Tag Archives: Marketing

All Linchpins are Liars

According to Seth Godin, Linchpins are those indispensable geniuses who stand out from the crowd by taking on the essential jobs that would otherwise languish in a pit of neglect under the limpid banner of “but that’s not my job.” In his latest book, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?, Mr. Godin informs us that just showing up is no longer enough. We must be remarkable in order to succeed.

We don’t have to have some cosmic endowment, extreme talent, or off-the-charts intelligence to be Linchpins. The formula is straightforward. It can be applied by all. In order to be a Linchpin, make the choice to:

  • Be remarkable and generous
  • Create art
  • Make Judgment calls
  • Connect people and ideas

Just saying this to people is a lot like holding a plant by its stem dangling the roots in midair and yelling “Grow!” Fertile soil, plenty of water and some sunshine would certainly increase the plant’s odds of complying with the command. In addition to the courage and desire to make good things happen, Godin tells us that Linchpins need a fertile environment fortified with freedom, responsibility and respect.

If these elements are not indigenous to your current work ecosystem, then to be a Linchpin you will need to influence the power structure to grant you these ingredients and trust you to flourish in the environment in which you have been unleashed.

Enter the Liars

Wedged between Purple Cow and Linchpin, Mr. Godin wrote a book entitled All Marketers Are Liars. The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World. In this tome, he states, “I believe marketing is the most powerful force available to people who want to make change.” Linchpins want to affect change so they must therefore learn to be good marketers. And if all marketers are liars, then all Linchpins should be liars too.

Actually, what Mr. Godin teaches us is that it’s not really the marketers who are liars. It is the consumers. Good marketers tell stories that resonate with a particular group’s worldview. This group of buyers then tell themselves a lie—that they NEED the product or service. The story the marketers tell becomes the lie upon which the buyer happily bases his purchase.

Linchpins must tell a compelling story that makes their buyers want to believe they NEED the Linchpin. Here are a few pearls of wisdom from the mind of Godin about how to craft the story of indispensability:

Worldviews and Local Lingo

Every person perceives a situation through the filter of their worldview. This worldview cannot be changed. Instead, a strong marketer frames their story to fit the worldview of a particular audience. A Linchpin needs to use this advice to set herself up to be heard. Instead of wasting energy trying to change the worldviews of the powers that be in your organization, frame your story within the context of already held values and beliefs. Get the attention of the people who matter by acknowledging their biases and telling your tale in their lingo.

Facts Fail

The facts will fail you. Feelings will help your story fly. All decisions are made by people and people make decisions based on emotion. Tell the story of how your indispensability makes their world that much more secure or the organization that much more successful. Once people have decided to adopt and retell your story, reward them with the facts. Charts, graphs, and statistics are the gift of evidence your supporters will need to confirm they’ve made a wise choice to back you.

Intent is Obvious

Be authentic. Although marketers are liars, they are not really liars. The story marketers tell must still be authentic. A Linchpin is indispensable because she does what she says she’s going to do. There is no way to mask your true intent. Taking on an extra assignment to impress your boss and then turning your back on the responsibility when you think no one is looking is not art it’s selfish opportunism. Tell a story that earns you the right to step up and stand out because taking the risk is the right thing to do for the organization. If your reward lies so far around the bend that you can’t see it from the starting line, then chances are you’re running the race for all the right reasons.

The Truth

Seth Godin points out that in today’s world of abundance, we need little but want much. That’s why the marketer and consumer are co-conspirators in the lie. The story reverses reality so that we believe what we want is actually something we really need. For the truly remarkable Linchpin, the story isn’t a lie. The organization in which they work really does need their passion, genius, art, and ideas. Companies thrive when groups of Linchpins are free to reach their full potential.


Filed under Business, How To, Influence, Leadership, Risk, Uncategorized

How to Self-Promote Unselfishly

Last week, Erica posted this comment:

 “I enjoyed this article. I thought the points about how we “tend to construct barriers” were very interesting, and that you were right on about the dislike of coming off or being manipulative of others. Where my situation differs is that the context I am working in is my own (one person) business, rather than within a larger organization. Therefore, I am interested breaking down mental barriers to precisely the thing that the article defines as being negative: “self-promotion”, but which in the context of one’s own business, is rather necessary and desirable. I’m curious if you can share any thoughts on that?”

 Erica, I work on my own too so I can relate to your situation. You are correct, as an independent contractor, consultant, or product/service provider, marketing technically boils down to “self-promotion.” I believe your concern is how to market your capabilities without coming off as bragging, egotistical or self-serving. The good news is that, when marketing as a solo-practitioner, self-promotion does not have to be synonymous with self-aggrandizement. The two are distinguished by context and intention.spotlight (see also table at end of post)

For the sake of simplicity, I tend to discuss influence as a leadership resource within the realm of a single organization. In this context, “self-promotion” is about pushing an agenda that serves only personal objectives even at the expense of others or the organization. The intention behind the self-promoting behaviors is first and foremost personal gain. The words and actions of individuals who are intent on serving their own needs or desires are often interpreted as coercive or manipulative. This holds true even when the organization is a staff of one. The difference is that for sole-practitioners, our intentions are being read not by co-workers but by prospective buyers and customers.

For the one person business, the issue of intent becomes a matter of whether we’re “in it for #1” or if we truly care about making a contribution to our customers’ organizations and the community at large. Ultimately, prospects and customers are repelled when they sense that their needs are coming in a distant second to the needs of the provider. For example, the use of social media speaks volumes about business intentions. Who are you more likely to trust and purchase from: someone who uses social media as a channel to offer genuine support and valuable information or the person flooding your inbox or Twitter timeline with impersonal unsolicited offers to buy his product or service?

Here’s a recent personal example. I’ve been helping one of my clients select a web developer/SEO provider. He’s narrowed his selection down; but because of business circumstances has delayed his final decision. The vendors have been following up with me. I appreciate those that touch base here and there. However, the one company I was pushing as the “top choice” has been pursuing me a little too hard. They’ve even voluntarily lowered their initial bid; which makes me wonder why they didn’t just provide us their best pricing in the first place. I’m starting to get the sense that they are desperate for customers or the salesperson has a big personal stake in closing the deal. If they are this concerned about their business in the dating phase of the relationship, what’s going to happen once they’ve tied the knot?

If you are concerned that your efforts at self-promotion might be construed as self-aggrandizement, first, ask yourself this:

Are you promoting your capabilities as a means to push your personal agenda, potentially at the expense of others?


Are your efforts at self-promotion a means to let prospects and customers know how you can help them achieve their targeted results?

What’s the truth behind your intentions?  Whose business objectives come first: yours or your customers?

If your intentions are in the right place, take the time to understand the role that prospects or customers play in their market space. Determine what your customers do for their customers. Next, assess how your product or service helps your customers do this better, faster, or for less money. Then, build a marketing engagement that reflects your intentions and communicates value from the buyer’s perspective.

Lastly, incorporate the I-Style practices into your marketing efforts, apply them within customer relationships, and use them to be a catalyst between organizations. As long as your daily pursuit of these activities and behaviors is driven by a desire to contribute to “the greater good”, you will be self-promoting without self-aggrandizing.

What steps can you take to make them part of your marketing efforts? How can you apply these practices both across and within your customer organizations?


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Filed under Business, How To, Influence, Leadership, Trust