Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini

51rZPhIJD6LRate: *****

Read:  Cover to Cover (Many Times)

Categories: Business, Marketing, Selling, Best Seller

We all say “yes” to people we know all the time.    “Hey, could you do me a favor…” .  Just today, I had a call from a friend of mine in Australia.  He wanted to send some beer (ha! Ozzies – typical) to some guys in Vancouver, Canada who had done him a favor and he was having trouble finding a source that could do it (try googling “beer/Canada”).   He started out by outlining his dilemma –  the great favor his mates in Canada had done for him and that he wanted to thank them with a cold one.  I’m guessing this is a guy thing.  Me, I’m more the chocolate giver – my gift stays on the hips as a reminder.  Nevertheless, I could help him because I have low friends in high places there, so before you could say Labatts, I offered to get the beer to the hard working Canadian lads.  But now, I would have to call in a favor.

So what makes us say “yes”?  Why did I offer to go out of my way to help, when I easily could have kept my mouth shout and just sympathized?  I do that all the time.  Not the shout my mouth part – the sympathize but do nothing part.  For most of us, being persuaded by people we know is an everyday occurrence. Kids do it to us, friends do it to us, spouses do it to us, heck – have you looked at how your dog manipulates you and he can’t even use words.

We all “get” doing and receiving favors on a personal level, but the more interesting thing is, as we run our businesses, we are the ones trying to manipulate or persuade strangers/clients/customers/readers to say yes to us all the time.  Yes, means ca-ching.  Yes, means beans on the table.  Whether you have a small business selling goods or a blogger selling personal views or a web company selling subscriptions, we all need to find the techniques to make total strangers say “yes”.  So, what are the factors that make one person say yes to another person?  And are there techniques that we can use to bring about compliance?

It turns out, Dr. Cialdini, a distinguished researcher and professor outlines six universal principles and how to use them to become a skilled persuader.  Yippee.  Yes.  Count me in.  He admits to his own sucker status for being a patsy for peddlers, fund-raisers, pitches and magazine subscriptions, and implies that it may be the reason for his interest in the study of compliance.   He wants to know why a request stated in a certain way will be rejected, while a request that asks for the same favor in a slightly different fashion is successful.

His book is organized around six principles: consistency, reciprocation, social proof, authority, liking and scarcity.  He uses examples from his observations and studies that are interesting and relatable.  For example, if you were a billiards-table dealer, which would you advertise – the $329 model or the $3000 model? Chances are, like me, you would have said promote the lower-priced item and hope to trade the customer up when he comes to buy.  Well, chances are we’d have a lot of inventory.  Cialdini explains the aspects of the larger-then-smaller sequence occurs in the practice of “talking the top of the line”.  If you show someone the top of the of line and they buy, very nice.  If they don’t buy, the salesman effectively counter offers with a a more reasonably priced model.  We see this technique on the web all the time.  Think about how many times you’ve gone to a website and the price list is in three columns: One cheap, the second highlighted is mid-priced and the third is the Pro, Executive or Corporate fee. The original price is in the middle – that’s the one they wanted to sell you in the first place.  But without the other choices, we might not have recognized the value.  We know we don’t need “Pro” (typically a lot of fluff) and we always see our businesses as more than “Basic” – after all we are on the road to success.  So what do we see?  Just like in the Three Bears story, the perfect fit in the middle – not too big, not too small – just perfect.

As for my beer run, my friend just sent me a text that said, “Sure. No problem. Does it have to be cold?”

My Takeaway

This book sits very near my desk and is dog-eared and smeared with yellow highlighter on almost every page.  Every time I need to write a tag line or copy, I flip through to find the section I need to be persuasive.  I like brain science and I like psychology.  We have so many experts these days that are saying things that frankly, I think they just make up.  Dr. Cialdini is on my people bucket list of folks I’d like to meet.

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The Most Successful Small Business In The World by Michael E. Gerber


Rate: *****

Read:  Cover to Cover

Category: Big Idea, Entrepreneur, Small Business

Michael Gerber should not be a new name to you (if it is, tisk-tisk).  He is the author of thirteen books, including what the PR guys call a mega-bestseller (sort of like a power seller on ebay).  If you haven’t read the E-Myth Revisited, I recommend you read that one before this one (maybe that’s how he got the mega).   As in his other books, he is like your wise grandpa (assuming your grandpa is Sam Walton on your father’s side or Warren Buffet on your mother’s), part philosopher, part inspirationalist, part evangelist and poet, but always passionate about steering you in the right direction.   And he has nailed one thing that, to me, has always been the stop sign, the red light and for some, the cyanide in growing our self-employed life.  He strips away all the extraneous help – better marketing, how to use SEO, be an expert, grow your business in three easy steps – he throws all that out the window and starts with a premise that no one wants to hear.   “That small and independent business are populated by owners working for a living…that all they ever wanted to do was create a job; to create control over their personal income; to create a place to work; a place to do what they know how to do.  In short, they want to be self-employed.”  What is wrong with that, Gerber says, is that it is no business at all.  He wants you to understand that you have the potential, the brains, the chutzpah, to look at your business as a business, not just a place to answer the phone when it rings, complete a job and wait for the next customer.  Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.  But if you follow certain rules, you can change not only your own future, but you can change the world.  Yup, you can change the world if you change your paradigm to how you see what makes a business vs. what your business makes.  Great stuff.  But like all great grandpas, he hits you with his cane and then gives you a lollipop and says, “I know you can do better.”

