B-to-B Insight: More Summer Reading
It was with great joy that my wife, Lynne, and I recently moved our eldest daughter, Michelle, to New York City to start her new career in advertising. As soon as she graduated from the University of Southern California with a double degree in Communications and Spanish in May, she hit the streets of Manhattan and landed her first “real” job in Hispanic marketing. She has always had a great deal of passion for the Spanish language and the cultures that accompany it.
Michelle is eager to learn her new craft in advertising and direct marketing. However, as I look at this young upstart—through the eyes of an employer, not a father—I realize she has so much to learn.
Keeping her future aspirations in mind, she recently asked how I learned all I know about direct marketing. I told her that while work experience is important, much of my expertise comes from the hundreds of marketing books I’ve read, some of them many times over. This, I told her, will shorten her learning curve. “OK Dad,” she said, “so what should I read? If you give me a reading list, I’ll do just that.”
Remembering that I prepared a summer reading list for Target Marketing readers last year, I told my daughter that I would forward it to her. My wife, a former journalist, quickly popped into the conversation: “Russell, why don’t you prepare an updated reading list containing all the books you’ve found valuable in the past 12 months, as well as the must-reads for anyone seeking to expand their marketing skills? This way you can help Michelle and your readers.”
So, as a man who loves to kill two birds with one stone, I am offering you and my daughter the second annual “How to Make a Million Dollars in Direct Marketing” summer reading list.
The Best B-to-B Marketing Book of 2006
• “Lead Generation for the Complex Sale: Boost the Quality and Quantity of Leads to Increase Your ROI” by Brian Carroll. This new release is a must-read for any direct marketer who wants to acquire a solid foundation of multichannel integrated marketing methods for high-end, complex products. Carroll does an outstanding job of presenting a proven approach to generating qualified leads. Not only has he synthesized how to blend consultative, competitive and team-selling approaches to target potential buyers, while culminating a complex sales transaction, but he presents specific examples on how to define and evaluate your sales leads. He offers clear and highly informative cases on targeting your sales approaches; aligning sales and marketing to optimize the number of leads without wasting marketing resources; filling lead pipelines; and using multiple lead generation vehicles, including e-mail, PR, referrals and speaking events, to start and close a complex sale.
What makes Carroll’s book so valuable to marketers is that it goes beyond the concepts of lead generation. The book presents proven methodologies to nurture leads and convert them into revenue by working with the field sales organization in a coordinated, multichannel approach.
Web Marketing Must-reads
Living in an online world means you have to be an online expert. The following books by Jakob Neilson are required reading for young upstarts in the field of digital and interactive marketing:
• “Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity”
• “Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed”
• “Prioritizing Web Usability”
In fact, I strongly recommend reading all of Neilson’s works. This man is the most highly recognized expert in Web site usability. Usability is the concept of helping visitors navigate your site and find what they want, without becoming frustrated and abandoning their session prematurely.
Must-reads for Fine-tuning Leadership Skills
Marketing requires you to continuously hone your skills as a business leader. Here are two blockbuster books I’ve found invaluable to growing my business:
• “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable” by Patrick M. Lencioni. This book offers a clear presentation of the ingredients required to truly build and unite a team. It’s one thing to say ‘we are a team,’ and something completely different to actually act as a cohesive unit with a common goal. After reading this book, you’ll be able to evaluate your organization by answering questions such as: Are we really a team? How are we currently performing as a team? Are we prepared to invest the time and energy required to become a great team?
• “Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable … About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business” by Patrick M. Lencioni. During my 25 years as a businessman, I’ve had to attend countless business meetings. Some are boring, and some are the most challenging and valuable chunks of time I’ve spent with clients or colleagues. Lencioni does an outstanding job of presenting the four fundamental types of business meetings: daily check-ins, weekly tactical, monthly strategic and quarterly off-sites. He also gives readers an understanding of how to structure each of these types of meetings, and what is required of leaders to make meeting time valuable for all team members. You will learn how to make meetings interactive, how they should be structured and when they should be carefully orchestrated.
Two of my other favorite business leadership books, which I encourage every manager and business owner to read, are:
• “Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done” by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan
• “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t” by Jim Collins.
A Must-read New Release
• “Bly on Direct Marketing” by Robert Bly. To my delight, a search on Amazon.com revealed one of the direct marketing writers for whom I have the highest regard, Bob Bly, published a new book this past spring.
Be sure to add this one to your summer reading list.
This year I’m adding three volumes to my list of must-read marketing classics. These are the books to which I refer again and again:
• “Successful Direct Marketing Methods” by Bob Stone and Ron Jacobs
• “Customer Winback: How to Recapture Lost Customers—And Keep Them Loyal” by Jill Griffin and Michael W. Lowenstein
• “Winning Direct Response Advertising: How to Recognize It, Evaluate It, Inspire It, Create It” by Joan Throckmorton
While the following books appeared on last year’s list, they are so important to a direct marketer’s education that they warrant repeating:
• “Ogilvy on Advertising” by David Ogilvy
• “Direct Marketing: Strategy, Planning and Execution” by Ed Nash
• “Tested Advertising Methods” by John Caples and Fred Hahn
• “2,239 Tested Secrets for Direct Marketing Success” by Denny Hatch and Don Jackson
• “My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising” by Claude Hopkins
• “How to Write a Good Advertisement” by Victor Schwab
• “The New Direct Marketing: How to Implement a Profit-Driven Database Marketing Strategy” by David Shepard & Associates
• “Advertising Secrets of the Written Word: The Ultimate Resource on How to Write Powerful Advertising Copy from One of America’s Top Copywriters and Mail Order Entrepreneurs” by Joseph Sugarman
A final word of advice: Invest in yourself, the rewards are priceless! As an industry, we’re fortunate to have practitioners willing to share their expertise. By investing just a few hundred dollars for reading materials, professionals who commit themselves to mastering the craft end up creating careers that last a lifetime.
I wish all my fellow direct marketers a great summer filled with time to absorb new information and stimulate new creative ideas. If you have a favorite book I should consider for a 2007 summer reading list, drop me an e-mail. Happy reading!
Russell Kern is president of The Kern Organization, a fully integrated offline and online direct marketing agency in Woodland Hill, Calif., and is the author of his own direct marketing book: “S.U.R.E.-Fire Direct Response Marketing: Generating Business-to-Business Sales Leads for Bottom-Line Success” (McGraw-Hill, 2001). He can be reached at (818) 703-8775 or via e-mail at email@example.com.