We’re All Weird - #AFPFC Wrap-UP

Note:  This blog post is part of my #AFPFC wrap-up, a series of posts writing about my take-aways from the 2015 International Fundraising Conference of the AFP in Baltimore last week. We're All Weird is one of the messages imparted in the plenary session from speaker Seth Godin, author of Purple Cow, Tribes, and about 3 or 4 other dozen other books on marketing and entrepreneurship.

When he came on stage, the young woman in her twenties sitting next to me said, “I don’t even know who he is.  I’ve never heard of him.”

“You’ve got to be kidding,” I said.  “I was more excited about hearing him speak than I was about hearing Whoopi Goldberg—no offense to Whoopi—she’s cool and all, but I read Seth’s blog and follow him online.”

“Really?” said the girl next to me.  “Why?”

“So young!” I thought.

So I explained.  I’m sure I sounded like a lunatic babbling.  “You know! He’s the author of ‘Purple Cow!’ and ‘Tribes!' He’s that marketing guru with the bald head that says ‘click my head’ who wears the colorful rimmed glasses!” 

I’m excited and out of breath and uproarious clapping begins to drown me out.  I can see the young woman’s response in her eyes:  “So old,” she’s thinking. 

“Permission-based marketing!!!!” I finish, as if this "wins" me an argument, that clearly only I'm participating in.  I realize I sound like my college-aged daughter.  I’m probably rolling my eyes and my tone, I’m sure, resembles the exasperation my daughter exudes when she says talking to me and she says “Muth-er,” as if it has 6 syllables (remember:  we’re Southern) and I’m the stupidest person on the planet. 

To that poor young woman who had the misfortune of sitting next to me in that overcrowded auditorium, I apologize.  I was just way too excited about Seth.  And with good reason.

Seth had us rolling with laughter, but also had us thinking (as always).  He didn’t disappoint.  I haven’t yet read his 2014 book We’re All Weird (note to self:  download on Kindle), but I’m guessing, from the online reviews I’ve read, that some of the points he made at AFP, are echoed in his book. 

He talked about the widening and flattening of the Bell Curve.  The Bell Curve or normal distribution has theoretically applied to so many things for so long and has driven a lot of marketing efforts toward “mass marketing” for decades. 

Because of an understanding of a theoretical normal distribution, marketing efforts have targeted the bell’s bulging middle. 

“It used to be,” said Seth, “that if you wanted a fishing rod, you went to the hardware store and had a choice of two rods.  Now, you can go online to a Danish fly fishing store and have a choice of more than 185 types of rods and reels.” 

His point is that today, we can shop for exactly what we want.  We specialize.  We choose whatever our eccentric desire wants.  This means that the options are spread out, more diverse.  The inexpensive way that the web allows specialty stores to offer specialty products to niche customers (e.g. “weirdoes”) keeps us from having to move to the middle and be like everyone else.  We can stay on the wacky fringes where we belong, and be proud of it. 

As always, Seth was inspiring in many ways, encouraging creativity and risk taking, noting that “if failure is not an option, neither is success.”  We have to be free to take chances, to experiment, and to learn from our failures. Without them, we’ll never grow and figure out what works.  But most importantly, he encouraged us to find our tribe, our unique group of “weirdoes" with whom our message resonates and to step forward and lead them.  He encouraged us not to wait for permission to lead.  They need us to lead now, he said.

Well, here’s one weirdo, taking up the call.  How about you?

Take-aways:  

  1. There no longer is a "normal."
  2. Find our kind-of-weirdos, reach them, talk to them. 
  3. Lead. 

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