Essential Reads from 2013

Essential reads in 2013

As a small business owner, I live by the adage that you must always be learning to grow and develop. To that end I read quite a bit (as I’m sure many of you do) and I wanted to share with you some of the books that had the most impact on how I have been and will be conducting business in 2014. Not all of the books were published in 2013, however, they were revisited or in one case, updated in 2013.

All have a great deal of valuable advise, strategies and tactics that the authors generously share that you can implement directly into your marketing and businesses immediately.

The list is by no means exhaustive, there were many great books to dive into this year and some are on my list for 2014 (next post). The seven +1 books are in no particular order and provide a brief description of why they made my ” Essential reads from 2013″ list. I’ve provided links for each book for your convenience (no affiliate relationship).

1. New Rules of Marketing & P.R. (4th addition) – David Meerman Scott.

The seminal book for all marketing, public relation and business leaders. As I understand it, this book is one of the main text used in most digital media training. The latest edition includes updates on the various platforms from previous editions and has included new platforms such as Pinterest. Full of interesting case studies and step-by-step processes that anyone can adapt to your current efforts.

1 +1 Bonus. Real-Time Marketing and P.R. – David Meerman Scott.

As a bonus edition, Scott’s Real-Time makes the case for how the days of planned full on campaigns are a thing of the past. A great example is the “United Breaks Guitars” case beyond just the complaint, lack of response and infamous YouTube video, but how Martin Guitars and a deal on a sturdy travel guitar case evolved from it in real time. It’s an eye opener that illustrates the need to not only be on social, but to be paying attention.

2. Start with Why – Simon Sinek.

You’ve likely seen the Ted Talk. The book gives you the opportunity to spend more time with the ideas and illustrations. As Sinek indicates, explaining “why” you do what you do and “why” it will matter to others, is clearly the hardest thing to articulate. The book provides excellent food for thought and guidance on your path. I’ve seen positive results with clients when they’ve changed the “feel” around their messages, not only in marketing, but even in calls for board members and others to share their journeys.

3. Born to Blog – Mark Schaefer and Stanford Smith.

As with many I know, I struggle with writing. This book is a great resource to help you overcome the barriers that may be holding you back from reaching your audience. Filled with practical and easy to use tips, it is an edition that you will revisit on a regular basis. As a fan and devotee of both Schaefer’s and Smith’s work, it was not surprising to find that the book makes blogging accessible to everyone.

4. The Go-Giver – Bob Burg and John David Mann.

Written as a parable, this book is easy to digest in a single sitting, but you’ll want to take your time with it. We’ve all experienced those moments when our backs are up against it and we’re not sure how to proceed. The ideas for ultimate success captured in a week’s journey are interesting and inspiring. In today’s world of instant access, remembering that old adages hold true “The more you give, the more you get”.

5. Contagious: Why Things Catch On – Jonah Berger.

Berger’s research and body of work on what makes things of interesting and why they get shared is a fascinating read. Filled with illustrative case studies and examples, Contagious provides the six (STEPPS) keys that will give you ideas that you can apply to your work and markets. In addition to the book, there are free resources available at Berger’s website to help you implement the ideas.

6. Epic Content Marketing – Joe Pulizzi.

Are you looking to make “Content Marketing” a central point of your 2014 efforts, then you will benefit greatly from reading Pulizzi’s new book. It is an essential tomb that will take you from the start of your journey and squarely place you on the road to success (success of course will depend on your efforts). To stand above the noise in your communities, you’ll need to be telling effective, interesting stories; Epic Content Marketing will provide you with the tools to do so, from developing your niche, understanding the content you have, and how to effectively distribute your message.

7. To Sell is Human – Daniel Pink.

Hate to tell you this, but we are all in sales, no matter our roles in our organizations. You’ve been in sales from the get go, every since you learn to try and influence outcomes for what you desired. Unfortunately, sales as a term has gotten such a bad reputation. In Pink’s latest effort, we learn why we are all in sales and how to do so without being slimy or overly salesy. Using lessons from social science, Pink builds a case for how sales can and is a honorable profession and indeed how most of our assumptions on what makes an effective sales person are likely wrong.

Finally, I want to share with you a wonderful post from Anne Kreamer in the Harvard Business Review “The Business Case for Reading Novels”. Kreamer starts by sharing her concern that we’ve all likely shared, guilt for taking the time to read for pleasure when there are so many worthy resources to help with our professional development. I used to feel the same way and my partner Joan only recently has rediscovered the absolute joy and benefits of reading for pleasure. The post makes a strong case for adding fiction to your reading list, based on research she discovered in Scientific American. Researchers have indicated that reading fiction helps build our understanding of real human emotion.

My fiction suggestion is a Canadian favorite. Robertson Davies’ “Fifth Business“. The book demonstrates how our actions, no matter how intended can impact others beyond what we can see.

What was on your Essential Reads from 2013 list?

