From March 2012

Five books you should read now and why

I certainly don’t read as much as Julien Smith, however I find books a great way to go deeper into a subject – a nice break from the snackable chunks of information you get while grazing the interwebs. I’m also quick to quit a book that isn’t delivering on its promise as I look for things that I can put into action within my life and work. If you can’t do this, then you’re just passively consuming information and might as well read some good fiction.

Here are five books I think you should read now and why:

Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman distill the essence of content marketing into an engaging read that arms you with the tools to implement quickly. After they present the rules, they provide examples of them in practice along with results achieved. This book is perfect for skeptics and those who are completely new to the practice. The key takeaway: if you’re not thinking like a publisher yet, it’s time to start.

The Answer to How is Yes by Peter Block. This is one of those books that bends your mind a bit in a good way. It forces you to look at situations from another perspective and ask some tough, thought-provoking questions. It’s not a book for those who don’t like to think or want everything presented in a tidy bundle on a silver platter. And that’s why I like it. Too many books regurgitate the same stuff – particularly on leadership. If you’re open to changing your approach to solving problems, you’ll find this more than worth your time. This is also a book I wouldn’t have normally picked up and credit Valeria for the recommendation.

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. Technology has enabled almost anyone with an idea the tools to start a business. Spend any time perusing the myriad new startups vying for attention at SXSW or the 20,000 new products at CES and you quickly realize that path to success is and will be littered with many failures. While failure is a good way to learn, it’s best to minimize your risk in the process. That’s what this book helps you do. It shapes the path for efficient innovation and testing – to make sure you’re solving the right problem and iterating quickly through what Eric calls the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop. You’ll learn to avoid waiting for your product to be perfect before testing it. It just needs to be good enough at the start.

Brandwashed by Martin Lindstrom. Martin is a great storyteller who draws you in from the start. He details the many tricks marketers use to lure consumers into opening their wallets evermore. As a marketer, you may say you wouldn’t fall prey to these tactics but we do. Martin shows how our minds are hardwired to connect the dots brands want. He takes you through the way Whole Foods stacks up crates of fruit to suggest a fresh-from-the-farm delivery, to fish on ice for that ‘fresh from the sea’ feeling, showing how a trip through the store is an exercise in savvy marketing. And then there’s the power of celebrities, making of celebrities, including celebrity doctors to sell everything. It’s a great book for consumers and marketers alike to increase awareness of these tricks as a consumer (you’ll still fall for many of them), and thought provoking for how marketers can increase their effectiveness. I believe it’s a great companion to Marc Gobe’s Emotional Branding.

Minding the Store by Stanley Marcus. This is an oldie but it’s clear that most companies still have not received the memo on what makes for good customer service. You get the inside perspective of building a business from the ground up: from developing the product mix to weathering tough times, managing competing personalities and succession planning. While technology and the pace of change is obviously faster, Neiman-Marcus successfully navigated many of the themes that still affect business success today. The key is they never lost sight of the customer. Read this as well as Delivering Happiness about Zappos and you’ll understand how customer service is everyone’s job and a marketer’s best friend.