I just finished listening to the audiobook of Seth Godin’s Free Prize Inside / Purple Cow. This dual audiobook is abridged. So, if you’re looking for the full deal or you’re not into audiobooks, check out Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable and Free Prize Inside!: The Next Big Marketing Idea.
I’m going to give away the central point of the book/audio book, but as with any good book, that won’t reduce the value of what you get by reading the whole thing. The main point that Godin drives home in both books is that advertising as a way to grow a business is a dead model. If you want to grow a business, you need a product that is remarkable, so that people will talk about it. A “Purple Cow” is something that stands out, and a “Free Prize” is an aspect to the offering that makes it stand out.
I tend to be a bit ahead of the curve on things. At this point, I watch very little TV and the TV I do watch is on a ReplayTV (mmm… commercial skip). I don’t get a newspaper. I read very few magazines. Almost all of my media input comes from movies, which are largely commercial free, and the Internet. My browser, Firefox, blocks advertising popups, so the most outrageous forms of advertising online don’t hit me. I do listen to radio when I’m in the car, which is probably where the largest quantity of advertising gets to me. I usually change channels when ads come on though. If the profile I just described becomes more typical in a few years, advertising is in for an even bigger problem than it already has.
Regardless of whether you agree with Godin’s basic premise, the fact is that if you’re starting your own software shop you probably can’t afford a big, splashy ad campaign. Starting our own businesses we have to find the free prize to create the purple cow. Otherwise, we’re sunk. When you’ve got a limited budget, you need to be sure to build that free prize in from the very beginning. I have some ideas that I’m hoping will get some attention for my product from the get-go, so I’m definitely taking this to heart.
These books are filled with all kinds of great examples, and a few counter-examples, to really illustrate the point and get you thinking about how your own products can become special. Free Prize Inside has a fairly large chunk on selling your organization on the change, which was interesting but not at all related to my situation. If you are in a large organization, that section will give you a good intro to selling your ideas and getting them done.
Purple Cow and Free Prize Inside are among the most important books you can read as you’re starting a new, bootstrapped business. They’ll get you thinking in terms of building the marketing into your product, which can boost your chances of having a successful product or service.
I’d also like to point out that Seth Godin’s Blog is frequently and generously updated with a continuous stream of thoughts and pointers that can help us geeks keep on eye on marketing.