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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Seth Godin and My Motivation for Ink Nouveau

When I first set up Ink Nouveau, it was against the logic of what a typical 'company' blog should be. Common business sense would say that I should have named my blog 'The Goulet Pen Company Blog', to build all of my brand equity in the company name that pays my bills.



Ink Nouveau is a gift from me, the blog itself pays me nothing. Ink Nouveau has no affiliation other than the obvious one that whatever I do is backed by me and GouletPens.com. The reason I wanted to call it Ink Nouveau and not 'Goulet Pen Co. Blog' is because I wanted to do something more than just push my products or promote sales.

Sure, I do that stuff, I won't lie. But I try not to do any more of it than I have to, because that's really not the point of this blog. The point of it is to provide education and motivation around the writing products that we all find so intriguing and interesting in the world of fountain pens.

Seth Godin

What sparked me to write about all this is the blog post that Seth Godin wrote yesterday. Seth Godin is an author and marketing guru who I read regularly, he has lots of great books that are short and easy to read. His ideas and straightforward and innovative, and he always likes to challenge his readers.

His post today talked about jumping in line vs. opening the door. He did a comparison of darting ahead of a line of cars waiting to get on the highway, and how that act is selfish and hurts others to benefit you. Everyone else has to wait while you cut in line.

He contrasted that selfish motivation to the act of cutting in a line of people waiting to get through a single door of an office building. In doing so, you have the opportunity to open up a new door that was previously closed. Your own act is something that benefits you, but also benefits others because now others also have the door you opened to walk through.

This analogy really struck me today. So often I wonder why I'm so driven to work crazy long hours and do all of the insane things I do like Ink Drop, ink samples, Write Time, posting on FPN, chatting on Twitter, the Facebook fanpage, my YouTube videos, and everything here on Ink Nouveau. When I add up all the time I spend doing things that don't pay me directly, it probably adds up to as many or more hours than I spend doing the daily operations of GPC.

So why do I do it?

I do it because I have to. It's not because someone's telling me to, or my business will fail if I don't. I am called to do it, like it's natural to me and I've been given a unique set of skills and circumstances to be doing what I'm doing. I see the chance to open a new door for the writing community. I see a need that I can meet, so I'm opening that door.

I'm holding a new door open to the writing world, for anyone that wants to walk through it.

31 comments:

  1. "why do I do it?" - the answer is in the Flow theory.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_(psychology)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXIeFJCqsPs
    http://www.amazon.com/Flow-Psychology-Experience-Mihaly-Csikszentmihalyi/dp/0061339202/

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  2. Nicely done. Well written and I am sure many of your readers will appreciate the sentiment.

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  3. I love GPC and Ink Nouveau, but sometimes the cheese gets to me...

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  4. As you point out, all the extra stuff that you do is helpful to the entire pen and paper world (such as the AMAZING ink samples you guys make), but as far as I'm concerned it's the best business marketing you could possibly do! I found Goulet Pens in a google search and initially didn't give it another thought. But once I started stumbling upon more and more Ink Nouveau blog posts, I eventually realized you guys are truly the ONLY source for pen and paper if I want to have a good experience.

    You guys give extra - from the blogs to the packing material to the customer service and especially TIME. You guys deserve all the success you're getting and more!

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  5. @Anonymous, you'll have to clarify for me. Cheese?

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  6. @Jesse, thanks so much for the kind words! I do think there are a lot of other great retailers in the fountain pen world, moreso than a lot of other retailing businesses. But what we're really focusing on is building a community and connecting people online, which is something that is really lacking in the fountain pen world.

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  7. It seems recently, the more I venture buying outside my regular retailers, the more bad experiences I have. I just happened to buy from you guys around the same time I had a really awful customer service experience online (a company that's also a husband/wife team). You guys reminded me that there are still honest businesses to take a chance on. I just thought I'd clarify my praise, as I don't wish to alienate other great retailers.

