Business Books and Novels

Books wanted, books aplenty = book swap

6a00d8341c660f53ef017c34726adc970b-piThis year May my partner and I moved house, not one of our favourite tasks. In the spare bedroom we found boxes from the last move, their content still in there: books, books and books. I'm a fervent reader and over the years bought plenty of books, from novels to business and advice books. Too many for the Oak bookcase (bought new three years ago to hold the most appreciated ones close by) to handle.

The boxes got moved again - under much grumbling of my partner - and the content still isn't unpacked, 'cos where are spare bedrooms good for anyway? 

It did got me thinking though, after a (again) discussion with my partner about the multitude of books I've seemed to have gathered. When we moved from the Netherlands to the UK in 2000, many of my book possessions were given away, how could I have increased the numbers of books to the level of before our big move? Easy, I love reading! (Nowadays the number of books bought is drastically reduced, due to becoming a library member - I still read 2 - 3 books weekly though.)

Idea - I can't be the only one

This thinking process started by my "excuse" to my partner: I can't be the only one in this situation! How many of you have the same "problem" of overflowing bookcases, boxes filled with books you haven't found a reason to get rid of (yet)? Becoming a library member has indeed helped with buying new books, but that still leaves the problem of all the existing books - will they be simply moved again when the next home move comes around without having been out of the box at all? And the number of boxes has grown since the last move.

So, deciding I'm definitely not the only one I decided to create a kind of membership site, where like minded people can swap books. Going one on one with swapping books would be asking too much: what would be the chance of you having the book I want and me having the book you want? Strength in numbers is called for here. Hence the membership site.


Setting up the site has been quite easy, using Joomla, finding the needed components and add-ons took a bit more time (in between the normal daily working tasks), but it is here: the Book-Swap-Place

It contains a forum - accessible for members only - with three categories:

  1. I'm looking for...
  2. I've got....
  3. Try out area

where members can swap/sell/purchase any books they have aplenty or that they are looking for or find fervent readers willing to give comments on stories (fact or fiction) people are writing/have written.

Plus, since more and more people are publishing their own content (through PoD - Publishing on Demand - or as E-book), a dedicated listing for "Publications by Members"

Subscription to access and interact on the forum is a measly £ 1.00 (or £10.00 = 12 months for the price of 10), having your own publication added to the listings is £ 15.00 (and includes the membership's fee).

The more, the merrier

As with all membership's sites: the more people involved, the better the site will work, therefore all pages contain social media links/likes to get all your friends along and join in the fun. Because, lets be honest: reading (and writing) is fun!

And it is not just limited to UK readers, online can - and will - reach global readers (and I've got plenty of books in Dutch that need a different home than the boxes they've been in for years!). so, no matter where you live, join the Book-Swap-Place and get swapping

Recharge - Rework

When we moved home last June we closed the showroom on Sundays - before we only had to cross the road, now it is a 10 minute drive. Thinking I would find more time to write on these now leisure days - even wrote about it here - things turned out differently, even after the weather turned and no more Sundays spent in the sunny garden or on walks (to the local pub - a walk of 25 minutes on its own).

Recharge Sundays


On dark and wet Sundays of late I did write, but not as presumed for this blog. Marketing projects and ideas for our business took prevalence over general ponderings on business. Plus I rekindled my baking hobby!

There's nothing more satisfying than plunging your hands in sticky bread dough. No cheating with a bread machine here. Experimenting with ingredients, with temperatures and baking time takes your mind of the tasks and sometimes worries of the working days. I've come to call these days my recharging Sundays. It is a known fact that when you stop thinking about matters that occupy your mind normally, ideas, solutions and aha moments seem to pup up in the more relaxed mind of busy people. It recharges the battery, and you start the week revitalised (and with home made bread in the lunch box with as treat a slice of raisin and current bread!)

There are Sundays the only thing that enter my head is the lovely sweet smell of fresh muffins or biscuits (the Dutch spiced biscuits spekulaas as current favourite).
Might even write a (e)book on the subject"Recharge Sundays", filled with little tips and recipes for other retail and trade businesses like us, working 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year. It might just changed the way they think about work, it has changed mine (for the better),

Which brings me nicely to the book review I'd planned to write months ago:

ReWork: Change the Way You Work Forever

second book by 37Signal owners Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.

Bite-size snippets of wisdom where almost none of the chapters is longer than 1.5 pages. And at the same tine showing/teaching you everything about being in business a MBA graduate adviser tells you not to do. If you want to start or grow/improve your business it is a must read, you will worry less and succeed sooner.


