All Marketers Are Liars

I just finished reading “All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low Trust World” by Seth Godin. I learned so much from this book that I actually feel like I spent a week at a conference. I wanted to share what I learned with you.

In case you don’t know who Seth Godin is, he writes the most popular marketing blog in the world and has written ten best selling books.

First of all, Seth is not accusing marketers of being liars. Marketers are storytellers. The consumer hears the story, filters it through his worldview, and he or she is the one who chooses to believe or not believe the story. If he chooses to believe it, he actually lies to himself because marketing is not based on needs, it is based on wants. What matters is what the consumer believes.

“Either you are going to tell stories that spread, or you will become irrelevant.”

A couple of points that are especially salient:

1. Every person has a worldview and we are not going to change their worldview, no matter how much we try to convince them. Worldview = the rules, values, beliefs and biases that an individual consumer brings to a situation. Case in point: we will never convince anyone that they need our material or creative services and we shouldn’t try to convince them. Whether it be a pastor, individual or business, they are either going to identify with our story or not. Even IF we were able to convince them to buy something from us, they certainly wouldn’t be so excited as to tell their friends, and if they don’t tell their friends, the story stops with them. So, we need to seek out people whose worldview fits ours and not worry about anyone else.

“In order to be believed, you must present enough of a change for people to notice. But then you have to tell a story, not give a lecture.”

2. A good story doesn’t shout the facts, it merely hints at them. It really doesn’t matter how many hours of material our DVDs contain or that we can shoot in HD. Don’t get me wrong, these are good facts, but facts don’t drive people to make decisions. Emotions drive people to make decisions. And yes, even most purchasing decisions in business are based more on emotions than on facts.

“You succeed by being an EXTREMIST in your storytelling, then gracefully moving your product or service to the middle so it becomes more palatable to audiences that are persuaded by their friends, not by you.”

3. Our story should be extreme. Take the title of this book for example. Seth named it “All Marketers Are Liars” intentionally because if he had named it “All Marketers Are Storytellers” or something like that, no one would disagree/challenge/hate/talk about it. Our story needs to be extreme and then we need to bring people back to the center where are products and services are.

“Your opportunity lies in finding a neglected worldview, framing your story in a way that this audience will focus on and going from there.”

So, what do need to do with this information?

Let’s not waste our time trying to convince people they need our products. They are not for everyone. Either you are in or out. The people who are in are the ones we need to develop strong relationships with because they are the ones who will spread the virus.

We should not be afraid to tell an extreme story. It’s perfectly alright (and necessary) to offend some people.

One of the points Seth makes is that companies with authenticity thrive. One of the ways to do this is to “humanize” your website. Potential clients need to know who they are going to work with. They need to see that we are real people with real ideas and energy. They need to see an authentic team, not just a shell of a website. Why not film goofy interviews with the team, set up a blog that is updated at least weekly.
Have a clear definition of WHAT you do. Be very careful about not trying to be all things to all companies. If we try to be good at everything we will end up not being good at anything. Clearly defining (in the context of a compelling story) what you do will always be a challenge because you really can do so many different things – and do them well. But just because you can do something well doesn’t mean you can be the best in the world at it (to throw in a little wisdom from ‘Good to Great’).

But what do you do that you can build an extreme story around that creates an emotional want, not just “I need a widget so I’ll call Widgetmakers.”  The way you win is to have people looking for an excuse to work with you because they WANT to, not because they NEED to. Telling a great, authentic story is the way to make that happen.

There are so many other great ideas in this book that I won’t belabor here. I strongly recommend that you read this book!

Thanks for listening.