My 13 Favorite Business Books of 2009

As 2009 comes to a close, I want to share my thirteen favorite biz books from this year that I found myself writing the most “Notes in the Back of the Book“, and stimulating the greatest new thinking and ideas. The list of books covers social media, marketing and new marketing models, and innovation and leadership. For reference, here are also business book favorites by Fast Company, Mashable, Amazon and The Brand Bubble (John Gerzema).

If you’re looking to better understand and excel in today’s social media and web 2.0 worlds, here are four: Inbound Marketing is a must for anyone who wants to be found online, and is especially helpful for anyone who is actively considering how to get started with inbound marketing. Written by the leaders of Hubspot, they know what they’re talking about. Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julian Smith shows how people use online social tools to build networks of influence and how you can tap into the power of these networks to positively impact your business. Because trust is essential to building online reputations, those who traffic trust are “trust agents” and key people for any business.  Putting the Public Back into Public Relations shows how to reinvent PR around two-way conversations with traditional and new influencers, bringing the “public” back into public relations. Both are consistent thought leaders in the area of PR. Web Analytics 2.0 by Avinash Kaushik begins to bring accountability to web 2.0 online programs with focus on customer- centered thinking and measurement, and builds upon his 2007 book.

Of course, to participate in our ever changing digital and social world, strategic marketing and a deep customer focus are still paramount.  How is marketing evolving? In Marketing with Meaning, Bob Gilbreath outlines the next evolutionary step in a progression following direct marketing and permission marketing. The book calls for the end of “push and sell” marketing in favor of adding value to customers’ lives. Excelling in marketing also starts with listening…In Listen First. Sell Later, Bob Poole outlines the benefits of listening FIRST. And to remind us about customer- centered marketing, I Love You More Than My Dog by Jeanne Bliss is a great read. Who can argue that companies like Lands End didn’t get it right early on? Continue reading

Avoiding the Tropicana squeeze…What do your best customers deeply appreciate about you?

…back in the saddle after a few tough weeks of keeping up with a few sizable family health issues and keeping up with the work…

So much of a marketers time is spent thinking about how to build brand awareness and attract new consumers…

BUT it seems that even the best marketers overlook –or don’t test with enough rigor –what changes and improvements to attract new users will mean to current customers and loyalists (if we can even continue to use this term in the 21st century…).

New Coke is perhaps the most famous example….but there have been many others…back in November, a new Motrin IB ad campaign incited both non-customers and customers alike to twitter and complain so much about the new ad that within 48 hours J&J appologized and announced its withdrawl from the marketplace.

Most recently…Pepsi’s Tropicana Orange juice (NYT) brought on its own PR nightmare with the launch of its new packaging and “Squeeze” advertising campaign. Most of the negative buzz surrounded the new carton packaging which loyal consumers found both difficult to distinguish at the grocery shelf [“Do any of these package-design people actually shop for orange juice?” the writer of one e-mail message asked rhetorically. “Because I do, and the new cartons stink.”] and devoid of the imagery that they have come to associate with their Tropicana brand…and yes, many, including me, at first glance thought the new carton was a new generic OJ brand…  Continue reading

Who’s using social media to help stop the peanut butter spread of fear?

My friend Janet Johnson and long time blogger and social media expert…wrote of her recent learning as she helped her client Academic Network spring into action as the news of the Salmonella Typhimurium began to unfold. (They’re a Stericycle company, whose job it is to help manage recalled peanut and peanut paste products by getting them out of stores and destroying them.)

Having set up the listening systems for her client, they were able to listen and anticipate–predicting things before it hit the broader media.

Anticipating Risks to Mitigate Them

To illustrate this, Janet writes in Stop Spreading Peanut Butter Fear:

“We started monitoring the web (Twitter, Facebook, other social media sites) for conversations about peanuts, and the experience was quite amazing.

Some highlights:

  • We were able to predict the spread of the recall from people to pet food – days before any announcement
  • We predicted the spread of fear from peanut products to peanut butter in jars weeks before peanut butter jar sales dropped off by 25%
  • We reached out to associations (like the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association and the American Peanut Council) to help them handle the huge job of getting the right information out to people online. No one listened.
  • People talk about peanut butter online a lot (probably second only to bacon) and we watched the hysteria grow exponentially the day after the inauguration, when Tweets and posts like this appeared:

…and it really hasn’t stopped. Victims of the peanut recall are not only the poor unfortunate souls, families and pets who ate the tainted stuff; but the businesses who are losing millions in sales of perfectly good products.  Continue reading

Are you fully listening and absorbing what your customers are saying about you?

If you’re looking for the best “listening platform” to help monitor your brand in today’s marketplace, take a look at Forester’s new Wave report at Visable Technologies  (Courtesy of Peter Kim).

“In response to marketers’ changing needs, brand monitoring vendors are evolving to offer a more strategic and comprehensive platform.”  Forrester defines “listening platforms” as those that deliver insights to shape marketing strategy rather than simply tracking metrics.

A technology and analytics infrastructure that mines a wide variety of traditional, online, and social sources to extract and deliver insights that shape a firm’s marketing strategy.” 

Evaluating vendors across 62 criteria, Forrester found  Nielsen BuzzMetrics and TNS Cymfony to be the two early leaders due to their strong balance of data collection, analytics and consulting services.  Continue reading