Don't Write It Down (page 164)
How should you keep track of what customers want? Don't. Listen, but then forget what people said. Seriously.
There's no need for a spreadsheet, database, or filing system. The requests that really matter are the ones you'll hear over and over. After a while you won't be able to forget them. Your customers will be your memory. They'll keep reminding you. They'll show you which things you truly need to worry about.
If there's a request that you keep forgetting, that's a sign that it isn't very important. The really important stuff doesn't go away.

Another snippet (from the introduction): They - the critics - say you need to sell to the Fortune 500. Screw that. We sell to the Fortune 5,000,000
Another gem of advise can be found in Building to flip is building to flop (page 59): you need a commitment strategy, not an exit strategy.

Some books should b e compulsory reading, when we opened a business account with Barclay we received Kick-Start Your Business: 100 Days to a Leaner, Fitter Organisation (Virgin Business Guides) by Robert Craven. Where Robert's book gives you plenty of practicalbusiness advise on starting/running your business, Rework should be added to any new business account opening package for the sake of business attitude and long term strategy.

Let me give you some further chapter tittles to wet your appetite:

  • Out-teach your competition
  • Press releases are spam
  • The myth of the overnight sensation
  • Don't scar on the first cut (side note for UK readers: this is where the Big Society Idea is all about IMHO)
  • Start a business, not a start-up
  • Learning from mistakes is overrated
  • Enough with "Entrepreneurs" (side-note: Robert Craven should read this, he will have a field day ;-))
  • Mission statement impossible
  • Go to sleep
  • Let your customers outgrow you
  • Decisions are temporary

Go on, you know you want to read this, if it is only to fulfill your curiosity to find out what's behind the chapter tittles. And curiosity is a great characteristic to have as business person.

171 Authors Take the Online Marketing Conversation to Print | Age of Conversation

Aoc3-cover New York, NY (May 07, 2010)—Almost three years ago, an online conversation between two marketing pros—an American and an Australian—evolved into a collaborative writing effort by more than 100 bloggers from nine countries, and was aptly titled The Age of Conversation.  Fast forward to today and the abstract experiment is now a concrete treatise on the state of social media and marketing best practices as a whole. With Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton still firmly at the helm, the third book in the Age of Conversation series has become a veritable “who’s who” of the world’s leading marketing bloggers.  Age of Conversation 3 (202 pages; hardcover; paperback; Kindle; ePub) was published by new digital publishing company Channel V Books (, and is now available through all major online retailers, as a Kindle e-book, and will soon be available as an ePub for other digital readers.

Age of Conversation 3 captures the distinct shift from social media as a hypothetical consumer loyalty tool, as it was considered only a little more than a year ago, to its current state as a staple in the modern marketing toolbox.  Although the book covers more than just social media, the topic is ubiquitous among the book’s 10 sections: At the Coalface; Identities, Friends and Trusted Strangers; Conversational Branding; Measurement; Corporate Conversations; In the Boardroom; Innovation and Execution; Influence; Getting to Work; and Pitching Social Media.

“We have seen an incredible shift in the role of social media over the past three years. It has moved from an outlier in the marketing mix to one of the strategic pillars of any corporate marketing or branding exercise,” said Drew McLellan. “And it doesn’t end there,” adds Gavin Heaton. “As the many authors of this new book explain, the focus may be on conversation, but you can’t participate in a conversation from the sidelines. It’s all about participation. And this book provides you with 171 lessons in this new art”.


My own contribution can be found in the "At The Coalface" section:

"Building your business one question at the time"

All proceeds of this third Age of Conversation will be donated to an international children’s charity. You can "meet" all the 171 authors here (with links to their own websites/blogs) and follow them on Twitter through the AoC3 list here

The book is also available on and if you use the links below I will make sure the "rewards" I receive from Amazon's affiliate program will go towards the AoC3 charity of choice.

For the paperback version:

For the hardback version:

About Influence, perceived Authority and Freedom

The last set of books I bought from Amazon also counted one I had already read - but then a revised version of it (and I do tend to re-read books anyway, so no harm done really).

Robert Cialdine's "Influence, the Psychology of Persuation" - revised


Robert's book focuses on how we human beings so often take the easy way out when it comes to making a decision. A decision to buy something, to accept something, to agree to something and many other daily decisions. From fairly simple matters to big life changing matters. We tend to take the easy way out.

