This is Marketing by Seth Godin [Summary & Key Points]

What does Seth Godin say are the real benefits of marketing?

In This is Marketing, author Seth Godin outlines several key areas where marketers have the opportunity to truly serve their audience/customers, rather than the other way around:

  1. Marketing as a Driver of Change
  2. Putting the Customer First and Foremost
  3. Serving The Smallest Viable Market in the Best Possible Way
  4. Using Authentic Storytelling That Resonates
  5. Relying on Permission Marketing and Building Trust
  6. Creating and Leading "Tribes" of Like-Minded Individuals
  7. Embracing and Utilizing Tension to Solve Problems
  8. Delivering Exceptional Value
  9. Enhancing Customer Status and Affiliation

Marketing used to be relatively simple – running an ad on television to reach as many people as possible was an easy path to marketing success. In today’s saturated media environment, it may seem easy to transfer these techniques to reaching large audiences via internet advertisements, but many business owners and entrepreneurs are finding that even leveraging modern approaches to advertising just isn’t cutting it. Even with targeted ads and 24/7 access, there is just so much competition when it comes to internet advertising.

This is Marketing redefines marketing for the modern age, exploring various concepts around the idea that marketing can be a force of positive change. The author, Seth Godin, explains how marketing has changed from the old approach of pushing products on as many people as possible. Instead, successful marketing is now more about creating value, instigating change, fostering trust and connecting through stories. Godin dissects complex marketing concepts, offering a wealth of insight and practical advice for modern marketing.

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Ethical Marketing: Not an Oxymoron

Seth Godin’s This is Marketing is widely appreciated for its ethical standpoint – emphasizing that successful marketing stems from empathy, trust, and creating genuine value. Godin places moral and ethical considerations at the forefront of marketing practices, advocating for approaches that respect and benefit both marketers and consumers, leading to lasting and loyal customers. He breaks down actionable advice for successful marketing campaigns into the following 5 steps:

    1. Invent a thing worth making, with a story worth telling, and a contribution worth talking about.
    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, the smallest viable market.
    4. Spread the word.
    5. Show up - regularly, consistently, and generously, for years and years – to organize and lead and build confidence in the change you seek to make. To earn permission to follow up and to earn enrollment to teach.

Who Needs Godin’s Marketing Wisdom?

This is Marketing shares the essence of Seth Godin’s marketing wisdom, applicable to entrepreneurs, small business owners, freelancers and marketers of any service, product, or innovation. Small business owners can extract value from this book by learning the importance of catering to their smallest viable market, while freelancers might utilize the advice on storytelling and creating a personal brand. Entrepreneurs looking to build a brand or work towards achieving the dream of a 4-hour workweek can explore how to lead a “tribe” (Godin’s definition of a small group which comes together over shared interests) and foster a community around their products or services, establishing a solid market presence that will expand through the tribe’s networks.

Seasoned marketers and those new to the field alike will find various useful tidbits on reframing how their product or service is presented to the world, crafting a perfect sales pitch around the idea that it solves a basic need, value or desire. While the flow of This is Marketing is often disjointed and meandering, the essence of the book is a novel take on a new approach to marketing – presented in easily digestible, bite-sized chunks – that can appeal to anyone in the business world.

Seth Godin: Marketing Guru

Seth Godin author of This is Marketing

Seth Godin is the ultimate marketing guru for many individuals in the business world. Having written multiple bestselling business books like “Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable” and “Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?“, as well as a popular daily blog, Godin’s insights into marketing, leadership, and managing change have informed conversations in the business world for years. His ideas, such as “Permission Marketing,” go beyond being mere strategies, and have evolved into foundational marketing principles used by business professionals around the world.

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Marketing as One of Our Greatest Callings

In This is Marketing, Godin lays out a case for empathetic marketing, claiming that marketing is the work of positive change and one of our greatest callings. Seen as a generous act of helping others solve their problems, the entire concept of marketing is transformed. Effective marketing becomes something to be proud of, rather than being associated with shouting, hustling, or coercion. It is a chance to serve, to connect with our customers’ by understanding their desires and worldviews.

This Is Marketing idea map

Here are 9 essential areas that marketers can truly serve their customers, according to Godin:

Entrepreneurship - Starting Small Business - Delivery and Driving Services Job

1. A Driver of Change

Godin argues that a marketer’s job is to make change happen, and that embracing this idea rather than hiding from it is paramount. Marketing should transcend mere transactions, focusing instead on establishing connections and driving positive change that resonates with the audience. Godin challenges the reader to be the type of marketer that sees how human beings dream, decide, and act, aiming to help them become the versions of themselves that they seek to be.

Company Vision Statement Stakeholders - Customers

2. The Marketer is Here to Serve

Empathy emerges as a pivotal element of marketing in This is Marketing. Godin recommends understanding and addressing the genuine needs, values and desires of the target audience first and foremost, transforming marketing into a chance to serve, to help someone solve a problem. This perspective brings an empathetic aspect to marketing, positioning it as a tool for genuine engagement that leads to a loyal market, rather than merely a mechanism for sales.

