Every year around Thanksgiving I publish my list of recommended reads. This year I'm focusing on helping small and mid-sized businesses fortify their position, and I think the following three titles are absolute must-reads for that purpose. Get these books as a gift for any business person or read them for yourself.
Small Business Survival Guide by Jason Reid
Throughout this book Reid proves himself to be an awesome consultant. In addition to ideas for the new economy, the book is full of back-to-basics core principles that are so time-tested they are often overlooked. For example, the hip, cool marketing professional would rather have you tweeting and retweeting 20 times a day instead of acting on Reid's advice to pass out 500 business cards a month.
Reid packs his text with enough proven wisdom that a small business owner is guaranteed to walk away with NUMEROUS golden nuggets after reading it. Not everything Reid writes about will apply directly to your business, but the principles will if you do a bit of thinking.
But don't just read this book. Find someone you trust and talk about what resonates with you. Make whatever adjustments are necessary for your unique situation, sketch out a plan for implementing it, and then act on what you have decided. Another suggestion: Make implementation fun, not a burden.
I've survived in business 22 years. But I have to admit, after reading this book, I realize that I could have survived a lot better if I had Reid's advice when I first started out.
Killer Facebook Ads: Master Cutting-Edge Facebook Advertising Techniques by Marty Weintraub
Weintraub hits a home run with this book, and if you advertise anywhere online, you will definitely benefit from reading it.
As a business owner I've been reading books on advertising for years, and I have to say Weintraub has done his homework. He provides comparison images to explain his points, and includes excellent explanations on why one version of an ad is better than the other.
Some who want only bullet points may find the book too heavy with facts & data in some places, but I found Weintraub's descriptions and explanations to be quite informative. Besides, you can skip over what you don't need to read, and the explanations are there if you want to understand things a bit deeper later on.
The fact is that as long as we have the Internet, social media is NOT going away, and nobody has more personal data about its users (at this point) than Facebook. So, if you want a solid Facebook advertising strategy that reaches targeted potential customers, I'd say this is the best guidebook out there for getting the biggest bang for your buck. Even if you're advertising on Google and not Facebook you will learn a lot!
Not only will this book save you HOURS of experimenting (and costly frustrations), Killer Facebook Ads is well worth the cover price as it will easily pay for itself in your first ad campaign.
Convert!: Designing Web Sites to Increase Traffic and Conversion by Ben Hunt
Whereas Weintraub's Killer Facebook Ads is about creating effective ad campaigns, Hunt's Convert! is about creating websites that lead more people to buy from you (i.e., upping your conversion rate).
If you're not careful, you can pay thousands of dollars to 'experts' who will help you up the conversion rates on your website. The first thing I need say here is "read this book before you hire any such experts.
The reason? After reading this you may not need to spend so much money. As a case in point, I was in the middle of a website overhaul when I got this book, and reading it saved me plenty of hours (read: $$) with my designer.
Hunt acts as a consultant/advisor, not a theorist or artist, and straightforward advice fills the book. Two quick examples are "Ask! If you don't ask, you don't get" and "Do not waste energy trying to reinvent conventional solutions. Save your creativity for the important work of understanding your market and their needs in depth, to assess the best alternatives to test."
Also, knowing that one size does not fit all, Hunt uses a solid "if/then" approach for many examples. He also includes excellent screen shots showing the nuances of minor changes and explains how those little changes made big differences.
Take this book and Jakob Nielsen's seminal Prioritizing Web Usability and you have a wealth of information for designing websites that bring results (read: $$).
There you have it. Three books that will help small and mid-size businesses fortify their position. But please remember - especially during the holiday season - that our families are more important than our businesses. Yes, our businesses are important, but our families are even more so. Be sure to invest in those relationships, too.
The screenshots/photos in Convert!: Designing Web Sites to Increase Traffic and Conversion were what made me buy it. I've read similar books before and they are deadly dull without photos.