With millions of how-to marketing guides, it can be difficult to choose one that is worth your time. We’ve elicited a team of experts to do the legwork for you; see what they recommend for your next good read.
It seems as if every day a new marketing book pops up on Amazon.com. But not all are worth your time. In order to save you some legwork, we’ve assembled our own book club of sorts. We asked five marketing pros to each review one of the latest reads and give us their unadulterated opinions. Read on as they share their thoughts.
The Book: All You Need is a Good Idea: How to Create Marketing Messages That Actually Get Results by Jay H. Heyman
The Reviewer: Tom Carroll, vice present of marketing and sales at Selco Custom Time, Inc. Carroll has 25 years of marketing experience.
The Verdict: Thumbs up. According to Carroll, this book shows business owners, entrepreneurs and marketers crafty ways to create strong marketing and advertising ideas that increase sales without having to invent new products, increase sales forces or find new distribution channels.
Each chapter features a real-life case study where the principles Heyman highlights have been implemented. In chapter six, “Where Do You Find a Good Idea?” the author explains how not being a golfer was a challenge in creating an ad for golf caps. By stepping outside of his sphere, the author soon found a common element among all sports: better players all had enormous awareness and focus. Thus, the ad copy came to read: “What’s the most important thing in golf? How you use your head.” This copy was joined by a close-up of a model wearing the specific cap brand.
In addition, Carroll liked the fact that the author also includes “good idea” exercises designed to get the reader’s synapses firing. Carroll is actually using several new ideas gleaned from these exercises at Selco. For example, he and his staff have taken the author’s advice to look at products with fresh eyes and no preconceived notions. Recently, an inspired Carroll took to reviewing features about the company’s products; as a result, he and his staff found holes in their current promotions. “In talking with distributors of our product, many were amazed to find that we set the time of all the watches being shipped to the time zone of the ship to address,” Carroll says. This information has always been in the company’s catalog, but hidden in the fine print. “We realized what a great selling feature this is and are planning on using it in future marketing efforts and not taking it for granted anymore that our customers know it,” Carroll says.
Carroll’s only complaint with the book? “It required me to stop and think so many times that it was often difficult to keep reading,” he says. His recommendation: Have a notepad handy so that you can jot down thoughts as you read.
The Book: Branding Only Works on Cattle: The New Way to Get Known and Drive Your Competitors Crazy by Jonathan Salem Baskin
The Reviewer: Lauron Sonnier has 20 years marketing experience. For the past 13 years, she has operated Sonnier Marketing & Communications Inc., and writes a daily marketing guide.
The Verdict: “Any reader who follows the advice and teaching of this book will make and save a ton of money,” Sonnier says. Baskin opens the book by debunking multi-million dollar ad campaigns. “Branding is a tax that your company pays for all the smart and creative people who could be delivering lots more value if they weren’t wasting their time trying to hypnotize consumers,” he writes.
While useful, the book is not a quick read, Sonnier warns. “Baskin delivers a meaty, thorough, though sometimes tedious, explanation of the demise and ineptness of traditional branding,” she says, “It might require a couple readings to digest it, but the richness of the material makes it completely worth the effort.”
Calling Baskin “brilliant in some respects” Sonnier says she admires his insight and moxie in calling the bluff on branding. For instance, in chapter one, titled “Your Branding is Useless,” he writes about Burger King’s recent campaign featuring the slightly deranged-looking King. “You know who I’m talking about. The mascot dude in the cape and crown, with that eerie plastic face frozen in a blank half-smile,” he writes. “The company’s top branding guru explained that the company had surrendered the brand to the collective conversation. And it spent many, many millions of dollars to do it. The only problem is that the King never sold a single hamburger.”
The Book: Building Buzz to Beat the Big Boys: Word of Mouth Marketing for Small Business by Steve O’Leary and Kim Sheehan
The Reviewer: Marc Kramer has been in marketing for 27 years and is the president of Kramer Communications. He also teaches at Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
The Verdict: Perfect for newbies. “The book is very good for people at the beginning of their marketing careers or technical professionals who don’t know a lot about marketing,” Kramer says. “It provides examples of different ways to use the Internet to build relationships and drive potential customers to your business by getting people to talk about and recommend a company’s product or service.” In one example, the authors talk about the importance of online communities and blogs, using a vitamin store as an example. O’Leary suggests building a Web site with a focus on health issues, selecting one specific area each day and then posting information from your vendors that may be of interest to the community. Having a source of reliable information will keep customers coming back to your site.
Kramer says the book’s basic language makes it an easy read and that the information is presented in a logical, clear format. “I would take some of the concepts for building awareness and use the ones that best fit my type of business,” he says. “For example, if I ran a craft shop I would run contests where customers would post pictures of their crafts and have other customers vote for which ones they thought were the best.”
Kramer recommends this book to “people in their twenties who are early in their marketing career and non-marketing people who want to learn about ways to leverage the Internet to market products and services.”
The Book: Relevance: Making Stuff That Matters by Tim Manners
The Reviewer: Lori Anderson is marketing manager for River’s End Trading Co., a supplier of promotional apparel.
The Verdict: “I really love the ideas in this book,” Anderson says. For example, at one point the author talks about all of the ways marketers try to gain people’s attention, including bad jingles and irrelevant direct mailing pieces. “We have spent so many years trying to catch attention with our marketing efforts, creating anything that will make someone stop and look,” Anderson says. “Most of the time the techniques are just irritating people.”
She recommends the book to anyone who is looking to delve further into what their customers are really looking for. “The book has really made me ponder topics such as: What makes my customers happy? What simple, relevant things can I do for them that would help them build their business and increase their sales? What types of apparel or what brands should we carry that would make them happy?” Anderson says.
The book offers tips for anyone interested in serving customers – from C-level executives to first-time salespeople, Anderson says. “There’s really something here for everyone.”
Katherine Schneider is staff writer for Successful Promotions.