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  8. What a lovely post. It makes me all the more appreciative that I found your sites. You and Rachel are the kind of people I WANT to deal with - fabulous service, great products with good prices and a personal touch like no other.
    Thank you for all you do - I wouldn't have quite the knowledge I do now if it hadn't been for your informative videos and blogs. I feel confident buying any of your products because it's obvious you take pride in this business.
    You epitomize that saying:
    Find work you love and you won't work a day in your life!
    Good for you! :)

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  9. I agree with Jesse; people in the writing community (myself included) see the type of stuff you do on this blog, facebook, FPN, etc and are motivated to buy from you BECAUSE you do that stuff. You wouldn't see the success you have been seeing without that added dimension you bring.

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  10. I know that without this amazing blog I wouldn't have found Goulet Pens, as I found your blog first in an effort to educate myself about the types of pens and inks available out there. I love how much useful stuff (reviews, how to's, etc.) I dont know how you manage to run your business and the blog out everyday too, but thanks! I feel like your company is what American companies should be all about.

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  11. That's a beautiful thought. Reminds me why I do teaching.

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  12. Brian

    "Ink Nouveau is a gift from me, the blog itself pays me nothing." Is the funniest thing that I have read in a long time.

    This from the man who admits in this post to studying the works of the renowned marketing guru Seth Goddin.

    Who’s opening line on nearly all his you tube videos is “hello everybody this is Brian Goulet of the Goulet Pen Company with text plugging www.InkNouveau.com at the bottom.

    This blog may not be called “The Goulet Pen Company Blog” in name but it might as well be.

    Take this post for example a link to your twitter and facebook page none of which mention the Goulet Pen Company? or the direct link back to your commercial website.

    “When I add up all the time I spend doing things that don't pay me directly, it probably adds up to as many or more hours than I spend doing the daily operations of GPC.”

    “So why do I do it? I see a need that I can meet, so I'm opening that door."

    Definition of Marketing - The achievement of corporate goals through meeting and exceeding customer needs better than the competition. – Jobber

    There is no doubt that you do provide a lot of useful information and help others, but I don’t think that you are ready to be canonized just yet.

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  13. @Jesse, there are definitely good businesses out there. I think with the internet, blogs, forums, etc. it's easier than ever for small business to care about their customers to provide great service to a large number of people.

    @Rhea, I love that saying! So true. Thank you!

    @Steve, I think you're right!

    @Nathan, I don't know how I do it either! Rachel is a tremendous help. She helps me with all of it, plus is the main caretaker for our 1-year old boy! We work quickly, effectively, and long hours. It's not magic really. The fact that we love it and are passionate about it give us the motivation to work as hard as we do, plain and simple.

    @Brian Gray, thanks! I know you are the same way ;)

    @César, thank you for teaching! Teaching is really what it's all about.

    @Anonymous, thank you so much for posting this! I knew that I would get a perspective like yours as I was writing this blog post. Your thoughts here tell me that I'm asking some of the right questions. I can't argue with anything that you're saying. I'm glad I was able to give you a good laugh (though to be honest that wasn't exactly my intention). I know I walk a very fine line, sometimes rather wobbly, because I'm posting as 'unbiased as possible' on this blog while simultaneously running a company where I sell products I review. The reason I say that I run Goulet Pens in every video is not to be self-promotional but to exercise full disclosure. It's literally impossible for me to be unbaised in my reviews. If I blog about something I sell, anything positive I say can be viewed as I'm trying sell more of it. If I blog about something I don't sell, anything bad I say about it can be viewed as I'm just trying to bash something I don't sell. It's a tough balance, and I'm always looking at better ways to handle my situation. If you have any advice about how I can better do this, I'm all ears.

    I do appreciate your saying what I'm doing is being helpful. Though I'm certainly not looking to be canonized! The main message I wanted to get across is that whatever I've been doing before I want to do it better in the future. I do want to be a 'door opener', and if I've been doing too much self-promotion or anything like that before, I want to work to fix that and make my efforts more useful for everyone down the road. I'm definitely open to more dialog about changes I can make, so please let me know if you have any specific ideas.

