6 posts categorized "Books"

12/15/2010 Review: Buy In

I just read John Kotter’s new book “Buy In: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down.” One of the hazards of reading the Harvard Business Blogs is that they have a number of enticing books they promote on the site. Although I have piles of un- or half-read business books in my home and work offices, I couldn’t resist. After all, who doesn’t want more people to say, “Yes” to his or her idea?

Buy.In.Book2 Before I get to the content, I have to say that Kotter and Whitehead did a great job writing this business advice book as a story. That’s right, they wrote it as one continuous story, rather than strictly as advice or in scenarios. Then they analyzed the story. It’s a smart technique and one that makes the book easier and more interesting to read.

This book is not about creating good ideas, or fighting for your idea in competition with others. No, this book is about presenting your ideas to groups who have the power to shoot it down without offering anything better in return. Anyone who works in any type of corporate atmosphere (big or small) or has to sell their ideas to client groups or any other type of committee will recognize the story.

It’s unfortunate that we have a world filled with people who get juiced by saying “No.” Ego, power and personal dysfunction keep a lot of good ideas from coming to life. “Buy In” offers descriptions and strategies for deflecting criticisms without turning off your supporters.

The authors offer 24 basic attacks on ideas. They include examples such as:

  • What about this, and that, and this and that
  • Sounds like something [most people dislike] to me
  • No one else does this!
  • It sounds too simplistic to work
  • We tried it before and it didn’t work

If you’re like me, you’ve heard a lot of these before. Most of us would just like to shoot the smug, self-absorbed twits who throw these in our way. Perhaps the best advice in the book is how to NOT take these questions personally but how to respond with the utmost respect. Hey, no one said it would be easy.

I think this book is a worthwhile read if you have to present to, and get approval from, people who have little understanding and insight as to what you’re proposing. At some point I did have the feeling that the advice was a little manipulative but on further reflection I realized that the problems in the book describe a particular, and important, point in time. But it’s a point where a lot of good thinking (not to mention time) can go down the drain due to someone else’s personal agenda. 

Now, to put this into practice… 

06/23/2009 Review: Ignore Everybody

Sometimes I’m a sucker for a new book pitch, especially if there’s a free prize inside. A few weeks ago people started buzzing about Hugh McLeod’s new book “Ignore Everybody” with the sub title “And 39 Other Keys to Creativity.” Not only did Seth Godin blog about it but Hugh also offered a free extra book to the first 500 purchasers. Very Godinesque.

I’ve followed Hugh on Twitter (he’s @gapingvoid) and I read his blog. I looked forward to reading this book a lot more than others I’ve bought recently. And this is not because I try to ignore everybody (at least I think I don’t).

Ignoreeverybody2 Hugh has a great story. Ad copywriter turned illustrator/business card comic creator. This is a story about someone who became very good at something unusual and followed his passion. He didn’t quit his day job for it, but he was able to turn this passion into a very new direction for himself.

I don’t know that I got much out of the parts around creative habits in the book. However, I thought Hugh and some really interesting insights into personal change and motivation. For that reason, here’s my one line recommendation:

“If you’re trying to figure out what’s next or are already in a transformational period, read this book. Looking back on my own big change a year ago, I wish this book had been available then.”

Two things jumped out at me from Ignore Everybody. The first is that when you finally have that idea for what you want to do, the idea that change the way you do things, expect a lot of resistance. According to Ignore Everybody, change ideas alter the power balance in a relationship. And everyone wants to keep his or her power.

Think about it: we experience this daily. At work, our bosses and colleagues resist ideas fro all sorts of reasons. When you put it into the framework of power relationships, it makes more sense.  Looking back through these lenses, I understand a lot more of some of the things that happened in the past. Hugh also posits that even friends resist change because they fear that the status quo in your friendship will suffer the effects.

In fact, most everyone, except you, is probably just fine with the way things are. This book, more than anything else, is a recipe to break your inertia.

The other idea Ignore Everybody pushes is the power of sovereignty. When something is yours, you not only care for it more, it also excites other people more. We want more control in our lives. From career to how marketers treat us. The idea of sovereignty is a powerful one and one of the best motivators around. It goes to the core of who we are as people.

