My reading secrets

June 11, 2012

Many of you write to ask how in the heck can I read as much as I do.   I am admittedly a voracious reader — consuming two or three books a week.

I’m now going to reveal my reading secrets.

I know it matters:  I’ve always believed that people who read were more successful. It didn’t matter how they ingesting the information (audio, electronic book, old fashioned book, etc.) In fact, Forbes recently asked if you read fast enough to be successful.  So from the time I was a kid, being the Type A that I am… I wanted to be successful, so I read.

I always have 2-4 books going at once:  I am not a linear reader (except for a couple fictional authors that I have to read cover to cover on the day the book is released) so I have a few books going at once.  I might have a couple books on my iPad‘s Kindle, an actual book or two laying around and an audio book in my CD player.  So, I can allow my mood to dictate what I read.

I mix up the genres:  I have a pretty wide range of reading interests.  I read lots of business/marketing books, mysteries, books about Disney/Walt Disney, baseball books, biographies and Harry Potters (Yes, I re-read them).  That way, it keeps reading fresh and fun.

I love*:  This service is amazing.  They take a book and offer me the following:

  • An overview of the book (a few paragraphs)
  • The have a video summary (about 15 minutes) of the book
  • A PDF overview (usually 25-35 pages) of the book
  • A workbook that allows me to apply the book’s content (5 or so pages)

Their library is pretty robust, mostly business titles like Ann Handley and CC Chapman‘s Content Rules, but they have some biographies like Steve Jobs and a handful of other titles.  They add titles every week.

The pro account runs $29.99/month.  If you want to give the pro account a try at a discount, use the coupon code DREW to get 50% off your first month.  Right now, they’ll let you try the account for free for 7 days.  Even if you only use it for a week, you’ll be glad you tried it.

Plane time is reading time:  I fly a lot and I don’t work on planes.  I read.  It’s much more relaxing and let’s face it, air travel is stressful enough.  So why not marry it with a treat? Living in Des Moines means I have at least two legs to get just about anywhere.  So I’m flying for 2-5 hours.  In that time, because I’m a fast reader, I can knock off two books on average.

There you have it…my reading secrets.  But the real secret — I love to read.  I love the adventures, the new stuff I learn, the fresh ideas and the incredible art that some people create with words.


*Affiliate link

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What can you learn from a small town?

April 30, 2012

Turns out, quite a bit.

The whole concept of having a marketplace is blurry today.  It used to be — you sold stuff to your neighbors because they were the only ones close enough to buy from you.

But today the world is one “global small town” where all your customers can talk directly to each other and every one of them can buy from you or from the guy on the other side of the planet.

In their book Small Town Rules (click to buy it on Amazon*) authors Becky McCray and Barry Moltz take a look at what works in a small town and help us understand how those same rules apply to us, whether we are a big fish in a little pond or a tiny fish in a huge pond.

The truth is — size, scale, and resources are no guarantee of success anymore.  Who would have thought Tom’s could have created enough buzz and passion that they become the worldwide sensation that they are today?

Today more than ever before it’s about how you build relationships, trust and compelling word of mouth.  And no one knows how to do that better than a local shopkeep.

Barry and Becky tell great stories, offer up plenty of examples but best of all — give us seven rules to learn and follow, no matter how big or how local your business is.

1. Plan for zero. Planning for zero income requires building new sources of revenue and all kinds of different equity.

2. Spend creative brainpower before spending dollars. This protects you from doing something just because everyone else is… and let’s you introduce your customers to the real you.

3. Multiply lines of income to diversify your risk. That way if one stream runs dry, the others keep things flowing.

4. Work anywhere, anywhen through technology. We have new expectations and tolerance for how and when we get responses from companies.

5. Treat customers like community. Make them feel valued, special and like an insider.

6. Be proud of being small. Small and nimble is the new big.

7. Build your local connections. Making connections that count help you accomplish the first 6 rules because you quickly learn that you can’t do it alone.

This book is a great read for anyone who is running a business — anywhere.  Turns out we all have a lot we can learn from those small towns.


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What’s your purple goldfish?

January 11, 2012

Get your free copy of Stan Phelp’s book!

A few years ago, I met Stan Phelps, another marketing guy, online (I think he commented on my blog and we started chatting via email) and before I knew it — we were friends.  He was just dipping his toe into the blogging waters and I tried to be helpful along the way.

Fast forward to today, January 11, 2012.