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3. The Smallest Viable Market

Because you cannot change everyone, Godin challenges the traditional marketing approach of casting a wide net to capture the attention of large markets. He introduces the concept of the smallest viable market, emphasizing the importance of tailoring offerings to a narrowly defined audience that can be served exceptionally well. Rather than spread themselves too thin trying to catch more people than they can possibly serve, small businesses and entrepreneurs can use resources wisely to build a solid following by focusing on a concentrated group.

Entrepreneurship - Starting Small Business - Transcriber Translator Job

4. Authentic Storytelling Resonates

The book highlights the role of authentic storytelling in creating connections and inspiring actions. Storytelling is not about fabricating tales but sharing genuine narratives that resonate with the audience’s beliefs, values, and aspirations. Authentic stories, rooted in truth and consistency, pave the way for building trust and establishing a profound connection with the audience.

Company Vision Statement Stakeholders - Community

5. Permission Marketing and Building Trust

Godin revisits his classic concept of “permission marketing,” emphasizing the importance of building relationships and trust with customers. Instead of focusing on intrusive and interruptive advertising, permission marketing involves marketers seeking permission from consumers to send them messages, such as via email marketing or text message marketing campaigns. This concept aligns marketing with respect and trust, understanding that when consumers opt-in to hear from a brand, the message is not only welcomed but also more effective.

Re-Engage with Prior Customers - How to Get More Customers for My Small Business

6. Creating and Leading Tribes

This is Marketing focuses on the significance of creating and leading tribes, or tight-knit communities formed around shared interests or missions. Godin asserts that leading a tribe is about creating a movement, instigating change, and offering pathways for people to belong and connect. Leaders of tribes do not merely impose their will but listen, connect, and create platforms for the tribe to connect, interact, and grow.

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7. Embracing and Utilizing Tension

Godin explores the concept of tension, which arises from the gap between where we are and where we wish to be. Effective marketing, Godin claims, understands this tension and doesn’t shy away from it. Rather, it leverages this tension to motivate consumers to take action. By understanding the consumer’s desires, and the tensions they feel around them, marketers can craft messages that guide them toward a resolution, which ideally is the product or service being marketed.

Different Business Types Considerations - Raising Money Funds

8. Delivering Exceptional Value

Throughout the book, Godin emphasizes that marketing should be about creating tangible, remarkable value. It’s not enough to merely communicate benefits; the product or service must truly stand out by delivering exceptional value to the customer. Marketers should thus focus on understanding what is truly remarkable to their smallest viable market and strive to deliver that, exceeding expectations and inspiring customers to want to spread your message.

Different Business Types - Limited Liability Company LLC Structure

9. Status and Affiliation

The role of status and affiliation in decision-making and consumer behavior is another key theme explored by Godin. People care deeply about their status, how they are perceived, and the groups they belong to. Products and services often serve as symbols of status and affiliation, so understanding and aligning marketing messages with these inherent human desires can strengthen your marketing efforts.

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Essential Quotes from Seth Godin’s This is Marketing

    • "People don’t want what you make. They want what it will do for them. They want the way it will make them feel."
    • "Marketing is the generous act of helping someone solve a problem. Their problem."
    • "If you can bring someone belonging, connection, peace of mind, status, or one of the other most desired emotions, you’ve done something worthwhile."
    • "Our job is to make change. Our job is to connect to people, to interact with them in a way that leaves them better than we found them."
    • “The only productive solution is to find a lock and then fashion a key – not the other way around.”
    • “Culture beats strategy – so much that culture is strategy.”

Elements of a Successful Campaign: A Case Study

Writing case studies in particular is a great way to understand what makes up a winning marketing strategy, and Godin does this through a study he outlines of The Open Heart Project. Godin outlines the following elements of their successful marketing campaign:

    1. Start with empathy to see a real need.
    2. Focus on the smallest viable market.
    3. Match the worldview of the people being served.
    4. Make it easy to spread.
    5. Earn, and keep, the attention and trust of those you serve.
    6. Offer ways to go deeper with current members.
    7. Create and relieve tension.
    8. Show up, often. Do it with humility, and focus on what works.

A Philosophical Guide to Ethical Marketing

In This is Marketing, Seth Godin transcends conventional marketing rhetoric, guiding readers towards an empathetic, value-driven approach that seeks to make meaningful changes in people’s lives. The book is not merely a manual of marketing tactics but a philosophical guide that stimulates reflection on how we perceive and practice marketing. His emphasis on creating genuine value, building trust, focusing on the smallest viable market, and harnessing the power of authentic storytelling, amongst other ideas, provides an empathetic framework for modern marketing practices.

The concepts Godin outlines are pertinent not only to seasoned marketers, small business owners, and entrepreneurs, but also to anyone seeking to communicate a message, sell a product, or lead a movement in today’s intricately connected, and paradoxically fragmented, world.

You can find out more about the book and read other reviews or purchase your own copy on Amazon, or listen to the audiobook on Audible.

Did you enjoy this book review? Make sure to check out the full list of 44 Best Business Books for Entrepreneurs, Startups & Small Business.

And don’t forget to browse our collections of business podcasts and online forums for entrepreneurs for more small business resources.

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A special high five to Faith Dickens for her outstanding research and contributions to this article. We love working with and supporting like-minded entrepreneurs. Thank you Faith! ❤️

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