The Seth Godin Approach To Content Marketing


Seth Godin, a world-famous author and marketer, quietly released a new podcast this week. It’s called Akimbo. It’s a word for the “bend in an archer’s bow,” and is synonymous with “strength and possibility.” I’ve always loved Seth because of his calm demeanor, practical advice and honesty in all his work. He trusts who he is and what he’s making, and he strives to teach and empower.

This first episode is called “The Grand Opening” and is an examination of how we launch something new. The episode struck a chord with me in many ways and has lots of wisdom that content marketers can readily apply to their work.

He beings by talking about the modern obsession with a “grand opening.” Everything needs to launch big or it’s not worth doing. He shares several stories, from Hollywood cinema to piranhas, on how the grand opening strategy pervades our culture.

We see this in business as well. It’s easy to fixate on headlines of 7-figure launches, viral videos, big success and bigger fanfare. If you can’t launch big, is it something even worth doing?

I think this is a question that haunts many marketers, especially those in the early stages of their business. “I don’t have a big following… How do I start?” “What’s the point of launching if I only have a few people on my email list?” We see our work alongside those big success stories and despair that we’ll never be able to do the same.

Grand Openings Vs. Grand Finales

Seth breaks down the grand opening strategy even further and shows the goals of this strategy. A big opening creates a sense of scarcity — “Get it now while it lasts.” It’s not there to educate or empower you.



The discussion moves to Kickstarter campaigns — one of the most interesting ways to launch a new product today. But there’s a misconception here. Most of us see a Kickstarter campaign as a “grand opening,” and it makes sense –it’s called Kickstarter after all, right?

However, Seth breaks down some of the trends of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns, and points out a trend. The campaigns that achieve stellar success come at the end of months or even years spent working to earn the trust of an audience. This is not a grand opening — it’s a grand finale.



Let’s look at a specific case study of a Kickstarter campaign that falls into this category: The Freedom Journal by John Lee Dumas.

The results appear to be a stunning overnight success — $453,803.00 in 33 days — a staggering success and the most funded Kickstarter launch in the “non fiction” category ever. (It’s possible someone else may have taken that title by now.)



It’s easy to think that John saw an opportunity nobody else saw and acted on it, but there’s dozens of journals like this — this one had its own unique twist, but it was not an earth-shattering product. So how did it do so well?

The reason for the success of this Kickstarter was that John had spent years building up a following on his podcast. He’s been publishing interviews on his podcast Entrepreneur On Fire for years now. His audience trusted him, knew him, and when he presented them with this offer, they were ready to support him.

The Beauty In Content



When we’re just starting a new site and speaking to a new audience, it can feel like lunacy and foolishness to invest so much time creating content that goes out to just a few people.

The goal is not to create a bunch of hype and make a splash — the goal is to build an audience and establish trust that you can use as a resource for years. Trust is your most powerful and valuable resource online. If you have at least 1,000 true fans, opportunities to make an income will always be there.

Content marketing is THE strategy that can do this. Content is your way of creating a place to have conversations with and serve your audience.

Even 1,000 fans can sound like a big number to some in the early stages of this business. So let’s consider what Seth calls “the first 10.” Everyone has at least 10 people that they trust and who will listen to them.

Can you create something for 10 people that will help them with a specific problem they have? Make a piece of content, and reach out to 10 people who you think would find it useful and see how they react. Maybe they’ll respond to you, maybe they’ll share it, maybe it will spread. If it spreads, it grows, and if it grows, you get to do it again.

If you want to learn more about building relationships with influencers with content marketing check out: The Harvest Method – How To Grow Relationships With Content Marketing

The Seth Godin Content Strategy

Seth gives several examples of companies like Google or Dropbox or the podcast 99% Invisible that all grew without advertising. They each focused on creating something great and useful for a small number of people. They knew tomorrow they would be better than they were today, and there was no rush to get a flood of customers coming in.

So the formula goes something like this:

  1. Create something different and great for a small group of people
  2. Get it in front of just a few of those people
  3. Engage, learn and grow from the response
  4. Repeat

What I love about this strategy is that it removes all the intense “success” pressure around business launches. If you can be patient and confident in what you’re making and continue to get it to the right people, then your audience will come. Build your audience first, and the product opportunities will follow.

This strategy is all about differentiation, but you differentiate yourself based on whom you’re targeting. Don’t go for the masses who are drowning in noise and competition — they’re not listening. Find a small group of “early adopters” and create something for them that the “big fish” in your space won’t do. As you grow bigger with your message, you can grow broader. Don’t rush your audience with pop-ups and aggressive offers — trust in the relationships you’re building.

Consider how someone using “slow web” principles might approach growth:

“Slow Web is interaction based — meaning it puts effectiveness and the experience it’s delivering to its user above the number of pageviews it generates.”  Andrew McHugh – The Slow Web Movement and the Future of UX



Starting small like this also allows for better storytelling — you reach people who are listening and who resonate with you. This makes it easier to be authentic right from the beginning. You’re building human connections that last longer than the “urgency” and “hype” that grand openings create. A smaller audience allows you to hone your story and see what resonates with them first, so as your audience grows, your story will be ever more refined.

Seth’s Question: How would it be different if it weren’t in the hype business?



How would your strategy be different if you changed your goal from trying to get a “quick win” with vanity metrics, sales and conversions and instead focused on creating something more useful, beautiful and elegant? What if, instead of trying to make more noise online, you wanted to serve and help people?

Here’s my answer:

This site has been around for about 6 months. I put it together a few months after my book launch to have better conversations with those who read it and downloaded the resources. I had much more to teach than what I shared in the book, and I knew I could serve people more.

I began to speak with readers to look for opportunities to cover any gaps in information in my book and provide new strategies and ideas to build upon the foundations laid out in the concepts of the book. I didn’t have any offer pages (other than for the book itself), and I didn’t try to sell products to my audience immediately. I just wanted to see who was out there and what they wanted.

I created content to start conversations with other influencers too. One of my favorite ways to make a new friend (or reconnect with an old one) is to create an amazing article and feature them in it. If you make them look like a rockstar in the content, they’ll love it, and that opens the door to all kinds of new opportunities.

I didn’t focus on the incremental growth of traffic, I focused on building relationships and conversations.

The good content I created got shared, which helped build awareness for my book, which helps me grow my email list. It’s a virtuous cycle. I know there’s many opportunities to serve this audience with more products or services, but my main goal is to grow these relationships so that, when the time comes for my “grand finishing,” as Seth calls it, I’ll be like John Lee Dumas, ready for my next big launch backed by my 1,000 true fans.

But that’s just me. What’s your answer to Seth’s question? How would you approach his strategy with your content marketing and your business? What does a world without hype look like for you?