Hugh MacLeod has a lots of smart thinking and truisms in his book, some practical, like the amount of work you have to do to succeed, some philosophical, like not looking for approval.

At the end of the day, Hugh changed his life through his drawings. If you’re trying to figure out how to change yours for the better, Ignore Everybody is a quick read that could give you some insight on how to move yourself.

Special Offer

Since I'm receiving an extra copy, I want to share in the goodness. If you're looking to change, have a creative passion you'd like to follow, or just want some good advice on how to be more creative, write something here or send me an email.

I'll give my extra copy of Ignore Everybody to whoever has the most compelling reason.

04/15/2009 Word of Mouth Marketing

Cover of "Word of Mouth Marketing: How Sm...Cover via Amazon

I took advantage of my travel time this week to jump into a book that I ordered two months ago but never made the time to spend reading it. I turned off the TV on Jet Blue and tuned into Andy Sernovitz’ “Word of Mouth Marketing” second edition.

It felt right that Seth Godin wrote the foreword to this book because it seems like a logical extension from Seth’s “Purple Cow” and “Free Prize Inside” to Andy’s “WOMM.”

This is another book that is well written, easy to read, and supplies good examples to get you going. Most importantly, it gets you going of doing word of mouth and not just talking about it. That was one of things Purple Cow did at an old workplace: it got everyone talking about remarkable but no one agreeing on what remarkable was or what we were actually going to do differently.

In some way it feels like the manual to a lot of Seth Godin’s thinking.  And I have to admit that I like it when Andy stops you and points out the key points and reminds you to, well, remember.

The book has two sections: Essential Concepts and How To Do It. The How To Do It section is so full of different angles that it almost feels silly NOT to do try any of these.  Reading this section gave me 5-10 immediate ideas I’ll be talking to my clients about over the next few weeks.

More importantly, it spurred a great idea for my own business. I love it when you see something and it just goes “Pop” and there the idea is. I can’t wait to do this, I hope my clients have as much fun with it as I’m going to have putting it into action.

And isn’t that word of mouth is all about? Generating interesting, creating something fun or unexpected and not being able to wait to tell someone about it?

I think, though, that one of the things that make Andy’s ideas stand out is that he seems to promote what I call “Moral Marketing™.” As he puts it “word of mouth marketing is about being good to people.” If you took out the words “word of mouth” from that sentence and just let it speak to marketing, imagine how different our world and the work we do would be.  Social media seems to embrace this philosophy, when done correctly, which is perhaps why word of mouth marketing now has a platform to flourish on.

So add “Word of Mouth Marketing” to your reading list. When you finally get around to reading it, you’ll be glad you did. It will either reinforce what you now do and spur more ideas, or it will get you to start looking differently at the marketing you currently practice.

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03/20/2009 Read this Book!

I may be the last person on Twitter to do so, but I finally read the book Groundswell by present and former Forrester Research people Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li. Here’s my short review:

Buy this book and read it, now.
Then give it to your boss and make him read it.
Then get everyone in whatever group you’re in, and get them all to read it.

If you read one book on online or digital marketing this year, that book should be Groundswell.

Okay, now the longer version.

Groundswell3 I’ve had a pile of marketing books on my desk and night table for the past 10 years. I’ve actually finished a few of them. I’m not sure if I’m suffering from Google brain or whether I don’t have the patience to dig through some dense but informative volumes. From what I hear, I’m not the only one with the unread books around me.

The writing is the first thing that makes Groundswell stand out. The book explains complex and new technology quite simply. I’ve written a number of blog posts on writing and simplicity and I’m a big fan of how Bernoff and Li write. They are very good explainers without becoming overly pedagogical. This is a book your boss will understand.

The examples or cases are the second thing that makes Groundswell stand out. The cases are great stories, filled with people and they tell as much about the land mines as they do about the successes. Most of us can see ourselves in a lot of these stories, even if most of us can’t envision ourselves in some of the larger campaigns. That’s because the stories are about people, not about technologies.

And people are the third thing that makes Groundswell stand out. The book puts the focus on finding smart ways to communicate with people, customers, prospects or employees. It’s about finding relevant ways of listening to and talking with people.  That’s why social media is so hard: it’s a dialogue.

