Book Review: Use What You Have

I received the book…Use What You Have, Get What You Want by Jack Nadel a few weeks ago. It is one of those short books, filled with many pages of insights, from a person who has achieved substantial success in life. The book is made up of 100 basic ideas that the author has learned and experienced personally, during the course of his life.

The last three weeks has been an exceptionally busy period for me, yet, I found it enjoyable to open up this book and read the basic ideas in the book. Most of the ideas are not ground breaking. They are not meant to be. Most of the best advice that I have ever received, is being able to take complex problems and explain them through simple solutions. This book does that in many ways. With every one of the basic ideas, the author has written a little about the base premise and attached a personal story to give it context. Listed below are five of my favorite ideas from the book:

1. Sell it before you commit to making it or doing it: This is something that I have recently started to put into practice, far more than I ever used to. This is part of a customer validation process and requires business validation, by ensuring the product/service they are building actually has a customer who is willing to pay for it. I have made the mistake of assuming demand without doing the necessary groundwork, it never ends well.

2. Don’t fall in love with your idea: This one really stood out for me. When I read the accompanying story it made a lot of sense. As entrepreneurs, we do become obsessed with our ideas and businesses to the point that it blinds us from seeing the actual reality. Keeping a realistic perspective and taking in feedback is critical to maintain an even keel. This one idea, was by far the one which had the greatest level of impact on my thinking.

3. If you can’t explain your product or service in 30 seconds, you probably can’t sell it: This is another litmus test that many of us fail to take into account when we construct our business ideas. The ability to articulate your vision into simple and concise words, cannot be discounted. One must be able to communicate the basic premise behind the idea in a matter of seconds. This can be done through frames of reference or simple language.

4. Leave something on the table: This negotiating technique was quite revealing. I was taught to negotiate your way to maximize your personal upside on every deal one does. Leaving something on the table however, sounds like a way to maximize your overall upside. This is what I really like about this book, the fact that it makes you think about the simple facts that one often glazes over subconsciously, without paying them much attention.

5. Money attracts good people, but prides makes them great: This is another great point in the book. I have personally seen this many a time in my own experience. Giving the people that one works with, the opportunity to shine and be recognized for the work they do, does wonders for their motivation levels. Yet, many times these people are not given this opportunity, which is a reason companies lose key people and end up wondering what they did wrong.

In conclusion, I liked the book. It is a very easy read, one that provides a lot of bite sized nuggets of advice, which could be helpful to just about anyone in business, regardless of the stage of their work . If you have read the book, I would like to hear your feedback and perhaps the one idea that you took away from the book.

Book Review: Selling Change

I read a lot of books regarding the subject of sales. Sales and revenue are the life blood of any business. Hence every entrepreneur needs to equip him/her self with the necessary skill sets to sell, because in the final analysis their livelihood depends on their ability to convert prospects into paying customers. I had heard good things about Brett Clay’s new book on Selling Change and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It does not read like a standard book, as the author discloses 101 secrets to effectively improve sales by leading change. The book is divided into five components that build a framework the author refers to as, “Change Leadership Framework”. The five components are:

1. Force Field Analysis
2. Change Response Analysis
3. Power Analysis
4. Value Creation
5. Change Actuation

This is not your run of the mill sales book that focuses on traditional sales processes and how to convert prospects in your pipeline faster. The book focuses on high value solution sales strategies. Solution selling is a very different ball game as compared to transactional selling. Most of the time, selling high value solutions requires a considerable amount of change to take place within the organization. The book takes you through a five stage process that enables you to make your case stronger and equips you with the skills needed to close such deals. It is full of valuable tips, tips which  had I read earlier in my career as an entrepreneur,  would have saved me a lot of pain. Some of my favorite tips are:

1. Not falling into the trap of owning your customer’s problems: I have done this many times in the past. The customer has a pain and as a company we take ownership, and strive to remove this pain for the client. Once we take ownership of the problem the client essentially wipes his hands of it, and any problems that arise from there on will be directly pointed at you. We need to ensure that the customer retains ownership of the problem, and strive to play a support role to help them through that problem.