Other best of reading lists:

Intuit’s Best Business Books 2013

Globe and Mail’s Top Business Books of 2013

INC’s Best Books for Entrepreneurs 2013

What I’ll be studying in 2014


What the band “Rush” can teach your business

Peart (right) performing with Rush. Français :...
Peart (right) performing with Rush. Français : Rush en concert à Milan (Italie), le 21 septembre 2004 Italiano: I Rush in concerto a Milano (21 settebre 2004) da sinistra:Lifeson, Lee e Peart. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the many reasons I’ve been a fan of the band “Rush“.  Not only have they supplied the “song track” of my life, they have provided a solid illustration of how to work collaboratively, in and out of the “Limelight”.  The band has 20 studio albums, numerous live and retrospective albums, global concerts and this month join the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame“. They survived a five-year hiatus after the tragic and untimely deaths of drummer Neil Peart’s daughter and wife and came back all the stronger. To hear the band talk about how they work and collaborate is a testament to mutual respect, tolerance, understanding and true admiration of each others skill and contributions. How does a Canadian rock band relate to your business? It’s a good question, that I’ll address below.

As businesses, we may have some of the same issues to contend with. We face turbulent business environments, we need to work alongside others, we need to find ways to build loyalty with our customers and not have our businesses grow stale and complacent. There are many takeaways from the career of Rush, collaboration; longevity; understanding their audience;  trusting and respecting their audience; and delivering exceptional service (live shows, albums and communication with fans), that has provided the band with a 40 year career, doing what they love and from all reports, doing it their way. Let’s look at some of the lessons:

1. They are incredible storytellers.

Rush achieved a strong following by crafting a great story and communicating that story with their wide and diverse audience. It’s not only in the musical chords and lyrics, but in how the band presents themselves and their art to the world. They’ve come to know who and why their audience is attracted to them and are able to connect deeply with those emotions in their audience.

Do you know your story, or your “why”. Take some time to reflect on “why” you do what you do and how you will communicate it to your various audiences: you staff,  your customers and your influencers.

2. Trust your partners and your team.

Can you business survive the loss of a key member for five (5) years. Sure you’re not a rock band, but have you made the plans you need to overcome an unfortunate event. To do so effectively, you’ll need to have strong and understanding partners to help you get over the hurdle. Whether those partners are internal or external (vendors, etc); building trusted relationships that are not focused on immediate gain but long-term mutual growth will be the key to success.

3. Quality ahead of Quantity

Having said that, Rush has been prolific in creating their art, but since they’ve been at it for over 40 year, this is understandable. On an individual basis, each album can be compared to one and other and the listener/critic can determine what they believe to be quality or not. But from the band’s perspective they are on record as saying they have given their best at the time of creation for each of their albums.  Have you, in your business, given your best efforts in each of your products/services? Have you created the environment internally to foster creativity and innovation?

4. Innovate

By building their compelling story (and it’s definitely not for everyone), Rush has been able to able to reinvent themselves from time to time to explore their musical interests and through those reinventions maintained their audience. As a business, do we sometimes get to fearful to look at what we do, how we do it and most importantly why we do it. Do we ignore the environment around us until it’s too late. Or, at the extreme other end, do we hastily reinvent ourselves based on poor information (think New Coke). Having a good grasp on your customer and their needs, will help steer you in the right direction. In addition you can use today’s technology to listen to your audience and tweak your services to meet their needs. It’s never been easier to get immediate feedback from your audience. It’s one of the advantages that Rush has had all along – there can’t be any more immediate feedback than stepping “into the lighted stage”.

Why use Rush as an example?

Rush has endured for over forty years, delivering quality music and performances. The result of these efforts is a worldwide following hard-fought for and won by determination, creativity and hard work. As every guy knows, who has tried to explain the attraction of the band, that even Geddy Lee in conversation with Jian Ghomeshi admits “our music is weird”, we’ve defaulted to: it’s all about the lyrics.  In reality, it is so much more. What I believe I’ve enjoyed most about my association with Rush, is their spirit, their ability to step outside of a norm and experiment and to trust that those of us that have been fans for a very long time, to enjoy the journey along with them. Congratulations to Rush on their installment in the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame”, from a fan since 1975!

You can do the same with your business. Get to know your customers, understand what makes them tick and build trust with them. Listen to their feedback and adopt what you can within your business and you’ll turn the consumer of your product/service into a brand champion.

Rush Resources:

To get a good insight to the band, their development, intellect and perseverance, check out this CBC radio retrospective, from CBC’s Rewind aired April 4, 2013. You may also enjoy the interview from 2012 on Q  in advance of the Clockwork Angels release.

Business Resources:

Simon Sinek‘s powerful Ted Talk on “First Why then Trust

How not to Sell an $18,000 P.2

Car Sales, Customer Service
Source: Flickr Creative Commons Martinak15

When we lasted visited our story, Joan and I were heading back to our home town from a day of work and meetings, still missing that key ingredient to making an informed decision for our impending car purchase.

