Godin, Seth. This is Marketing. New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2018.
[An installment of the “Read Me” Project.]
I love Seth Godin – by which I mean, I have a mile-high opinion of his work, appreciate his smart and helpful ideas, admire his passionate and disciplined commitment to excellence and his advocacy for good character, and especially value and enjoy the wisdom he passes out for free. That’s why I read Seth’s Blog every morning and pass along his name and my high opinion + recommendation to others fairly regularly.
Consequently, when he announced the publication of this new book, This is Marketing, I already had a high degree of confidence that it would be worth reading. Moreover, since our church Outreach Committee was at that very moment engaged in the project of relaunching the church website, it seemed like an excellent time to solicit some excellent marketing advice. So I added the book to my own reading list, and recommended it to others on the Outreach Committee as well.
This is Marketing isn’t about marketing specifically for churches; perhaps that goes without saying. But it’s about marketing that churches can do. That is, it’s about marketing that involves telling the truth, to people who need to hear the message you have, who will benefit from the service you are offering, who will be glad they heard that message and will want that service.
Godin is a well-known champion of “permission marketing,” and of marketing and commerce as the development of relationships of trust based on honesty and integrity. This was what made me think his understanding of marketing would be relevant to church communications that are trying to reach people outside the church.
As I read it, This is Marketing presents a vision – a way of thinking about what the marketer is trying to do, and what needs to be involved in that, considering what we know about how people – human beings – are. So, for instance, the marketer wants to connect with those people who will be delighted with the product or service she is offering; she knows something about those people, knows something about how they live and think and what they love and like and dislike and can’t stand; and the more she knows, the more she can communicate with those people in ways that make sense to them, about what they care about, and how the product or service she is offering fits into their picture of themselves, of who they are and where they are, or want to be, going.
All of this makes sense to me. It may help that I used to work in advertising, at a time when some of this wisdom was already commonplace. But Godin brings some fresh angles to this way of thinking – like reminding marketers of the idea that “people like us do things like this,” and to be attentive to how their narrative fits into that understanding of reality. Who are the “people like us,” and what are the “things like this,” and how does the product or service and the way they’re serving it up fit that perception – or change it – or fail to.
On top of that, Godin reminds would-be marketers over and over again that there is nothing to be gained by trying to sell to people who will not like what you have to offer, or saying you are going to do one thing when in reality you’re going to do something else, or clogging the communication arteries with spam, or any of the thousand inhumane ways people have thought up to try to make a quick (or even slow) buck selling products that aren’t that wonderful to people who don’t really need or want them in ways that don’t respect people’s humanity or agency. This is something I deeply appreciate about Godin’s work.
It has always been the case, I think, that marketing with integrity benefits people. And it’s always been the case that marketing without integrity ultimately benefits no one – even the people who undertake it, because they imagine that’s what they have to do to make some money. It certainly doesn’t benefit the community in which all of us have to live. And that’s one of the ways people – human beings – are: in this together, when we really get down to it.
The book is a lively, fairly quick read. It includes Godin’s own recommended reading list for those who want to read more, and a quick marketing checklist that summarizes the essential marketing questions that need to be asked and answered based on his vision of marketing – which he’s just spent the book describing.
All in all, I think it was a useful exercise for the members of the Outreach Committee to read This is Marketing. I don’t think we’ve solved our fundamental problem, or more accurately problems, when it comes to evangelizing for our church. But I think we have some promising ways to think about them that may prove helpful. So I don’t regret the money I spent on This is Marketing one bit, and I don’t think I’ll be sharing my copy with Half Price Books any time soon, either.
People like me read books like This is Marketing.
By the way, I’d be happy to hear from others who’ve read the book – What made you read it? What did you think about it?
And if you’ve got other recommendations along these lines to add to my reading list … please let me know!