What Seth Godin Learned From Jesus About Marketing

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In 2013, Seth Godin was inducted into the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame, only one of three chosen for this honor. Would you be surprised to know that he actually learned his marketing genius from Jesus?

marketing black and white

Yes, that’s right, Jesus. Seth Godin is the author of 17 books about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, and about marketing and leadership. One of those books is entitled Tribes, which in my estimation is really about target marketing.

Tribes include a businesses’ group of customers, the specific people group a Pastor or non-profit leader serves, raving American Idol fans, and the numerous special interest groups and people who millions follow on their favorite social media outlets.

As Seth Godin and anyone who would coach others in the fundamentals of marketing would espouse, the first step to devising a successful marketing strategy is to identify a well-defined target group (or tribe) that will most be interested in, buy, or benefit from the ideas, services, or products being offered.

Where did this now common place strategy originate? Whether Seth Godin and others realize it or not, I believe it came from the marketing genius of Jesus, our savior. Consider with me just 3 Ways in Which Jesus Targeted Specific People Groups to change the lives of millions and alter history’s entire trajectory.

Targeting a Single Nation

One of the ways this is illustrated is when a non-Jewish woman approached Jesus, begging Him to heal her demon possessed daughter (Matthew 15:21-28). In response, listen to what He said:

“I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24)

Does this mean Jesus did not care for this woman’s need? That He didn’t care about her soul? Absolutely not.

Jesus loved the world and came to lay down His life for the sins of the world (John 3:16), but His strategy was to focus the majority of His 3 year ministry energies and resources on reaching the Jewish people, so they would reach the world. That was His plan, starting way back in the Old Testament with Abraham (Genesis 12-17).

Oh, and by the way, Jesus did heal the Canaanite woman’s daughter. Targeting a specific people group does not necessarily mean you don’t care about others, or will never serve or sell to those outside your tribe.

Targeting a Tribe of 12

“Most organizations spend their time marketing to the crowd. Smart organizations assemble the tribe. Crowds are interesting, and they create all sorts of worthwhile artifacts and market effects. But tribes are longer lasting and more effective.”  ~ Seth Godin

Jesus gave Seth this idea. If there was ever a person who could have been enamored with making it big and only reaching the masses, it would have been Jesus.

In Mark chapter one, Jesus’ healing ministry kept him up all night and drew enormous crowds from all walks of life. He could barely catch a break. Even while stealing away for a few minutes to spend time in refueling fellowship with His Father/God, Jesus’ disciples sought Him out and in essence said,

“What are you doing here Jesus? Everyone is looking for you. We got a great gig going here. This is why we left everything to follow you. It’s time to get back to work.”

Jesus’ reply would have been so far removed from what His disciples anticipated.

“Let us go somewhere else–to the nearby villages–so I can preach there also.” (~ Mark 1:38)

WHAT? I can hear them thinking. Leave a booming place of business and go to some Podunk villages? That is a terrible marketing strategy!

What insanity was fueling Jesus’ tactic? Well, first of all, His response demonstrated that He did in fact love the world and want to serve others beyond the immediate crowd. But, secondly, it reveals, more subtly, His underlying genius strategy. He had more specialized training in mind for His twelve disciples.

Jesus knew that His 12 disciples wouldn’t learn all they could by staying in one place, even though there was a tremendous response in Capernaum. His entire plan for reaching the world hinged on them fully getting and living the life and message He modeled and taught, so they would in turn disseminate it to the world after He was gone.

Jesus knew that investing in His tribe would produce longer lasting and more effective results.

Targeting the Audience of One

Seth Godin told of a friend in his book Tribes who was coming out with a new book and trolling around for marketing ideas. What was the sage advice Seth wanted to give him? Sell one.

Seth wanted to tell his friend to find one person who trusted him, who would love his book, be helped by it, and get excited enough about it to tell ten of his friends. Why? Because tribes grow when people recruit other people.

The power of a story cannot be underestimated. (Don’t miss next week’s guest post by author Darren Shearer about how Jesus’ genius in capitalizing on a story can help you to spread the message about your product or service).

Jesus realized this to such an extent that He planned an “overseas” mission with the distinct plan to radically change the life of one person. Yes, that’s right, one person! This riveting story is relayed in Mark 5:1-20 of how a crazed, demon possessed man found freedom from his tormented life living among the tombs, foaming at the mouth, and terrorizing the entire community.

Jesus, in His mercy, performed an exorcism of the demons that dominated His life. With overwhelming gratitude, the man wanted to give his life to Jesus in return, by following Him and helping others to find the freedom he had found. Despite his pleading, Jesus calmly said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.”

The man did just that. The entire Decapolis region was amazed and changed, all because Jesus invested countless resources in an “overseas mission to rescue one man.

Targeting You!

My friends, please understand something about me. I am not a master marketer by any stretch of the imagination. Nor do I particularly want to be one, or be seen as one. I have much to learn in this area.

But here is one thing I am passionate about. I am passionate about Jesus. He saved me from my sin. He saved me from the many negative influences of growing up in an alcoholic home, from the peer pressures that could have tossed me onto a path of destruction, and numerous life and leadership challenges over the years that could have sabotaged my faith, my hope, my love.

Jesus: His example, His teaching, and His Word. He is the answer to all the life and leadership challenges we face (Ephesians 1:3-14; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3-9).

What drives me to learn new things about marketing, building websites and developing the technical skills I need to write and posts blogs (all things that just drive me nuts and drain meat times)? YOU. It is you: the business leader, the pastor, the non-profit leader, the person putting in a hard day’s work for the employer who issues your paycheck every week.

You are my target audience. My passion is to provide you with encouragement and tools that will assist you as you seek to integrate your faith, the Bible, and the genius and power of Jesus’ life in your vocational and leadership calling; so that you can maximize your ministry, make Him famous, and experience the fullness of meaning for your life as God intends.

There is power in a tribe. We are in this together. If you have been blessed in any way by receiving this “Tipping Points” blog would you consider inviting others in your tribe (or tribes) to join this one by encouraging them to subscribe?

If so, just click the forward button below, add a personal note, and encourage them to subscribe by clicking the subscribe button below. Thank you for sharing your story to influence others!


  • What target group of people do you feel called to serve or feel like God has wired you to reach with your products, ideas, or services? Why?
  • How are you seeking to establish a connection with them?
  • What can you learn from Jesus’ genius to help?

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