Stan’s first book, What’s Your Purple Goldfish*, is being released today.  I’ve read it and know you’re going to love it.  Really love it.

I’m also very humbled to say that Stan asked me to write the forward for his book.  So I can think of no better way to introduce you to Stan’s excellent book than to share with you a bit of what I had to say.

“…He understood that marketing is about being so remarkable that people can’t help but talk about you.  That if you absolutely delight someone – they will not only come back but they’ll bring friends.  They become your sales force.

Stan delivers this marketing truth over and over again in this book all wrapped in the idea of lagniappe.  What’s so awesome about the whole notion of marketing lagniappe is that it not only teaches us what to do but more importantly, it reminds us that it must be done from the heart.

True lagniappe can’t be faked or forced.  We banter the word authentic around too much these days.  But for lagniappe to work, it must be just that — real and offered without expectation of anything in return.

In other words – you do it because you want to, not because it’s in a marketing plan document or because your ROI calculator told you it would generate a 42.36% return. (And no…there’s no such thing as an ROI calculator!)

As you read the stories that Stan has collected for this book, I think you’re going to be amazing at the creativity and generosity that many businesses have and in the end, I suspect you’ll be inspired to let your inner spirit of lagniappe loose.

You’ll probably fill up a notepad with ideas of how you could do a little something extra to enchant your customers.  When you’ve turned that corner and are thinking about them rather than what’s in it for you – you’re truly ready to practice lagniappe.

I honestly believe that the guys in the white hats do win in the end.  And companies that embrace the belief that if you give first and you give generously – you will earn customers for life are marketing’s good guys. This book shows us time and time again how to make that happen.

In the end, this book is Stan’s own lagniappe for all of us.  A genuine gesture of sharing what he truly believes with the hope that it is of great value to us.  I’m so happy for you that you’ve found Stan, his book and are about to receive a gift that could, if you let it, change how you do business forever.”

True to his belief in lagniappe — Stan is making it possible for you to enjoy his book for free.  (You can buy the paperback version here* if you’d like to go that route)

Option #1:  If you own a Kindle and are an Amazon Prime member, you can download the book for free by visiting this page.  This offer is good for the next 90 days.

Option #2:  You can download a free copy from Scribd by clicking here.

Option #3:  You can buy a paperback copy here (only at this site) and if you email your receipt to Stan (click here to do that) then he’ll send you a signed paperback and a little surprise for free.

The book is well worth the $16 and it’s a freaking steal for free.  Get it however you choose to — but get it.  And as you read it, hopefully the marketing lagniappe stories will inspire some lagniappe of your own.

Go on… get the book.

*Amazon affiliate link
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Introverted or not – this guide is a must read!

December 21, 2011

Lisa Petrilli’s guide for introverts

No matter what personality test I take, I tend to score off the chart on the extrovert scale.  I like big crowds, I’m comfortable speaking in front of thousands of people and I get a buzz from being at conferences, networking events and new situations with new people.

So you might think a book titled The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership would hold very little for me.  And boy, would you be wrong.  I learned quite a bit by reading Lisa Petrilli’s guide.

For readers who tend to be more introverted — you’ll learn how to create a strategy that leverages your strengths while navigate networking events, relationships with key team members, and how to connect with influential leaders who can help build/grow your career.

You’ll also learn how to make sure your ideas and good thinking sees the light of day in your organization.  Lisa also talks about how introverts can successfully motivate others, tackle decision-making, collaboration and asking for that raise or promotion.  There are some great tips on how to manage/maximize public events like conferences too.

As an extrovert — many of the suggestions applied to me as well.  I read the ebook, so I could highlight and take notes to my heart’s content! Plus, I gained a great deal of insight on how to work with introverts and help them bring their best to any project or team.

I’ve known Lisa for a few years and am more impressed with her as both a business leader and a person every day.  She’s a natural storyteller which makes her book a fun and fast read.  This would be a great read to fire you up as you get ready to take 2012 by storm.

You can buy the ebook by clicking here.

You can buy the Kindle version by clicking here.

And…you can buy the Nook version by clicking here.

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Do you know how to hit the peak?

December 11, 2011

Get your team and company to peak!

I read a book that seems to fit perfectly with some of the questions we’ve been asking as we think towards 2012.

Peak by Chris Conley (click here to buy*) is a book about deciding what matters.

After climbing to the peak of the hospitality industry, Chip Conley—CEO and founder of Joie de Vivre Hospitality—was rocked to its foundation and suddenly undercapitalized and overexposed in the post-9/11 economy. This situation made Conley reconnect with psychologist Abraham Maslow‘s iconic concept of the Hierarchy of Needs and rely on Maslow’s theory of human motivation to help his business flourish once more.