He calls it the click/whir reaction: we encounter a situation that requires us to think and decide, something triggers the easy way-out option (the click, the correct tape is placed in our head) and we take an almost snap decision (the whir, the standard message on the tape - or here: the triggered standard reaction onto which we base our decision).

Triggers: reciprocity, commitment and consistency, authority, social proof, liking and scarcity

Some triggers are scary reading: the title of doctor has proven to be enough to follow instructions that could (has) result(ed) in administering wrong medicine (by highly trained nurses), the pin-striped suit is enough for a crowd to cross a busy road because a pin-striped suit does so and they simply follow.

And we all do, because authority and social proof of what others do, say gives us the easy way out and we don't have to think (takes time, plus we risk missing out) for ourselves. We're trained in this click/whir response since childhood.
(Funny example of this click/whir reaction can also be seen on Drew McLellan's blog in his post "How potent can brand be?")

Cialdini gives per trigger solutions or realisations to prevent you from being persuaded by this click/whir reaction - hard to do when it seems to be ingrained in our Western Society.

Eric Frank Russell's The Great Explosion

The book, specially the chapter about authority, reminded me also of one of my long time favourite Science Fiction Novel: The Great Explosion - Eric Frank Russell. The only real science fiction bit is the characters travel in a space ship, the classic book is more about bureaucracy and mindless following of rules (indeed. again click/whir).

To make my point how ingrained we are I copied the following from The Great Explosion to show how we (often mistakenly) accept authority to know it all, to guide us. The copied text starts when a crew-member is sent into a nearby town on the planet the ship has just landed on and first tries to find the government/authority have failed (misserable). His quest to comply with the orders he received goes like this:

Tenth Engineer Harrison reached the first street on either side of which were small detached houses with neat gardens back and front. A plump, amiable looking woman was trimming a hedge halfway along. He pulled up near to her, politely touched his cap.

“Scuse me, ma’am, I’m looking for the biggest man in town.”

She part-turned, gave him no more than a casual glance, pointed her clipping-shears southward. “That would be Jeff Baines. First on the right and second on the left. It’s a small delicatessen.”

“Thank you.”

He moved on, hearing the steady snip-snip resume behind him. First on the right. He curved around a long, low, rubber-balled truck parked by the corner. Second on the left. Three children pointed at him dramatically and yelled shrill warnings that his back wheel was going round. He found the delicatessen, propped a pedal on the curb, gave his machine a reassuring pat before he went inside and had a look at Jeff.
There was plenty to see. Jeff had four chins, a twenty-two inch neck, and a paunch that stuck out half a yard. An ordinary mortal could have got into either leg of his pants without bothering to take off his diving suit. Jeff Baines weighed at least three hundred pounds and undoubtedly was the biggest man in town.

“Wanting something?” inquired Jeff, lugging it up from far down.

“Not exactly.” Harrison eyed the succulent food display and decided that anything unsold by nightfall was not thrown out to the cats. “I’m looking for a certain person.”

“Are you now? Usually I avoid that sort—but every man to his taste.” He plucked a fat lip while he mused a moment, then suggested, “Try Sid Wilcock over on Dane Avenue. He’s the most certain man I know.”

“I didn’t mean it that way,” said Harrison. “I meant that I’m searching for somebody particular.”

“Then why the blazes didn’t you say so in the first place?” Jeff Baines worked over the new problem, finally offered, “Tod Green ought to fit that specification topnotch. You’ll find him in the shoe-shop at the end of this road. He’s particular enough for anyone. He’s downright finicky.”

“You persist in misunderstanding me,” Harrison told him and then went on to make it plainer. “I’m hunting a local bigwig so that I can invite him to a feed.”

Resting himself on a high stool which he overlapped by a foot all round, Jeff Baines eyed him peculiarly. “There’s something lopsided about this. Indeed, it seems crazy to me.”


“You’re going to use up a considerable slice of your life finding a fellow who wears a wig, especially if you insist that it’s got to be a big one. And then again, where’s the point of dumping an ob on him merely because he uses a bean-blanket?”


He groaned low down, then informed, “I’m chasing the mayor.”

“What is that?”

“Number one. The big boss. The sheriff, pohanko, or whatever you call him.”

“I’m still no wiser,” she said, genuinely puzzled.

“The man who runs this town. The leading citizen.”

“Make it a little clearer,” she suggested, trying hard to help him. “Who or what should this citizen be leading?”

“You and Seth and everyone else.” He waved a hand to encompass the entire burg.

Frowning, she asked, “Leading us where?”

“Wherever you’re going.”

She gave up, beaten, and signed the white-coated waiter to come to her assistance.

“Matt, are we going any place?”

“How should I know?”

“Well, ask Seth then.”

He went away, came back with, “Seth says he’s going home at six o’clock and what’s it to you?”

“Anyone leading him there?” she inquired.

“Don’t be daft,” Matt advised. “He knows his own way and he’s cold sober.”

Harrison chipped in. “Look, I don’t see why there should be so much difficulty about all this. Just tell me where I can find an official, any official—the police chief, the city treasurer, the mortuary keeper or even a mere justice of the peace.”

“What’s an official?” asked Matt, openly baffled.

The complete story is available online here - look for chapter 9 if you want to find out immediately if Harrision did manage to find an official - it does make you think about what we have come to take for granted.

Freedom to decide for ourselves does seem - again - further away from us than ever. Until we realise that the click/whir response is making the decisions and not our own free mind.

Freedom - I won't (#f_iw)

Introducing the Age of Conversation 3 Authors | Age of Conversation

(From the desk of "Age of Conversation")

It has taken some time to come together, but the new book, Age of Conversation 3: It’s time to get busy!, is in its final stages. Very soon you will be able to purchase it directly from Amazon or a number of other online book stores. The new cover, as you can see below, was designed by Chris Wilson. And this, our new site, was designed and built by Craig Wilson and the hard working team at Sticky Advertising.

Cover of The Age of Conversation 3

We’re excited to be at this stage of the process. The quality of thinking throughout the book is of the highest calibre – as would be expected from such an illustrious group.

This year, all proceeds go to an international children’s charity

When the "call to contribute" came end of last year I submitted my 400 words too (and sticking the 400 words is very, very hard for me as some of you might know!)

All the contributors for the 3rd edition are:

