Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Leave Clients Better

I found myself in this church bathroom the other day, where I recalled the old saw, "Always leave a place better than you found it."

So I wiped down the sink and shined the faucet. It took all of 45 seconds to make it better.

Now. Think about the last 3 phone conversations you had with clients.

Did you leave those people better than you found them?

If not, here's a question for you ...

How can you spend just 45 seconds to leave any client who calls or emails your business better for it?

Aim beyond client service. Shoot for client betterment.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Voicemail Marketing

There's a criminally under-used part of your business that can generate more sales, starting 5 minutes from now.

What is it?

Your voicemail greeting.

Why not use your voicemail greeting as a marketing tool, to generate new business from the phone calls you're already getting?

Consider recording a new greeting today, in which you do one or more of the following: 

1. Make an intriguing promise: "Please ask how I can save you $500 or more on your next electrical bill."  

2. Offer a discount: "Please visit our web site and use coupon code 'X15' to save 15% on your next purchase."    

3. Offer news you can use to sell more: "Please ask how this year's changes to the tax code may cost you dearly, if you take the wrong deductions."
    Get the idea?

    Stop seeing voicemail as a necessary evil, and start seeing it as an opportunity to get more clients and sell to them more often -- without advertising.

    Monday, June 28, 2010

    You? A Highly Paid Expert in 6 Months?

    Yes, you can be a recognized, highly paid expert in your field -- in 6 months or less.

    Let me explain ...

    First, do this: Look around your office or wherever you spend most of your working day.

    How many books on your area of expertise do you see? Count them.
    • If you're a graphic designer, count the books on graphic design in your office
    • If you're an advertising copywriter, count the books on copywriting
    • If you're a plumber, count the books on plumbing
    Okay. How many books did you come up with? And how many of those have you actually read?

    I submit that, unless you've read at least 25 books on your industry, you'll never be good enough to be recognized as an expert by prospects and customers.

    Which means you'll have to compete against the "experts" in your field by charging less (and having bargain hunters for clients), or working longer hours (and not seeing your family on weekends).

    That's the bad news.

    The good news?

    It's embarrassingly easy to become an expert in almost any industry if you simply read a few good books on whatever it is you get paid to do.

    Let's set that number of good books at 25, which you can read in 6 months, one day at a time -- by making smart use of your days.

    Here's how. If the average business book is 250 pages, give or take ...
    • you can read it in 42 pages per day, Monday to Saturday, with Sunday as a catch-up day;
    • 42 pages per day at 1 page every 2 minutes (slow, but time enough to underline and take notes) is about 85 minutes per day of reading, Monday to Saturday;
    How can you find 85 minutes a day for reading? Here are 4 ways ...
    1. Wake up earlier (30-60 minutes to read)
    2. Eat lunch earlier or later (15-30 minutes to read)
    3. Skip or record one TV show for later (30 minutes to read)
    4. Make time before or after dinner (15-30 minutes to read)
    The time to read is there. Find it.

    What's your motivation to read 25 books in the next 6 months?

    Experts do better work, faster. (Hey, they're experts, remember?)

    Experts can charge more, because they get more referrals from happy customers who send their friends. (Referrals rarely haggle over price, because they are pre-sold on you.)

    So, as you become an expert, you create a remarkable business that pays you more money for fewer hours worked, while serving ideal customers who pay top dollar.

    Baked In: Creating Products and Businesses That Market ThemselvesNow.

    To follow my own advice during this 6-month challenge, here's book #1 of the 25 I will read between now and Dec. 31, 2010 -- Baked In: Creating Products and Businesses That Market Themselves, by Alex Bogusky and John Winsor.

    Check back here weekly during the next 6 months to hold me accountable and share your thoughts in the comment section below.

    Update: July 5, 2010. Here's a brief synopsis of and three takeaways I got from Baked In ...

    Synopsis: To succeed today, you should create innovative products (or services) with the marketing baked into it. Do it right and your products/services will market themselves, like Threadless t-shirts, OXO kitchen utensils, the iPod, etc. (The phrase "baked in" is from the process of 3D printing, which "bakes" prototypes in a contraption resembling a microwave oven.)

    Three takeaways:
    1. The product is always the most-powerful marketing and sales tool. Stop designing in a vacuum and start doing so as if the product had to sell itself without marketing. This forces you to innovate.
    2. A shortcut to innovation is to steal great ideas -- from different industries, not your competitors. Nike "stole" the inspiration for its 20th anniversary edition of Air Jordan shoes from the design on Wynton Marsalis' trumpet.
    3. The name of your product can make or break it. Example: the VW Golf had slumped in sales by 90% over 15 years, from 250,000 units a year to 30,000. Back in its peak year, there was one thing different: the name. It used to be called the Rabbit. (Remember?) When VW changed the name back to Rabbit, sales nearly doubled in one year -- to 50,000.

    Three Feet from Gold: Turn Your Obstacles into Opportunities! (Think and Grow Rich)
    Here is book #2 of 25: Three Feet from Gold: Turn Your Obstacles into Opportunities, by Sharon Lechter.

    Update: July 12, 2010. Here's a brief synopsis of and three takeaways I got from reading Three Feet from Gold ...

    Synopsis: In this "business allegory," the main character (Greg) is hit with great adversity in his business and personal life. He meets a tycoon (Jonathon Buckland) who agrees to mentor him in his quest to find and fill a book with success principles to guide others. If this sounds familiar, it should. It's based on the true story of how Napoleon Hill, mentored from 1908 by Andrew Carnegie, chronicled the principles that became the grand daddy of all success literature, Think and Grow Rich.

    Three Feet from Gold is a quick read and an excellent introduction to Hill's principles, although nothing can substitute for reading Think and Grow Rich.

    Three takeaways:
    1. Your friends and your library largely make you. You are the same today as you will be in 5 years, except for two things: the people you meet and the books you read. If you don't like your current situation, change who you spend time with and what you read.
    2. Capture the leaders, corner the market. Don't try to sell your product or service to everyone on earth. You can't. Instead, identify the thought leaders in your market and sell to them. The book tells the story of how Velcro reached a market of 5 billion people worldwide by first selling to only 5 people: the heads of the automotive, medical, aerospace, fashion, and furniture industries.
    3. Success is the reward for setbacks. Your level of success in anything is in proportion to how many No's you can sustain, while maintaining your enthusiasm. The more rejection you can handle, the stronger and more capable you will be when the Yes finally comes your way.

    Recession Storming: Thriving In Downturns Through Superior Marketing, Pricing And Product Strategies Here is book #3 of 25: Recession Storming: Thriving In Downturns Through Superior Marketing, Pricing And Product Strategies, by Rupert M. Hart.

    Update: July 19, 2010. Here's a brief synopsis of and three takeaways I got from reading Recession Storming ...

    Synopsis: In a recession, focus your primary marketing efforts on existing clients. Why? They represent the core of your business.

    After retaining current clients, you can move outward to increase revenue and profits with smart pricing, introducing new products/services, and expanding into new markets.

    The book features more than 100 ideas taken from 80 businesses covering 5 economic downturns. There's really no way you can't get at least one profitable idea from reading it that will repay you many times over.

    Three takeaways:

    1. Adapt and adopt from other industries
    Opportunities to borrow profitable ideas from non-competitive business are all around you. Hart offers these examples:
    • How could you become the McDonald's of your industry, by offering a simple, limited menu of unparalleled consistency?
    • How could you emulate H&R Block, by providing seasonal, personalized service at a reasonable price?
    To which I would add, how could you become the Apple or Zappos of your industry, by emulating the best features of their branding, product design, or customer service?