In his book entitled Peak, Conley explores how he applied translations of Maslow’s ideas to his company’s business practices and brought it back to the top.

Conley looks at a company from three perspectives.  The employee, the customer and the investor.

From the employee’s POV:

People want to work for a cause, not just for a living. Conley, suggests there are three kinds of relationships someone can have with work: You can either have a job, a career or a calling.

Meaning in work relates to how an employee feels about their specific job task. It is the achievement of meaning at work that realizes transformation. So how can meaning at work be achieved? Conley believes an employee must align intrinsically to the mission of the company. If the company can identify its higher calling: what philanthropic, strategic or humanistic mast it “pins its colors to” – then the employee can in turn find meaning.

From the customer’s POV:

The greatest risk facing a company?  Getting comfortable with purely satisfying customers rather than delighting them. When a company’s leadership is focussed purely on meeting the expectations of their customers, the company can become a sitting duck for a surprise competitor with a new mousetrap.

To address the unrecognized need of its loyal customers, companies need to find a way to give them what Conley calls “an identify refresh” – some status, some belonging. How do you do that?

The first step is to be willing to ask: What business are you in? (much like we asked ourselves — what do you really sell?)

Like Apple or Harley Davison, can we offer something beyond the product?   What are the unrecognized needs of our customers? Apple positioned themselves at the top of the pyramid bysuggesting to customers that with an Apple product you can do anything –technology is the byproduct.

Harley Davidson, through HOG owner groups created a social connection.

How can you do it? Help your customers meet their highest goals. Give your customers the ability to truly express themselves. Make your customers feel like they are part of a bigger cause. Ultimately, offer your customers something of real value that they hadn’t even imagined.

Conley’s book is loaded with thoughtful, educational stories and counsel for entrepreneurs as well as Fortune 500 managers, taken from his own hard earned experience as well as other business books. One of the best features of the book are Conley’s numbered lists sprinkled throughout the book.

I think you’ll find this one both inspirational and actionable.  A good year end read! (want more inspiration?  Check out Conley’s TED talk.)



*Amazon affiliate link

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This book is light on the BS and heavy on social media insight

November 28, 2011

no bullshit book
Good primer on social media

As a member of Amazon’s Vine program, I received a copy of Jason Falls and Erik Deckers‘ new book No Bullshit Social Media*. (click here to buy it) and knew it would be a great read — simply by knowing the authors.

I dove into it — and was not disappointed.

Here’s who will find great value in this book:

  • College students who want to find a fresher way to get a job
  • Young marketing professionals who know social media matters but don’t really understand the business implications
  • Seasoned marketing professionals who didn’t grow up in the digital age and want to catch up
  • Corporate types who have to convince their boss that social media shouldn’t be ignored
  • Business owners who are wondering if it’s worth the time investment

This book lays out the argument that social media is not going away.  It’s not a fad — it’s a new and permanent shift in how we communicate with reach other, with companies, brands and how we influence strangers through sites like YELP and Amazon reviews.  Authors Jason Falls and Erik Deckers really demonstrate both the risks of ignoring it and the huge potential gains for any business smart enough to jump on board this moving train.

The authors tell great stories and provide lots of examples that are both educational and compelling.

Here’s who will enjoy the book but may not take copious notes:

  • Seasoned marketing pros who have already been active in social media
  • People looking for a blueprint of “how to do it” so they put down the book and launch their social media program
  • Social media consultants (although frankly some of the so called experts should read it!)

Even if you feel like you’re on the cutting edge — you will enjoy this book.  It’s worth the read.

And if you’re new to the idea of using social media to promote, grow and sustain your business — grab a highlighter, a lined notebook for jotting down ideas and your imagination and then settle in for a very good introduction that will have your head exploding with ideas and the possibilities.

*Amazon Affiliate link

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Is your business really different?

September 25, 2011

Cover of "Different: Escaping the Competi...

Cover via Amazon

It may be the greatest of all business cliches — you have to differentiate yourself.  I’ve said it myself more than once.  While it is certainly true… many businesses struggle with how to bring the idea to life.

And even when a business believes they have achieved that level of uniqueness — their customers can’t see or describe the difference.

Many marketing books push you to be different but very few tell you how.

That’s what’s fascinating about Youngme Moon’s best selling book Different. (click here to buy it*) It was just released in paperback and I finally got around to reading it.

