He says the only thing he sells is change. So why is Seth Godin so successful?

FOR THE FIRST TIME in my journalism career, my interview checklist reads: list of questions, tape recorder, ink pen, notepad, and one bottle of caviar-extract shampoo. Seth Godin, originator of permission marketing, listens on the other end of the telephone line as I read the label of my wife’s latest addition to her private apothecary, which once functioned as our shared bathroom cabinet. The bottle boasts “antiaging formula.” Antiaging? Doesn’t hair consist solely of dead skin cells?

“That’s right,” Godin says.

Then why on earth would my dear wife purchase hair product made from fish eggs to stop the aging process of something already dead?

He pauses for a few moments and then advises, “It sounds like you need to buy her some flowers.”

This quick rapport helps keep Godin booked for speaking engagements up to 65 days a year, when he’s not busy organizing his own Whiteboard Seminars or writing follow-ups to Unleashing the Ideavirus, the most popular e-book in history. Or writing his next hard-copy book, Small Is the New Big,, due out this summer. Or writing daily entries on his blog, read by more people than his seven best-selling books combined. Or starting a direct marketing company like Yoyodyne, which was acquired by Yahoo! in 1998. Or monitoring the growth of Squidoo, his latest — and in many ways most ambitious — project.