Five Books You Have to Read for Online Business Success
Crush It! By Gary Vaynerchuk
Who would have thought that a wise-cracking, smart-mouthed 30-something could turn into an internet sensation – with a daily video show on wine? Well, Gary Vaynerchuk has endeared himself to millions through his Wine Library TV, his keynote speeches, and his best-selling business book, “Crush It!” In it, he shares the secrets of his success, including:
Find your passion. Find the one thing you adore above all else and go for it with all your heart. If you look for the “money” niche, you’ll burn out and give up before you succeed. Or you’ll succeed and hate what you’re doing.
Be willing to hustle. Vaynerchuk credits his willingness to do whatever it took to get ahead – including hosting his show five days a week, without fail, for over a year. Don’t just do something once – do it over and over and over again until people start to notice.
Be who you are. Not everyone warms to Vaynerchuk’s in-your-face style, but those who do adore him. He recommends not even trying to please everyone, and instead doing what you do best.
Build the audience and the money will find you. Vaynerchuk swears that he didn’t try to monetize his rabid and ever-growing audience. Instead, the offers came to him. He thinks anyone can do the same.
In sum, “Crush It!” recommends finding a niche you love, working your rear off, introducing folks to the real you, and working hard until your audience grows to the point where they just can’t get enough of you. This book is a perfect read if you’re looking for inspiration to begin – or continue – your journey.
Unmarketing by Scott Stratten
Do you hate selling and marketing in the “Tell-ya-what-I’m-gonna-do” way? Then Scott Stratten is your man. In his book, “Unmarketing,” Stratten shows you through his personal experience that you can build a successful business – and an audience of enthusiastic customers – without doing the Glengarry/Glen Ross shuffle.
Written in a series of blog-post-length sections, the book is chock-full of Stratten’s personal observations, advice, success stories, and words to the wise. A big proponent of social media, Stratten advises readers on how to maximize these tools to build your audience naturally and comfortably.
In fact, that’s the basis of his belief: That building relationships should be the backbone of your business, and the only way to do that is naturally, and over time. Sure, there are tips and “secrets” for how to make the most of the tools that are at your disposal, but what it comes down to is relating to the people you want to serve.
This book is perfect for new entrepreneurs, or business owners who have been around the block a time or two but don’t know a tweet from a hole in the ground. Stratten presents his lessons in a non-threatening, conversational tone that is easy to read and easy to follow. You’ll want this book in your business library to refer to again and again. Even though many of the stories deal with “Web 2.0” tools, Stratten’s advice to be yourself and focus on the relationship will be equally applicable into the future as new technology emerges.
Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath
Want to know why some ideas stay around, and others die a quiet, painful death? Well, the Heath brothers are the ones to explain the difference. Using anecdotes as disparate as urban legends (remember the “organ theft” ring?), the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” blockbusters, and the movie popcorn brouhaha over saturated fats, Heath and Heath break down and analyze stories that work – and those that don’t – to give readers a better chance of making their own ideas stick.
Whether you’re an independent direct salesperson, the leader of a small religious congregation, or an online entrepreneur, the authors’ findings will help you present your own ideas in a more effective manner. Some of their suggestions for sticky ideas:
Make it simple. A confused mind does nothing.
Make it unexpected. Think about surprising people, like the guy who loses 100 lbs. eating Subway sandwiches.
Make it concrete. The more you’re able to ground your ideas in someone else’s reality, the more they’ll stick.
Make it credible. Statistics, graphics, before-and-after photos all help make your claims or story more believable.
Make it emotional. We like logic, but we like emotion more. In fact, some experts argue that most decisions are made emotionally. Appeal to logics AND emotions.
Make it a story. Ever since our ancestors gathered around campfires and shared stories of vanquishing saber-tooth tigers,, we have loved stories. Stories are easy to relate, easy to remember, and thus are stickier.
Using their framework and suggestions, anyone – a business person or an elementary school teacher – can create stories and ideas that stick.
Tribes by Seth Godin
If you are an online businessperson and you have not yet been introduced to Seth Godin run, do not walk, to your nearest bookstore and get a copy of “Tribes” (then download a free copy of the companion ebook from Seth’s blog here http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2008/10/free-tribes-ebo.html). This book has served as part manifesto, part bible, to a generation of internet-based entrepreneurs.
Godin’s thesis in “Tribes,” like most of his work, is extremely simple: There are people out there looking for leaders. If you can become a leader with vision and passion, you can find a tribe of people to lead.
While this may seem commonsensical, Godin goes beyond the obvious. Not only does he explain how to find and lead your tribe, he also tells readers they have an almost moral obligation to lead if they are called to do so. If you have an idea and a passion, you need to find the tribe that’s looking for you because they’re lost without you.
Godin’s words would have seemed absurd only a decade or two ago. How would someone, for example, with a passion for making clothes for potbellied pigs ever find enough of an audience to make a go of a business? But with the reach of the internet, the lack of barriers to entry for online businesses, and the wealth of free and low-cost tools at your disposal, you don’t need millions, or even hundreds of thousands, of people to create a successful online business. Instead, a loyal tribe of just a few thousand can keep you in sequins and tulle until the end of your days – if you can find them and inspire them.
He uses the example of the Grateful Dead, Starbucks, and CrossFit as strong tribes. And he presents tons of ideas for finding and leading your tribe, from being an example, sharing stories, creating a common goal, and more.
If you just want to sell “me too” products to a faceless crowd, skip “Tribes.” But if you have dreams of changing the world, “Tribes” is for you.
Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
If you’ve ever ordered shoes (or anything else) from Zappos.com, chances are you’ve ordered again. And again. Because Zappos, an online phenomenon taken to industry leadership by CEO Tony Hsieh, enjoys a staggering 75 percent repeat business. And, because everyone knows it’s much less expensive to sell to a repeat customer than it is to bring in a new customer, that means Zappos must be doing something right.
In his book, “Delivering Happiness,” Hsieh shares his sometimes radical, always interesting, views on business, life, happiness, and customer service. It’s worth a read even if you aren’t in the retail business – because every business has customers, and every business can benefit from treating them better.
Some of Hsieh’s iconoclastic ideas shared in “Delivering Happiness” include:
“Wow” your customers through service.
Embrace and drive change.
Weirdness is good.
Constant learning is a prerequisite for growth.
Your company should feel like a family.
Hsieh focuses not only on making his customers happy, but on making his employees happy, too. In a world where employee loyalty is about as common as a Dell laptop in Steve Jobs’ office, Hsieh has made it his mission to make his employees feel committed and attached to Zappos. Some of his ideas may seem better-suited to a business with dozens or hundreds of employees, but solopreneurs and small business owners will find many tips and a lot of inspiration.