Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Meatball Sundae and the triumph of small business

I've long been a fan of Seth Godin’s work, so I love his new book, Meatball Sundae. It’s all about what happens when an old-line company, selling commodity-level products with a low-cost, low-value mentality, tries to adapt to the online marketing world of Web 2.0. The result, says Seth, is like putting whipped cream and a cherry on a bowl of meatballs (hence the title.)

I had a chance to interview Seth last week about his book, and wrote it up for my column in Monday’s Financial Post. The gist: either you get hep to the need for broader, deeper customer relationships, or you're stuck in slow-growth meatball business for the rest of your career. He cited JetBlue (a metaphor I extended to include Calgary’s WestJet) to illustrate the difference between 21st century marketing and “running a bus company that happens to fly in the sky."

Godin has written a manifesto for a permanent new way of doing business. Is he right? It feels true to me. And Godin says he feels the same way. After writing a book a year for the past 10 years, he says this one left him drained, and he has no idea what he’ll write next.

Most interestingly, I suggested that this new industrial revolution he’s talking about seems tailor-made for small business. Godin agrees. In fact, he thinks this is the best time in history to start your own business.

“What wins now,” he says, “is speed, transparency, authenticity and passion. And all these things come from people, not faceless corporations.”

And here’s a thought-provoking Godin quote I didn't have room to put in my story: “If someone had sat down 15 years ago and said, “How can we create an atmosphere that’s conducive to startups?, what they would have come up with is what we have today.”

So go for it. But first read the full story here.

Read more on Seth Godin’s blog. It’ll pump you up.

1 comment:

Mike at Harbour Pilot said...

Well, I find Seth Godin interesting and thought provoking from time to time, but too often his thinking is excessively dominated by his focus on the web. The sales of meatball products far exceeds the sale of non-meatball products. Then too, the interests and purchases profile of those who are deeply immersed in the internet 2.0 buzz world, are far different as well.
Trust is a difficult thing to sustain in a transaction-based relationship, and expensive to sustain in a relationship that is a series of transactions. Nor do I think that TVs in the back of headrests generates trust – value, perhaps, but not trust. Individualized communication, despite cheap web based delivery, still requires human interaction, and that costs money.
In a way, what needs to happen is to proxy the trust, and make it visible. In the same way that we have representative democracy, we need representative trust dynamics. When a potential customer sees an example of customer service taking place in public, and seeing that service meeting the customer’s needs – then, perhaps, trust will grow. That is an enormous risk for the vendor to take, since there are needed limitations on what is being sold, and every refusal is likely to diminish that trust.
Seth, it seems to me, is more after buzz himself, than reasonably analyzing the current possibilities.
Mike