That’s a Spicy Meatball

You get it.

They don’t get it, but you do.

You’re the smartest one in the room. After all, you’re reading this site. That means that you know about SEO and sitemaps and Yahoo and YouTube. It means you understand the social graph and permission marketing and blogs. It certainly means you don’t run around yelling at people to somehow invent some secret code because you’re not No. 1 at the Google.

The problem, of course, is that you work for people who aren’t as clued in as you are. They don’t get it, but worse, they insist on spending time and money doing things that are, well, impossible. At least for the kind of time and money they’re willing to budget.

Most organizations make meatballs. They make commodity products: things we need, things in quantity. They make average stuff for average people. And there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, the last industrial revolution, the one that led to television and Wal-Mart, demanded it. If you have a job, it’s probably with a company organized around the idea of reaching the largest possible number of people and selling them something made for as little as possible in a factory.

Airlines do it. So do toy companies, consulting firms, accounting firms, and packaged goods companies. Even chiropractors and Web designers. The idea is to have a product with wide appeal and a process in place to make it inexpensively and to spec.

This is great but it’s no longer a formula for growth. That’s because we have all the meatballs we can handle, thank you very much. Growth no longer comes from a great TV ad or from a slightly more efficient factory. Growth is more prized than ever, but making meatballs for the masses doesn’t deliver growth.

What we’ve seen online is being repeated offline as well. Remarkable products, worth of mouth, idea viruses, new business models — they all connect and lead to hypergrowth.

The thing is, there’s nothing wrong with making meatballs. We still need them and they still turn a profit. The pain and suffering kicks in when people start mixing the two. When you use new marketing tools (offline and online) to sell more meatballs, all you get is a mess.

There are more than a million (perhaps a trillion) posts online about how to make your new marketing tactics work more effectively. There are literally thousands of firms that will help you with copywriting, site design, SEM, SEO, and a whole host of acronyms. It’s possible to get into a fistfight over traffic measurement metrics. Which is great, as far as it goes. The plethora of help makes it clear there’s a lot to learn, but it also makes it clear that most of us aren’t getting what we want out of this brave new medium.

That’s because a big idea is missing: these tactics don’t work for everyone. They don’t work, in fact, for anyone who is busy trying to promote old stuff, old factories, old thinking, old models. If you’re out of sync, you’re out of luck.

Synchronization means aligning your offerings with what the medium demands. TV ads, magazine ads, radio ads … they’re all part of a continuum. They are media that interrupt people with ads they don’t want to get about things they’re not interested in, delivered in quantity. This model supports factories and mass marketing thinking. Average stuff for average people. Meatballs.

But the new medium, the new marketing, is based on a fundamental shift in scarcity. What’s scarce is attention. What’s plentiful is choice, retail outlets, and low price options. So, you can’t just slap some ads online and assume you’ve done your job. In fact, not only will your marketing fail, but your organization might as well.

I guess your new job has very little to do with annoying, interrupting, or yelling at the outside world, and quite a lot to do with arguing with your boss. Arguing to get in sync. Arguing on behalf of your users, your consumers, and your prospects. Arguing to get in sync, to create stuff worth talking about, to be transparent, and to be fast.

That’s what this market and these tools demand.

If you can’t do that, then you should keep making meatballs. The world needs meatballs. You just won’t grow so fast. That’s because the market is moving, and it’s moving in one direction — toward the things it wants, the engagements it wants, and the stories it demands.

Seth Godin, an entrepreneur and marketing guru, will discuss his new book, “Meatball Sundae,” in a live Webcast on Wednesday, January 23 at 2 p.m. EST with Rebecca Lieb, The ClickZ Network’s editor-in-chief. Register here for the free event.

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