2. Double your best estimates: Another common problem with early stage startups is, they usually end up selling themselves short. In most high value solution selling situations, research confirms that actual resource requirements are on an average 1.7 times the original estimate. Thus, you need to take these factors into account when deciding how much you are going to quote, and the resources it will require to complete the job.

3. Don’t Beg – Deliver: When sales have been dry we do our best, sometimes desperately so, to close any deal regardless of what it may entail, or what sort of resources required to complete it. This is when things go from bad to worse very quickly. The author mentions that instead of using “push” tactics and thinking how to accelerate order, we will get better results by using “pull” tactics and thinking how we can deliver more value. That is a very powerful thought, one which is being heavily publicized in the world of inbound marketing these days.

This is a great book to read for anyone who wants to get into high level consulting as well as selling complex solutions. For entrepreneurs or readers who are just starting their careers in sales, this book may jump the gun a little as there are still lots of fundamental grounds rules that need to be put into place to build a strong foundation of becoming a sales rockstar. Notwithstanding that, this is a great book to add to your shelf and refer to when you are ready and wanting to break into the big times!

Book Review: Building Brand Value the Playboy Way

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Marketing really fascinates me. The ability to get people to buy into your vision and what you are selling is something few people/companies pull off really well. The best way to equip yourself for this is to read about brands and their development. The Playboy story, narrated in this book, guides you through the brand being built to where it is today, along with key marketing principles they followed, and ignored. It walks you through the practical implementation of many concepts, which, if read in isolation are not as clear.

A core factor that led to the rise of Playboy in the 50′s, when it started, were the macro-economic conditions of the time. After the war, there was a burst in the population growth, along with higher sums of discretionary income available. However, at this time society was still reserved and topics such as sex were strictly taboo. Hugh Hefner saw this as an opportunity and built a magazine to address such topics. Being able to identify and provide for an under-served market niche is every entrepreneur’s goal! The only way to do this is to have your ears firmly plugged to the ground in an area that interests you. Hugh Hefner was able to do just this, and from the printing of his first magazine, he built a brand that is globally recognized today.

The book talks about Playboy’s brand extensions in much detail. Brand extensions such as Clubs, Casinos & Merchandise, enabled Playboy to reach their target audience and help them experience the brand at a much more personal level. This is another critical factor in building a brand, where your customers are engaged with what you have to offer. Someone who is extremely good at doing this is Apple. With their Macworld events etc, they are able to connect with their strongest brand promoters and share latest developments with them. A mistake Playboy made however, was that it extended it’s brand into far too many territories. This strongly diminished their positioning in the mind of the customer and lead to a downward slide of the brand in the 80′s & 90′s.

Another major component of the book deals with the importance of brand champions. Hugh Hefner is synonymous with the Playboy brand. He is their strongest marketing asset, very much like what Steve Jobs is to Apple. Without these central larger than life figures, the brand loses significant value. When Hugh Hefner got married in 89′ and removed himself from the spotlight, the brand suffered. Loyal fans were confused with the message that was being communicated by the brand’s iconic champion, and loyalty to the brand started to fade quickly. The book talks about some interesting ways to balance this situation, and how Playboy used them to avert this crisis.

The last point I found most interesting were the discussions on how the brand changed with time. In this last decade, the brand has had to explore online distribution strategies along with several acquisitions to retain it’s presence in the market. This aspect of the book will appeal to anyone with an interest in marketing, it shows how several of their fundamental marketing strategies remained constant, while tactics had to be adjusted to cope with the changing dynamics of the marketing place.

The book reads like a very long case study, and explains many key marketing fundamentals. It should be of help and benefit to those interested in marketing, and brand development.

Book Review: Secrets of a Rut-Buster

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Entrepreneurs as a whole, are a rut-busting community of individuals. We break away from the norms, challenge rules and more often than not, choose to walk down the path less traveled. This book intrigued me as it held the secrets of a woman who has achieved tremendous success in her life.

The book is Myra Janco Daniels biography. In it she lists eight secrets that have enabled her to become a life long rut-buster. She is an award winning entrepreneur, and ran one of the top boutique advertising agencies in America.

