seth godin's key ingredient to a successful business

How can we "see" others to help solve their problems? Why should you prioritize interactions over passions? Seth Godin - best-selling author, entrepreneur, blogger, and host of the podcast Akimbo has spent decades exploring and understanding the world of marketing. He chats with Cathy Heller on the Don't Keep Your Day Job podcast about how to create your own story that speaks to an audience, whether you should love the work you do vs. do what you love, and how to turn your creative pursuit into a valuable scarcity that solves a problem.

Here are the top 7 tips he has for creative businesses & entrepreneurs:

To engage in the marketplace and transact with others, we need a radical amount of empathy.

Having passion for your project isn’t enough. People will say, “Wow, you’re really into making your snake oil-infused tapenades. Good for you.” But that won’t get you a financial transaction.

Folks, radical empathy is what it’s all about. If you want to be a professional in your industry, sell your product or service, consistently put food on the table - you must realize that you and your customers are different individual beings. They don’t want what you want, they don’t need what you need, they don’t spend what you spend.

So start with these questions: “Who is this for? What interactions do I enjoy?” Put these people first. Tell yourself, “I will love my clients and I will love my work,” not the other way around.

Yes, it’s possible to do the work you love with clients who you respect. But if you dive into your passion project and realize you hate your customers, there’s a good chance you’ll also hate the work you once loved. As Seth says, “Don't interact with people in way you don't like, just to say you're a macrame artist.”

Show up in a place where there's scarcity. Solve a problem in a way that provides value.

If you’re looking for shortcuts and you jump into the easiest place to sell your product, you become a commodity. No one wants a commodity.

Instead, reverse engineer a spot in the marketplace where you can provide a solution to a problem.

Seth uses the example of origami. Origami is pretty popular. But why would anyone buy it if they can easily do it themselves?

Consider how origami can become a solution. Maybe there’s someone who needs to keep their hands busy while they brainstorm. Alright, how about an origami business that teaches these people to create origami so they can get on with their work?

Ta-da, you’ve identified and solved a problem.

If you want to own your career, you can't copy someone else's story.

Marketing is all about story - a story that spreads. And if you want to be a maker that sells a product, you have to be a marketer.

Take time to figure out your unique story that will connect with your audience. Again, keep them in mind. Ask yourself, “Who is this for? What change am I seeking to make? What story do my customers tell themselves?”

It’ll require some reconfiguration and reconstructing until you realize what attracts people to your work. So be prepared to tell bad stories relentlessly, until they become better.

Dance with the fear. Use it as a compass.

We fear judgment, failure, rejection...the list goes on and on. Well, hate to break it to you, but we can’t make the fear go away. (If it’s any consolation, just know that everyone - even Seth Godin - lives with fear.)

But if you don’t get over it and start taking action, you’ll never know what people really think about your work, and you’ll never improve.

So take a deep breath, and merely start. Start dancing with the fear. It takes practice, but eventually you learn how to identify that feeling and have the right steps to deal with it.

Don’t strive to make your oil painting better. Strive to make your customer feel better about their choice to buy your oil painting.

If you want to amp up your game in the marketplace, it’s not about improving your product. Remember, you’re the maker, not the buyer. Your job is to create and figure out how to make your customer feel good about purchasing your product.

Sometimes it’s about having a better story behind your creation. Sometimes it’s going the extra mile. For instance, travel to your customers instead of making them go to you.

Embrace the smallest possible market. That is, the smallest market you can live with.

Stop worrying about how famous other people are, how expensive their business is, how popular and busy other places seem. You don’t need to become Beyonce, Steve Jobs, or Elon Musk. Stop comparing yourself.

Instead, plan out the smallest client base you would need in order to have a sustainable business. Let’s say you want to be a massage therapist. Maybe your magic number is 12 clients. Figure out what you have to do to be the go-to massage therapist for those 12 clients.

When times get tough, don’t complain about not being seen. Everyone feels that way. Solve this problem by actively seeing other people.

This circles back to radical empathy, but it’s so, so critical for your business that we need to hit this on the head again.

There’s a lot of loneliness, alienation, and disconnection in the world. We feel sorry for ourselves when we’re stuck and unhappy. We expect other people to pity us and help us. We forget that we can change the narrative about we treat ourselves and other people - but we don’t do it.

You want someone to understand and love your work? Guess what, it’s a two-way street. You have to actively see the other person. Make things for them, make your efforts all about them. These are the types of interactions and connections that build the bridges to a culture. When we create a culture that actively works to see each other, we’re all much happier than a culture that actively works to be seen.