    2. Client satisfaction is NOT the same as client loyalty

    Typically, 80% of customers who defect to competitors are "satisfied" or "very satisfied" -- just before they jump ship. Yikes.

    The real measure of client loyalty is referrability. To find out, ask this question: "How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?"

    3. Differentiate or die
    There are only two strategies for a business: to be differentiated, or to offer the lowest price.

    Which do you want to be?

    The faster you can differentiate your business from all others in the minds of your clients and prospects, the less you have to worry about price.


    Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and PurposeHere is book #4 of 25: Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, by Tony Hsieh.

    Update: July 26, 2010. Here's a brief synopsis of and three takeaways I got from reading Delivering Happiness ...

    Synopsis: Zappos became a billion-dollar business in less than 10 years by putting the customer first. They did it by delivering WOW to customers, in the form of service that exceeds expectations. Zappos delivers an experience people are eager to tell others about.

    This message couldn't be more timely. In a recession, anything you can do to build loyalty and word-of-mouth with your existing customers will pay you back in spades.

    The book was fun and fast-paced (I read half of it during breaks at my daughter's lacrosse games). Any motivated business owner can profit from it. Highly recommended. 

    Three takeaways: 

    1. Advertise less. Retain and resell more
    Early on, Zappos chose to spend more on getting current customers to buy again and more frequently, than on convincing strangers to buy. It did this by making customer service the focus of the company. How much do you spend on marketing/advertising? How much on client service/retention? How can you invest more in that latter number?

    2. Deliver WOW
    People remember experiences longer and more fondly than things. What can you do to deliver a memorable "experience" to your clients, above and beyond any "thing" they buy?

    3. Money is not enough
    Great companies have a purpose and a vision beyond just making money. The vision of Zappos is to deliver the very best customer service -- to deliver happiness. What is your vision? What higher purpose do you serve?


    Flip the Funnel: How to Use Existing Customers to Gain New OnesHere is book #5 of 25: Flip the Funnel: How to Use Existing Customers to Gain New Ones, by Joseph Jaffe.

    Update: August 2, 2010. Here's a brief synopsis of and three takeaways I got from reading Flip The Funnel ...

    Synopsis: It's more profitable to grow your business by convincing current clients to buy more often and refer others, rather than  spending most of your time and money chasing new clients. The subtitle says it all: How to use existing customers to gain new ones.

    By creating a more memorable customer experience and acknowledging your clients, you set the stage for increased customer loyalty -- and profits.

    Like Delivering Happiness (book #4), this has a timely message. Anything you do to build loyalty and word-of-mouth with your existing clients in a recession will pay you back in spades. Highly recommended.

    Three takeaways:

    1. Flip the funnel
    Traditional marketing dumps many prospects in at the wide top, to get out a small number of customers at the bottom, where the process ends. This is time-consuming and costly.

    By flipping the funnel, you can start with the first purchase and turn a small number of existing customers into many new ones. This can be faster and less expensive, because you are building from a base of people who already trust you -- your customers.

    2. Deliver a memorable customer experience
    The customer experience is the sum of all contacts, transactions, and encounters between customers and your company, your brand, your people, and your products and services.

    Companies like Apple, USAA Insurance, Virgin America, Zappos, and others put serving the customer ahead of profits right NOW, when customer service happens. This has made them highly successful -- and profitable -- over the months, quarters, and years that follow.

    3. Do more of what really matters
    You can grow your business in four ways: getting more clients, getting them to buy more often, getting them to spend more, and getting them to refer their friends.

    Most businesses spend most of their time on money on the first goal only. This is insanity. Don't be insane.

    Instead, follow Jaffe's ADIA model:

    Acknowledge - Clients, like all people, crave recognition. Examples: a personal thank-you note, regular progress reports, a gift.

    Dialogue - Encourage clients to engage in conversation by giving them multiple ways to contact you, such as Twitter or the old-fashioned phone.

    Incentivize - Encourage clients to recommend your business to their friends. Example: Reward them, either in cash or with gifts, for every new client they send your way.

    Activate - Use social media to communicate with your clients, and encourage them to pass the word via blogs, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and Facebook. Example: Create a money-saving tip sheet that clients can download from your blog and share with friends.


    Industry TransformersHere is book #6 of 25: Industry Transformers, by Dan Sullivan.

    Update: August 9, 2010. Here's a brief synopsis of and takeaways from "Industry Transformers" ...

    Synopsis: Author Dan Sullivan interviews eight highly successful entrepreneurs, each of whom has created a "Unique Process" for their companies.

    A Unique Process lets entrepreneurs deliver their skills and experience in distinction ways. They differentiate themselves from competitors and avoid commoditization.

    They can establish profitable, unbreakable relationships with clients. They can charge more, while continually developing proprietary “intellectual capital” to sell.

    It all makes for a virtuous circle.

    There are eight ingredients that transform unique-process entrepreneurs into industry transformers. Any one of these can transform your business:

    Ingredient #1: Overcoming Adversity
    They treat their uncertainty, anxiety and fear as fuel for personal achievement. They treat shortcomings and shortfalls as opportunities to grow. They treat obstacles as opportunities to change their thinking and methods. And they treat failures, breakdowns, and setbacks as opportunities to learn and improve.

    Ingredient #2: Passion

    Successful entrepreneurs realize their greatest satisfaction comes from seeing other people succeed as a result of their wisdom and skill. Also, their greatest purpose lies in creating new capabilities of their own to make themselves of even greater use to their clients and the world at large.

    Ingredient #3: Differentiation
    You can differentiate your business by first understanding that the problem is never the problem (in Sullivan’s words). In other words, customers never really want to buy your widget, purchase your technology or sign up for your class. What they want is peace of mind before and satisfaction after you make the sale. Beyond that, customers want greater enjoyment, satisfaction, and excitement in their lives. It’s your job to give it to them.

    Ingredient #4: Value Creation
    Successful entrepreneurs follow the value-creation formula LRC, which stands for Leadership, Relationship, and Creativity. 
    • With leadership, you are giving clients a clear sense of direction in a world of confusing choices. 
    • With relationship, you provide the confidence your clients need to make important decisions. In a sense, you are holding their hand under difficult circumstances.
    • With creativity, you continually find new ways to meet the needs and desires of your clients.
    Ingredient #5: Transformation
    Whether they say so or not, many of your clients want to transform their lives. They don’t just want a new widget or gadget. They want dramatic change -- they want to become new, better, different people. When you are the only one who understands your clients’ deepest desires and you deliver something that meets those desires, you help transform them.

    Ingredient #6: Bypass
    There’s no need to worry about competitors when you can go around them. Entrepreneurs who bypass the competition spend little energy and time worrying about how "everybody" does it in their industry. Instead, continually innovate new ways to achieve extraordinary results. They define and meet the client’s needs in ways that competitors don’t. So, they have no competition.

    Ingredient #7: Intellectual Capital
    It’s not enough to have creative, new ideas. You have to capture, package, and sell them so that others can use them and the marketplace knows where those ideas came from. Your packaged creativity creates intellectual capital that sets your business part, while creating new revenue streams. Another virtuous circle.

    Ingredient #8: Monopoly
    The full term is a value creation monopoly. It’s defined as the permanent and practical ownership of a market niche that no competitor can comprehend or duplicate. It’s the final ingredient and happens when you do everything else correctly, using your unique process to dominate your marketplace.


    Here is book #7 of 25: Tested Advertising Methods, 4th Edition, by John Caples.

