How Seth Godin Would Launch a New Business With $1,000 And 90 Days to Spare

Louis Grenier
Published in
11 min readSep 27, 2017


When you treat people the way you’d like to be treated, cool things happen…

Most of the so-called marketing “influencers” out there are celebrities.

They’ve made it.

They’re not in the trenches anymore.

They forgot how to “do” marketing; their employees promote their new books for them, build their new websites, launch their new products… all they have to do is sign their name under whatever new projects and Ka Ching! the money starts rolling in their bank accounts.

That’s what I thought when I was preparing my interview with Seth Godin for my podcast called Everyone Hates Marketers (how I managed to get him on the show is another story).

Louis Grenier (left) and Seth Godin (right).

Seth has published 18 books, is regarded as one the best marketing minds alongside Ogilvy or Tim Ferriss, so he doesn’t need to be in the trenches anymore.

I chose to challenge him to take him out of his comfort zone and see if he still “got it”.

I asked him to:

  • come up with a business idea on the fly
  • explain EXACTLY how he would launch this new business,
  • describe how he would find his first customers,
  • Etc…

There was one catch though: he couldn’t use his name to promote it, he had only a budget of $1,000, and 90 days to be successful.

What follows is the exact 5-step process Seth Godin uses to launch a new business (from scratch) with only $1,000 in the bank and 90 days to spare.

1) Market WITH people, not AT them

Step 1: Market with people, not at them.

We, marketers, are selfish, lying, short-term thinking scum. We believe that our job is to manipulate people as we market to them.” — Seth Godin

The time of scammy, in-your-face marketing is over.

20 years ago, you could come up with an average product, invest a few thousand euros in TV Ads saying that your product was the best ever, and sell 10,000 units of it.

Not anymore.

People are immune to bad marketing.

Don’t believe me?

When was the last time you bought SEO services from a cold email? When was the last time you subscribed to a new marketing software from an automated direct message on Twitter?

That’s right: never.

We expect to sell using those shady techniques, yet we HATE it when it happens to us.

The first step towards a launching a new business according to Seth Godin is to change your mindset. You can’t come up with a product or service and THEN decide to market it.

You have to involve people in the process.

Your customers are humans just like you.

They’re not just a number on Google Analytics.

Treat them as such.

2) Focus on the tiniest audience possible

Step 2: Focus on the smallest audience possible.

In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg launched a social network for Harvard students only.

Look where Facebook is now.

Yvon Chouinard, co-founder of Patagonia.

In 1970, Yvon Chouinard (left), co-Founder of Patagonia, was selling “homemade gear out of the back of his car, supplementing his income by diving into trash cans and redeeming bottles for cash”.

Patagonia is now worth $209M.

I had the same dilemma when I started my podcast Everyone Hates Marketers. I wanted to reach ALL the marketers on the planet.

I realized that I would stretch myself too thin if I was going down this road.

So I trimmed my audience to the bone: I would focus only on digital marketers working in tech who are sick of shady, aggressive marketing.

This was the audience I knew the best: I am a tech marketer sick of shady, aggressive marketing.

By focusing on this small audience I have an edge over the generalist digital marketing podcasts out there.

I can address their biggest, most specific pains. This is what remarkable marketing is all about.

This probably goes against everything you learned about business. That’s because this is the ugly, unsexy part.

No, you’re not going to become a millionaire this year, or even next year. It might take 9 years, 18 years, 25 years, who knows?

So, how do you pick a tiny audience?

This part takes discipline.

You probably have an idea of a product or service you want to offer; now it’s time to select the bullseye: who are the people who will benefit the most from using your product or service?

When I asked Seth Godin to come up with a business idea on the fly, he came up with a concierge service to help tourists find an Airbnb in Paris.

But “tourists” could be anybody: are we serving a Japanese family looking to go to Versailles for the first time or a Brazilian businessman who want a place to stay near Bercy for a seminar?

So, Seth trimmed down his audience: he would help Californian families with young kids to find the best place to stay in Paris for their holidays.

This is much more specific, and, all of a sudden, the problems they face and the solutions we can offer become much more specific, too.

Californian families want high-speed internet to talk with their relatives who stayed in San Diego. They want to see the Eiffel Tower from their balcony just like in the movies. They want to taste the best croissants Paris has to offer since they can’t find any in San Diego.

See what I mean?

You might fear that the audience you’re thinking of is too small.

Here’s a tip I got from Philip Morgan (an expert in marketing positioning): if there’s a conference especially organized for it, then your audience is big enough.

For example, did you know that there’s a conference for handcrafted soap makers?

The next one is in Atlanta, Georgia, and 450 attendees are expected. If the handcrafted soap maker conference organizers managed to make money from such a tiny audience, so can you!

3) Create a remarkable product

Step 3: Create a remarkable product.

Ok, ok, this might sound cliché but hear me out first.

Remarkable marketing starts with a remarkable product.

But, what’s a remarkable product you ask?

It’s a product that your customers simply CAN’T live without; they love it so much that they tell their friends, who tell their friends, who tell their friends.

You get the drill.

The problem is that most of us try to sell average products to average people.

Because the products are average, customers are not raving about them.

They don’t talk about them to their friends.

As a consequence, we have to use shady, aggressive marketing to compensate for the loss in business.

Do you think Slack had to use in-your-face marketing to sell their product?


Anybody can use their product for free — there is no string attached. The product is so good that it IS their marketing. They went from 16,000 Daily Active Users to 2.7 Million in 2 years.