While Bernoff and Li hit on what are now familiar concepts - giving up control, starting small, listening instead of announcing – they do so in a way that adds depth and imperative.

Personally, I love the way the challenge you to disrupt thinking about the value of your products to instead look at what’s valuable to your customers. Those two things might only touch each other tangentially. The story about how to talk to young girls about tampons when that’s the LAST thing they want to talk about should ring alarm bells for all of us. The same thing applies to lots of low interest categories, like banking or electricity, to name two.

Don’t get distracted by some of the bigger examples they give and the talk about expensive third party solutions. This book is chock full of advice for marketers of all shapes and sizes. Some of the best solutions in the book cost almost no money.

So read the book and start helping your clients change. But first, do the same thing for your agency, shop or yourself. Since you’re going to make mistakes, it’s probably better you make the first ones on your own dime.

01/27/2009 Getting People to Say “Yes”

I enjoy hearing “Yes” so much more than “No!” that when I heard an interview with author Robert Cialdini on NPR about his new book “Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive” I hopped on to Amazon.com and bought it right away.

YES! All marketers want people to say yes. We want our bosses to say yes to our raises, our clients to say yes to our creative ideas, and customers to say yes to our sales and relationship pitches. Face it, we’re in the business of asking customers to change their behavior and do something different. If we can’t get them to say yes, we’re out on the street.

 While I never expect a book to give all the answers, I had high hopes for this one. Maybe it was the word “Scientifically.” All I’d need to do is craft my Yes brew and voila, a gaggle of Yes-sayers.

Of course the book doesn’t work that way. While all of the hypotheses put forward have grounding in controlled research, a lot of what I found in the book was common wisdom. Or would be common wisdom if we didn’t over think things so damn much!

That said this book has some good suggestions. I’ve found I’m using more than one of them in my digital marketing. That’s something I can’t say about a lot of other marketing books. What are some of the scientifically proven ways?

  1. Crowd Behavior – Cialdini and Co. show that you can impact behavior by showing how common the behavior is, or that a majority of people does this. People like to follow a crowd or a winner. Obviously this won’t work for a rebel brand, although Apple uses it in its switch campaign. I’m working for an industry leader, right now, and one of the things I’m putting at the forefront is the message that they are responsible for over 50% of their market worldwide.
  2. Rewards Programs – In an interesting study, the authors show that giving people a free head start on a rewards program increases their use and completion of the program. They used a study of clip cards where you needed eight clips for a freebie. The group that got an empty card of eight was far less engaged than a group that got a card of 10 with the first two clips free.

Other studies include the power of the word “because,” the value of unexpected and personalized attention, and the power of rhyming.

But you knew all that, right? Even if you do, it’s always good to have reminders to keep them front and center. Best of all, it’s a fairly quick read even if it has a lot of info.

I think that research based types and planners will love this book.

So go ahead and read what millions have already read because this book could help your marketing leap ahead.

10/13/2008 I’m in Seth Godin’s New Book!

Well, would you believe, I’m on the inside of the book jacket? I pre-ordered the book “Tribes”, joined Seth’s online tribe, and he put my crazy picture (along with other tribe members) on the inside of jacket cover. I've received other cool things when pre-ordering his books, like getting a cool milk carton containing Purple Cow or a cereal box with Free Prize Inside. Why do I keep doing this? For one simple reason:

Seth Godin is my Yoda. That’s the best description I can think of (now that my son Felix is making me rewatch all of the Star Wars movies). His writing and the inspiration it’s given me has helped me make the move to go out on my own and leave my “safe” agency job.

Banana_tribes “Tribes” is about leadership. The best thing about Seth’s writing is that he doesn’t pull his punches; it’s a book that challenges and inspires.

Best of all, he practices what he preaches. I’ve written a number of blog entries about making your customers part of your product. Here’s a living, breathing example. It’s not surprising that Seth G. has a pretty close relationship with BzzAgent, a company devoted to this type of word-of-mouth marketing.

And if you’re reading this, it’s proof it works.

This is a good book for you if you’re stuck in a large organization, figuring out your next career move, or just trying to become more active in your neighborhood, local politics, or religious community.

Thank you, Seth.

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