    Update: August 16, 2010. Here's a brief synopsis of and takeaways from "Tested Advertising Methods" ...

    Synopsis: Author John Caples shares a lifetime of priceless advertising insights, all backed up by extensive mail-order testing dating back to 1919.

    This book is the Rosetta Stone of advertising copywriting. It's been read, re-read, and studied by every copywriter who counts. It's the foundation of all good advertising. If my house were on fire, I would grab the family Bible, my box of journals, and this book (it's crammed with 10 years of my margin notes, so it's one-of-a-kind).

    Don't hire any copywriter to write even a grocery list if s/he hasn't read this book at least three times.

    Get the picture? This book is important.

    5 takeaways (of at least 57 I could give you):

    1. The key to success in your advertising lies in continual testing. 

    Thanks to free technology like Google Website Optimizer, you can test your online ads in a fraction of the time and hassle that Caples had to endure when testing via mail order.

    What is testing?

    It's pitting one or more ads against each other to find the one that sells more. The most common form is split-testing, wherein you run two ads that are identical except for one element, such as the headline or price. One ad will beat another. Create a new ad and try to beat it. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat ... and your sales will always go up, never down.

    2. The headline is the most important part of most ads.

    The most effective headlines appeal to the reader's self interest or give news. Long headlines that say something are more effective than short headlines that say nothing. One headline can outsell another by as much as 19.5 times.

    3. Put enthusiasm in your advertising copy -- it's just as vital as selling.


    Write as if telling wonderful news to a friend. Appeal to emotions. Get excited about the product. Write fast -- as if you had to catch a plan. Then prune. Read read your ad aloud -- if it sounds like you're talking in a friendly, persuasive way, you're on to something.

    4. "There is no element in an advertisement more important than the appeal -- the reason you give the reader for buying."

    The appeal is usually expressed in the headline. Effective appeals include: make money, save money, prestige, lose weight, end drudgery, freedom from worry, better health, security in old age.

    5. The simplest way to test any ad you write is to put it aside and read it the next day.

    When you do, you will read it with fresh, analytical eyes. You will see things you missed the day before. Your ad will always improve as a result. Always.

    Note: it bears repeating -- do NOT buy any edition later than the 4th, pictured above. The 5th edition, in particular, has been "revised" and largely wrecked.


    Outrageous Advertising That's Outrageously Successful: Created for the 99% of Small Business Owners Who are Dissatisfied with the Results They Get From Their Current AdvertisingHere is book #8 of 25: Outrageous Advertising That's Outrageously Successful, by Bill Glazer.

    Update: August 23, 2010. Here's a brief synopsis of and three takeaways I got from reading Outrageous Advertising ...

    Synopsis: If you want better results from your advertising, and you're a small business owner, or an entrepreneurial decision-maker in large company, this could be the most valuable marketing book you read all year.


    Because there are more proven, effective, immediately useful advertising tips and examples in this book than any other I can remember.

    Advertising rookies will benefit from this because, if you read it early in your business career, you'll have far, far fewer bad habits to unlearn later.

    Advertising veterans (like me) can pick up a half dozen new tricks every chapter on such topics as direct mail, offers, deadlines, headlines, premiums, holiday promotions, and sequential mailings.

    Bottom line: If you have to feed your family tomorrow with the ads you write today, get this book.

    Three takeaways:

    1. Think of your business card as a mini sales letter. Because it is one

    Your business card must stand out or get thrown out. Don't scrimp on this and get the $25 "name, rank, and serial number" type cards from Vista print.

    Instead, put some thought into your business cards. What would you include on your cards if they were the only chance you had to impress prospects enough to call you? If you're stuck, Google "creative business cards" and for all the ideas you'll need.

    2. Understand that there are 3 possible responses to every ad: "yes," "no," and "maybe later."

    Key corollary: When you pay attention to people who say "maybe later," your profits will soar.

    How to do it?

    Follow up multiple times and offer valuable information that educates, informs, and ingratiates your business with your prospects. You can deliver marketing-based information to convert more "maybe" prospects into "yes" customers via web pages, email, direct mail, tele-seminars, webinars, brochures, articles, etc.

    3. You can't sell to people who don't know you exist

    This is actually the thesis of the book. Anything you can do to stand out and be memorable (within reason) will improve your advertising. Examples from the book include:
    • mailing a sales letter inside a coconut, a bank pouch, a wastebasket, etc.
    • personalizing your sales letters wherever possible with the prospect's name
    • taping a rubber band, a nickel, or other "grabber" atop your sales letters
    • tying your promotions to holidays, current events, prospects' birthdays, etc.
    No, you don't have to dress up in a straitjacket and imitate the local used-car dealer on late night cable. But yes, you do have to get noticed to get customers.

    Not only can you do it with your dignity intact, but you can use Outrageous Advertising to make your business fun again. That's important. Just as most cars rust out before their engines wear out, most small business owners tire of their businesses before their customers and markets tire of them.


    The Referral Engine: Teaching Your Business to Market ItselfHere is book #9 of 25: The Referral Engine: Teaching Your Business to Market Itself, by John Jantsch.

    Update: August 30, 2010. Here's a brief synopsis of and three takeaways I got from reading The Referral Engine ...

    Synopsis: I thought I knew just about everything about referrals and how to generate them. This book proved me wrong.

    Simply put, if you're in a business that gets customers via referral, this may be one of the 3 or 4 most-valuable books you ever read.

    So rather than rave for 10 pages, let me say this: If you don't get at least 10 immediately useful ideas from reading The Referral Engine, mail it to me, and I will mail you a check for what you paid for it.

    That's right -- I'm guaranteeing somebody else's book. Never seen that before, have you?

    Here's my mailing address:

    Kevin Donlin
    Guaranteed Marketing
    7455 France Ave. S., #263
    Edina, MN 55435

    Now, here are your three takeaways:

    1. Referrals are too important to be left to chance.

    If you're good at what you do and you follow the right strategy, you can produce referrals with regularity, like throwing sticks of TNT into a lake will bring fish to the surface (sorry, PETA).

    The key: follow the right referral strategy. And Jantsch helps you do this, with exercises and case studies.

    Example: Your "core talkable difference" about your company, which helps others refer you more easily, should elicit this sort of response: "Nobody does that!"

    2. Let customers and vendors create attractive content.

    You can use blogging and/or podcasting to make incredibly valuable connections with new customers and strategic partners.

    It's simple: Call your best customers, interview them for 10-15 minutes about how your product/service helped them, and post the audio on your web site, blog, iTunes, and other spots online.

    You get instant content that resonates with prospects considering your company. Plus, when your customer tells their friends to check out your interview of them, you get free, targeted web traffic.

    Don't stop with customers, though. Interview your suppliers, non-competitors, vendors, and others. Anyone with an audience you want to reach is a potential interview candidate.

    3. Exceed expectations.

    "Here's one of my favorite techniques," writes Jantsch. "When a customer orders a product or engages your services, toss in something extra."

    This is perhaps the easiest way to over-deliver and prime the referral pump.

    Examples include the car dealer who delivers a balloon bouquet to the office of his customer ... who tells curious co-workers about his new car, which leads to referrals.

    Or you can simply provide regular status updates to your customers -- when the product will arrive, what to expect when it does, etc.

    There are more than three takeaways, of course. I especially liked the last chapter, Snack-sized Suggestions, with 51 different referral systems you can copy and use in one day. I once paid $99 for a set of 93 referral systems similar to these, so this chapter alone is a tremendous value.

    This book gets my highest possible recommendation.


