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Seth Godin's 3 keys for leading a tribe [TED Talk] Blog Feature

Megan Lang

Video Editor, 5+ Years of Video Production & Editing

November 9th, 2019 min read

It’s important in this day and age to think about your brand as a tribe or community. 

People don’t want to just buy a product anymore, they want to buy into something they believe in. They want to connect and feel like they’re a part of something greater than just a transaction. 

Seth Godin is a renowned entrepreneur and blogger who thinks about marketing in a very specific way.

Godin shows the process for success as he’s seen it: Companies (or even individuals) find the thing in business or society that they don’t like, and decide to change it. They build a culture that promotes these changes from the inside out, and they commit to it as a group.

Godin has a few ideas about how to make your company something to follow, something for a community to look up to, and, ultimately, something to buy from because of it.

He says there are three steps that can help you shape your business in order to create a community of unstoppable force. They are steps your community can take to make change.

1. Challenging the status quo

Godin talks about what drives us as individuals. He says, “What we do is we try to change everything. That we try to find a piece of the status quo — something that bothers us, something that needs to be improved, something that is itching to be changed — and we change it.”

When IMPACT’s co-owner Marcus Sheridan’s pool company was failing, and everything was on the line, did he just stay with the status quo, throwing out ads, and hoping for the best? No. He used this same strategy to save his company.

He found that thing, his company’s marketing, that needed to be improved, and he changed it.

Godin gives the example of the SPCA, or Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the organization that is responsible for saving animal lives. 

However, the organization once exterminated stray animals, killing millions of cats and dogs a year. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Nathan Winograd, director of the law and advocacy department at the San Francisco SPCA, clashed with the leadership, seeing a moral obligation to save the lives of these animals. He decided that was the change he wanted to make.

Because of his efforts, the organization now does much more to save animals.

He did this by founding a tribe of like-minded individuals, connecting with them and gaining their support until they, together, were an unstoppable force.

Maybe your situation isn’t as dire as facing bankruptcy or saving millions of animals, but you can still challenge the norms in your industry and succeed because of it.

2. Build a culture

Godin says, “It turns out that it's tribes — not money, not factories — that can change our world, that can change politics, that can align large numbers of people. Not because you force them to do something against their will, but because they wanted to connect.”

Stephanie Baiocchi did this at IMPACT with IMPACT Elite.

She formed a community of over 5k people who are all aligned on the inbound marketing mindset.

Marketers can do the same with their brands.

While you don't need to create the same kind of space, you can still create a group of committed, like-minded people with your content.

More and more, people want to be connected with each other, as Godin says. It’s hard to look at a major brand and see people or a cause behind it, and that creates distance between the company and the buyer.

In order to create that bond, you have to build a culture that allows people into your space. Whether it’s on Facebook like Stephanie created, or a space in real life, connecting with people on common values can have a huge impact on how people interact with your brand.

3. Commit to a cause

Godin talks about Michelle Kaufman, an architect specializing in sustainable, green design. Godin notes, “Michelle Kaufman has pioneered new ways of thinking about environmental architecture. She doesn't do it by quietly building one house at a time. She does it by telling a story to people who want to hear it. By connecting a tribe of people who are desperate to be connected to each other. By leading a movement and making change. And around and around and around it goes.”

He also gives the example of Zappos, who built a community with people who are passionate about shoes.

It doesn't have to be a life-changing thing like environmentalism, it can be something as ordinary as shoes. However, the more important the idea, like saving animals’ lives or saving the environment, the stronger the community may become.

What you do as a company matters to someone. You can have a cause that is some way in which you’re helping someone. You can even be just making someone smile at a new pair of shoes like Zappos. Either way, there are people who will stand behind you and make you stronger. You just have to find them and show them who you are.

Be the change

It all comes down to three questions, according to Godin. “The first one is, who exactly are you upsetting? Because if you're not upsetting anyone, you're not changing the status quo. 

“The second question is, who are you connecting? Because for a lot of people, that's what they're in it for: the connections that are being made, one to the other.

“And the third one is, who are you leading? Because focusing on that part of it — not the mechanics of what you're building, but the who, and the leading part — is where change comes.”

Godin offers us a chance to look at ourselves and our companies.

It’s easy to try to do traditional marketing without thinking about the communities we actually want to affect.

Being a leader can mean a lot of things, but to a company, it can be more than just selling the most of your things in your market.

You have the chance to be a trend-setter, and make connections with people. You have a chance to build a tribe and make change.

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