Every book has something to offer and helps me to learn how people develop when planning to sell products or services. I especially love to read about their problems, how they managed to get by and finally what the outcome was that compelled them to write a book about the subject.
Back in 2009 I purchased a copy of 'Waiting for your Cat to Bark (Persuading Customers When They Ignore Marketing)' , by Brian and Jeffrey Eisenberg. It was an eye-opener and made complete sense to me. It was so simple; identify for customers, write for them and speak to them in their own language. The book made me realise that, in writing for an audience that was always-on, I needed to make sure that each piece of content was relevant to my audience. Every area of business is now touched by marketing, from sales and design to merchandizing and customer relations. In many ways it seemed like they were stating the obvious, which is what all good books do for me, but it was a great message to apply and one that helped me to consider my audience at all times when producing content.
As I got more interested in personas and looking to better connect with potential customers who were looking at the sites I was working on (no surprise there then!), I picked up a copy of 'Digital Body Language - (Deciphering Customer Intentions in an Online World)' by Steve Woods . Steve Woods is the co-founder of Eloqua, the marketing automation software provider.
The book highlights the fact that in today's digital world buyers are self-educating and are directing the pace, direction and time of their purchases. Companies can no longer rely on their sales teams to be the trusted advisors that prospects turn to for information; that information is now found on-line through blogs, videos and podcasts. In order to understand the buyer, companies must be able to anticipate and decode the buyers' digital body language to ensure that the buyer is presented with the information they require at the time they are looking. As buyers are often elusive, understanding this language can be key to the success of any business.
These two books combined presented a world that had before been unattainable. On the one hand I needed to make sure that the messages we produced were correctly crafted and on the other we needed to find a method that delivered the correct information to the right person(a). We did this by using landing page software, from both ION and Unbounce, which helped us to target our market more effectively.
When it comes to developing our businesses there is a tendency, for me at least, to want to make all areas of the business perfect, whether it's the website, content, infrastructure or just about anything. It doesn't necessarily help that I am a bit of a perfectionist so I want to make sure that everything is 'just so'. Perfectionism, however can impair a process like Lean Start Up.
Without attempting to put myself across as a Lean Start Up guru, because I'm not, having recently read Eric Ries's book (which was recommended to me by a chap from Intuit, the accounting software company), I started to realise there was a common thread running through all these books. That thread was to put the focus on the customer. And it wasn't just about the need to communicate with them in their language. It was about building the whole business around them and not simply to focus on what we wanted, what we liked about our products and/or services or thought our customers wanted.
I often say to younger businesses, "it's all well and good your mother telling you that you have a great website, but it's the customers that count." And if your website, content and offering isn't answering our customer's questions and meeting their needs then why are we in business?
In essence, 'Lean Start Up' encourages us to focus on what works for the customer, even if it's a manual process. Don't waste valuable resources, financial and human, in making your first "whatever it is you're developing" perfect. There will always be room from improvement if you are willing to adapt and change as your customers provide feedback. Ries talks about a MVP, a minimum viable product. And the examples were inspiring, especially when the CEO is doing a manual job to establish whether an automated product will work - and then getting the required investment - and then seeing the company go from strength to strength.
The same approach can be used when applying marketing strategies and establishing their effectiveness. The key element here is to actually speak to the customers instead of blindly pursuing a strategy, whether it's working or not.
So, here I am reading 'Lean Start Up' and I receive one of many emails I seem plagued with. This time it's from Marketo, another marketing automation software company who, by the way, produce some great content. It showed two people fighting over a book called 'Youtility'. This is the power of "Word of Mouth".
After reading the article, I was compelled to buy the book. The introduction was excellent and by the time I got to the main part of the book I was hooked. I read it over a weekend as I realised that it dovetailed with 'Lean Start Up', 'Waiting for your Cat to Bark' and 'Digital Body Language'.
'Youtility' put the focus squarely on the business leaders to drive their companies in such a way that the business moved from selling to helping. As Jay Baer, the author says, "there is only a two letter difference that makes all the difference."
Having been involved in selling since the 1980s, it now feels a bit passé to me when a company wants to get out among the prospects and 'close them down'. I liked what Jay says about our potential markets:
So, that said, the crux of 'Youtility' is to create content and a culture that strives to help not sell. Many of us don't like being sold to and enjoy the experience when someone actually takes the time to help us, without seemingly attempting to sell us something at the end of the process.
The combined messages of these four books are clear; these are marketers/business owners who have collectively created a mini library of essential information to help redefine the way we run our businesses and the way we market to our target customers. It's little wonder that Zendesk, the online Customer Support company have been so successful. In their quest to be the best they can be they have applied the principles laid out in these books to grow and develop their business.
If you want to stay ahead of the curve, I suggest you go out and buy these books and read them. Inwardly digest their content before embarking on the next stage of your business journey. Happy reading.
Here are the links to Amazon to check out the books: