By Steven Pressfield | Published: December 14, 2009
I know Giving It Away is supposed to work as a web marketing strategy, bringing in new customers. (Like when rock bands offer free downloads of their songs and the new listeners then go out and buy the group’s CDs or attend their concerts.) I’ve tried this. I must confess that so far the only part I’ve mastered is giving it away. But there’s one gentleman who really knows how to do this crazy new thing and actually make it work.
His name is Seth Godin. Do you know him? Seth is the author of the best-sellers Purple Cow, Tribes and the upcoming-in-January Linchpin. He’s a wizard marketer, author and champion of self-empowerment, particularly through employing the power of networks and multipliers. Seth’s message, to all of us imprisoned by our own self-limiting beliefs, is this: find your true being, your emotional creative heart and follow it full-bore. Be a heretic. Break the mold. This is what works today, says Seth–and he’s certainly proved it by his own tremendous success.
We can learn from Seth. His message is for us as writers, artists and entrepreneurs–particularly in these tough economic times as traditional support and promotion systems (book reviews, ads, etc.) either vanish or lose their power.
Let’s consider Seth’s current venture, What Matters Now, a free 82-page e-book that he is giving away, starting today, on his site. Full disclosure: I wrote a short piece for the book, entitled “Tough-Mindedness.” So did about sixty other artists and business people. Seth set all contributors the same question: What Matters Today? What’s foremost on your mind in these times? What does the zeitgeist demand right now? The answers that came in are smart, provocative and insightful. It’s a fast, easy, fun read.
But that’s not the point I want to make here. What we can learn from Seth is how to use the principle of Giving It Away–to connect, to raise visibility, to make friends (and maybe even a little profit) and to actually help. Consider what Seth did:
1) He created value. He came up with an idea that would help people (the e-book). He found contributors to write segments; he edited their input; he put the book together (designed it, packaged it, set it up to roll out.) He created a product that is of value to an audience.
2) He made this product available for free.
3) He used the power of tribes to produce awareness of the book. Seth has his own huge following, to whom he can promote What Matters Now. But by enlisting 50+ contributors (each with their own tribe), he added tremendous leverage and reach–as each contributor adds his or her own oomph to raising awareness.
See how it’s working with me right now?
4) He used the power of multipliers. Tribes tell friends; tribes tweet and re-tweet. Starting from nothing, Seth has been able to recruit a small army to spread the word.
It seems like a trick, but it’s really plain old-fashioned hard work linked to an idea of value, empowered by the magic of “free”–with the whole wagon hitched to the also-free viral expansion mechanism of the web, of tribes and of friends telling friends.
How does it pay off for Seth? Every person who wants the free e-book has to stop by Seth’s site. Maybe they’ll read about Linchpin. (I’ve read it; it’s terrific.) Maybe they’ll be intrigued. Maybe they’ll order a copy.
If not, the whole process from Seth’s point of view has at least been fun. He’s made a bunch of new friends, raised awareness for himself and his books, and he’s actually given away something of real value–a manual of mini-essays by thought-leaders from different fields, offering readers an insight into what’s foremost on these trend-setters’ minds.
The other thing Seth has done is he’s taken charge of his own destiny. He is not sitting back passively (as many of us writers, artists and entrepreneurs have done), waiting for his publisher, his agent, his editor to do something for him. Seth is the poster child for Those Days Are Over. I salute him. This is the new era, the new paradigm. This is what works now.
I just wish I could figure out how to do it at Seth’s level myself!