As Seth Godin mentioned in the episode: did you start using Facebook because you saw their ads on a lifestyle magazine? Nope. Your friends told you about it.

Have you heard of MailChimp because they sponsored a conference you went to?


Their email tool was so good that you started to receive newsletters from businesses and people you knew, sent from MailChimp. You checked out their site, tried their email software for free, and loved the experience.

Now here’s the hard truth: you’re not going to launch the next Facebook, MailChimp, or Slack.

They’re solving big problems for millions of people.

But, to start with, you can create a remarkable product for a small audience.

It’s time to get out of the building and talk to people:

  • Identify one of their most painful, unsolved problems
  • Work your ass off to help them solve it
  • Give a sample of your product or service for free
  • Do they rave about it and offer to share it with their friends straight away? You have a winner.
  • If not, collect their feedback and start again.
The Hotjar Beta in Numbers.

This is why Hotjar, the all-in-one analytics and feedback solution for your website, wanted to build a remarkable product.

It took them only 4 weeks to come up with the first version of the product, built a very simple landing page, let 1,500 people use it straight away, and gathered feedback.

The product was so good that those 1,500 early adopters referred an additional 17,500 people in less than a month. At this point, the Hotjar co-founders knew they had a winner.

There is no silver bullet in building a remarkable product and it might take you months or even years to find the right recipe, but, if you start with a small audience and gather feedback on the way, your chance of coming up with a remarkable product or service will get much, much, higher.

4) Create an abundance of confidence

Step 4: Create an abundance of confidence.

How do you get the word out about your product or service if you have only $1,000 in the bank?

In the words of Seth Godin, “by giving people an abundance of confidence which will create an abundance of value and all I’m asking in return is to be trusted.

Let’s get back to the example mentioned earlier: a concierge service for Californian families who want to get to Paris on holidays and find a place to stay.

To get the word out, Seth proposes to select the best 50 Airbnbs in Paris, take pictures, and create an amazing 50-page guide of where our potential customers should stay when going to Paris.

This guide would be available for free, on Medium, for everybody to see.

He would then contact 10 people he knows who fit the description of his ideal audience and see if they get any value out of it.

If they do, they’re probably going to share this guide to their friends, who will then share it with their friends and so on…

If they don’t, he would improve the guide until they do.

Here’s the catch: he would leave his email address at the bottom of the guide, and expect readers to contact with questions.

He’d give great free advice, engaging with 100 to 1000 people a day back and forth, back and forth, until he’d the indispensable middle man.

Airbnb owners would pay him to write a review about their place, while American families will reach out to find the best Airbnb apartment in the city center of Paris for less than 250$ a night.

This concept can be applied to any type of products to services: to be trusted you must first give value for free.

This requires patience.

At the end of 2016, Unbounce, a landing page software, had more than 16,000 paying customers.

How did they get there?

“The Noob Guide to Online Marketing” by Unbounce.

They started blogging six months before their first product release (in 2010), but, what really helped them to become the most popular landing page software on the planet, was a guest post on called “The Noob Guide to Online Marketing”; a giant guide and infographic containing TONS of value.

They turned this post into an ebook which got downloaded 150,000 times.

Unbounce got trusted as the go-to online marketing experts, and the rest is history.

Can YOU do the same in your niche?

5) Make a spinner and spin the wheel

Step 5: Make a spinner and spin the wheel.

You might feel overwhelmed by all of the above, and that’s ok.

You might not know where to focus on: there are so many things you could do, so many channels you could use, so many ideas running in your head.

How do you choose which project to focus on first?


Just pick one, or as Seth Godin would say: “Make a spinner and spin the wheel”.

Do a thing and stick to it.

I used to act like a headless chicken when I started my career: I was impatient, switching from one project to another in a blink of an eye.

7 years ago, I launched a blog about marketing (in French), wrote 9 articles, and stopped because there weren’t enough people reading them.

4 years ago, I wanted to create a community for cystic fibrosis patients to connect with each other (my younger brother has cystic fibrosis). I pitched the idea at a Startup Weekend, worked on it for two weeks, and quit.

It is when I started interviewing no-nonsense marketers a few months that I had an epiphany: every one of my guests, in their own words, mentioned the virtue of tranquility.

In stoicism, tranquility is defined by: “believing in yourself and trusting that you are on the right path, and not being in doubt by following myriad footpaths of those wandering in every direction”.

I stopped checking my mentions on Twitter every 30 minutes, I stopped checking my website stats on Google Analytics every day, I stopped looking at my podcast downloads every Tuesday (when I publish a new episode on Everyone Hates Marketers).

Instead, I’ve decided to make a spinner and spin the wheel. I’ve decided to deliver value every week and to stop expecting success to knock on my door tomorrow.

I know that success will come; I just don’t know when.

It’s such a liberating feeling.

Success is a byproduct of helping people solve their biggest most painful problems.

“I know that success will come, I just don’t know when.”

Key takeaways

  • Market WITH people, not AT them. Your customers are human beings, just like you.
  • Focus on the smallest audience possible. You can always expand later.
  • Create a remarkable product. If your first 10 customers spread the word about it, you have a winner. If not, collect feedback and start again.
  • Create an abundance of confidence. Give away a huge amount of value for free so people trust you in return.
  • Make a spinner and spin the wheel. There will never be a perfect time to do anything: do something and stick to it.

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