Seth Godin's 11 Questions To Begin Your Online Marketing

Seth Godin is referred to as the godfather of modern marketing—or, at least, a marketing guru.

In 1999, Godin revealed the the concept of permission marketing, which continues to resonate today. Modern marketing should be as anticipated, personal, and relevant, rather than interruptive. In a recent interview, Godin touches on the shift to the era of engagement marketing and away from transactional and mass marketing is well underway.

I think the next five years of marketing are going to be just like the last five years of marketing but more so. We’ll see the end of almost every newspaper. We’ll see the crumbling of the TV-industrial complex in which TV ads are always sold out. And we’re going to see even more reliance by consumers on peer-to-peer connections and less on the message they hear directly from the marketer.

-Seth Godin

Marketing today is different from the traditional form of marketing. Startups cannot afford to advertise like crazy. Instead, Seth cautions us to understand what we are measuring, who we should be measuring for, and build the thing that needs to be built.

Professional marketers...don't hack at marketing and see what happens. When [they] apply theory, [they] are going to get a result.

- Seth Godin

In a SkillShare Course, Seth Godin reveals 11 questions about the role and the leverage of modern marketers. These questions are seemingly simple questions that are extremely difficult to answer, but lays the foundation for effective marketing today.

As you begin your own venture, here are 11 questions to get your marketing mojo going.

#1 What Is Marketing For?

Going forward, marketing isn’t about buying advertising, it is about the story that people want to share.

Modern marketing is about telling a story to people who want to hear it, making that story so vivid and so true that the people who hear it tell other people.

-Seth Godin

People connect with stories more than they do a sales pitch. So begin with your story, like why you started doing what you are doing. In my example, I started my own consulting practice because the Internet has leveled the marketing playing field for Small Businesses, yet not many are taking advantage of this. I wanted to help them get over the online hump and achieve the success they are capable of, all at an affordable cost.

#2 What Are We Allowed To Touch?

Many entrepreneurs are their own CEO, CTO, Marketers, and more. So this question doesn't apply so much to you until you take on more workers. What you should keep in mind is to hire for you weaknesses, and let the marketing person know what s/he is allowed to touch. The more they can touch, the better.

Here's the reason. If the marketing person isn’t allowed to touch the various environments, then they can’t tell all the stories they need to tell. For the marketer, this means understanding what we can and cannot touch to avoid fighting a losing battle. This may require buy-in from the people who control what we cannot touch to open the possibility for new stories.

A word of caution: Wearing many hats is the norm when you start, but soon all this hat juggling will limit your focus. Be ready to unload as you grow to focus on what matters most: growing your business (:

#3 What Can We Measure?

This is fascinating because we have tools today to track our marketing progress. Thanks to Google, email and more, the digital world is measurable compared to traditional marketing. How do you know if that $1.2 Million (USD) billboard in Times Square brought in any sales?

If you are online, you can track various metrics like how many people visit the website, how long they stay, even where they came from. This may require some technical knowledge but, as the Enstitute fellowship taught me, you learn by doing.

Now, just because we can measure a number doesn’t mean we should, and just because something is hard to measure doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. If our focus is online sales, does it matter how many people visit the website? Maybe, maybe not.

#4 What Can We Change?

Are we trying to take advantage of customers' wants or needs as they exist? Or are we trying to change people, their perceptions, change they way they do things? The great marketing success stories are about marketers who changed something. Godin focuses on giving people what they need, not changing what they think they want.

For entrepreneurs, this means being open to new ideas and testing them. What works today will be yesterday's status quo. Try to stay open and see where you can create new marketing strategies instead of following old ones.

#5 What Promise Are We Going To Make?

We are in the promises field. Trust is key. Successful marketing is about making a promise and keeping it. This can apply to our customers as well as our supervisors. Be sure to grasp your commitment and deliver. In fact, aim to over-deliver.

As we begin the venture, the last thing we want is to be known as the person or company who can't fulfill its promises.

#6 What's The Hard Part?

  It’s rarely the easy things that get us far. What matters is figuring out what the hard part is about selling your product? You need to be able to articulate the hard part to be able to focus and tackle it effectively.

The confident people ask questions to learn what will connect. The insecure just keep talking with the hope something will stick.

-Simon Sinek

#7 Should We Make Trends or Follow Them?

Are we trying to make trends or follow them? SkillShare is an example of following the online courses trend. Book publishing is on the downturn, so you will follow it down. If you follow a trend, be sure to find out if it’s on the rise or going down.

#8 Where Is The Risk?

You make promises, and show up in places, and engage with customers, so what’s the risk to them? Knowing their risks when engaging with your brand is important to move forward and putting your ideas in the world.

#9 Who Is In Charge?

Sometimes founders run the risk of dipping their hands into too many work lanes, and it stops workflow. Yes, you control it all, but if you hired for your weaknesses, you should think twice before micro-managing the experts.

For marketing professionals: Want to create a new logo? How many people have to say yes? If you don’t know, don’t even start the project. The goal here is to know who the gatekeepers are before you begin your lobbying. This is tied in with managing expectations effectively.

#10 What Is The Money For?

Companies like Procter & Gamble spend millions of dollars to advertise. Small companies can’t afford to do that. When you spend money, what is it for? Focus on spending the money on what moves the needle forward.

Tactics vary from organization to organization, but if you track the right metrics measure the right things and build the things that need to be built, you will do better and go further with the resources you have. If you have guts and vision and genuine caring, you will go far in marketing.

#11 What Is The Most Important Way To Spend My Time?

Many of the professional marketers share a common trait: they know how to manage their time. Time is precious, and something many digital marketing leaders also point out. Christopher S. Penn, VP at BlueSky Factory, incorporates Time into ROI reports, calculating for Return on Time Invested (ROTI). Spend your time wisely...

The exciting thing for marketers today is that marketing is far broader, far more involved, and more integrated into what the organization does than ever before...and the tools are there.

-Seth Godin

Final Thoughts

There are lots of new tools constantly being developed to help marketers do their jobs better. These questions help us focus on what's important and not let the shiny objects distract us.

If you take Seth's course, reach out at and lets see what we can learn together.

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