Marketing book review: Linchpin by Seth Godin

I’m a big fan of Seth! His daily blog is a must for all marketers. Personally, I think he’s one of the greatest marketers of our age. This past Christmas, I even bought my marketing team Seth Godin Marketing Guru Action Figures as presents. So when his new book was released early this year, I was eager to get a copy and read it.

A Call to Greatness

Seth starts his book with the basic principle that we are all geniuses. That we all possess a potential for greatness that can be manifested through the work we do. Similarly to many self-help books, he calls us to tap into our talents, make them come alive, and in turn change our world.

He cautions that in our attempt to realize our greatness we will be faced with deeply embedded barriers that will make this call a challenge. First, he outlines how the school system we grew up in encouraged homogenization of thought. Second, he explains that we all have an innate and primate portion of our brain that values safety and uniformity and resists change. Yet the book serves as a motivational call for all of us to choose to overcome these obstacles and realize our greatest potential in order to create a better future and, simultaneously, unlock what can make us indispensable at work—a linchpin.

 What Is a Linchpin?

A linchpin is a person who becomes indispensable to an organization or team.

Linchpins can walk into chaos and create order. They invent, connect, create, and make things happen. They don’t need a map or instructions to exceed expectations. Linchpins are comfortable with ambiguity. They adapt and take calculated risks. They are not perfectionists who never “ship” the product in their endless pursuit of needless incremental improvements.

Linchpins are made, not born. They tap into their inner daemon—the source of great ideas, groundbreaking insights, generosity, love, connection, and kindness. They understand the value of gift-giving and the connectivity of human beings.

Linchpins have bursts of brilliance. They may have the right experience, raw talent, and education to give them a strong foundation, but their art, though seemingly omnipresent, is really executed a small part of the day. Yet the value they create is tremendous. They become a person who organizations cannot live without. A key player whom organizations build around.

 The 7 Abilities of a Linchpin

Here’s a summary of what can make a person indispensable:

1) Providing a unique interface between members of the organization

2) Delivering unique creativity

3) Managing a situation or organization of great complexity

4) Leading customers

5) Inspiring staff

6) Providing deep domain knowledge

7) Possessing a unique talent


As I’m writing this review, Linchpin has made the top 10 WSJ Hardcover Business list. So what I’m about to say will not be popular (but I’d welcome your comments on my blog). The book is a decent self-help motivational tool. But I did not see much originality outside of some new labels to old concepts. To his credit, Seth gives us a partial list of 38 books and about 12 blogs that he used as inspiration to write Linchpin. In my humble opinion, Seth should stick to writing marketing books and not dilute his personal brand by overextending himself into self-help leadership topics. Save your $25.95.

Good marketing!


Published in PM360.



Marketing to ONE buyer at a time

Segmentation is a key pillar of any marketing plan.  Whether it is attitudinal, behavioral, psychographic, etc…. you have narrow your scope to a set of buyers.  Yet when you’re marketing, particularly around messaging, a key is to convert ONE buyer at a time, even while deploying mass marketing mediums. 

 Appeal to your target audience’s core needs

At the end of all decisions, even committee-based decisions or RFPs, there is a person making a choice.  I know, I know… sometimes it seems like the process at hand is taking human interaction away and that these decisions are being automated.  To an extent that is true, but ultimately we are still making decisions via humans not robots.

Case in point:  the government.  Even with all its bureaucracy, procedures, departments, requirements, etc… the government still influenced by people (lobbyists or voters or other politicians).  Same is true for all other organizations in the world.

As a marketer, our challenge is to expand our influence beyond simple tactics and channels.  To appeal to the benefits that influence the maker’s willingness to choose, support or advocate for our products of services.  To do this we must tap into the buyer’s deepest needs, whether expressed or not. 

Maslow had a great marketing insight

Given the target audience for this blog, you’ve heard of Abraham Maslow.  He’s well known for developing the Hierarchy of Needs.  The theory states that humans seek to satisfy their individual needs in a particular order.  This has great implications for marketeers.

Early marketing moved messaging from features to benefits.  Depending on your market place, your differential advantage and your competitive framework, the higher level you can appeal to in the Hierarchy of Needs, the better.  Clearly this must be supported by the reason-to-believe.

How do we leverage Maslow’s insight?  Revisit your positioning, messaging and execution channels to ensure that you’re building need-centric value chains that are coherent, supportive and additive.  Be ever mindful that ultimately, regardless of DTC or B2B mediums, people are making decisions and you need to appeal to their human needs.  New tools(videos, social media, social networking, etc..) can help us to move our marketing efforts from the mass to the personal – rapidly, accurately and cost-effectively. 

As marketeers I propose that our greatest challenge is to convince humans, ONE buyer at a time. 

Good marketing!