What is Marketing according to Seth Godin

Seth is like the Swami of marketing. Or maybe the shepherd of marketing because for over two decades he has been guiding the marketing profession as it evolves and matures. Seth is the author everyone has to read, no matter what kind of marketing you do.

And it makes sense for him to write a book about what marketing is. This is Marketing is a foundational book. Unlike other books, This is Marketing is not a book focused on one central idea, instead, it covers a wide range of topics from the rationality of buyers to adoption cycles. It’s a book about the core of what marketing is all about.

It also is a book about what marketers are about. It talks about our role in the world, our responsibility to use our talent for the greater good, our ability to change the world, and the importance of doing marketing in an ethical and respectful way.

In a way, this is the book that attempts to encapsulate all of Seth Godin’s wisdom in one tome. It includes the core concepts from permission marketing, written in the 90s, and covers important topics from All Marketers are Liars, which is probably Seth’s most important book.

In this post I will cover a few tidbits of wisdom I particularly liked in Seth’s book:

What is Marketing, according to What is Marketing?

Marketing is the generous act of helping someone solve a problem. Their problem. Marketing helps others become who they seek to become”. Continue reading “What is Marketing according to Seth Godin”

Extreme Ownership – Leadership Lessons from the SEAL Team

Extreme Ownership Leadership Navy Seals


It is not easy to find a truly good leadership book. Two of the best I have found bring lessons from the military: Lead like Ike, and Turn the Ship Around. Maybe it is because they deal with life-and-death situations, or maybe because there are clear missions with no ambiguity over who won and who lost.

Navy SEALs are some of the highest-performing military teams in the World. Jocko Willink and Leif Babin are retired Navy Seal officers who fought in Iraq. This posts covers 10 leadership lessons from their book, Extreme Ownership.  The core idea is that leadership is based in clarity, trust and accountability.

I listened to the audio book version. In the last five years I have gone to maybe 200 audio books, most of which I probably would not have read otherwise. I don’t listen to music in my car anymore. It is one of the best investments I have made. I recommend you give Audible a try.


Here are the 10 Leadership Lessons from Navy SEALs Jocko Willink and Leif Babin:


1. Leaders Embrace Extreme Ownership

Extreme Ownership is the most important concept of this book, and it threads across the other lessons. It is a concept I have written about before in a post titled There are no Excuses, the Ball is in Your Court. And is one that we should apply to the business world. You can’t blame your products, your boss, your budget, the economy, competitors or your team for your success or failure.  You are accountable for your success in your job, your career and your life.

A true leader owns the outcome. When things go wrong, you have to take ownership. No excuses.

“On any team, in any organization, all responsibility for success and failure rests with the leader. The leader must own everything in his or her world. There is no one else to blame. The leader must acknowledge mistakes and admit failures, take ownership of them, and develop a plan to win.” Continue reading “Extreme Ownership – Leadership Lessons from the SEAL Team”

The Best Marketing & Strategy Books

Best Marketing Strategy Books

These are the Top Marketing & Strategy Books of all time.

My favorites, the ones that shaped my thinking and taught me the most. A few leadership and management books thrown in as an extra. These are the books I would recommend to someone who wants to become an awesome marketer, strategist or leader – students, product marketers and CEOs.

I would love to hear what books you think I should add to the list, please add your suggestions in the comments.

I love reading. In addition to Kindle, I have listened to probably a hundred books on  Audible.com. I stopped listening to music on my commute, instead I have had the opportunity to learn a lot from dozens of authors. I really recommend it, try Audible here, you get two books free. Continue reading “The Best Marketing & Strategy Books”

Welcome to The Age of Context – and Contextual Marketing

The Age of Context and Contextual Marketing

What is the future of technology? How will technology impact your business and how does it impact marketing?

The preceding two questions are very important. Companies that are not able to adapt to rapid changes in technology are left behind to die. Examples abound, even innovative companies that were ahead of their times in their use of technology such as Blackberry, Blockbuster, Circuit City, among others. Most business executives recognize the need to evolve, as do most marketers. After all, that’s why I named this blog the Adaptive Marketer.

My oldest daughter just turned 14. I have had to explain rotary phones, cassette tapes, film cameras and typewriters to her. Kids born today will have to ask their parents to explain what a music CD and a DVD are. The evolution of these technologies has created and destroyed entire industries who failed to foresee the importance and impact of these new technologies. Any business person should be asking: What is the next revolution? Where are things going? How will these changes affect my business?

I found many answers in The Age of Context by the dynamic duo: futurist & technology blogger Robert Scoble and writer and storyteller & writer Shel Israel.

Continue reading “Welcome to The Age of Context – and Contextual Marketing”

The Modern Marketing Leader – A Manifesto

cmoBookA couple of months back, my friend John Ellett gave me a copy of his book, ‘The CMO Manifesto‘ which I thoroughly enjoyed. The book is the outcome of 50 interviews with CMOs to identify the best practices for the first 100 days of a CMO joining a new company. It turns out, The CMO Manifesto ends up being a very complete and modern description of the role of a modern marketing leader.