    And just as a side note, Blogger had flagged your comment as spam, and I changed that so it would post publicly. I want a completely open dialog about what I'm doing and how I can improve.

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  14. Excellent article, Brian. Can't canonize you, though, until you are deceased. ;) Few businessmen could be saintly, but your customer service for GPC is excellent. And your critiques of some of the products you carry don't seem to be overboard in any way (at least one ink review comes to mind - pretty bottle but the ink sounded meh). Plus the fact that you seemed to bend over backwards for Anonymous' critiques to be posted also says something about your approach to self promotion. Keep up the good work.

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  15. @Maria, thank you :) I like being challenged, and Anonymous has done just that. In my heart of hearts I really do have a struggle about discussing products for Goulet Pens on Ink Nouveau. I've done several surveys where Ink Nouveau fans have said that one of the best things about the blog is the announcement of new products. Most of the time, that's because I'm one of the first ones to find out about new products, and I'm able to get more background information on the products because I'm a retailer. It's always a struggle for me to try to convey information about products that I have access to, without coming off like I'm trying to 'hustle' my fans. I feel like I'm in a unique position, because most writing bloggers aren't retailers, and most retailers don't blog. I'm really feeling my way as I go, and learning every day by trail and error. Anonymous clearly put a lot of thought and effort into his/her response, and I appreciate that. I'm going to be sensitive to these issues as I post in the future.

    However anyone may view this post I did, either as genuine or self-righteous, it has undeniably sparked up a lot of great conversation. I appreciate everyone's feedback! This kind of commenting and communication is exactly what I'm hoping to see ongoing :)

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  16. The beginner videos are what caused my random curiosity about fountain pens to blossom into enthusiasm. I made my first small purchase from Goulet Pen as a thank-you for the education. I made subsequent purchases because the customer service, communication, and products are exceptional. A win-win.

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  17. Hi Brian

    There may have been a little bit of playing Devil’s Advocate when I wrote the earlier comment.

    As a business man who also runs a commercial website and blog I fully appreciate the dilemma of how to maintain integrity without leaving the door open to accusations of self promotion.

    (Incidentally this is why I chose to post anonymously)

    I do think that you have got the balance about right, and I would not bother to read or comment on your blog if I thought it was just being used for self promotion.

    You are to be commended on being one of the few enlightened business owners who do not view a blog as just another tool for the sales department.

    This is a great post and brings out into the open for discussion a tricky subject.

    That affects not only businesses, but also people with personal blogs that have become successful enough to attract sponsorship.

    Keep up the good work that you are already doing and I hope that you did not take my earlier comment to heart.

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  18. @Donna, I've heard from a lot of pen fans (new and experienced!) that the tips and tricks videos are particularly helpful. I certainly plan to do a lot more of them! I'm glad I was able to gain your trust from the beginning, and more importantly I was able to keep it :)

    @Anonymous, I really appreciate your coming back to comment. I never mind a little devil's advocate, especially when it's challenging and thought provoking like yours (instead of just blowing off steam).

    The balance of promotional/non-promotional stuff on Ink Nouveau has really been on my mind a lot lately. Part of my struggle has been that there have been so many new and exciting products to come out that it's taken over a lot of the conversation. As my time has been limited I just haven't been able to record as many videos and provide insightful tips as I have before to kind of balance that out.

    But I'm working on hiring help to handle more of the day-to-day tasks around here, that way I can focus on playing with inks, pens, and paper and providing useful education and insight to the writing community.

    Another challenge for me is that some of the things we're doing like Ink Drop, Write Time, and announcing certain exclusive products are things that only we have. They aren't things that we can talk much about in other mediums online that are moderated by others, so this blog is the only 'comfort zone' for us to be able to share the products and developments we're doing. I need to be able to feel comfortable to talk about my own business on my own blog, y'know? Plus the commenting capability of a blog allows me to get feedback instantly from you all.