Having determined that the one dealership in London did not have the model we were interested in, we head out to the second dealership, conveniently located along the route home. What I haven’t shared to this point, is that we have a 3 year old dog at home, that insists upon sharing his dissatisfaction with us if we’re out too long or he’s not feed at a respectable hour. With the weight of the day and the impending mess at home, we were anxious to get the test drive under our collective belts, get home, relax and discuss the purchase.

We arrived with anticipation at the dealership, and to be fair, explained that we would not be purchasing today, but wanted to test drive a particular model. The person who greeted us was less than welcoming and we were ushered to a sales representative. Our representative, even after being told what we wanted, insisted on going through the process (even handing us a pamphlet of the car we’d already thoroughly checked out). After a firm but determined reiteration that we were here for a test drive, we were told they’d check. Minutes later our rep confirmed what we already knew, that they had the models on site and he’d have one brought in from the back for us. Twenty minutes later, we were in our car and heading home, still without having a test drive. During that period we were ignored, nor given any updates on the status of our request, despite the rep walking past us a number of times.

There was one more hope, on the route we were taking was another city, Woodstock, that had the same car manufacturer. We’d make a quick stop there and inquire. We arrived and finally were given the opportunity to test drive a vehicle. Having done our test drive, the rep proceeded to try and sell.  We’d gone so far we agreed to wait to chat to the Business Manager to discuss the options, etc., twenty minutes later, we learned the business manager was still tied up. We left explaining we’d use the online application available. To make a long story shorter, we ended up purchasing the vehicle, only after the online application failed, making two additional trips to the dealership to fill out the paperwork and so forth, and then finally picking up the car – the Friday before Joan was slated to start her new job on the Monday. What should have been a 3 – 4 day process at the absolute most, ended up being a 2+ week odyssey that resulted in our getting the make and model, but not the colour. The car was brought in from another nearby dealership (likely one we’d already visited). If not for the warranty, the few additional bells and whistles and favorable financing options, we’d have walked away ages ago to the trusted and know brand. In fact, the process is on going. One of the dealerships, the one with the booked test drive and had the car in the mall when we arrived, continues to send us messages about our missed opportunities on their latest offers. Laughable.

The purpose of these posts is not to vent, but to illustrate the need for organizations to integrate their online and real world businesses. Even when a “dealership/franchise” opportunity exists, if the proper processes where in place, imagine how much easier this journey could have worked.  From our initial contact, the car manufacturer could have assisted in the process, by identifying available models on the lot (I’m sure they have the info from an inventory management perspective). The systems could have been tied to provide a test drive format (booking) as was offered, even if it meant bringing the vehicle in from another dealership to the one physically closest to us. How the manufacturer and dealerships split the commissions or swapped vehicles (as was our case), could have and should have been seamless to the buyer. We didn’t need to be sold, other than the performance of the vehicle in our hands. All we needed to know, based on our research, was whether or not Joan would be comfortable in her daily 2 hours of travel, to and fro from work and home. There was absolutely nothing that the representatives brought to the process. The front end could have captured more information on our “pain points” and aided in a wonderful experience. In current literature, you’ll read a lot about collaboration and social and business customer relationship management systems and how to improve the customer experience. These tools aren’t meant to replace the human interaction but enhance them.

Imagine, if when we started our journey and shared our information, we were asked to fill out a quick evaluation to identify what we knew and understood about their vehicle and options. The questionnaire would identify opportunities for meaningful discussion with the rep, not the walk around and reiteration of features we already knew about. Clearly we’d have been much more impressed and not felt like our time was being wasted.  We also would likely have raved about a system that seemed individualized, even for an international car manufacturer. Isn’t that after all what the process is all about.

In her book “The Zen of Social Media Marketing”, Shama Kabani, discusses the A.C.T. principle.  Kabani explains that the A stands for Attract, the C for Consume/Convert and the T for Transform. During this process, we had been attracted to the brand from our online research. We consumed the abundant information available from the manufacturer, industry thought leaders and friends with their experience with the brand. It was during the “convert” stage, that the process feel apart. Because of our experience, they have lost the opportunity to transform us into brand advocates. In fact, if anyone asks me for a recommendation, the trusted brand with the used car and their valiant efforts to get us in one, is who gets the nod.

Understanding the “buyer persona” is fundamental to doing business well today. Listed below are some great resources for you to consider. I hope you find your sweet spot. I know that if a prospect approached me with, I’ve done my research, I like what I see, I need to check out this one element and then I’ll be happy to do business with you – I’ll feel like I’ve done my marketing correctly.


What is the Buyer Persona — Adelle Revella Buyer Persona Institute.

Using Customer Journey Maps to Improve CX — Adam Richardson Havard Business Review 2010

Optimize – How to attract and engage more customers — Lee Odden, John Wiley and Son’s 2011

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