Make good decisions, not more (picking a bone with Seth Godin)

Making too many decisions can turn you into a Bad Decision Dinosaur. Scary! (Photo credit:

A few days ago, Seth Godin wrote a post in which he encouraged us to make more decisions. I beg to differ.

Seth’s point was that we are all fundamentally in the business of decision-making and that the only way to get better at what we do is by doing more of it.

Although this is true of many skills, I don’t agree it’s true of decision-making. In fact, making more decisions often leads to sloppy decision-making because you’re so busy rushing along to make the next decision that you don’t allow time to be thoughtful about the current one.

For anyone faced with  making decisions about which marketing strategy to adopt in 2013 and which tools to use to support that strategy, what you need to get good at is making good decisions–not more. (Of note, sometimes making a good decision means deciding a decision isn’t necessary, i.e. not worth your time.)

Often it’s a better use of your time to be assessing whether the decisions you’ve already made were good ones. Are they working? Are they delivering the results you want and need to be successful?

If Seth was lumping revisiting decisions in with making more decisions, I can maybe get on board with his advice. My advice? Make decisions about the decisions that really matter and make those well.

Seth Godin in Seattle

Seth Godin, June 24, 2011 | Photo by Kathy E Gill (@kegill)

Seth Godin’s brain processes information at warp speed. Today, members of his tribe–myself included–got to see his brain in person. Well, we didn’t actually see his brain because that would be icky, but we got to see his brain in action. Meaning he answered questions for 2 hours straight.

The questions ranged from personal (e.g. how do you produce so much quality content every day?!) to thought-provocating (e.g. from Lara Feltin, Co-Founder and CEO of Biznik who asked about assets and freemiums). Here were some of my favorite quotes and take-aways:


“Find music for your listeners, not listeners for your music.” In other words, bring as much value as you can to people who are already engaged with your organization, rather than chasing after people who may or may not be interested. Susan Howlett and other fundraising thought leaders have been pounding the ‘retention’ drum for quite awhile. Seth would definitely second that.

“Let’s slather some Facebook on that.”  This was probably my favorite quote of the morning. Facebook is huge and nonprofits should be using it to its full advantage. However, Facebook isn’t a silver bullit. Yes, you’ve heard this before…but have you ever thought that maybe you’re using Facebook as a scapegoat for a poorly designed (or not done) marketing plan?

“You can’t build a brand on-line. You can build the privilege of getting someone’s attention.”  Seth is all about permission marketing. This is in sharp contrast to interruption marketing (think TV ads before DVRs and mute buttons), which was how all those mad men made bank. Permission takes time, yet it is enduring. For mission-driven organizations constantly worried about cash flow, this can be a tough pill to swallow. However, if you’re focused on bringing music to your listeners, it makes a ton of sense.

If you were there, what stuck out for you. If you weren’t there, anything you wish you could’ve asked Seth?

Mental File Folders

Bootcamp Week #2: If you’re just joining the Bootcamp, here’s what you need to do to get started: 1. Messaging Roadmap, 2. Sign up for our free Tune-Up Tuesday videos, and 3. Complete messaging to-do’s outlined for you each week on our blog. (Go back and do last week’s to get caught up!)

Point B: Mental File Folders (watch the vid)

Last week, you figured out your Belief Proposition. You identified why your organization exists and what would be different in your community if it didn’t exist.

This week, you need to pick your mental file folder. Many organizations fall into the trap of reciting everything they do right out of the gate. When you tell people your everything, they remember nothing. Bummer. That’s why the goal is to whittle it down to the one thing that you do that represents the essence of your organization. This is what fuels word-of-mouth marketing. Why? Because you are making it easy for people to refer others to you. Why? Because they only have to remember one thing about you–and that one thing is the most compelling, authentic thing. So, in the end, it all works out. It just feels scary at first.

(If you don’t believe me on this, listen to Seth Godin. He’s really, super smart.)

If you’re still feeling like you can’t possibly distill what you do down to one thing (or at most two), read this post about Treehouse. If they can do it, you can do it.

This Week’s Messaging To-Do’s

Write down answers to the following two questions:

  1. What would be the “tab” on the mental file folder you want people to associate with your organization?
  2. What do you do? (Not everything–just your main thing.)

Next Week

Identify your competition. (Hint: You have more of it than you might think!)

Need Some In-Person Help? Come to our Tune-Up Tuesday monthly meet-up in Seattle.  Learn more and register here.


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?