Establishing the role of marketing, a manifesto for a modern marketing leader, and best practices for marketing leaders in new roles is  important because of four reasons:

  1. The average tenure of a CMO is around 24 months.
  2. Marketing is becoming more complex.
  3. Most of the organization, including the leadership team, have a distorted, inaccurate or unclear understanding of the marketing role.
  4. Leaders are realizing how fundamental and strategic Marketing is for the success of any business. As Peter Drucker said “Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

Some of the more interesting points in the book I especially agree with:

  • Marketing leaders are change agents for the company
  • As leaders they impact strategy, revenue and the overall success of an organization
  • Focus and clarity (clear priorities) are especially important for a marketing team
  • Customer insights should guide all decisions
  • Vision, optimism and resiliency are essential traits of a good marketer

John organizes the book in 12 best practices for a marketing leader:

  1. Lead positive change
  2. Bring clarity and inspiration
  3. Build Relationships and trust
  4. Channel the voice of the customer and Insights
  5. Focus leads to greatness
  6. Drive agility and accountability
  7. Build capable, committed, collaborative teams
  8. Find the balance between chaos and process
  9. Do plan but focus on action
  10. Continuously measure and optimize
  11. Leverage new tools and technologies
  12. Remain resilient in front of challenges

Another thought leader, Ashley Friedlein, from eConsultancy recently published an update to his Modern Marketing Manifesto, which also happens to have 12 points. This manifesto has a slight digital marketing bias but is quite compatible with John Ellett’s point of view: There are many similarities and a few points that can be complementary :

  1. Strategy. Marketers should sit at the board table and set strategy. Strategy is shaped by knowledge of markets, products, customers and positioning. Digital needs to be part of every strategy.
  2. Revenue. Marketers must be accountable for revenue, have a common point of accountability with sales, and must understand P&L.
  3. Customer experience. Improving CX for the most valuable customers must be the relentless focus of modern marketing.
  4. Integration. Customers do not understand the distinction between mobile and desktop, online and offline, above and below the line. Marketing must focus on providing an integrated customer experience.
  5. Brand. Consumers control the message, forcing brands to be authentic and transparent.
  6. Data. Marketers must turn data into insight and action – hence the importance of research, marketing automation, predictive analytics, etc.
  7. Personalization. Relevance and optimization to each customer and his context.
  8. Technology. Marketers will have increasing ownership if the technology tools.
  9. Creative. We need creativity just as mush as we need technology.
  10. Content. Content marketing and the focus on owned and earned media.
  11. Social. Social is not a choice.
  12. Character. The modern marketer must be accountable, ethical, customer focused, agile, collaborative, innovative, brave and passionate.

What is obvious by reading both manifestos is that the marketing function is getting more complex, is evolving to play a more strategic role and becoming more and more interesting.

It’s a good time to be a marketer.

The Conversation Company – Embracing Social Customer Engagement

Social media strategy? Yes, we have one. We are advertising on Facebook and we hired a social media manager to tweet our promotions and publish stuff on Facebook. Sorry, that’s not a strategy. Since 2009, I have been promoting the idea that social media is not a strategy. In fact, Facebook is not a social media company, it is an advertising company.

This is why I immediately connected with The Conversation Company, Boost your business through culture, people and social media by Steven Van Belleghem. TheConversationCompany

Here is my favorite quote, from the prologue by Joseph Jaffe “You are only as smart as your actions. And yes, your results: the impact you make on your business, your brand and your earnings”. This is an important guiding principle for all social media marketers and really for all marketers. It’s not about the followers or the ‘cool’ marketing campaign that uses the latest social media gizmo. It is about creating positive impact for the business.

In this book, Steven gets is right: social media is only a tool for customer conversations. A channel for engagement, just like email. The hard part is not using social media tools (there is too much focus on social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook). The hard part (the meaningful part) is changing the company culture to make the entire organization customer centric. “The challenge is for companies to become more human”

This sounds very cool, high-level strategy speak. Similar to mission statements published by many companies stating customer is at the center of the business, yet nothing happens. To make this vision actionable, the author provides very clear and specific guidance such as: “To be effective at using social media for customer service, you must first embrace customer service and stop looking at it as a cost center.  Instead consider it can work as a conversation starter.”

“The focus must be placed in conversations between people. Because they influence opinions. Online and offline. Customer conversations form the basis of growth for a company.” Over a decade ago, the Cluetrain Manifesto established that markets are conversations. Steven has taken this idea and wrote a book to guide you how to make it a reality inside an organization.

The book provides a very complete 3-step roadmap for implementing a customer conversation strategy including best practices and real-world examples . For example, one of the first steps the author recommends: encouraging customers to have a conversation about their experience with your company – to capture their testimonials and amplify their voice.

Steven goes on to say the traditional 4 ‘P’s of marketing should be replaced (or augmented) by the four ‘C’s: Customer Experience, Conversation, Content and Collaboration. These are four key areas of customer engagement. I would suggest adding one more: Context (relevance) which implies also the creation of Value for customers.

Social Businesses engage in conversations. This means they embrace every customer contact as an opportunity to engage with customers, learn from them and add value. Customer engagement (conversation) experts are not social media tool managers. They are change agents tasked with making the customer the center for the company.

