Seinfeld and Seth Godin's Life-Changing Marketing Advice
Finding advice is never hard to come by. Finding good advice, on the other hand, is like scrolling through Netflix when you have no idea what you want to watch. I wanted to start a business that gave me a mission and a reason to get up every morning. I wanted to have meaningful impact in the lives of others. I wanted to lead a happy, healthy, purpose-driven life and business.
But there's just so much bad advice out there. I didn't have the experience to filter what was worth listening to. The amount of time, money and energy I wasted on crap like a logo and business card when I started still makes my stomach crawl. "You should be handing out a thousand business cards a year." That one still makes me shudder.
But it punches you in the face like you're walking around the corner and you're hit with a firehose point blank. It knocks you off your feet. You have no idea what to do. All you want to do is run away as fast as possible so you can regroup and figure out what the hell just happened. People who I thought knew what they were doing were telling me to focus all my time on marketing. But I didn't even fully understand what the heck I was selling. It's like a painter showing up to make the final touches and you haven't even finished framing your house.
There is a story about an exchange between Jerry Seinfeld and a young comedian. The comedian approaches Seinfeld in a club one night and asks him for advice about marketing and getting exposure.
"Exposure? Marketing?" Seinfeld asks. "Just work on your act."
You're in the business of solving problems as a creative entrepreneur. If you create something that truly does what you set out to do, solving a problem and making life easier for those you seek to help, you will be found.
It's not your job to interrupt people’s lives. You don't start yelling and banging pots with the hopes of stealing attention. As Gandhi says, "Speak only if it improves on the silence." It’s your job to create something worth sharing.
One of my favourite Podcasts, Life Skills That Matter had Seth Godin on as a guest. Host Stephen Warley posed a question to Godin, "For that person on the fence, who has an idea of something they want to do, wants to start a business but they haven't been able to do it, how do you recommend they start?" Godin's answer is the first actions to take in improving on the silence.
Re-cast your idea as the smallest possible idea for the smallest possible audience that would be worth doing.
Do that, learn from it, succeed if you can and then repeat.
He helped me see that too often we think our job is the biggest possible idea, for the biggest possible audience. That thinking is what leads you to feeling stuck.
I decided to focus on my act as Seinfeld said. My marketing is having face-to-face conversations with the people I hope to serve. What do you struggle with? What's holding you back? What's keeping you from being the kind of person you want to be? I have an honest interest and desire to help those I serve. That's the best damn marketing you can do. It sets you apart from everyone else. You're solving problems with your own unique perspective. Georgetown professor and New York Times Bestselling author Cal Newport wrote an entire book about it, So Good They Can't Ignore You.
Following the advice of professionals I respected, I had the direction I was looking for. I learned how much more fulfilling it was to give a solution to a problem for people I cared about. As Gandhi said, "If you want to find yourself, lose yourself in the service of others." I allowed myself to have the freedom to make my own choices. I didn't feel like I was playing a game of hide-and-seek. I had a high level of confidence I would be successful because I'd spoken directly with the people I hope to serve.
But there was a time I was close to losing everything I poured my heart and energy into because I was putting marketing tactics first – instead of taking the time to get clear on the problem I was solving and the promise I was making to those I hoped to serve. Marketing is the last thing you should be focused on if you plan on being more than a flash in the pan. It's a poor assumption to think you're not meant to do this work because you couldn't get 1,000 Instagram likes or that your only engagement on Facebook is your Uncle Terry who just found out about emoticons.
Most people give up before they've even had a chance to start the real work. The advice of author Louis L'Amour reminds us that the journey is part of the fun when he said, “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.”
The people I partner with talk about the change they've experienced with their friends. That is the best damn thing you can hope for running a business. It means you took the time, care and love to put something that matters into the world. You're not just adding to the noise. It's the combination of making somebody else's world better and doing something you love that leads to a happy, healthy, purpose-driven life and business.