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This Is Marketing: You Can't Be Seen Until You Learn to See

7 mins
book summary marketing seth-godin
Shawn L
Builds stuff minimally
Table of Contents

If you’ve read a lot of Seth Godin’s work, this book won’t be eye-opening. This book feels like a summary of Purple Cow, The Dip, and Tribes.

The market decides

Marketing is the act of making change happen. Making is insufficient.

On getting the word out (precisely the wrong question)

How you’ll be discovered is the last part.

Marketing in five steps

  1. Invent a thing worth making, with a story worth telling.

  2. Design and build it in a way that a few people will particularly benefit from and care about.

  3. Tell a story that matches the built-in narrative and dreams of that tiny group of people.

  4. Spread the word.

  5. Show up—regularly, consistently, and generously, for years and years.

Case Study: VisionSpring - Selling glasses to people who need them

We changed the story from “Here’s an opportunity to shop, to look good, to regain your sight, to enjoy the process, to feel ownership from beginning to end” to “Do you want us to take away what you have, or do you want to pay to keep the glasses that are already working for you?”

The way we make things better is by caring enough about those we serve to imagine the story that they need to hear.

That riff about the quarter-inch drill bit

People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill bit. They want a quarter-inch hole.

The drill bit is merely a feature, a means to an end, but what people truly want is the hole it makes.

Actually, what they want is how they’ll feel once they see how uncluttered everything is, when they put their stuff on the shelf that went on the wall, now that there’s a quarter-inch hole.

They also want the satisfaction of knowing they did it themselves.

People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill bit. They want to feel safe and respected.

People don’t want what you make. They want what it will do for them. They want the way it will make them feel.

Market-driven: Who’s driving the bus?

When you’re market-driven, you think a lot about the hopes and dreams of your customers and their friends. You listen to their frustrations and invest in changing the culture.

Being market-driven lasts.

The myth of rational choice

The bet you’d be better off making is: “When in doubt, assume that people will act according to their current irrational urges, ignoring information that runs counter to their beliefs, trading long-term for short-term benefits and most of all, being influenced by the culture they identify with.”

What promise are you making?

The promise isn’t the same as a guarantee. It’s more like, “If this works for you, you’re going to discover . . .”

Worldviews and personas

If you have to choose a thousand people to become your true fans, who should you choose? Begin by choosing people based on what they dream of, believe, and want, not based on what they look like.

In other words, use psychographics instead of demographics.

Specific is a kind of bravery

Organize your project, your life, and your organization around the minimum.

A simple one-word transformation

Perhaps instead of talking about prospects and customers, we could call them your “students” instead.

The simple marketing promise

My product is for people who believe ****_****. I will focus on people who want ****_****. I promise that engaging with what I make will help you get ****_****.

Authenticity versus emotional labor

Emotional labor is the work of doing what we don’t feel like doing.

If you need to be authentic to do your best work, you’re not a professional,

Who’s talking?

The goal isn’t to personalize the work. It’s to make it personal.

The Canvas of Dreams and Desires

When you’re marketing change, you’re offering a new emotional state, a step closer to the dreams and desires of your customers, not a widget.

What do people want?

If you ask them, you probably won’t find what you’re looking for. You certainly won’t find a breakthrough. It’s our job to watch people, figure out what they dream of, and then create a transaction that can deliver that feeling.

Always be testing

Always be seeking, connecting, solving, asserting, believing, seeing, and yes, testing. The other way to read this is: always be wrong.

Why don’t people choose you?

“I’m sorry, this isn’t for you, here’s the phone number of my competitor,” then we also find the freedom to do work that matters.

Roots and shoots

Your work is a tree. The roots live in the soil of dreams and desires. Not the dreams and desires of everyone, simply those you seek to serve.

Marketers create tension, and forward motion relieves that tension.

The scarcity of the going-out-of-business sale creates tension. The tension of “What bargains did I miss?”

Affiliation and dominion are different ways to measure status.

The people you’re seeking to serve in this moment: What are they measuring?

“Who eats first” and “who sits closest to the emperor” are questions that persist to this day. Both are status questions. One involves dominion; the other involves affiliation.

Where are you going? What’s holding you back?

Always be wondering, always be testing, always be willing to treat different people differently. If you don’t, they’ll find someone who will.

Brand marketing makes magic; direct marketing makes the phone ring.

If you’re buying direct marketing ads, measure everything.

If you’re buying brand marketing ads, be patient. Refuse

A simple guide to brand marketing

You definitely, certainly, and surely don’t have enough time and money to build a brand for everyone. You can’t. Don’t try. Be specific. Be very specific.


“Don’t change your ads when you’re tired of them. Don’t change them when your employees are tired of them. Don’t even change them when your friends are tired of them. Change them when your accountant is tired of them.”

The market has been trained to associate frequency with trust (there, I just said it again). If you quit right in the middle of building that frequency, it’s no wonder you never got a chance to earn the trust.

Search engine optimization and the salt mines

Step one is to make a product or service that people care enough to search for specifically.

“Cheap” is another way to say “scared”

Low price is the last refuge of a marketer who has run out of generous ideas.

Trust and risk, trust and expense

When people are heavily invested (cash or reputation or effort), they often make up a story to justify

Lowering your price doesn’t make you more trusted. It does the opposite.

Earn your own permission and own it

When we use a social media platform because it has plenty of users built in, we’re not really building an asset.

The best way to earn trust is through action.

Famous to the tribe

The goal isn’t to maximize your social media numbers. The goal is to be known to the smallest viable audience.

It’s not your tribe

The tribe would probably survive if you went away. The goal is for them to miss you if you did.

The story of self, the story of us, and the story of now.

When you talk about your transition—from who you used to be to who you became—you are being generous with us.

The story of us is the kernel of a tribe. Why are we alike? Why should we care? Can I find the empathy to imagine that I might be in your shoes?

It will fade if you let it

The best marketers are farmers, not hunters. Plant, tend, plow, fertilize, weed, repeat. Let someone else race around after shiny objects.

The tyranny of perfect

Perfect closes the door. It asserts that we’re done, that this is the best we can do.

The magic of good enough

Ship your work. It’s good

What will you build now?

If you bring your best self to the world, your best work, and the world doesn’t receive it, it’s entirely possible that your marketing sucked.

And you can get better at that craft. This thing that we do—whether it’s surgery or gardening or marketing—it’s not us, it’s the work that we do.