    The Greatest Sales Stories Ever Told: From the World's Best SalespeopleHere is book #10 of 25: The Greatest Sales Stories Ever Told: From the World's Best Salespeople, by Robert Shook.

    Update: Sept. 6, 2010. Here's a brief synopsis of and three takeaways I got from reading The Greatest Sales Stories Ever Told ...

    Synopsis: If you're in business, you need people to buy what you sell. So, like it or not, you're in sales.

    It makes sense, then, to study tales from some of the world's best sales people.

    While there are 1,001 books about sales methods and techniques, this book is all about sales stories. And I really liked reading it, because stories are the way I prefer to learn. You, too?

    If so, you'll get a lot out of this book, with its dozens of ideas you can use the same day you learn them. With tales from Tom Hopkins, Zig Ziglar, Mary Kay Ash, Ross Perot, and others, there's no academic fluff here.

    The 51 stories are divided into 8 parts, including Mental Attitude, Innovation, Selling Solutions, Creating a Sense of Urgency, and Closing the Sale.

    Now, here are your three takeaways:

    1) Enthusiasm Sells

    Mary Kay Ash, before founding her cosmetics company in 1963, sold 10 sets of children's books for $50 each (about $250 in today's dollars) to mothers from her Baptist church. She did it all by phone. How?

    She spent much of a weekend on the phone calling up women, telling them "about the best set of books I'd ever seen," she writes. "My enthusiasm was such that without even showing the books to anyone, I was able to sell 10 sets -- sight unseen! What happened was, I got so excited that the women got excited, too."

    Lesson: When you believe in what you sell -- heart and soul -- others are bound to feel the same way.

    2) Where There's a Will, There's a Way

    Michael McCafferty started his consulting firm the day he filed for bankruptcy, in 1983. His office furniture was a wooden folding chair and a door laid across a couple of filing cabinets. He had no money or clients.

    Solution? He convinced a printer to print 200 posters with a list of business tips, called: "The 10 Commandments For Managing A Young, Growing Business." At the bottom of the poster was his business name and phone number.

    He then convinced a pretty young waitress to distribute them to 200 businesses, in exchange for a share of the resulting sales. His gambit produced 25 prospects and enough clients that his fledgling computer consulting firm never wanted for business again. And he paid the waitress $2,000 commissions for her two days of work.

    McCafferty went on to develop Telemagic, an industry-leading software package, and sold his company for $7 million in cash, plus 15% of sales.

    Lesson: You don't need money, equipment, or even a product to make a sale. You need only tenacity and ingenuity.

    3) It Pays to Advertise

    Richard Luisi, an Electrolux vacuum salesman, put a big sign on his van in 1971: "ELECTROLUX SALES AND SERVICE, RICH LUISI" along with his phone number.

    His fellow sales reps mocked Luisi, thinking it was smarter to sneak up on prospects in cars without signage. That is, until the day Luisi, after parking in front of a Holiday Inn, was approached by the hotel manager, who placed an order for 13 units -- the biggest order of his young career.

    Lesson: If you're proud of your business, don't hesitate to go against the grain and be innovative in your advertising. Done right, good advertising and marketing will make your sales efforts easy.


    Everything Counts: 52 Remarkable Ways to Inspire Excellence and Drive ResultsHere is book #11 of 25: Everything Counts: 52 Remarkable Ways to Inspire Excellence and Drive Results, by Gary Ryan Blair.

    Update: Sept. 13, 2010. Here's a brief synopsis of and three takeaways I got from reading Everything Counts ...

    Synopsis: Success in life is a sum of details mastered. Nothing is too small to have an impact. Every thought you have, every morsel of food that goes in your mouth, every action -- everything -- counts.

    Details are important. One stray line of code can wreck an entire computer program. One wrong injection can kill a patient. One harsh comment can ruin a business partnership.

    To experience the greatest success, we must do the little things correctly so they add up to an excellent result.

    The ideas in this excellent book are divided into three areas: professional strategies, personal strategies, and universal concepts.

    Now, here are your three takeaways:

    1) Planning counts

    A carefully drawn plan, executed correctly, is your ticket to success. Corollary: Your life cannot go according to plan if you have no plan.

    The majority of people and businesses are unprepared and unable to achieve success, because they have not planned. Those who fail to plan are doomed to repeat yesterday's sub-par performances today. Why put yourself through it? Why not create history rather than repeat it?

    Of course, your plan will change almost as soon as you implement it, but that's okay. It's the homework, research, and visualization you do while writing your plan tonight that prepares you to succeed tomorrow.

    2) Vision counts

    "You will never be greater than the vision that guides you," writes Blair. Vision is the ability to see what others don't (or won't). It spurs people and organization to achieve the improbable -- even the impossible. The clearer and more compelling the vision, the more power and confidence it generates.

    By contrast, a lack of vision saps the will and dampens achievement. Think of the last paper-pushing bureaucrat you encountered -- think they could recite their organization's vision statement?

    A powerful vision is fueled by a compelling cause -- the stronger your reasons why are, the stronger you are.
    Every great achievement in human history has been spurred on by somebody's vision.

    Best part: you were born with the capacity to create a vision that inspires you. Cost: $0.

    3) Innovation counts

    "The essence of strategy lies in creating tomorrow's competitive advantages faster than anyone can mimic today's," writes Blair. The three tests of successful innovation are:

    1. Does it create value for the customer?
    2. Does the customer want it?
    3. Will the customer pay for it?

    Before you fall in love with your next product or service idea, ask yourself those three questions. They can save you a lot of lost time and money -- and confirm if you're on the right track.

    This section of the book describes the work of Steve Jobs and how his instincts for the experience of using his products is what fuels his ability to innovate for Apple. By simply thinking about how he can create breakthrough gadgets that customers gladly pay for, the innovation takes care of itself. And everything counts for Jobs, from the design of the iPad to the box it comes in -- every detail is carefully planned.

    An excellent book, highly recommended.


    The Experience Economy: Work Is Theater & Every Business a StageHere is book #12 of 25: The Experience Economy: Work Is Theater & Every Business a Stage, by B. Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore.

    Update: Sept. 20, 2010. Here's a brief synopsis of and three takeaways I got from reading "The Experience Economy" by Pine and Gilmore ...

    Synopsis: People remember experiences longer and more fondly than things. (Prove it to yourself: What 5 things did you savor today? I'll bet my next paycheck at least 4 of them were experiences, like dinner with your family or a lovely sunset.)

    Not only do people value experiences more than things, they are willing to pay more for them. And this is your opportunity as a business owner -- you can immunize yourself to competition by delivering memorable experiences to customers.

    Think of the humble coffee bean -- its value skyrockets as it becomes more of an experience and less of a commodity:
    • the harvester of the beans sells them for about 2 cents a cup -- this is coffee as a commodity;
    • the manufacturer who grinds and sells the beans to a store gets about 5 to 25 cents a cup -- here coffee is a good);
    • a fast-food restaurant gets about $1 per cup -- here, coffee is a service;
    • but a five-star restaurant or Starbucks, where the ordering, creation, and consumption of java is a pleasurable event, can charge from $2 to $6 a cup -- here coffee has become an experience
    By moving up the scale, from commodity to experience, the price of coffee beans increases as much as 5,000%.

    Clearly, you want your business to be on the experience end of this equation.

    Now, here are your three takeaways:

    1) Surprise can stimulate customer loyalty

    When you place an order with Zappos, they quickly tip the scale from good or service to experience. But they don't do it with the product itself -- I mean, shoes are shoes. Zappos creates memorable experiences with how they deliver their products. You almost always get a free upgrade to faster shipping, for example. And you always get a hyper-friendly customer service rep when you call.

