Strive to be Missed: Notes from the Inbound Keynote

When I joined ANNUITAS a few months ago, I posted to our blog about what it means to be a marketer, right here and right now. I wrote that:

 “…B2B marketing needs to focus on ensuring that the accounts you can sell to are finding the relevant, targeted content they need to engage your B2B brand online. If you don’t supply them with the content they need, they will find it somewhere else, and you can’t always trust that the sources they find tell the story you want them to hear.”

This is the sentiment of Inbound, tailor-made for the new marketer, the content marketer, the inbound marketer, the modern marketer that is focused on the facilitation of the customer experience. Hubspot has done a tremendous job of spreading the word on inbound marketing, as they were among the first to realize that the days of talking at (instead of with) our prospects are over.

While your boss may want things to stay like they were, your prospects changed the rules a while ago and didn’t bother checking with you first.

Inbound 2013’s opening keynote speaker was Seth Godin, presenting a mash-up of the messages from his books Tribes, Linchpin, Poke the Box, The Icarus Deception, Permission Marketing and more. Godin is a marketing legend, and it was truly an inspiring talk.  I took some notes on the thoughts that struck me as interesting, important, or so glaringly simple that I was frustrated I hadn’t thought them first…

The New Normal

Bell CurveThe bell curve, at its most simple, is a great way of illustrating the performance of the majority vs. the outliers….grading on the curve. Godin shared a few illustrations showing how the bell curve has likely changed, how once upon a time, the middle of the curve was much taller than it is now. Back then people stayed in the middle because it was easier to settle for the vague and general than to find the specific and relevant.

Things have changed.

That “normal” part of the bell curve is smaller because it is so easy for the fringe people on the edges to find the things that interest them. They are now empowered to find their unique, special, specific interests with much more success than ever before.

What does this mean to you, in B2B marketing?  It means that people have an expectation to find the information that will help them to do their jobs, and that they don’t need to rely on the general, vague, uninteresting content and material that they used to be satisfied with.

The companies that are growing now? The ones experiencing the exponential growth? They are the ones that specialize in serving the specific needs of the fringes, and they are successful for two reasons:

  1. There are a lot more people on the fringes than there used to be, because they don’t need to settle for generic any more
  2.  They are satisfied with serving the needs of their specific audience rather than trying to be all things to all people

There is a strength in the ability to step forward, without shame, and to say “I made this” and have it be OK that it might not be for everybody.

Common Ground

We are entering the connection economy. That is, our success is now more than ever reliant on connecting with our audience or customers or prospects. They have grown used to participating in the conversation instead of being passive and we (as marketers) need to build up our skills to actually listen as well as talk.

Godin’s insight here is that if we are going to build these connections, we need to understand what is in the foundation:

coordination + trust + permission + exchange of ideas + generosity + art

Of these six things, two really stuck out for me – permission and art.

Permission
Godin asks “…what happens if you don’t send that email? If the person you are emailing isn’t going to come up to you and ask ‘what happened to that email?’ then you don’t really have permission.” Make sure that it’s worth reading before you send it. That’s where coordination, trust, exchange of ideas and generosity come into play.

The Race You Don’t Want to Win
Art is the part of the “foundation” that is the most difficult, daunting, and frightening. Godin said that “…the problem with a race to the bottom is that you might win.” Personally I don’t know that I would describe it as a race to the bottom – to me it is more of a race to the middle. To be average.

When I was at Demandbase we created a webinar series once called “Best Practices that Need to Die” based on the premise that marketing best practices were designed for people that are satisfied with being average, and that we should strive to be better than that.  I think Godin might agree.

Godin recounted the age-old story of Icarus….and pointed out that the thing everyone remembers about the story is that his father warned him not to fly too close to the sun. Daedalus also warned Icarus to avoid flying too low, because the salt water would damage his wings.

As Godin put it, “no one ever talks about that.”

You can fail just as miserably settling for the low end (the middle, the average) as you can when you reach for something bigger, better, more special. The difference is that if you reach for something better then sometimes you create Art

Some points that stuck out for me:

  • The future belongs to the people who will do art, as the days of making big money to sit at a desk and follow the manual are coming to a close
  • Are you making copies? Are you copying the person before you? Your boss? Your customers don’t pay as much for copies as they do for originals. If you settle for average then you create Copies.
  • Making art, true art, means risking and accepting that it might not work. We need to seek out the things that might not work.

In conclusion, if you asked me the one thing about his talk that inspired me the most I would not hesitate. It is something that as a marketer (and as a father, husband, friend, and human being) struck me as … important.

Don’t strive to be heard when you are here. Strive to be missed when you’re not.

Author: Jason Stewart @jstewart_1 VP of Demand Generation, ANNUITAS

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