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Tim Peter


October 10, 2008

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us (Book Review of the Week-ish)

October 10, 2008 | By | No Comments

As long time readers know, we’ve got a bit of a love/hate relationship with Seth Godin. Seth is, of course, the voice of modern marketing for his generation, schooled in the art and science of both business and the internet. Admired. Respected. The issue with Seth isn’t that he doesn’t know his stuff. It’s that much of what he knows is not new. Anyone who’s read “Positioning” or “Selling the Invisible” or countless other marketing classics won’t find much they haven’t heard before. So, why, we keep asking, does Seth get so much love?

With his latest, “Tribes”, now we know.

Seth’s gift is not his knowledge. Many know as much without producing similar results. Seth Godin’s gift is his focus on execution, on getting it right as he’s getting it written. In that regard, “Tribes” delivers. Sure, it’s filled with the kind of easily digestible lessons that have become Seth’s hallmark: pithy, thought-provoking, but not entirely original. No, the book’s strength – and Seth’s overall – is how much its flawless execution shines through. It’s not so much “I wish I’d thought of that,” as “I thought of that. How come I didn’t do it?.”

Case in point: Seth announced “Tribes” on his blog some time ago, with an invitation to join a new online community for the first <mumble>-thousand folks who pre-ordered the book. Big success. So much so, Seth had to extend the number of invites into multiple groups. “Take action. Get a reward. Be one of the cool kids.” What’s new about that? But it is dressed up in a new way, execution camouflaged as innovation.

And it works. Tried and true, married to new. Seth Godin isn’t exploring new ground. He’s synthesizing old and new, executing flawlessly, combining disparate elements into a cohesive whole.

And he really topped himself on this one. Seth didn’t just dress this thing up as something new. No. Imagine the surprise at the thinks tank, (that’s what we’re calling global HQ this week), when a copy of the book showed up out of the blue, before publication, with a note. What’d the note say?

“Here’s an extra copy, for free, before anyone else can get it. When your ordered copy arrives, share it with a friend.”

What…?!? A free giveaway? Two books for the price of one? What will they think of next?

Seriously, though, look at how well this was done. No pre-announcement of the tactic. Just simple follow-through. The result? Surprise. Delight. Makes me glad Seth uses his powers for good, not evil.

So don’t worry so much about innovative tactics. Worry about what works. Read Seth’s book. You’ll get through it quickly. You’ll be able to quote it at parties. You’ll probably learn something. But if you really want to benefit from it, look instead at what Seth did. You’ll gain more by far.

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