    Fast and friendly service are not new. But in a world of voicemail jail ("Push 8 for French, push 9 for Russian...") little surprises add up quickly to create remarkable experiences. Literally. They are events you remark to others about.

    2) All your business is a stage

    Examine the automated, mundane parts of your business. Like your voicemail greeting, for example.

    How could your voicemail entertain or educate customers? By offering daily news items or tips, for example? What if your hold music were so beautiful -- or the family friendly jokes so funny -- that customers would pay just to listen?

    3) "-ing" the thing

    You can charge more and enjoy more customer loyalty when you emphasize the experience customers have using your products. Think "-ing" to create your experience.

    BMW does this when they emphasize the drivING experience. Nike can charge $150 for shoes that cost a fraction of that to manufacture when they emphasize the cross-trainING experience.

    An excellent book, one that undoubtedly influenced Tony Hsieh at Zappos. Highly recommended.


    Here is book #13 of 25:  The 100 Greatest Advertisements Who Wrote Them and What They Did, by Julian Lewis Watkins.

    Yes, there's no image of a book cover. But do NOT let that stop you from finding this book!

    Update: Sept. 28, 2010. Here's a brief synopsis of and three takeaways I got from reading "The 100 Greatest Advertisements" by Julian Lewis Watkins

    Synopsis: How did Michelangelo, da Vinci, van Gogh, Picasso, and other masters learn to paint? By studying and copying the masters before them.

    Bob Dylan (who learned all 1,000 or so of Woody Guthrie's songs) and The Beatles (who played other groups' songs, 6-7 hours a night, 6-7 nights a week at the Star Club in Hamburg) first imitated the best work of others before creating their own.

    It's the same with advertising: If you want to create your own ads that sell, start by studying and emulating the classics.

    This book, "The 100 Greatest Advertisements," is the marketing equivalent of the Louvre. It's impossible to turn a page and not stumble across a masterpiece worthy of careful study. You could spend every weekend for a year poring over this book and come away with fresh insights each time.

    It's that good.

    Now, here are your three takeaways:

    1) Facts sell. Emotionalized facts sell like crazy

    The ad "Down from Canada" introduced America to Canada Dry Ginger Ale in 1923.

    It told the story of how the soft drink was first adopted by New York City's most exclusive clubs, restaurants, and hotels. Using a combination of snob appeal and pungent description ("Here is a revelation in ginger ale quality -- a delicate, alluring 'dry' flavor that intrigues your taste" ...) the "Down from Canada" campaign forced Canada Dry to build a new factory to handle the orders.

    Sales for January 1924 were twice those of all of 1923. It worked, eh?

    2) Simple analogies can make difficult points

    The ad, "The Stranger at the Gate" sold two things: the concept of advertising and the Ayer & Son ad agency itself.

    It drew a parallel between merchants of old, who had to beg gatekeepers for entrance into walled cities, and merchants of today, who face gatekeepers at the businesses and homes they seek entrance to.

    Ancient commerce, then, is like today's: "The unknown product is challenged, while the gates swing wide for the known."

    How much easier it would have been for Raymond Rubicam, the copywriter, to simply list the reasons why any business should advertise. And how unremarkable the results would likely have been.

    But by using a simple, recognizable analogy, he caused a flood of new business for his employer, the Ayer agency.

    3) Pictures can tell and sell faster than words

    It may seem strange, coming from a copywriter like me, but the right picture can be worth 1,000 orders -- or more.

    In the 1890 ad for Kodak cameras, "You press the button, we do the rest" there are only about 50 words, plus a testimonial. The focal point of the ad, which had been cut from 300 words, was a picture of a finger pushing a button on the camera. (Does that sound like a certain Flip Video camera?)

    It was one of the shortest, yet most effective, ads ever written, because the right picture told the story just right.


    What Every BODY is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent's Guide to Speed-Reading PeopleHere is book #14 of 25:  What Every BODY is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent's Guide to Speed-Reading People, by Joe Navarro.

    Update: Oct. 4, 2010. Here's a brief synopsis of and three takeaways I got from reading "What Every BODY is Saying."

    Synopsis: Former FBI agent Joe Navarro explains the science behind non-verbal intelligence, then teaches you to "speed read" people to decode their true feelings and detect possible deception.

    If you meet with clients or vendors in person to negotiate anything -- which pretty much means you if you're in business -- this book will prove instantly helpful.

    Navarro, who came to the United States from Cuba at age eight, learned to read body language to make sense of the world until he learned English. Example: He learned that classmates who liked him would arch their eyebrows when he entered a room, while unfriendly people would squint ever so slightly.

    If you think about it, we humans have only been speaking for about 5,000 or 10,000 years. Before some bright cave wo/man invented verbal language, we communicated solely through body language, like dogs, apes, and other animals.

    So, we are always communicating non-verbally -- via our body posture, tone and volume of voice, touching, facial expressions, clothing, etc.

    The better you can "read" another person's non-verbal cues, the more accurate a message you can receive ... even if that includes unintended information others want to hide from you.

    Now, your three takeaways:

    1) The most honest parts of the body are the feet and legs

    Huh? Well, for millions of years, humans have used our legs and feet to maneuver and survive. Biologists believe our brains communicate directly to our feet without intervention from our conscious minds, so that we can quickly react to threats and flee, if necessary.

    This means that what people do with their legs and feet is an expression of their true feelings.

    People with "happy feet" -- legs that wiggle or bounce with joy -- are highly confident in themselves, for example. When a person points one or both feet away from you during a conversation, it means they subconsciously want to leave. We normally cross our legs when we feel comfortable, while uncrossing them if someone or something we don't like enters the scene. And much more.

    2) Hands and fingers point to your feelings

    Not only can our hands perform delicate movements; they also reflect our innermost feelings. Examples: thumbs in the pockets indicate low status and confidence; people in authority should avoid this display, which sends the wrong message. By contrast, "steepling" of the hands, fingertip to fingertip, is a powerful display of confidence. And when your hands are not visible to another person, such as when you hide them behind your back or under a table, you will usually be perceived as deceptive, no matter what you say.

    3) Lack of synchrony and emphasis may spell deception

    When assessing someone for deception, look to see if their verbal and physical language match (synchrony). For example, if they say "Yes" while their head nods "No," watch out.

    Also, look for verbal and physical accentuation of points (emphasis). An absence of them may mean the other person is concentrating so much on their story that they neglect the natural emphasis found in all genuine communication. In other words, if your best client who always "talks with his hands" suddenly stops, you may not be hearing the truth.

    I really loved this book. (But don't tell my daughter that I now analyze her non-verbally when I ask if her homework is done :-)


    Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and SchoolHere is book #15 of 25: Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, by John Medina.

    Update: Oct. 11, 2010. Here's a brief synopsis of and three takeaways I got from reading "Brain Rules."

    Synopsis: Your brain is easily the most complex and miraculous creation in the universe. But we do understand some things. And these Brain Rules, if followed, can unlock your vast creative and problem-solving potential.

    Author John Medina, a molecular biologist with a gift for clear writing, shares the latest science and its implications for your brain, your business, your marketing, your family, and your life.

    There are 12 Brain Rules. Knowing them will help get the most from your brain:

    1. Exercise boosts brain power

    2. The human brain evolved, too

    3. Every brain is wired differently

    4. We don't pay attention to boring things

    5. Repeat to remember for short-term memory

    6. Remember to repeat for long-term memory

    7. Sleep well, think well

    8. Stressed brains don't learn the same way

    9. Stimulate more of the senses

    10. Vision trumps all other senses

    11. Male and female brains are different

    12. We are powerful and natural explorers

    Now, here are your three takeaways:

    1) Exercise boosts brain power

    Your brain evolved to survive in jungles and prairies, after our early ancestors routinely walked an average of 12 miles a day in search of (and in avoidance of becoming) food. Your brain is NOT meant to sit in a cubicle or a classroom for 8 hours a day.

