My Reading List: A Review On Marketing Fundamentals
Posted by stephcoles
Hello, Moz fans, I’m excited to be writing my very first post on the Moz blog. My name is Stephanie, and I manage client development for Distilled in Seattle. I have had the opportunity to talk to lots of different people about their concerns over their website, their goals for the future, how they can get more links, and how they can rank higher.
As marketers, it can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind, or focus on the latest buzz words, or the newest industry change. It’s nice to take a step back and revisit some marketing basics that are really the building blocks of what we do every day. Revisiting the basics of marketing is the best way to refresh your marketing skills to help your clients succeed.
I’ve asked for recommendations from my team here at Distilled about the best books that really get at the core of what marketing is about. I spent some weeks reading through these and have reviewed my favorites below for you. Let's dive in!
UnMarketing by Scott Stratten
In the introduction, Stratten says:
“Marketing is not a task.
Marketing is not a department.
Marketing is not a job.
Marketing happens every time you engage…”
Right out of the box, Stratten gets to the point and says, "Hey, if taking the time to be genuine and build relationships is too much work for you, don’t waste your time reading this book." It’s so true. A loyal customer base isn’t made by spamming people’s inboxes, cold calling, or responding negatively to customer feedback. How do you like it when companies do that to you? I’ll tell you. You hate it.
Stratten really covers the “basics” of good customer service, which people often forget by focusing purely on the numbers. You might think, “500 people is more valuable than 10, but I can’t talk to 500 people a day, so I must blanket email 500 people today!” Don’t think like that. Spend the time to have a couple of actual conversations that will turn into relationships.
Stratten takes the reader through a narrative of stories of successful companies that got it, and the unfortunate companies that didn’t. The stories help to give life to his message and provided context to his theories to make his ideas stick with you.
One example in particular was my favorite. Stratten got an email from a social marketing executive at Ogilvy named Duri promoting a new Kraft product. Kraft was launching an at home coffee brewing system (called Tassimo) and Duri was in charge of figuring out how to effectively promote the product. Duri could have taken the easy route and spent money on ads or a bit of time on sending mass emails. But he wanted bigger, measurable results.
Instead, Duri decided to spend his time compiling then contacting a list of influential social media users to give away a free coffee maker. The hope was these people would love the product and then talk about it. This would spread the word about the new product by actual consumers – much more effective than paying tons of money on a forgettable advertisement.
Duri personally took the time to write an email to each recipient, and Stratten was one of the lucky recipients. Stratten was reassured he wasn’t being scammed because Duri did a bit of research before writing his email. He mentioned to Stratten that they lived in the same town and should meet to discuss social media. Stratten appreciated the authenticity of the message and that he was able to actually connect with Duri, and on top of that, he ended up loving the product. Win for Tassimo!
The results were fantastic, and Tassimo was increasingly talked about online and sales increased. Two months into Duri’s campaign, Tassimo was “mentioned almost 5,000 times online versus around 50 times before the campaign.” It's true that this marketing effort took more time than just buying commercial space, but it worked and was measurable. I love this because we think about marketing in the same way at Distilled. Our outreach team spends their days discovering who to contact, then making these actual connections. It takes longer, but it is so much more effective than if they were to automate the process.
All in all, a great read and something I highly recommend as a refresher on how to build your company through real relationships.
(P.S. Make sure you read the notes, they are hilarious.)
Influence by Robert Cialdini
This piece isn’t a marketing book in the traditional sense, but it discusses what every good marketer should understand: what makes people do what they do. Cialdini covers how to recognize and understand these tendencies to persuade people to say "yes."
The book is broken down into six main themes that neatly break into chapters: reciprocation, commitment and consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity. Cialdini examines each theme’s “ability to produce a distinct kind of automatic, mindless compliance from people.” Every trait (or chapter) described in the book is supported by several case studies, some Cialdini saw in the news, and some from research he (or other psychologists) completed. Let’s discuss a few chapters in more depth.
Liking: Raise your hand if you have been to a Tupperware party. You poor souls; Tupperware parties are the worst. I’ve been coerced into attending a few times, and I always leave with something I never wanted in the first place. “They made me buy it, I couldn’t say no!” I say to myself. But how? No one actually tied me down, took my money, and forced an overpriced plastic container into my hands. True, but it was a friend who hosted the party. She will make commission off of the total amount purchased, plus she graciously invited me to her house and served me dinner and drinks. I like my friend, and therefore I feel obligated to buy. I never thought about it this way until it was described in this book, and I bet a lot of other people haven’t either.
Social Proof: I found this chapter chalk-full of intriguing examples as to why people are so easily swayed to follow the crowd.
First thing discussed: laugh tracks. I cringe when I notice them, yet I know it has caused me to occasionally laugh as if on command when something wasn’t particularly funny. Hearing the sound prompts the response to reciprocate the laughter as we are “so accustomed to taking the reactions of others as evidence of what deserves laughter.” The reaction is automatic. It is slightly unsettling to think we so easily fall victim to auto pilot that we react without thinking.