Re-inventing the business into a conversation company is hard, it requires making deeper changes than executing on a tactical social media marketing plan. The transformation starts with company values and impacts all aspects of the company.

Sounds like a job far beyond the scope of a marketing department? Not really. Today, Marketing is at the core of the business. The opportunity is for marketers to step up and drive the strategy, play a much larger role in the organization. This is the new role of marketing. This book is a good first step. I can certainly recommend it to anyone looking for ideas to maximize the value of social media.

The difference between Managers and Leaders

managers vs leaders

I recently finished a great book by Marcus Buckingham:  The One Thing you Need to Know. The author is better known for his work on Strengths-based success, but this is an excellent book that any manager or leader should read. One of the key concepts in the book are differences between managers and leaders.


Managers are all about PEOPLE. Their job is to align team strengths with the needs of the organization, to care for people, to show them he or she has their career in mind, to give them direction and resources and to cover their back. Managers are individualizers.

A Great Manager is a catalyst that turns people’s talent into performance that is aligned with company goals. A great manager demonstrates he or she sincerely cares about the team, making employees believe their success is the manager’s primary goal. Great managers get satisfaction from the small improvements in growth they see in the people they manage.

Leaders are all about VISION. They have an ability to visualize a better future so clearly and they are so passionate about it, they can’t help but do everything they can to make that future a reality. Their vision and passion make people follow them independently of their position in the org.

Great Leaders rally people to a better future. Great leaders are restless for change, impatient for progress and deeply dissatisfied with the status quo. The possibility of a better future burns them and propels them. Great leaders see the future so vividly they have no choice but to do everything in their power to make this future real. Great leaders are curious, bold and confident, and they have a great sense of optimism.

How to become a great Leader? Sorry but what makes a great leader cannot be learned. You either have it or you don’t. Leaders are born.  Leaders need, however, a fully realistic assessment of the difficulty of the challenge ahead and they need to bring an unrealistically optimistic belief in the ability to overcome it.

How to become a great Manager? Marcus offers a very accurate set of recommendations. Interestingly, the discussion starts by defining the fundamental human needs: a modern version of Maslow’s pyramid, in a way. These fundamental needs stem from fundamental human fears. They are:

  • Fear of death – Need for security
  • Fear of strangers and outsiders– Need for community
  • Fear of the future and uncertainty – Need for clarity
  • Fear of chaos – Need for authority and classification, order
  • Fear of insignificance – Need for respect

What do these needs have to do with management? These fundamental human needs apply to humans at all times, including work. A manager that is aware and understands the fundamental human needs of his or her employees will find the following management guidelines as very useful:

  • Provide clear expectations and goals to your team
  • Show recognition and praise for the accomplishments of your team, big and small
  • Demonstrate to your team you sincerely care about them as individuals
  • A good team requires interdependency: it cannot be a group of individual players

Marcus defines three things every good manager needs to know about each team member:

1.    Their strengths and weaknesses

2.    Their triggers and hot buttons

3.    Their individual style of learning: analyzer, watcher or doer.

You can be a great manager and a great leader. If you are interested, a good first step would be to read this book.

How Apple Did It

When the iPhone was first announced, I remember exchanging many emails with industry colleagues -as many people did – speculating about the possibilities of Apple hitting the 10 million target that Steve Jobs set during the announcement.

Many emails were based on market research: how many people were buying phones at over $500 at the time, how big was the market for smartphones, etc. I was skeptical given the complexity of the software stack that powers a phone. Most of us had to eat our words.

How did Steve pull it off?

There are many answers: articles and surely books are being written about it. I found a key piece today while reading a new book “Do you matter? how great design will make people love your company“. In this book, the authors explain how apple and other leading companies are design-driven and how most other companies are metrics-driven.


As a marketer , many times I have had to justify my plans with market research: opportunity analysis, market sizing, CAGR (compound annual growth rate) numbers, etc. Most companies financial discipline require this type of financial justification based on hard data and require some kind of proof that an investment will yield results based on research, focus groups, etc.

Not at Apple. The key to design-driven companies is that they place significant value in customer experience. The company is aligned behind it. The problem with customer experience is that it is emotional, therefore not measurable. Steve Jobs has a knack for great design (in the broad sense of the word, meaning how to create products people love) and is able to pull it off because he runs the company and the board of director trusts his investments will pay off most of the time. Or at least he has a success ratio that allows the company to experiment.

If Steve had to justify the iPhone based on hard numbers, or if anyone at Motorola had envisioned the iPhone, they would have more than likely been shut down by senior managers because market research, hard data and market trends do not support the idea of a $600 first-generation smartphone selling 10 million units in the first 18 months.

Interestingly enough, Motorola actually came up with the idea of the iPhone: they went to Apple and had to convince Jobs it was a good idea based on the fact you don’t leave your house without three things: car keys, cell phone and wallet. Everything esle is secondary. But I digress.

If this is a topic you are interested in, I highly recommend the book. It is written by Robert Brunner and Stweart Emery. I am half-way though but it is well worth it already.