Smart reads that will make you DO

I've read some really fantastic books lately and I want to share three of them with you.  Each one is very different but has one thing in common — they will make you want to try something new or do something different.

That's actually about as high a compliment as I can give a business book.  It inspires me to DO something in a better, smarter, more creative, more profitable, more giving way. 

That's what makes guys like Steve Farber, Joe Calloway and Harry Beckwith such brilliant business book authors.  They get us to DO.

I think you'll find these three books have the same effect.

Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hasson (click on the title to buy the book)

These guys run a company called 37signals.  Their book is really about the whole of running a company — from marketing to hiring. 

It's all about simplifying for them.  They're about breaking the rules.  They are about defining success in a post recession sort of way.   because some of the things we have in our heads…is just plain wrong.  (often ego-driven wrong)

They are contrarians for sure.  But what makes this book so valuable is that they aren't contrarians in an abstract way.  Their company not only survived but thrived in this down economy.  And they want to share how they did it.

Here's one of my favorite quotes:

“When you let customers outgrow you, you’ll most likely wind out up with a product that’s basic….  Small simple needs are constant. There’s an endless supply of customers who need exactly that.”

You don't have to paint the Mona Lisa to pay your mortgage.  There are a lot of people who just want a pretty landscape to put over their sofa.  Do that well….and sell it to a lot of people.  Sure beats trying to hit the Mona Lisa homerun.

The book is the perfect model for this kind of thinking.The chapters are solid hits — short, to the point and very little window dressing.  They don't swing for the fence with every word…but they end up winning the game.

Note:  If you read their blog Signal vs. Noise — much of this will sound familiar.  Doesn't mean it isn't worth reading, just want to warn you.


Brains on Fire by Robbin Phillips, Greg Cordell, Geno Church and Spike Jones (click on the title to buy the book)

Brains on Fire is an agency in South Carolina that specializes in word of mouth marketing…but in a "create a movement" kind of way.  They argue (as you have heard me say many times) that marketing is about connecting and actually mattering to your customers.  How do you do that — by giving a rip about what they give a rip about. (and it's not your business or product!)

The book delves into 10 lessons that you can apply to your marketing efforts to go from talking at them…to mattering to them.

  1. Movements Aren’t About the Product Conversation; They’re About the PassionConversation
  2. Movements Start with the First Conversation
  3. Movements Have Inspirational Leadership
  4. Movements Have a Barrier of Entry
  5. Movements Empower People with Knowledge
  6. Movements Have Shared Ownership
  7. Movements Have Powerful Identities
  8. Movements Live Both Online and Offline
  9. Movements Make Advocates Feel Like Rock Stars
  10. Movements Get Result

Here's what makes this book so powerful.  It will infiltrate your brain and have you re-examining every marketing moment you create.  It will have you thinking beyond an ad or a campaign…and shift to thinking about creating a movement.

“A movement elevates and empowers people to unite a community around a common cause, passion, company, brand or organization.”

That sounds like recession-proof thinking to me.  Fair warning…this is not about social media.  Or any single tactic.  This is about being significant, however that might manifest itself.

That takes some bravery, so don't tread lightly.  Are you really ready to do something different?

Gratefuldead Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead by David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan (click on title to buy the book)

Let me just say this right off the bat.  I've never been to a Grateful Dead concert and I could really care less about their music.  I don't dislike it…but it doesn't matter to me.

So when I started reading this book, I wondered if that would taint my experience with it.   I worried that non-Deadheads would find the references out of context or irrelevant.  It was completely a non-issue.  The book is fantastic.

One of the core messages in the book is that genuinely caring actually works.  In many cases, the band broke the rules because it was better for their fans.  Without having any idea they were doing it — the Dead created a living case study to sampling, niching, and loyalty programs.   They were word of mouth marketers….all by accident!

David and Brian do a good job of connecting the many Dead examples with more traditional business examples, if you need that literal translation.  Bu honestly you won't.  You'll be dog-earring pages so you can deadhead your marketing efforts!


Note:  I was sent all of these books by the publishers and the links are Amazon affiliate links.

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10 comments on “Smart reads that will make you DO

  1. Cynthia Willard says:

    Excellent! This is the first of your blogs that I’ve read, and I’m already sharing it on my page. Bottom line for anyone with a business “be genuine in your commitment to your customers”. They can smell a phoney-baloney from a mile away!

  2. Hey Drew

    I especially like your review because you are not a Grateful Dead fan. That you can enjoy and get something out of our book anyway validates what Brian and I had been thinking as we wrote the book. Thanks so much!

  3. Ashley says:

    I bought REWORK yesterday and read it cover-to-cover before bed. It’s a great look at the changing face of business and the job market.

  4. mark paskell says:

    Thank you for this post. It matters too me!
    I find the post very informative and all about giving me the reader valuable content that is relevant in dealing with today’s challenging market.
    I am interested in these books.

    Mark the Coach

  5. Tracy says:

    I’m pretty intrigued by this list of books. I have been following the Brains on Fire blog for some time now, and I’ve always found that they have numerous relevant, interesting articles posted. After reading your review, I’m now considering shelling out the money for a copy of the B.o.F. book. I also really liked your review of the Grateful Dead book. I, too, have never been a very big fan of the band, but I have always been aware of them through their cult-like following and by word of mouth from my friends. I mean, I’m pretty sure the majority of us have looked curiously at a one of the many Grateful Dead logo stickers at some point or another. Anyway, thanks for the reviews. I hope to get my hands on some of these publications soon.

  6. Thank you so much again, Drew. If only I could get myself to Do, too! Harry Beckwith.

  7. Ashley —

    What was your biggest takeaway?


  8. Mark,

    Come back and let us know what you thought of the books!


  9. Tracy,

    Let us know what you think of the books once you’ve had a chance to absorb them!


  10. Harry,

    It may very well be the universal struggle of today’s entrepreneur. How to stay in a productive mode and accomplish tasks/strategies/goals. It’s so easy to get caught up in the thinking/talking part of the equation and procrastinate the doing!


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