The book’s basic premise is that we humans subscribe to a herd mentality and tend to categorize everything into little boxes.  Which is originally unique is quickly copied and becomes the norm.

So, if that’s how we are wired — how do we ever truly stand out from our competition?

Moon offers three ways to disrupt this herding pattern.

Reversal: The first way to be different is to use the “reversal” concept. Back when you hadn’t yet heard of Google, the online portal kingpin was Yahoo. Yahoo’s home page was crammed with news, stats, photos and links.

If you wanted to compete with them — you’d most likely be trying to fit even more features on your homepage, not less. That’s how things were done. But Google decided to look at it in a new way. They completely redesigned the search engine experience for billions around the world by having nothing on the home page but the search box.

They reversed the norm.

Breakaway: What breakaway brands do better than anybody else is leverage this fact by asking you to replace one mental model with another.

Kimberley-Clark created an entirely new marketplace by creating the “Pull-Up”. It’s a cross between underwear and a diaper. It’s still just a diaper put on a different way. But they completely remove the stigma of wearing diapers past the age two, and parents are now routinely keeping the kids in these “Pull-Ups” beyond the age of four.

Hostile: This method takes some courage.  It’s basically when a brand takes its most significant weakness and accents it.  A hostile brand  “doesn’t lay down the welcome mat, they lay down a gauntlet.”

It isn’t marketing, it’s anti-marketing. Mini is the perfect example of this. It took it’s biggest possible wart, and made it even bigger. All of its advertising seems to say “it’s even smaller than you think.” In one famous example of this type of branding executed flawlessly, Mini put one of its cars on top of an SUV and drove it around a busy downtown core for all to see. Where you were used to seeing a ski rack, you saw an entire car.

The book has plenty of examples to learn from and will definitely get you thinking about your organization in a new way.  It’s well worth the read.

*Yup, an affiliate link.
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You’ve got a bird in your hand. Now what?

August 8, 2011


… Do you value what you already have?

Like the old idiom goes…a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.  I’d argue, when the bird is a customer, the ratio is even greater.

For years, at the risk of preaching, I have been banging on the idea that we spend way too much time and energy chasing after potential customers and way too little time and energy romancing (and creating a love affair) our current customers.

I’ve pushed on the idea that our math is all backwards.  It’s cheaper and easier to get more (and more profitable) business from our existing clients — and yet, our “new business” efforts are always aimed at strangers, rather than those friendly, pre-disposed to love us customers.

Which is why I’ve always enjoyed and respected Becky Carroll and her blog Customers Rock.  Becky is an Age of Conversation author and a huge believer in the power of treating customers like gold.

So when Becky emailed me and asked if I would read her new book The Hidden Power of Your Customers (click here to buy*) I have to admit — I already knew I would like it.  Because I knew it would tout the importance of creating love affairs with your customers.

I just finished it — and wanted to share it with you.  As I suspected, Becky spends time making the points that I’ve  made above.  But the lion’s share of the book is spent showing readers HOW to cultivate and celebrate their current customers.  Becky teaches us the how using the acronym ROCK.

R = relevant marketing. This is all about talking to your customers how and when and where they want it.  Which, of course, means you need to listen/ask them.

O = orchestrated customer experiences. Brilliant companies are very purposeful in crafting customer experiences that deliver delight and marvel their most valuable clients.  It doesn’t happen by accident.

C = customer focused culture. I don’t care how smart or insightful a leader you are — if honoring your customer isn’t baked into your organization’s culture… it won’t happen.

K = killer customer service. This is all about consistency. (as you know, one of the cornerstones to good marketing)  When your brand and values are woven into your organization’s culture…. your entire team is able to deliver incredible customer-centric service, regardless of circumstance.

One of the best aspects of this book is the collection of case studies.  Becky went beyond the usual suspects and tells tales of customer loving companies like Nicor National, Salon Radius and Sanuk.  (Nope, I’d never heard of any of them either!)  The fresh stories add a depth that other books are missing.  However, no book on treating customers can leave out stories from Disney and you’ll enjoy those as well!

If you want to build an organization that truly treats its current customers as a precious commodity — this book will serve as a valuable guide to making it so.

Check it out and let me know what changes the book inspired.


*Yup, it’s an affiliate link and I was sent a copy of the book by Wiley. However…as you know, I get 4 or 5 books a week.  I only recommend the ones I genuinely believe you’ll value and enjoy.