Cialdini goes on to discuss how social proof is useful as it allows us to see what type of behavior is appropriate in a situation in which we are unfamiliar or uncomfortable. I compared this example to the first time I ever had sushi. I had no idea what to order or how to eat it, so I watched my friends and mimicked their every move. It worked; I made it through the meal without a major faux pas (except when trying to keep up with my friends, I tried a large amount of wasabi and about cried).
The evidence presented by Cialdini describing human nature proves useful to review as both a consumer and a sales person. As a consumer, you want to be free to make independent decisions without influences from others. As a marketer, you want to persuade people to want your product. Seeing case studies from both perspectives gives us a solid understanding of when it’s appropriate to apply these principles to get our way, and when to guard against them.
These situations and warnings are peppered throughout the book. Remember the Tupperware example? I was weak, and they profited. But in the future, I will understand where my guilty feeling is coming from and make a more informed decision.
I highly recommend this book and, although it doesn’t directly talk about how to market your business, it does talk about how people react to things and how they engage. And what did we learn from Stratten? People and their engagement make or break your business.
Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath
The pages of Made to Stick are spent exploring why some ideas stay with us and others don’t. Early on in the book, the Heath brothers follow their own model and break their book down into something easily remembered. They summarize it as, “There are two steps in making your ideas stick. Step one is to find the core, and step two is to translate the core using the SUCCESs checklist. That’s it.”
So, what is SUCCESs?
Simplicity: Get to the heart of an idea. Once you understand this, everything else will fall into place around it. Here's a quick example: Southwest Airlines is the Low-fare airline. Every decision is based on whether or not it will help them to uphold that motto.
Unexpectedness: How to get and keep people’s attention. Engage their curiosity, and show them something unexpected. I bonded well with the Nordstrom example used in the book. The Nordstrom brand is known for quality customer service. They established that reputation by teaching every employee that customer service comes before everything else. As a former employee, I saw my coworkers go above and beyond in their relationship with our customers. I saw seasoned employees hug their customers. I watched our lead sales person take care of her customer’s children while the woman ran and got a coffee. As a new employee, I was taken aback, thinking, “Shouldn’t she be selling?”
How did that employee know watching those children was the right choice? Because customer service is the most important thing. She could have made a sale during that time, or spent a few minutes checking in on other clients. True, but the customer was happily surprised with the level of service and she will be back to shop at Nordstrom. Was investing ten minutes into building a relationship worth it? Absolutely.
Concreteness: Speak in plain language everyone will understand. Have you ever been in a meeting or read an article and were just dying for an example? You just needed some way to tie down these abstract statements to something you were familiar with. In our industry, it’s easy to use our buzzwords, but that doesn’t facilitate communication. “Updating the architecture will improve the UX across the site with the aim of increasing conversions”… no. A CEO who isn’t familiar with SEO will not understand how this will help his business. Instead, try something like, “We want to make your website easier for your customers to use to help increase sales.” This the CEO will get.
Credibility: Establish a trusted source. Numbers are impersonal and easy to question. People trust people, and numbers enhance. Here's a quick example: seeing a commercial against smoking hosted by a women dying of lung cancer is much more powerful than seeing stats from the health department on how many people die from lung cancer each year. Although the commercial host isn’t a doctor, it’s clear she knows from experience the consequences of smoking and we believe her message.
Emotions: Associate your idea with something people care about. Do you remember those dog adoption commercials with Sarah McLachlan singing in the background? You’d probably already heard the song and felt sad from it. Combining that sound with the images of sad dogs (which are already emotional triggers for a lot of people) makes it difficult not to call the shelter and rescue a dog.
The most basic way to make people care is to form an association between something they don’t yet care about and something they do care about. Let’s take the example I used in the “concrete” section above about talking to a CEO. They aren’t going to care about updating the architecture of the site unless you can connect it to something they do care about, like increasing sales.
Stories: Get people to act. Stories help to inspire us into action. A good example is Jared and his Subway diet. Jared, an overweight college student, ate Subway sandwiches daily and lost considerable weight. Remember his commercials? It’s a simple message I can relate to and remember. “He lost how much?” As a customer, I think to myself, "If he can do it, so can I."
We use this idea of storytelling in everyday business. It’s the principal reason behind using case studies; they paint a clear picture about what happened and why in a way that is easy to digest and remember. Using this checklist to help frame the story is especially effective as it will ensure people don’t just hear the message, but act on it.
This checklist helps us communicate in a more effective way. We can be the smartest person in the room with the best ideas, but if we can’t communicate them well, we won’t be effective. I found this extremely helpful in refining my communication skills to maintain a successful work life and my own sanity. This book is a must-read for everyone.
UnMarketing, Influence, and Made to Stick aren’t about internet marketing in particular – or even specifically about marketing, for that matter – but they all teach us how to be more effective communicators. Preparing for this post, I created a book list and read several of the following books, but I have more to go. I've listed them below and I encourage you to check them out, as well.
- The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
- Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki
- Guerrilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson
- Brandwashed by Martin Lindstrom
- Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
- Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy
- The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
- Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
- Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout
- Good to Great by Jim Collins
- Switch: How to Change When Things are Hard by Chip and Dan Heath
I would love to hear other recommendations of books to add to this list in the comments below. Happy reading!
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