    Think about it: The smartest senior citizens you know are probably the most active. And most of history's greatest thinkers were physically active: Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, Napoleon Bonaparte, Albert Einstein, and Douglas MacArthur all had a habit of pacing as they thought or taught, for example.

    If you do nothing more than aerobic exercise, 30 minutes at time, two or three times a week, your brain will benefit. But don't stop there. Break up your workday with physical activity, such as walking, biking, or stretching.

    2) Sleep well, think well

    A lack of sleep retards your ability to pay attention, remember, reason logically, solve problems, or do any other form of thinking. For best results, your work schedule should match your productive times, whether it be morning, evening, or someplace in between.

    And -- here's the fun part -- businesses and schools should encourage a nap in mid-afternoon, when productivity sags for almost everyone. So, instead of a Red Bull at 3:00, try a 20-minute siesta.

    3) Vision trumps all other senses

    Our brains see and think in pictures. Visual processing dominates how we interpret the world, with about half your brain power devoted to vision. As a result, pictures are easier to remember than words.

    This has vast implications for your marketing and presentation efforts. Here are two:
    • Include pictures in all advertisements. Research shows that the eye is always drawn to pictures and always remembers them better than words alone. (A tough pill to swallow for a copywriter like me who loves words!)
    • Delete your presentations and start over. The typical PowerPoint business presentation has almost 40 words per slide. More pictures and fewer words would capture and hold an audience's attention far better.
    There are way too many more useful tidbits than I have time to share here. If you love your brain, you owe it to yourself to read this book soon :-)


    Fortune: Secrets of GreatnessHere is book #16 of 25: Secrets of Greatness, by the editors of Fortune magazine.

    Update: Oct. 18, 2010. Here's a brief synopsis of and three takeaways I got from reading "Secrets of Greatness."

    Synopsis: Imagine sitting down for dinner with Warren Buffet, Peter Drucker, or Andy Grove, and being able to ask them the secrets of their success?

    That, in essence, sums up this excellent little volume, packed with practical wisdom from the most successful people of the last 100+ years.

    The tips are divided into 6 sections:

    1. Great Beginnings
    2. Great Ways to Work
    3. Great Decisions
    4. Great Role Models
    5. Great Teams
    6. Great Advice

    I took three pages of very dense notes, from which I offer you these three takeaways ..

    1) Re: Great Ways to Work -- "I owe my success to the fact that I never had a clock in my workroom." - Thomas Edison. Nothing to add there.

    2) Re: Great Decisions -- Jim Collins maintains that no decision, no matter how big, is any more than a small fraction of the outcome. "There are pivotal decisions, but it's really the stream of decisions over time, brilliantly executed, that accounts for great outcomes."

    "If you look at some of the great decisions of business history, the executives had the discipline to manage for the quarter century, not the quarter. You can make mistakes, even some big mistakes, and still prevail. That's a wonderful thing to know. You don't need a perfect hit rate," says Collins.

    3) Re: Great Advice -- The effective executive, "must use the little time he can control to do the important things. This is the secret of those few people who accomplish so much with so little apparent effort. They put first things first," says Peter Drucker.

    Drucker also advises: "The real discipline comes in saying no to the wrong opportunities." Growth is easy. Saying no is hard.


    Thank You Power: Making the Science of Gratitude Work for YouHere is book #17 of 25: Thank You Power: Making the Science of Gratitude Work for You by Deborah Norville.

    Update: Oct. 27, 2010. Here's a brief synopsis of and three takeaways I got from reading "Thank You Power."

    Synopsis: You know I'm a big fan of mailing handwritten thank-you notes to clients. They pay big dividends in my experience.

    In her book, "Thank You Power," Deborah Norville offers this thesis: Practicing gratitude, noticing the blessings in your life, and making it a point to recognize these good things, will positively change your life.

    You will be a better business person -- happier, healthier, and better able to handle the daily grind -- simply by saying thank you more often each day.

    Now, here are your three takeaways:

    1) A daily habit of writing down at least 3 things you're grateful for can unleash a cascade of benefits in your life.

    According to studies cited in the book, grateful people are not only happier, they think also:
    • think more clearly and creatively
    • live longer
    • are more energetic, enthusiastic, and joyful
    • get more sleep 
    • have a higher immunity response
    • make progress toward important goals

    2) A simple, written "Thank you" can pay you back

    According to a 1995 study by Bruce Rind and Prashant Bordia, restaurant servers who wrote "Thank you" on the check before handing it to their customers got tips averaging 11 percent more than servers who didn't.

    3) Writing the wrong "Thank you" may hinder future sales

    Norville describes another thank-you experiment, in which jewelry store customers were called to thank them for their business -- they "spent more during return visits the following month than customers who didn't get a thank you call."

    "But they also spent more than customers who got the thank you call and were told at the same time of an upcoming 20 percent-off sale. Word of the sale, which could be perceived as a pitch for more business, made the thank you ring hollow."

    What this means: While I've personally received -- and used -- discount coupons that came with thank-you notes, they may rub some customers the wrong way, as they did in the jewelry store experiment.

    Here, as in all cases where you're offered a new marketing tactic, you should test it for yourself. You may be just one thank-you note away from a major breakthrough with your clients.

    Seriously -- what would an 11-percent bump in revenue mean for you, like the restaurant servers enjoyed?

    But you'll never know until you test the idea for yourself.


    One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen WayHere is book #19 of 25: One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way, by Robert Maurer, Ph.D.

    Update: Nov. 3, 2010. Here's a brief synopsis of and three takeaways I got from reading "One Small Step Can Change Your Life."

    Synopsis: Kaizen (literally, "change good" in Japanese) is the art and science of making big, lasting change through small, consistent steps.

    Maurer contrasts his notion of kaizen with how most of us try to solve problems, innovation, defined by him as a search for creative breakthroughs.

    Think trying to cut a log using short, steady strokes of a saw vs. big whacks with an axe, and you have a general idea of kaizen vs. innovation.

    I loved this book, especially after growing up in the Detroit area (and watching Toyota eat the Big 3's lunch with super quality cars) and later living in Japan (where I almost learned how to write "kaizen" in Japanese).

    There are a LOT of gems packed into these 179 pages. Here are three takeaways for you and your business:

    1) Kaizen works because it bypasses your brain's fear of change

    If you've ever been faced with blank computer screen and a need to write a 10-page paper, you have known fear. You may have found it so hard to concentrate that, after 10 minutes, you gave up and started updating your Facebook profile.

    But what if, instead of trying to write all 10 pages at once, you gave yourself the smaller goal of writing anything for 10 minutes? This easy task "tiptoes" past your fears, engages your whole brain, and leads you toward success.

    Not for nothing did your grandma say, "By the inch, it's a cinch. By the mile, it will take a while."

    2) Small goals can produce big results

    Among the many examples in the book:
    For glowing health, it might be best to set your goals lower. Just a few positive changes can have a surprising impact on your well-being. Recent research has strongly suggested that losing 10 percent of one's body weight (assuming a person is overweight to begin with) leads to radical improvements in diabetes risk, hypertension, and sleep apnea. A study at Adelphi University shows that people who used the treadmill just four minutes a day for four days a week ... experienced a 10 percent increase in their aerobic activity -- the same percentage as those who exercised twenty minutes a day!
    3) Continuous improvement can work miracles -- especially in your marketing.