Adam Joseph

Priyanka Sachar

Mark Earls

Cory Coley-Christakos

Stefan Erschwendner

Paul Hebert

Jeff De Cagna

Thomas Clifford

Phil Gerbyshak

Jon Burg

Toby Bloomberg

Shambhu Neil Vineberg

Joseph Jaffe

Uwe Hook

Steve Roesler

Michael E. Rubin

anibal casso

Steve Woodruff

Steve Sponder

Becky Carroll

Tim Tyler

Chris Wilson

Beth Harte

Tinu Abayomi-Paul

Dan Schawbel

Carol Bodensteiner

Trey Pennington

David Weinfeld

Dan Sitter

Vanessa DiMauro

Ed Brenegar

David Zinger

Brett T. T. Macfarlane

Efrain Mendicuti

Deb Brown

Brian Reich

Gaurav Mishra

Dennis Deery

C.B. Whittemore

Gordon Whitehead

Heather Rast

Cam Beck

Hajj E. Flemings

Joan Endicott

Cathryn Hrudicka

Jeroen Verkroost

Karen D. Swim

Christopher Morris

Joe Pulizzi

Leah Otto

Corentin Monot

Karalee Evans

Leigh Durst

David Berkowitz

Kevin Jessop

Lesley Lambert

Duane Brown

Peter Korchnak

Mark Price

Dustin Jacobsen

Piet Wulleman

Mike Maddaloni

Ernie Mosteller

Scott Townsend

Nick Burcher

Frank Stiefler

Steve Olenski

Rich Nadworny

John Rosen

Tim Jackson

Suzanne Hull

Len Kendall

Amber Naslund

Wayne Buckhanan

Mark McGuinness

Caroline Melberg

Andy Drish

Oleksandr Skorokhod

Claire Grinton

Angela Maiers

Paul Williams

Gary Cohen

Armando Alves

Sam Ismail

Gautam Ramdurai

B.J. Smith

Tamera Kremer

Eaon Pritchard

Brendan Tripp

Adelino de Almeida

Jacob Morgan

Casey Hibbard

Andy Hunter

Julian Cole

Debra Helwig

Anjali Ramachandran

Jye Smith

Drew McLellan

Craig Wilson

Karin Hermans

Emily Reed

David Petherick

Katie Harris

Gavin Heaton

Dennis Price

Mark Levy

George Jenkins

Doug Mitchell

Mark W. Schaefer

Helge Tenno

Douglas Hanna

Marshall Sponder

James Stevens

Ian Lurie

Ryan Hanser

Jenny Meade

Jeff Larche

Sacha Tueni and Katherine Maher

David Svet

Jessica Hagy

Simon Payn

Joanne Austin-Olsen

Mark Avnet

Stanley Johnson

Marilyn Pratt

Mark Hancock

Steve Kellogg

Michelle Beckham-Corbin

Michelle Chmielewski

Amy Mengel

Veronique Rabuteau

Peter Komendowski

Andrea Vascellari

Timothy L Johnson

Phil Osborne

Beth Wampler

Amy Jussel

Rick Liebling

Eric Brody

Arun Rajagopal

Dr Letitia Wright

Hugh de Winton

David Koopmans

Aki Spicer

Jeff Wallace

Don Frederiksen

Charles Sipe

Katie McIntyre

James G Lindberg & Sandra Renshaw

David Reich

Lynae Johnson

Jasmin Tragas

Deborah Chaddock Brown

Mike O'Toole

Jeanne Dininni

Iqbal Mohammed

Morriss M. Partee

Katie Chatfield

Jeff Cutler

Pete Jones

Riku Vassinen

Jeff Garrison

Kevin Dugan

Tiphereth Gloria

Mike Sansone

Lori Magno

Valerie Simon

Nettie Hartsock

Mark Goren

Peter Salvitti

I blame Amazon

Once you start ordering books and other stuff from they know to find you with recommendations. Fairly targeted recommendations too - well, most of the time - based on your previous purchases and searches (plus I think the items you place in your wish-list).

More of the same, but different.

Roughly three weeks ago one of those recommendation emails landed in my inbox and because I didn't have anything new to read at that time I had a proper look at the recommendations. Two writers I recognised, owning books from their "pen" already, one sounded vaguely familiar and had an interesting title for his book.

So, click, click, click and 2 days later three books arrived. I decided to start with the one from the unknown writer Daniel H Pink. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (see my pre-review from earlier).

When I finished this excellent book I turned to Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? How to Drive Your Career and Create a Remarkable Future by Seth Godin. To discover almost immediately it covers the same subject as Drive.

But then in a quite different way. Obviously: because both writers are different writers with different styles, different experiences, different histories, different.... you name it and probably I'll agree with you.

  • Motivation, rewards, joy, engagement, cog or artist, Type I or Type X - it's in both books.
  • Both have the starting point of the turn of the century and how the economy has changed the way we need/want/should work or at least be engaged in work/how we view what work is.
  • Both put their finger on the pain, both detail why and how come, both suggest the best ways for us to "adjust" - in the best meaning of the word.
  • And both list plenty of examples of companies, businesses and individuals who've "turned" the tide, sometimes (most times?) against the tide. They only use different words (see, another difference).

I wrote about Drive before I finished it, I'm now writing about Linchpin before I've finished it. I truly enjoyed Drive, I'm truly enjoying Linchpin. Both tell me my "gut-feeling" has been right all along: it is definitely all right to put your head above the parapet, it is definitely all right to claim I love my work without having to make the excuse that "times are hard so we need to make long hours and long days", it's definitely proper business sense to change the rules, to not only be in the "supply & install" business but also in the education business and fill our website with free information (to just name one example of our business concept that seems alien to most).

The difference?

The main difference between Drive and Linchpin IMHO is the method (the word "style" does not really fit here) both writers use:

Dan H. Pink gives you science and tests to make his point, in a logical order
Seth Godin gives you his gut feelings in a kind of hopscotch way of writing (which I found is his "preferrred" way in most of his recent books).

Which one is better? Really believe that's not of any importance, if you like a more scientific approach, go for Drive, if you like a more pondering style, go for Linchpin - or read both ;-)

One way or the other you discover the essence of it is more the way you might start behaving, might change your ways (in business and person) then discussing which book portraits this idea better.

Have fun, no matter which book you opt for and remember: reading should be both fun and stimulating - both writers manage to do this.

(And the third book I bought at the same time? Coincidentally it is also more about psychology than business concept or marketing - although you always pick up a few ideas for those areas along the way. Turns out the 3rd book is a revised edition of an excellent book I've already devoured: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini. Oh well, could always give it away as well intended gift - anyone?)

BTW, amazon does not always get it right - it keeps recommending E-Mail Marketing Dynamite to me, although I already indicated I own the book. Of course I own the book, we're one of the case-studies in it!


