a point of view and stand for it. Here is the downside, you are going to fail, you are going to scrape your knees and fall down. Because that is what it means to make art. It means you may fail. You have to adjust, this is the value of the internet, it makes it easier for you to adjust.  You come from a world of scarcity, but the internet is about abundance, unlimited free media if people will listen, unlimited amounts of people to follow on twitter. We have to make different choices on what is scarce and what is valuable.

Look towards tribes. We grew up with three (religious, work and family). Now there are tons. Tribes of Santa Clauses, marathoners, cross fitters, red hat ladies etc. We like being in sync. Not with everyone as there is not new york times best sellers list anymore. There are hundreds. We want to be in sync with our tribe. We have the ability to be a tribal leader, to build a culture on purpose, to commit to the future of the tribe with all other tribe members. We have a cheap trusted way to keep in contact with the tribe and keep the tribe interconnected. This has never happened in human history. Hermits in the woods of Idaho can have more than 150 people in their circles. The tools weren’t built to watch stupid YouTube videos. The Beetles didn’t invent teenagers, they showed up to lead them. Bob Marley didn’t create Rastafarianism, he just showed up to lead them. There is still an enormous amount of disconnection in our world.

We say to people to do what your told so that they can work in the factory. We were taught a long time ago to hold a little bit back by coaches and parents and bosses. Because if they ask for a little bit more, you have to have something to give. Go to a good college because then you get to go to the placement office and get a good job. This isn’t working. Education was invented for cheap obedient labor. Marketing is ending this, because that’s not how companies are going to make money going forward. The idea to go to work for some guy who would tell you what to do is a recent societal construct. The human model went from hunting -> farming -> jobs -> art. Have you ever heard of Charles Pollock? He painted like others, his brother Jackson Pollock painted like Jackson Pollock.

Are you making copies? Of the marketer who came before or your boss? We aren’t going to connect to that, or follow that. I can’t give you a map. The minute someone gives you a map it isn’t art, it becomes about numbers. People in the world need instructions on how to play Farmville. Don’t be one of them. Competence is no longer a scarce commodity. If you can write it down, I can find it cheaper. Think about that if someone asks you for a map. You want it to be hard, then it can’t be duplicated for cheaper. Your only choice is to make more art.  If you keep saying to people we are like everyone else but a nickel less, your competition will do that to you. This is the race to the bottom again. As marketers we need to seek out things that might not work. The internet gave you a voice, and most people didn’t take it. Most people are only willing to innovate if failure is not an option. Success is just a bunch of failures until you figure out something that works.

When you work for a company that is going to spend 7 million on a Superbowl campaign then you have to be perfect. If you are going to test an email campaign to a group of 100, you better be willing to take a risk and fail.

No one has ever done creative work on a phone by email. That is polishing before taking a leap.

Ignore the voice of resistance aka the lizard brain. What is a meeting other then someone sitting around and foolishly willing to take responsibility next. Meetings are so you can hide behind someone else. Strive to do something worth doing.

A key part of being generous is a gift. Don’t strive to be heard when you are here, strive to be missed when you are not. You don’t have a job, you have a platform to make art, connect with people and do work that matters. What your tribe is saying to you as clearly as the can is we need you to lead us.


There are lots of great nuggets in every talk of Seth’s I have ever seen and this one was no different. These are my biggest takeaways from this talk. Now keep in mind, I have read Tribes, and Poke the Box and am familiar with the themes that run through Seth’s talks. Because of that these are the takeaways that spoke to me in this specific talk, I’m sure you will have other takeaways as well. I would love to hear them in the comments below!

Fail fast and pivot hard - This is straight out of the Lean Startup. The internet economy allows people to fail fast, this means that you can validate your ideas with real people in your real market.

Craft personal, relevant messages to people who want them - If you aren’t crafting unique content that delights people in your tribe then there is no reason for them to stay with you instead of one of the thousands of others who is offering something similar.

Use early adopters, they will validate your ideas and prove product market fit - In other words, get out of the building. Test you products and your marketing with real people and see what the results are. They will help you validate it. This means you can fail multiple times on the path to a great success.

  • not an english professor but

    proofread and correct your piece

    • danleibson

      Thank you anonymous person! I have cleaned it up some. Next time try using your real name and not hiding behind an alias. We don’t need to be alienated from each other!

      • sethgodin

        Shun the typo police! A generous and thoughtful recap, thanks for this…

        • danleibson

          Praise from Caesar! Not only was getting to meet you this morning a true honor, but I am touched that you read my piece. Thank you for the constant inspiration and for pushing me, and all us marketers, to be better. I am so glad to be able to help give back to others in the hopes that they can learn as I have.

  • http://www.rodecker.com drodecker

    Nice front seat!.. bet that took some waiting in line.

    • danleibson

      Only around 40 minutes, (un)luckily my body hadn’t adjusted to EST yet and I was up before everyone else.

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