Leading a Tribe: Seth Godin’s 2010 Business of Software Conference Presentation

This post is part of a series of posts from the 2010 Business of Software conference (BoS2010). For a summary of the conference, and an index to the other presentations, click here.

Seth’s 2010 Business of Software presentation: “Are you afraid to truly make an impact? The opportunity for linchpin organizations and the people who run them.”

Being a great programmer is no longer sufficient to succeed. Creating a piece of software that works is no longer an indicator of success. Times have changed. And in a world where we are bombarded with brands and products, we must create a unique experience to succeed.

Seth Godin at Business of Software (BoS2010)
Image credit: Mark Littlewood

Today, everyone and their mother can whip up a working software program. Competence is no longer a scarce commodity.

Because the cost of producing and marketing a software product is closely approaching $0, it is becoming an increasingly crowded market, full of competition. It is now harder than ever to stand out from the crowd. As a result, success in the software industry is now dependent on your ability to create a tribe – a movement, a place of belonging, a community – and lead it.

Creating a Tribe and Leading It

People want to belong to a tribe – it’s human nature. People are also waiting to be led, and it’s your job to lead them. But how, you ask? You must be creative, but most importantly, you must tap into their emotions. Make them feel something – joy, compassion, anger, outrage, importance, etc. Make them feel like they are part of something bigger, something lasting, something good.

Seth gave several examples during his talk, but there was one example I felt a deeper connection to. Seth explained how one man from the SPCA was able to lead a movement to make the city of San Francisco a no-kill city. He later went on to accomplish the same thing in other U.S. cities, with no money and no recognition. How did he accomplish such a feat? Because this was about more than just one man, and because it touched the hearts of people like you and me. This was about improving the lives of many.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to create a movement, and lead it! But software that’s boring will never turn to a movement. When considering a product’s viability, Seth says there are four things you should ask yourself:

  • Who do I need to reach? And how can I reach them?
  • Will they talk about my product to others?
  • Do I have permission to continue talking to them after I’ve reached them?
  • Will they pay for my product?


Seth Godin at the 2010 Business of Software conference (BoS2010)
Image credit: ©John M. P. Knox

The Network Effect

In the old days, using software was a lonely experience. Today, software is used by millions to connect with each other. Question number 2 above, is central to making the network effect work for you. If you create value and provide a unique experience for your users, they will market your product for you.

When considering a software’s network effect, ask yourself:

  • Is my product creating a demonstrable value?
  • Is it easy and obvious for someone to recruit someone else?
  • Is my product open enough to be easy to use, but closed enough to avoid becoming a commodity?

Key Takeaway From Seth Godin’s Presentation

The best way to sum up Seth’s Business of Software presentation is to use his own words: “Software won’t succeed because it was written by a brilliant programmer. It will succeed because of the business brilliance behind it.”

Memorable Quotes

Some memorable quotes from Seth’s BoS2010 presentation:

  • “The reason to fit in is to be ignored.”
  • “Software that’s boring will never turn to a movement.”
  • “People are waiting to be led.”

Seth summarized his BoS2010 presentation on his blog. You can find it here.

More on Seth Godin

Seth Godin is a renowned speaker and bestselling author of 10 books that have been translated into 20 languages, and have transformed the way people think out marketing, change and work. He is responsible for many words in the marketer’s vocabulary including permission marketing, ideaviruses, purple cow, the dip and sneezers. His latest book, Tribes, is about leadership and how anyone can become a leader, creating movements that matter.

You can find Seth’s marketing blog here.

Follow Seth on Twitter here.

View Seth’s 2008 Business of Software presentation: ” Too important to be left to the marketing department”

What are your thoughts on Seth’s presentation? If you attended BoS2010, did I miss an important point? What was your favorite part of Seth’s presentation? What was your key takeaway from his talk?

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