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How to be creative on purpose

July 31, 2011

…Do you need to be creative on demand?

My job is to be creative on demand.

The demands come in all forms.  It might be a strategy session for a client’s marketing plan, writing a print ad that will generate action or keeping the content on my blog, newspaper column or enewsletter fresh and worthwhile.

I don’t have the luxury of waiting for a muse to strike.  I’m always on deadline for something.  Which is why I was eager to pick up Todd Henry’s The Accidental Creative* (click here to buy) and learn as he promises in his subtitle…how to be brilliant at a moment’s notice.

There’s this myth out there that suggests that creativity comes from total freedom.  Well, I don’t know about you but I don’t know any professional today who lives in a world of complete freedom.  Instead, we’re called upon to be creative within the many constraints of life, world and our own habits, fears and obligations.

Todd explains that we all need to adopt the goal of being prolific, brilliant, and healthy. He explains why you need all three succinctly:

  • Prolific + Brilliant – Healthy = Burnout
  • Brilliant + Healthy – Prolific = Unreliable
  • Healthy + Prolific – Brilliant = Fired
  • Prolific + Brilliant + Healthy = Producing great work consistently

According to Henry’s book (and my own life experiences) there exists a creative rhythm deep in the heart of every individual, that is, “independent of the pressures and expectations you face each day.”

Establishing this rhythm will unlock your creative potential, provide you with the stability and clarity to tackle challenges, create and let your best thinking flow.

Your creative rhythm is set by how you structure and manage five key elements, the acronym for which is “FRESH.”

1. Focus

Most waste comes not from not doing the right work, but from doing the right work inefficiently. Clarity around objectives, separating the urgent from the important, is the springboard to effective creativity.

2. Relationships

Engaging with others is a powerful source of creative inspiration. Intentionally forging the right relationships with others gets you focused outwardly and frees you up creatively.

3. Energy

Think energy management, not time management. According to Henry, “it does you no good to micromanage your time down to the last second if you don’t have the energy to remain fully engaged for that time…you need to establish practices around energy management.”

4. Stimuli

Like any process, the output of the creative process depends on the input. Consistent brilliance demands that you be purposeful about what you’re feeding your brain.

5. Hours

Time is the currency of productivity. You must ensure that the practices that make you a more effective creative are making in onto your calendar.

It’s dandy to discuss all of this in theory but Henry really won my confidence when he provided practical weekly, monthly, and quarterly checkpoints at the end of the book to help put the five elements into practice.

Here are a few other key takeaways from the book:

  • How books should not be read as pure information but conversations like social media
  • The concept of the “Big Three” to allow you to focus on your critical creative goals
  • How to send messages to your brain to look for solutions

If you are involved in work that requires you to think and create for a living, The Accidental Creative will help you form and build your best ideas and manage the creative process and work that comes from it.

*Yup, it’s an Amazon Affiliate link.
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Stelzner’s Launch should get you off the ground

July 24, 2011

…Stelzner’s Elevation Principle illustrated

The basic premise of Michael Stelzner’s new book Launch* (click to buy) is that companies have to shift from telling customers “buy this” to asking “how can we help you?”  He goes on to advocate giving away your content (knowledge) or sampling to create familiarity, trust and eventually demand.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I’ve been preaching that gospel for years.

Stelzer has created an nifty little equation that he calls the Elevation Principle. (see the graphic to the right)

GC + OP – MM = G

Great Content (plus) Other People (minus) Marketing Messages (equals) Growth.

The principle basically suggests that you provide great content, get other people involved and subdue your hard core sales pitch. Up to this point…I would argue that the book is covering well tred ground. (despite the fact that most companies still follow the old school rules and hard sell whenever possible.)

But much like Stelzner and his fellow authors at Social Media Examiner do every day — he shares relevant ways to bring the principle to life. That’s the real value of the book — the tangible examples. One of Mike’s greatest talents is using analogies to teach. This book is full of good ones and stories that will bring his “how to” tips to life.

The book deals mostly with the assumption that you have an online presence that you use to showcase your content/knowledge. But of course the ideas work off line too.

Overall, I thought the book was a good read. I took away a few ideas and for me, if I invest an hour or so reading a book and get a few new things to try — it’s well worth my time. I wouldn’t expect this book to be a game changer for you, if you’re a regular reader. Call it a refresher course with some really strong examples to emulate.



*As you might imagine, this is an Amazon affiliate link.  I was also sent a copy of Mike’s book by his publisher.