    Here are two examples ...

    Last year, I took a seminar with a marketing VP from Google, who said that billions of split-tests -- pitting one version of a web page against another to determine which produced desired outcomes with users -- was a key to Google's phenomenal success.

    In your business, if you think you're too busy to improve your marketing, try this: Just get started. Don't worry about trying to make 21 improvements this week.

    Ask yourself small, non-threatening questions, like: What one thing could I do to improve my marketing in 30 minutes today?

    You'd be surprised at how much good you can do in just 30 minutes. You can:
    • add a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) or a special "coupon code" to your voicemail greeting
    • write and mail one thank-you note to a recent client
    • add one email to your follow-up autoresponder series (I use and recommend Aweber)
    • pick up the phone and call one potential joint-venture partner
    • email one happy client and ask if you can use their comments as a testimonial on your web site
    Do these steps seem trivial? Keep reading ...

    Pick just one item from the list above. Example: mail one thank-you note per day to 30 clients this month. And let's say it produces just $1/day in new profits -- $30 more profit a month, $365 per year.

    And what if, tomorrow, you add just one email to the follow-up emails that go out to prospects who opt into your autoresponder series. That one email produces another "trivial" $1/day in new profit -- $365 more profit per year.

    What if you keep finding just one more way to add just $1 a day in new profit to your business. And you do it for just 30 working days.

    What is the cumulative result?

    $10,950 over 12 months. Not enough to retire on. But $10,950 is enough to:
    • fully fund your IRA;
    • take your family to the ocean for 5 days; and
    • buy a Stratocaster on Ebay
    If you keep compounding small improvements over time, you can make giant leaps in small steps. That's the main message from this book. It's very encouraging and highly recommended.


    Million Dollar HabitsHere is book #20 of 25: Million Dollar Habits, by Robert Ringer

    Update: Nov. 10, 2010. Here's a brief synopsis of and three takeaways I got from reading "Million Dollar Habits."

    Synopsis: The book has three main premises:

    1. success is not dependent on blessings, luck, intelligence, or fate (in other words, it's no accident);
    2. the difference between success and failure is not nearly as great as people believe (think: winning by a nose);
    3. success is a matter of understanding and regularly practicing specific, simple habits that always work.

    The book describes 10 Success Habits: Reality, Attitude, Perspective, Present Living, Morality, Human Relations, Simplicity, Drain People Elimination, Self-Discipline, and Action.

    The most successful people avoid the "comfort zone." In the end, happiness is a side effect of having a purpose in life and pursuing it. Happiness itself cannot be pursued directly.

    Normally, I provide three takeaways from the book here. But "Million Dollar Habits" merits at least four that can build your business, so here they are ...

    1) Reality Habit -- reality, like physics, is not how we wish it to be or how it appears to be, but simply what it is. Most people live in a totally unreal world. In the real world, all actions have consequences.

    2) Human Relations Habit -- to the extent that you related well to others, you tend to have a pleasant life and success comes to you. The opposite is also true. The hardest way to impress people is to try to impress them. Success must come through others. There is no limit to the number of ways to increase your service to others and obtain their goodwill.

    3) Simplicity Habit -- rid yourself of projects and activities that contribute little or nothing to your key goals. Concentrate on doing the right things rather than doing things right. The easiest and most direct path to providing a marketable product/service is to modify a known success.

    4) Action Habit -- results are not possible without action. Knowledge and wisdom are useless without action. The mere act of asking for something you want can be the main difference between success and mediocrity in life.

    An excellent book. Highly recommended.


    Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Collins Business Essentials)Here is book #21 of 25: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Collins Business Essentials) by Robert Cialdini

    Update: Nov. 17, 2010. Here's a brief synopsis of "Influence."

    This is an all-time classic, on my small shelf of 25 essential marketing books.

    According Influence, we live in a world in which most of the information is less than 15 years old. There are 45,000 to 60,000 items for sale in the average supermarket. Not to mention 200+ channels on TV, churning out ads day and night.

    As a result, we humans crave shortcuts to decision making -- especially in buying situations.

    Of the thousands of tactics marketers use to persuade people to buy, most fall into 6 categories:

    1. Reciprocation: If someone gives you something, you must give that person something back of at least equal value. (This is why you get fund-raising letters with return address labels printed with your name on them.)

    2. Consistency: If you to agree to one thing upfront, you are more likely to agree to later requests in line with that first position. (This is why you want a prospect to nod "Yes" at the start of your sales letters -- they are more likely to say "Yes" to your request for an order later.)

    3. Social proof: We decide what is correct by looking at what other people think is correct. (This is why the album "50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong" had that title.)

    4. Liking: We prefer to say "Yes" to people we like. (This is may be why so many pharmaceutical sales reps are stunning women in their 20s. This is definitely why the old adage, "Make a friend before you make a sale" is true.)

    5. Authority: We tend to comply with requests of people in positions of authority. (This is why any sales letter you get for financial or health care products has a financial guru or doctor as the spokesperson.)

    6. Scarcity: The less available something is, the more value we give it. (This is why people stampede into stores at 5:00 AM on Black Friday for sales that last an hour or two.)

    Influence is an owner's manual for the "buying brain." Read it to better sell to your clients and to better understand how others sell to you.

    Highest recommendation.

    The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization (J-B Leader to Leader Institute/PF Drucker Foundation)==============

    Here is book #22 of 25: The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization, by Peter Drucker.

    Update: Nov. 22, 2010. Here's a brief synopsis of "The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization."

    If management demi-god Peter Drucker were alive today, he would advise you ask five simple, yet profound questions about your business. Answering them lets you analyze and transform your business for the better.

    Peter Drucker's five questions are:

        * What is our Mission?
        * Who is our Customer?
        * What does the Customer Value?
        * What are our Results?
        * What is our Plan? 

    Here are 5 takeaways for you, one for each question:

    1) What is your Mission?
    It cannot be impersonal corporate-speak. Your mission must be personal, something you and everyone on your team knows is right. To be effective, it should be short and focused enough to fit on a T-shirt (there's an idea!). Example: a hospital ER came up with this mission: To give assurance to the afflicted. It should inspire you to say, "Yes, this is something I want to be remembered for."
    2) Who is your Customer?
    Your business does not exist to please everyone -- only to please your target customers. Remember Drucker's famous statement from 40+ years ago? "The purpose of a company is to create a customer." Today, Drucker would say, "The best companies don't create customers. They create fans." Do you have fans?

    3) What does your Customer Value?

    Don't even try to guess at the answers, according to Drucker. Always ask your customers systematically what it is they truly value. Ask questions like: What one thing we do better? What could we do more of? Less of? Faster? The answers are a goldmine of future profits. You need to keep asking your customers until you get them.

    4) What are your Results?
    Goals for sales, profits, and market share should be set and met. Key is to know what to STOP doing -- before you can do more of what works, you must do less of what doesn't. Your aim is to invest your time, money, and energy where you can achieve success.

    5) What is your Plan? 
    After answering questions 1-4, it's time to sum up the actions needed to take to reach your goals. The hard part is determining how to marshal your limited time and resources; if there were no limits, you would need no plan. Limit your long-term goals to 5 at most -- any more and you will be spread too thin. The end result of your plan should be a written vision of the future in which your goals are achieved and your mission completed.

    Anything by Peter Drucker is worth your time. This book is highly recommended.


