Overcoming Mediocrity, Dancing with Fear and Improving the Human Experience: An Hour with Seth Godin

October 5, 2015

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Seth Godin is one who needs no introduction. But as a formality: Seth is an American author, entrepreneur, marketer, public speaker, and rightfully dubbed a content marketing legend. His most recent masterpiece, ‘What To Do When It’s Your Turn’ was the taking off point for his session at Advertising Week this year. But the wisdom he shared extended well beyond the marketing insights outlined within the book. Read on for takeaways from Seth’s session, including his thoughts on overcoming mediocrity, the true definition of art, how to become indispensable in the workplace and much, much more.

Don’t try to market to the masses

“My goal is to be missed when I don’t show up one day. Not missed by a lot of people. But by the ones that matter.”

Seth said we should desperately try to avoid creating large batches of mediocre content to feed the masses. Instead, he encouraged marketers to create content for the specific audience it is intended for. “Don’t try to create average stuff for average people,” he said.

If someone happens to not like your content, you can mutually agree that your products or services are not a good fit for them, and as a result, get closer to the prospects who will appreciate your message. He referenced Harley-Davidson as a good example of a brand that does this well. “Harley-Davidson connects the disconnected. It connects a community of outsiders,” he said. The best marketers display a level of respect for the consumer – they took the time to get to know their audience and send a personalized message. Some may say that this approach to content creation is difficult. But Seth points out that “it’s a question of guts, not a question of difficulty.” Which brings him to his next point…

Creating above average content takes guts

“Welcome the fear and dance with it.”

Seth’s session was held within the Hard Rock Café in Times Square. He encouraged us to take a look around at the artists featured on the walls: Jerry Garcia and Peter Townshend to name two. “It’s possible to not succumb to the pressure of mediocrity,” he said. “The only people who have pictures here are the ones who didn’t succumb.” Similarly, marketers should be willing to take risks in order to create content that really stands out, makes people think, feel and remember.

Another analogy Seth presented was the nature of the sport skate skiing. In skate skiing, the person who leans forward the most without falling on their face, wins. “That’s what I look for in every project I do,” he said. We need to ask ourselves if we’re willing to lean into the fear and accept the possibility of failure in order to be regarded as the best, the most helpful and the most innovative.

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Changemakers are indispensable in the workplace

“You don’t have a job, you have a platform. Don’t wait around asking for instructions.”

The subtitle of Seth’s new book is, “And it’s always your turn.” Seth says that one aspect of the new economy is, “If I can write down what you do, I can hire someone else for cheaper.” In other words, if your abilities are limited to the bullet points listed within a job description, you’re easily replaceable. To become truly indispensable, you must shift your mindset – from industrial to artistic. The people who step outside their job responsibilities; those who refuse to be cogs in the machine, these are the changemakers worth holding on to.

There is value in strategic failure

“I have failed more than most people, and I’m proud of that.”

A lot of marketing teams may view failure as a sign of, well, failure. But what if you could shift your perspective, take more intelligent risks, test, iterate and improve based on these small bumps in the road? Here on the LinkedIn Marketing team, we test everything. Not every piece of content we put out is a home run, but we do learn from every eBook, whitepaper, Tweet and customer interaction.

Failure is not only necessary for improvement, but Seth proposes that it is intrinsically part of the artistic process. He defines art as ‘”the human act of doing something that might not work, that is generous, and that will bring us closer together.” Part of the beauty is the uncertainty of that artistic act. As Seth put it, “The person who fails the most wins. If you never fail, you haven’t done anything.” And how lucky we are as marketers to be in an industry where we can consistently experiment? “Art is our best option as humans and people who want to make an impact,” Seth says. Such opportunity should make us feel lucky, not vulnerable.

So, as marketers in the modern age, we must be brave, focused and strategic data scientists. We must lean into the fear, “always certain, never in doubt,” as Seth says. It’s a great time to be a marketer, and we should be excited about the vast opportunities that await. The time for inspiration is now. Go do something uniquely relevant, controversial even. It’s your turn.

For more #AWXII session takeaways and industry leader insights, visit the LinkedIn Hub.

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