The book is an extremely easy read, I finished it in one sitting. It is full of stories from the authors life, in which she recounts how she came to uncover secrets that have enabled her to achieve the level of success that she has had. The introductory chapter starts off with stories of her childhood, and how her parents and grandmother were able to impart lasting and valuable advice to her from a very young age. Another early chapter has one of my favorite stories in the entire book, it focuses around how she was taught the important lesson of giving. In the world we live in today, I believe there is an disproportionate emphasis on ‘taking’. Everyone looks at every given situation, saying, what is in it for me, without taking into account any other person in the equation. The author says that the art of giving instilled in her at an early age brought about a way of thinking in her that greatly altered the path her life took.

Another very important lesson she mentions, is the importance of surrounding yourself with great teachers. This is another aspect I feel strongly about and am currently developing in my own life, it is one that everyone, no matter who you are, or what you do, should seriously be looking into. The ability to have access to a group of individuals, with years of experience, to guide you in difficult times can save you time, money and a great deal of pain. The author communicates these facts through some great stories from her life, which give one insight about their importance, and the consequences of not heeding to this particular piece of advice.

The final part of the book devotes an entire section to the importance of getting ‘lost’ every now and again. Sometimes, we become so ingrained into our job, way of life and thinking patterns, we get stuck in these ruts. In order to break free from them, we need to be able to take ‘breaks’ and go do something completely different from our daily routine. This could involve meeting and discussing people and things completely unrelated to our work, going for holidays and expeditions, or something as simple as cooking. The key has to be the ability to disconnect from our current thought patterns, and step back to take a look at the bigger picture.

A noteworthy aspect of the book is how one can sense the authors excitement and passion regarding advertising throughout the book. The manner in which she was able to come up with campaigns and artwork for her clients is an eye opener, and shows the power of hard work coupled with creative thinking. This book is perfect for someone who wants to bring about major change in their life, and learn a little bit about advertising along the way. It is an extremely interesting and easy read, and definitely gave me many ideas on how to run a media agency successfully.

“Don’t try to sell something if you don’t understand it or if you don’t believe in it” Myra Janco Daniels

Young Guns

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They say there is no better teacher than experience. By personally going through something, we get a much better understanding of the underlying processes which then becomes an incomparable learning experience. Entrepreneurs need to go through the motions of setting up their own businesses, facing challenges and setbacks, and ultimately the wins themselves. There is no course, book or training program you can enroll into to bypass the learning that takes place as you go through the steps yourself. What you can do for yourself however, is read and learn from the many entrepreneurs who document their journeys. I personally really enjoy reading and listening to entrepreneurs tell their stories, and do my best to take away advice and learning that I can implement in my own businesses. Young Guns is such a book. Written by a young and successful entrepreneur it is an extremely easy-to-read and information-rich book for those who are sitting on the fence and wondering whether they should take the plunge.

I read the book in a single sitting. It is an extremely well laid out book and flows seamlessly from chapter to chapter. The entire book is based on one very powerful question ” Why not me? ” It is a question everyone should ask themselves on a daily basis. If you are not pursuing the life you always imagined, and know many individuals who are, what is stopping you from following that path? The book starts out with some foundational chapters on the importance of selecting the right idea and rigorously testing it to make sure it is something you are truly passionate about, and want to pursue. It is not a question of ” I could do this ” but rather ” I really, really want to do this “. The next couple of chapters discuss some very pertinent points on selecting the right business partners and getting started.

There are three chapters that really got my attention in the book. One of them is setting the correct priorities for the first year of business. This is something that is often not given adequate and substantial attention to, what with the euphoria of starting-up, when things are often fairly muddled and disorganized. This chapter provides a seven point checklist to assist you in getting organized which is a great help. The next chapter that I really enjoyed reading was the importance of backing up your sales. This is another area where first time entrepreneurs often make critical mistakes. Securing business and important client accounts is very important. However, maintaining the accounts you have won is of even greater importance to sustain growth and stability. This chapter has a lot of good points on this topic. The last chapter that got my attention was the one on the importance of calculating the numbers. In the end we have to structure our businesses in a way to maximize upside potential and create realistic projections for the future. Getting a good accountant is something that even I had not given enough importance to till earlier last year. Lots of good tips within this chapter to help you get started!

