I recently read Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson’s ReWork while on a four-hour flight. Hands-down, it’s simply the best business book I’ve read in years. For one, it’s actually readable and entertaining. Even if I wasn’t trapped on a plane, it’s still a book I’d have consumed just as quickly.
Chock full of nuggets of business wisdom, disguised in part as common sense, it’s one of those books I wish I wrote myself. Some of its best insights follow below, in bold, along with my take on them.
Ignore the real world. Today, more than ever, we need to look beyond current solutions. The world of advertising is undergoing rapid change, and there are few who understand the need to rethink everything we know about marketing. The customer is king, among other shifting tides. Geo-location apps may be all the rage, but it’s what we do with that information that determines their utility for marketers, and the subsequent benefit for users.
Why grow? Size is irrelevant to success. Many would argue it could be an impediment to success in this era of ubiquitous technology-enabled channels for communication where customers can both air grievances or start positive dialogues about their interactions with products and brands. We should waste no time in learning from their experiences and opinions, and put said learning into action to make improvements. Smaller, nimbler agencies and businesses may even have the advantage here.
Be a starter. It’s no longer about entrepreneurship as we’ve known it to be. Anyone and everyone can be a starter. Content creators and curators are among the new small business owners. For traditional (read: big) business and agencies, this should be a good thing in sparking new innovations and dismantling useless, expensive infrastructures and processes where they’re no longer needed.
Start. Ideas are only as valuable as their implementation. Doing trumps strategizing. Execution can be said to be not only everything, these days, it can be the only thing. Scrap the 3-year, or even 12-month plans in favor of dynamic roadmaps that can shift direction with new customer insights and market challenges.
Draw a line in the stand. Don’t be afraid to stand behind the power of your convictions. It’s often all the momentum you need to propel your success. Wishy-washy products, services, or even points of view, rarely make waves. The most successful brands, or agencies for that matter, stand for something. They subsequently create anticipation and excitement among their customers for new products or simply the desire for repeat experiences. Or not. But they’re not afraid to lose fans as they keep their loyalists consistently delighted.
Do you really need? A budget of a half million to execute on that marketing campaign? Or would a fraction of that fee underwrite an equally, or daresay more, effective approach. Social media channels and PR are both cost-effective and better at engaging word of mouth to support your product or cause. You can’t buy that kind of credibility.
Embrace constraints. There’s nothing like smaller budgets and smaller teams to fuel renewed creativity and innovation. We get lazy otherwise. All the usual suspects in our collective pool of tried-and-true marketing tactics could use a rest in favor of fresh thinking and new ideas inspired by our digitally-engaged world and communities. And these days, we’re all working under constraints of some kind, or smart enough to plan as if we are.
Throw less at the problem. Be laser-sharp in your focus. Keep it simple so you can tell if and what is working, along with what isn’t. It’s always easier to ramp up volume and budgets when you actually know which marketing tactic or vehicle may be delivering greatest impact. Or have the option of embarking on a more effective strategy and approach without having blown your wad before you can show any ROI for the campaign.
Emulate drug dealers. Give your customers a taste of what you know will bring them back for more. If your product or service, indeed your brand, has intrinsic value, they will definitely be back for more. And you’ll have given them that initial nudge they may need to give you a try. After all, why be shy? If you don’t believe in the quality of your product or thinking and its power to sell itself, then why should anyone else?
I’ve barely uncovered the tip of the iceberg of Fried and Hansson’s powerful, yet concisely written rules for the new rule-breakers of the business world. As a small agency owner, I was both inspired and validated by my experiences. Oh, and for those of you who never read business books, this book is especially for you.
[This piece appeared in Ad Age online at http://adage.com/bookstore/post?article_id=143174 )