What really drives us?

In the very very old days it was the next meal, the next shelter what drove us on - just to survive. When human intelligence/innovations evolved, our drives evolved with it.

The certainty of the next meal was planned ahead:

  • sowing seed, harvesting the results, storing the harvest for meagre times;
  • hunting in groups, taming/domestication of animals, animals as "instant" food

The certainty of shelter became obsolete:

  • hides of the hunt were made into mobile tents, fixed huts
  • trees provided both fire and huts/homes

Human drive changed/evolved(?) to gathering the most, the best, the most beautiful; with more time on our hands to become masters of what we could do, arts evolved: from showing how well organised the tribe was (to have time left to create art) to dedicating your whole life to do just that: learning, mastering an art, a "craft". The age of master craftsmen.

So what happened to us modern humans when the world we created ourselves evolved more and more to make our lives easier, more organised and planned? Did we all became master craftsmen?

Somewhere along the line something went horribly wrong: the majority of us has been turned back to the drive for the next meal, the next shelter, the next pay-check - just to "survive".

The majority of us are "managed" from our school days till (and beyond) our pension, motivated with the carrot and stick: do well and you are rewarded, do not well and you are punished. Our "managers" believe the majority of us should be hold in line, otherwise we'll slick and won't do our jobs, won't have the drive to "produce", won't (be able to) save for meagre times, and even wouldn't know what to do with our time.
Are the "lucky" ones the managers, those who decide what should drive us? Carrot and Stick for them too: manage well and be rewarded, manage not well and be punished - just like the rest of us.

Is that what really drives us? Carrot and Stick?

Sobering thoughts, depressing thoughts really. Is that all there is for us modern humans?

Of course not - the above is too black and white (for most, but spare a thought for all those in the treadmills of not knowing where the next slice of bread is coming from). The above are my ponderings, mesmerised by the book I'm reading at the moment:

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us - by Daniel H. Pink

I'm truly mesmerised by it (only halfway through the book at the moment) and truly grateful for my own position: independent retailer, entrepreneur. And I fully agree with the following quote from Daniel's book:

"We're born to be players, not pawns. We're meant to be autonomous individuals, not individual automatons."

More and more businesses, companies are turning away from the Carrot and Stick (Motivation 2.0) approach it seems, having discovered that this principle no longer has its place in the 21th century. More and more are turning to a different, IMHO more closer to our human instincts, principle of motivation, based on the Self-Determination Theory: supporting our natural or intrinsic tendencies to behave in effective and healthy ways.

"Drive" explains that "the secret to high performance and satisfaction—at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world".

Sounds like we are once again on our way to become master craftsmen after all.

(Looking forward to reading the rest of this book during my early morning treat: still in jimjams, first cup of coffee and a good book.)

Seth's Blog: Can't top this = incentive to read: Collapse of Distinction

For weeks now I'm trying to find time to write another book review, but other - more pressing - business tasks keep coming up (good ones though, don't take me wrong).

But today Seth Godin made this task a little easier by posting this:

Can't top this

Getting someone to switch is really difficult.

Getting someone to switch because you offer more of what they were looking for when they choose the one they have now is essentially impossible. For starters, they're probably not looking for more. And beyond that, they'd need to admit that they were wrong for not choosing you in the first place.

So, you don't get someone to switch because you're cheaper than Walmart. You don't get someone to switch because you serve bigger portions than the big-portion steakhouse down the street. You don't get someone to switch because your hospital is more famous than the Mayo Clinic.

The chances that you can top a trusted provider on the very thing the provider is trusted for are slim indeed.

Instead, you gain converts by winning at something the existing provider didn't think was so important.


And that is exactly what "The Collapse of Distinction: Overcoming the Stifling Sameness of Today's Marketplace " is all about: don't try to add incremental differences between you and your competitor - it is a waste of money, effort and time.

Scott McKain starts his excellent book by remembering his childhood in a little town in the US where two local diners suddenly experienced the "fast-food" chains. One business didn't take long to fold, the other survived as if the fast-food giants weren't even there.

Collapse of Distinction contains many more examples and steps to take yourself to "Stand out from the crowd" - beginning with the three dangers every business faces when competing:

  1. incremental differences,
  2. new competition and
  3. familiarity does not bread contempt it breads complacency

Scott answers these dangers with 4 pieces of advice you should implement in that order:

  • Clarity,
  • Creativity,
  • Communication and
  • Customer Service

It is a great read - the only thing I did not like is Scott's dislike of the IMHO greatest book of all: Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't by Jim Collins and co, but then I'm biased on this subject. I can't see the difference between Scot's "Clarity" advice and Jim's "Hedge Hog Concept" advice. But I leave that for you to decide for yourselves.