In conclusion this is a great book for individuals who want to make that leap of faith, yet, are still unsure about what lies ahead. By telling his personal story and adding many great insights from other entrepreneurs, this book by Robert Tuchman provides a great overview for you to get started on the right foot.

BuzzMarketing Review

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I am quite fascinated these days with the way word of mouth marketing actually works. I am particularly interested in the way it is created, how it can be measured, and some common pitfalls to avoid when devising such campaigns. When I heard the author of this book convinced a town in America to rename itself as Half.com for a year, to promote it’s website, this book become an automatic read for me.

The author defines buzzmarketing as “capturing the attention of consumers and the media to the point where talking your brand or company becomes entertaining, fascinating or newsworthy.”

The book focuses on how companies can use word of mouth campaigns to start conversations that will get people talking about their product or service. It does however sound a lot easier than it actually is. Getting people to start talking requires much creative thinking besides the willingness to take incredulous risks; such as renaming a town. The author however does a great job of breaking down the process of buzzmarketing into six different sections in the book. Each one is followed by examples and case studies to drive key messages home.

The sections are:

1. Pushing the Six Buttons of Buzz
2. Capturing Media
3. Advertise for Attention
4. Climb Buzz Everest
5. Discover Creativity
6. Police your Product

Each section provided me with much to think about on how to start devising a word of mouth campaign. What are the triggers we need to target? Who are the people who have the influence required to spread the word? How can we use the media effectively to generate the greatest amount of buzz? Each section is loaded with tips that provide answers to some of these key questions. I particularly liked the section on discovering creativity. It had some great points to get one thinking about the creative side of the campaign. This is in my opinion, one of the most critical areas when devising any sort of marketing campaign.

This book however lacked any information on how word of mouth campaigns can be measured and bench marked. For readers looking for data regarding this, WOMMA is a website where you will find some really good pointers for measuring such campaigns.

Overall I really enjoyed reading this book. I think all entrepreneurs should get a copy for themselves to stretch their horizons as far as marketing is concerned. Sticking to the old true and tested concept of blasting messages through maximum number of channels may have worked in the past, however times are very different now, and consumers are filtering information at a far more rapid pace.

If you have recently read an article, blog or book regarding word of mouth advertising please let me know. Thank you.

Permission Marketing

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Seth Godin is one of my favorite authors. His blog and books have been a great source of inspiration over a period of years. Permission Marketing is one of his books I continuously refer to whenever I think about marketing campaigns and developing deeper relationships with clients. Like most of his books, it is relatively short but an extremely informative read. Many of his theories about permission marketing are now being taken a lot more seriously, and businesses have begun to question the mediums they use to speak to their customers. Mass media advertising is steadily decreasing as advertisers switch to mediums which help them relay messages to their target audiences. Instead of blasting the public with superfluous advertisements, businesses are beginning to look for ways to direct their message directly to their target audience.

In this book the author outlines several strategies that business owners can use to integrate permission marketing into their marketing strategies. Instead of measuring how many eyeballs actually see your advertisement, business owners need to start thinking about how to gain their target customers permission and share their products/services with them. This requires a fundamental shift in the total way that one looks at marketing. The concept of developing deeper relationships with clients is often overlooked because it requires more time, effort and constant attention. Marketers are unfortunately in the habit of just putting their message out there hoping for something to happen. This method may have worked in the past when communication mediums were limited and the public unable to filter messages as effectively. Today the tables have changed and we need to adapt, otherwise our messages will continue to fall on deaf ears.

I recommend this book to all business owners and entrepreneurs and anyone serious about marketing activities and how to gain a level of permission from their clients so as to actually start making choices for them. Developing such relationships will enable us to increase cross selling opportunities, increase revenue per customer and most importantly increase levels of trust and build stronger relationships. This book is filled with strategies detailing how to do that.

Have you read this book? What are some ways and some permission marketing strategies that you use? What are some of their benefits and drawbacks?