Seth Godin: 'Low price is the last refuge of the marketer with nothing left to say'

Well the next big thing, according to best-selling author and marketing guru, Seth Godin, speaking at the recent Salesforce Live: Asia 2021 conference, is already here. In fact, it has been here for 20 years. It is the incredible ability to reach the people who want to hear from you, in a way they want to hear from you.

“This was impossible 20 years ago and now it is our future,” he said. He added that marketers today are the vanguards of change, and right now, marketers are fighting a revolution.

“Revolutions destroy the perfect, and then they enable the impossible and right now something impossible is happening, and it is not perfect for us – and definitely not for many of us in the marketing community.”

Godin said that for 50 years marketing and advertising were exactly the same, be it in mass marketing, B2C or B2B. The cycle was clear.

“If you spent more money, you would make more money to spend even more money. The attention was on sales and smart people bought as much as they could afford. About 15 years ago, this perfect cycle started to erode.”

The evolving role of marketing

“But before we talk about marketing strategy and tactics, we need to agree on what marketing really is. If we can’t agree on what marketing is, then we are really in for it. I want to argue marketing is not what you think it is, and it is definitely not what your boss thinks it is,” he added.

According to Godin, in many organisations, the way people approach marketing is by making average products that are handed off to the marketer to market. But that’s not the case in the new world anymore as such a style of thinking moves marketing to a commodity which ultimately results in a race to the bottom.

He added:

You don’t want to be in the race for the bottom. You want to figure out how to matter.

This will require a different kind of marketing and approach in a world where digital has accelerated massively and brought about a fundamental significant shift. The silver lining of this shift, however, is the ability for marketers to reach the right people at scale at the right time – if they want to hear from you.

Godin added that marketers need to move from thinking of the internet as a medium to reach everyone, to a medium to reach someone – and this someone has to be an individual who truly wants to hear from the brand.

“The opportunity is to serve the smallest viable audience. Not the biggest possible audience of average people, but rather a specific group of people who want to hear from you,” he said, adding:

But if you bring them average stuff for average people, it is not going to work.

Godin also touched on the balance of power which has now unequivocally moved to the consumer which means marketers need to add value to everything they do and say to stand out. At the end of the day, if you and your competitor are saying the same thing, ultimately the cheaper product is going to win.

“Low price is the last refuge of the marketer with nothing left to say,” he said.

Another opportunity which has presented itself in today’s world is the opportunity to tap into the network effect where your customers become your advocates. The best and biggest products today haven’t won by marketing, but by being a product people want to talk about, he explained.

He said: “Your job as a marketer is no longer about talking to agencies, it is to understand status roles and affiliations.”

These are missing from so many of the conversations marketers are having. This is why marketers need to think about personalisation because hyper personalisation is now possible. But the caveat lies in not confusing personalisation with the personal.

“Marketers must create anticipated, personal and relevant messages that go to the people who want to get them. That’s called permission marketing. Not spam,” he said.

So what makes marketing and marketers successful today?

Well, marketers must be here to serve those who want to hear from them. “My definition of marketing is anything that touches the market. Which means you have a seat at the table. This means you need to be in on product design, hiring, diversity and social justice, anything that touches the market,” he said.

As we look at 2021 and beyond, we need to take a deep breath and realise that the marketing role is significantly different then it used to be. At the end of the day: “Great marketers make change happen. And the question is, what change are you seeking to make?”