I'm starting a series of blog posts from the Business of Software conference that I attended last week in Boston. If you are part of a small technology business (software, hardware, etc.), especially if you are an owner, I'd highly recommend that you attend this conference next year. It's small, 250 or so people, and everyone is interested in business. It's not a lot about technology, but it's inspiring and exciting to talk about business with lots of people looking to build their businesses.
This post convers the opening talk, given by Seth Godin, author and marketer. The talk has a number of mixed responses, but I thought it was very interesting and exciting. Seth has an infectious style, and he's a great presenter. He speaks well and builds some excitement into the audience. He uses some great images of silly and unusual photos from around the world that get the audience to laugh and punctuate the points he is making.
He has a number of books (Permission Marketing, Purple Cow, Meatball Sundae), all based on various tactics regarding marketing. He actually inspired me to download a number of samples of his books to my Kindle after his talk and I bought Permission Marketing later that day.
The basis of his talk, which seemed to draw itself through many of his books, showing that marketing is changing and that the slick, easy way that things have been sold for the last 30-40 years, with commercials and advertisements, isn't enough. His advice for a long time, up until the last decade, would have been to build a good product and then buy lots of TV time. That would be enough to get people interested. His current thoughts?
Ideas that spread, win.
It's a great thought and I think it's accurate. Reality will still diverge from the idea, but it will get you noticed. One of his main points was that we should build the connections into the software. If you can find a way to connect people, it will help you grow. It's a bit of a twist on the social networking thing and it makes sense in the current environment. Will it last? I don't know, but Seth will, I'm sure, have more ideas.
One of the ideas Seth proposed was that we live in a world of hyper-clutter. To get noticed we have more and more advertising and marketing bombarding us all the time. To counter this, marketers are doing more and more advertising and more and more bombardment.
One other interesting ideas I heard was that too many people are building software to solve problems they don't have. I sometimes wonder if that's not the focus of too many Internet companies. They build products in the hope that people will find the need for them and as a result they're invisible (Seth's words).
Seth gave an interesting example here that made sense. There's a highway outside Toronto, on your way to nowhere, that has a number of businesses alongside the highway. None of them is particularly better or worse than any other. However none of them really succeed because there's always another business a little further down the road. I'm not really doing the story justice, but it makes some sense. All are mediocre businesses except one.
Rita's Candy Shoppe.
Nothing special, but it sells candy from all over the world, as a family owned business. When Seth stopped there he found out the average sale was over $60. Rita found that people were stopping on the other side of the highway, running across the highway, just to buy candy. They decided to open an identical store across on the other side of the highway. They clear hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from candy.
They're different, they stand out, or in Seth's words, they're a Purple Cow. A purple cow stands out. It's worth interrupting your life, telling other people about, it engages you. Perhaps not for a long time, but itmakes you stop and think.
One of the things Seth mentioned was a clothing company that makes mismatched socks. 12 year old girls love them. Before you laugh, think that this business did US$40M in socks last year. They have a product at the edges, a product that's different enough to stand out.
Some other trends he mentioned
- Get direct communication to the customer
- Each customer is equally loud, remember this amplification the next time you see a company-hater web site.
- Tell stories, but tell authentic stories
- Remember the Long Tail - lots of choices
- Build your own channel (or buy one)
- Think about the consumer to consumer links, social linking
- The goal is not how many people you reach, but who they are. A niche matters.
- Remember the new rich. There is a wide gulf, but there are more and more rich people that can buy expensive products.
- There is money with scarcity and ubiquity, but not necessarily in the middle (I challenge this)
It was an interesting talk and I've purchased a few of his books to read. Definitely a great talk and he's worth seeing speak.