    How to Become a Rainmaker: The Rules for Getting and Keeping Customers and ClientsHere is book #23 of 25: How to Become a Rainmaker: The Rules for Getting and Keeping Customers and Clients by Jeffrey J. Fox.

    Update: Nov. 29, 2010. Here's a brief synopsis of "How to Become a Rainmaker."

    A Rainmaker is that exalted person who brings life-giving money to a company.

    In this or any economy, whether you work for someone or run your own business, whether you sell products or services, a Rainmaker is someone you want to be.

    Here are three takeaways for you ...

    1) Selling is a numbers game. Know them. Make them. Win

    This insight is almost too obvious. Almost. How many calls do you need to make a sale? Run the numbers and find out. (Do that NOW -- you can't improve what you don't measure.) Then ... make the calls. Without fail. And you won't fail.

    2) Prepare for sales calls as a football coach prepares for a game

    No football coach would ever show up on game day and try to "wing it" without pre-game planning. If so, they wouldn't be coaching for long. Do you wing sales calls? You may not be selling for long, either.

    Take the time to do your pre-sales planning:
    • research your presentation to include information intriguing to the prospect
    • know your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) cold -- your answer to the question, "Why should I buy from you?" 
    • return every phone call -- Every. Single. Call.
    • plan to spend 80% of selling time on high-value prospects ... not suspects
    As legendary football coach Bear Bryant said, "It's not the will to win, but the will to prepare to win that makes the difference."

    3) Ask Killer Sales Questions

    "Rainmaker" offers 6 "killer" sales questions, of which these three can help almost anyone convert more conversations into sales:
    1. "Will you look at the facts and decide for yourself if it makes sense?" Great to ask near the beginning of a sales presentation, as a way to eliminate the option of not deciding -- one way or another, they will make a decision instead of stringing you along for days/weeks
    2. "Why can't you?" Excellent answer to almost any objection from a prospect. You can't overcome an objection that's not defined. This question gently forces the prospect to help you out.
    3. "Why don't you give it a try?" A great closing question because it doesn't sound like a permanent commitment.
    You can read this entire book of selling advice on a two-hour airplane flight. You will either find it useful and new, or a useful refresher. Either way, you will find it useful. But only if you apply it.


    No B.S. Sales Success: The Ultimate No Holds Barred, Kick Butt, Take No Prisoners, Tough and Spirited GuideHere is book #24 of 25: No B.S. Sales Success: The Ultimate No Holds Barred, Kick Butt, Take No Prisoners, Tough and Spirited Guide, by Dan Kennedy.

    Update: Dec. 14, 2010. Here's a brief synopsis of "No B.S. Sales Success."

    Dan Kennedy has been a big influence on me. I've been a subscriber to his monthly "No B.S. Marketing" Newsletter for more than 11 years.

    If I had to carve four heads into my Mount Rushmore of marketing, I would include Dan's, along with those of Jay Abraham, David Ogilvy, and Gary Halbert.

    So you might want to pay attention to Dan and this book. Because, if you're in business, you're in sales. And this book will help you sell more, faster, more profitably.

    The only downside to this book: I've now read it twice and have only scratched the surface in terms of doing what Dan says. You really ought to read this once a month for a year -- no joke.

    Dan writes: "The hidden commodity, the 'secret' behind so many successful individuals, is the willingness and ability to sell." The key points here are two: You must be WILLING to sell; only you can provide the motivation. You must also be ABLE to sell; Dan will help you with that. In spades.

    Now, here are three takeaways ...

    1) Takeaway Selling

    You could lower your price or chase prospects desperately, as so many folks in sales do. But how's that working for you?

    The alternative, described by Dan as his "biggest secret to exceptional results," is takeaway selling. In essence, you play hard to get -- make it clear to prospects that your schedule is full, your satisfied clients are many, and that you're doing them a favor by giving them the chance to buy. Which, if you really do sell a valuable product or service, you are.

    As Dan writes, "You will have much more energy and enthusiasm ... if you are dealing with people who feel privileged dealing with you!"

    2) Prospecting Sucks.

    How to overcome the need to prospect for new business? In his chapter on positioning, Dan offers several ideas to make a name for yourself in your marketplace, including writing and public speaking. Your goal is to be seen as an expert by potential buyers. Getting published (by the press or in your own book or blog) and publich speaking (seminars you lead or just smart questions you ask at the seminars of others) can make the happen for you.

    The bottom line is this: "The difference in your seeking them versus them seeking you is everything."

    3) Don't Be Techno-Savvy and People Foolish

    Yes, your business needs a webiste. Yes, you need to master email and voicemail. But never let a day go by that you don't at least call and, better yet, visit your customers and prospects in the flesh. I myself get a surge of energy (and new business) every time I leave the office to attend a networking event or have lunch with someone who can bring me business. Dan quotes the late sales great Cavett Robert, "They don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

    There are more takeways in Dan's book -- MANY more -- but I hope you get the idea. This is a book you must own.


    138 Quick Ideas to Get More ClientsHere is book #25 of 25: 138 Quick Ideas to Get More Clients, by Howard Shenson and Jerry R. Wilson.

    Update: Dec. 21, 2010. Here's a brief synopsis of "138 Quick Ideas To Get More Clients."

    Synopsis: Author Howard Shenson was known as the "consultant's consultant," and wrote several books about how to build your business if you sell a service or speak for a living. I liked this book a lot -- you can dip into it almost anywhere and pull out a tactic to help you market your service business (my area of specialty).

    I like his thinking when, in the introduction, professional speaker Jerry Wilson writes: "Perhaps the 'ideal' way to differentiate yourself is to continue the big or major differentiators you already use, then systematically add these 138 quick ideas as soon as you can."

    In other words, keep doing what's working to market your service business, while taking small, continuous steps to add new marketing tactics.

    And, when it comes to using these or any other business-building tips, remember: Don't quit! "All too often, professionals market like crazy until they get busy, then they let their marketing efforts slip away. The secret of the pros is consistency, consistency, consistency."

    The most valuable sections of the book were on marketing do's and don'ts, direct mail, networking, referrals, and professional speaking.

    Now, here are three takeaways ...

    1) Make Selling Your Services Your #1 Job

    This is more of a mindset, than a concrete tactic. Yet, it makes all other tactics possible! Tips: write a new job description for yourself and list "sales and marketing" as your most important task; do what successful sales pros do -- learn and practice new sales techniques; pretend you work for someone else -- set goals, deadlines, quotas, and most important, rewards.

    2) Develop a "Most Wanted" List of Prospects

    The FBI has their 10 most-wanted list. And it works. Why? FOCUS.

    Your marketing is the same. You could try to sell to "everybody" ... but how's that been working for you? With limited time and resources, you can experience a quantum leap in results by focusing on your own "most wanted" list of 10-100 clients or referral partners. Contact these prospects at least once a month with mailings, newsletters, phone calls, free products, books, or articles clipped from publications.

    3) Make Yourself Visible at Conferences

    When attending seminars and events where your prospects are, you don't have to be one of the speakers to be seen and heard by all. You can do two easy things to get noticed: sit where you will be seen (the front, left-hand part of the room is a highly visible spot) and ask one smart, memorable question. I've done both and can testify that they work.

    Sitting upfront on the left is a great place to be seen -- you may find yourself sitting with the speaker before they go on stage! It's how I met Jill Konrath at one NSA event.

    And asking just one noteworthy question can get you noticed by everyone in the room. Tip: practice your question on the drive to the event, and be sure to include your name and profession in a way that's not overly "salesy."

    Overall, an excellent book if yours is a service business. Highly recommended.