Thanks again to my personal librarian Drew McLellan for recommending this book to me.

Email Marketing Dynamite!

BookcoverEMDEmail marketing has become a 'set-piece' for businesses small and large. Still many small businesses and trades think "it's not for our type of business/trade". Believe me - and others - they are wrong: email marketing benefits any type of business.

If you belong to the group of 'doubters' and/or don't know where to start with email marketing the right way to prevent being branded a 'spammer', a great book is about to be launched.

Ed Rivis' second book "Email Marketing Dynamite" not only contains practical advice and tips on how to start this profitable and cost-effective type of marketing, it also contains 10 interviews with business owners/marketing managers from a range of industries and trades on how they use email marketing to grow their business in sometimes spectacular ways.

  • Read how a plumber generated 13 solid sales in the first few weeks of his new email marketing tactics
  • how a business selling clothing and textiles made from Bambo (ideal for those with a sensitive skin) created 20 sales with an average order value of £ 100.00 with one email which only took 1 hour to write
  • how a specialised retailer (we, Wood You Like!) has one specific simple email marketing tactic that continues to generate 11% of their total turnover
  • how an independent printing company only has to send one specific email to a specific segment of his list to get a repeat sale
  • and more more "live" examples

The book starts off with a rather poignant and witty "In Memoriam" from "The Company Who Didn't Appear to Care".

"We failed to embrace modern methods of customer communication that would have prevented you from forgetting about us and buying from our competitors instead."

Make sure your business doesn't end up with a sort-like memoriam. If you hurry you still might be able to pre-register your interest in Ed's book and get the opportunity to buy it for just the P&P cost and receive special bonuses (I've seen/read/used them, they are more than worthwhile!) on the day it launches (TBA, but coming very soon!).

Trust Agents - Do you or Are you?

Social Media is a strange beast - a nice, intriguing strange beast that is.

Take my "personal Librarian" Drew McLellan. How and when we 'met' I can't remember (90% chance is was through Liz Strauss, who I've 'met' years ago when I just started this Kiss2 blog around the same time the Z-list discussion happened).
When Drew reviews a book on his blog I've come to trust his recommendations and if I think if will suit our business practise there is a 95% chance I purchase the book. So too when I read this:   

Are you a trust agent? Do you need to be?

by Drew McLellan

Chris Brogan (one of social media's Godfathers) and Julien Smith, a trend analyst and expert on building communities have released a new book, Trust Agents

The subtitle pretty much tells you what to expect....using the web to build influence, improve reputation and earn trust.  And that's exactly what the book focuses on. Sort of.

The book defines 6 characteristics of trust agents:


And I wasn't disappointed.

Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust is a novelty IMHO, the way it is written is 'peculiar' - not your standard list or steps to take to become the object of the title. It's that gut-feeling so hard to describe Chris and Julien manage to explain with great examples and which reveals own experiences:

"Givers Gain" - or as they put it:

"That is what evolves naturally. If you act like a good citizen, and you feel like One of Us, the benefits arise without much thoughts - good things happen to good people."

Always my own first and foremost important tip on who to become a trust agent too:

Be passionate about giving!

My experience is this comes indeed natural to most popular trust agents. No hidden objectives.
Forums - mostly a forgotten subject in Social Media reports, discussions, books - are a great place to become known as a trust agent. It's done and doing wonders for our business, including multiple incoming links to our main website and FAQ blog (and even webshop). The links we place ourselves and because the forum owners trust us not to abuse the forum we are allowed this, although they have a strict non-advertising rule.


No hidden objectives: the forum members know we run a business; my twitter, blog and facebook, LinkedIn contacts/friends know I have a 'second career' in webmarketing.

Give unrelenting - don't expect gain. Now that's a strange mindset but the only one that works!
Give value and you will always gain.

In Chris and Julien's Trust Agents there is also a perfect question (page 200) that illustrates one of my pet-hates on no replies to emails or comments:

"You don't give blank stares to people who ask you questions, so why its digital equivalent?"

Thanks for another great recommendation Drew, you were - as always - spot on: Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith is a novel must read for anyone using Social Media to enhance his/her business - the right way.