    The balance is that my promotion can't be the driving factor, meaning that I blog purely to drive sales to GPC. I won't lie, that temptation is always there and it would be easy for me to fall into that. But that would undermine the greater value that I think I could provide for Ink Nouveau fans.

    I will still promote new and exciting things that we have going on, but not have that be the sole intention. I will do my best to keep myself in check, but I'll also look to all of you for feedback about how I'm doing, sound good?

    Whatever the scenario, having a good conversation is key, and we clearly have that going on here!

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  19. I'm confused as to what the problem is here... so what if you "plug" Goulet Pens while on your own blog? I subscribe to two blogs whose authors provide direct links to products they sell.
    Don't stress over this, to me it's a non-issue. Ink Nouveau/Goulet Pens same, same

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  20. I agree with Rhea. Brian is Ink Nouveau and Ink Nouveau is Goulet Pens. I don't care if you push Goulet Pens. Why wouldn't you? The blog teaches me and I enjoy learning new things. I too am new to fountain pens-and you have sparked my interest in them and now my husband complains about my new habit and wonders why in the world I need so many pens and bottles of ink and pads of paper. I much rather deal with someone I "know" and trust then a faceless retailer. I think I am a good example of what you are trying to do-spark interest and passion in something--and it worked. As long as you keep teaching me and challenging me to try new things, I am a happy customer. Keep up the good work!

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  21. @Rhea and @Carol, thank you! I appreciate your understanding and support. I'll make a deal with everyone, I'll continue to 'tastefully' plug my stuff when necessary and you keep me in line if it looks like I'm being shameless about it. Providing education about products is kind of hard without plugging them, especially because the products I sell are the ones I know the best. I appreciate hearing your perspective on all this.

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  22. @Rhea and @Carol, thank you! I appreciate your understanding and support. I'll make a deal with everyone, I'll continue to 'tastefully' plug my stuff when necessary and you keep me in line if it looks like I'm being shameless about it. Providing education about products is kind of hard without plugging them, especially because the products I sell are the ones I know the best. I appreciate hearing your perspective on all this.

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  23. I agree with Rhea. Brian is Ink Nouveau and Ink Nouveau is Goulet Pens. I don't care if you push Goulet Pens. Why wouldn't you? The blog teaches me and I enjoy learning new things. I too am new to fountain pens-and you have sparked my interest in them and now my husband complains about my new habit and wonders why in the world I need so many pens and bottles of ink and pads of paper. I much rather deal with someone I "know" and trust then a faceless retailer. I think I am a good example of what you are trying to do-spark interest and passion in something--and it worked. As long as you keep teaching me and challenging me to try new things, I am a happy customer. Keep up the good work!

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  24. The beginner videos are what caused my random curiosity about fountain pens to blossom into enthusiasm. I made my first small purchase from Goulet Pen as a thank-you for the education. I made subsequent purchases because the customer service, communication, and products are exceptional. A win-win.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I know that without this amazing blog I wouldn't have found Goulet Pens, as I found your blog first in an effort to educate myself about the types of pens and inks available out there. I love how much useful stuff (reviews, how to's, etc.) I dont know how you manage to run your business and the blog out everyday too, but thanks! I feel like your company is what American companies should be all about.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I agree with Jesse; people in the writing community (myself included) see the type of stuff you do on this blog, facebook, FPN, etc and are motivated to buy from you BECAUSE you do that stuff. You wouldn't see the success you have been seeing without that added dimension you bring.

    ReplyDelete
  27. @Anonymous, you'll have to clarify for me. Cheese?

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  28. Nicely done. Well written and I am sure many of your readers will appreciate the sentiment.

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  29. Sara Light-WallerJuly 24, 2011 at 11:14 PM

    Thanks Brian! I am a huge fan of Seth Godin too. I totally get what you're saying as I'm trying to do just the same in my business. Write on!

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  30. Write on indeed :) I like a lot of Seth's stuff...some of it tends to repeat, but it's all good stuff.

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