My takeaway:

While I was reading the book, I had an inspiration from his words that will change my own business.  This is no easy feat – I am a “creative,” and ideas happen faster than planes landing at JFK.  But this was a BIG idea that will impact my present business and it came from Gerber’s chapter on the First Principle, “A Small Business, Built Rightly, Can Grow 10,000 times Its Current Size.”  So this is not just another book to read, say “Wow, that was great” and then go on doing the things you’ve always done.  You are reading this blog because you want to know if this is a book that can change/add/empower you in growing your business.  If you are interested in having job that you created for yourself, and just want to know how to get more business, this book is not for you.  However, if you want, nay need and desire to create a business that you can grow, sell, innovate and possibly change the world – this is a must read.

The Wealthy Freelancer, 12 Secrets to a Great Income And an Enviable Lifestyle by Steve Slaunwhite, Pete Savage and Ed Gandia

Rating: ****1/2

Read:  Cover to cover

Category: Small business, entrepreneurial

I hate titles like “10 Easy Ways to Become a Millionaire” or “The Four Hour Workweek”, but let’s face it, it’s just me.  Publishers, authors, readers – everyone else loves tapping into making minute rice even faster in the microwave pouch.  I need to be rich, damn it, and I need it now!  So, I was reluctant to read The Wealthy Freelancer – to me a 12 secret oxymoron.  Title notwithstanding, the word “Freelancer” in the title moved me to read it, because the freelancer industry has an opportunity to boom in the coming years and the people I write book reviews for, well a lot of them are freelancers.  So here’s the more than pleasant surprise.  This book is (should I say it?) is the quintessential guide for all freelancers to read – but it will be the biggest disappointment for those who really thought they would get microwaved minute rice.  They talk about what “wealth” really means, dumping “ugly” clients (another great book on the subject of the client “dump” is Booking Yourself Solid by Michael Port), bringing focus to your business, creating a buzz piece, cultivating and nurturing your business, even how to make sales calls – all standard stuff starting from the beginning.  A lot of freelancers come to doing their own thing after they start hating their job, they don’t have job or they have a passion they want to pursue.  They may be good at what they do, but many lack the ‘well rounded’ skill set (sales, marketing, networking, book-keeping, pricing their goods/services) of running a complete business.  There are some really great ideas in this book – and I’m happy to say, my initial reaction was quickly proved wrong.

My Takeaway

If you are a freelancer or in a partnership this book is a must read if you don’t have enough clients, if your stomach drops when you see the phone number from an “ugly” client incoming, if you are on a roller coaster of cold and hot income spells, or think that sales, marketing and building a client base means you have a website, there is no time to waste.

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Zag: The #1 Strategy of High-Performance Brands by Marty Neumeier

Rate: ****

Read: Cover to Cover

Category: Branding, Big Idea, Communication

I like a book that has the reader’s time in mind.  This is a very short book; Mr. Neumeier calls it an “airplane read.”  He has a few very simple (aren’t the simple ideas usually the best?) ideas that he puts into a chronological order using a hypothetical (wine) business to illustrate his big idea.  He is talking about branding – but since he started out as a designer, he combines form and function (and a little beauty) in the process.  He is on the same Tsunami as Seth Godin (Purple Cow), Luke Wilson (Disrupt) and many other surfers in the new (huge) wave of marketing and branding in the 21st century.  They all say there are really only two ways this thing is going down.  The first is to do what everyone else is doing, trying to build your brand by differentiating on price, speed and improvement on the same type of products and services, or putting your efforts to creating something that is really different and truly unique.  He calls the process “zagging” as in “when everyone zigs, you should zag.”  He gives you a short painless history lesson, and then just when you’re a little depressed because you realize you are doing these things, he opens the gate and let’s you walk on the stepping stones (from naming your company to truelines, taglines, core product, passion to engagement) to that big house on the hill or in his case study, the unique wine store he imagines, Bibli.

My Takeaway

An excellent read for small business, entrepreneurs and independents.  It’s even a better read for people just starting out with an idea.  But what kind of “zagging” can you do when you’re already “zigging?”  How do you “zag?”  There was not a good answer to that, because in the second part of the book the “zag,” described handling entrenched business models of corporations – diversification, competitive cycles… yawn.  Oh, excuse me.  So, for independents who are already in the “zig” (you already have  crummy name) look to this book for thinking about the quintessential “disruptive” idea for, maybe not your product (or maybe your product or service), but perhaps how you can engage your customers in a different way, create an outstanding design for your website, or by discovering the concept of pulling your customers in rather than pushing information out to them.  Still a terrific read with some incredibly valuable information.  Read it.

Personality Not Included: Why Companies Lose Their Authenticity – And How Great Brands Get It Back by Rohit Bhargava


Review (only most awesome deserves 5 stars)  *****

Read:  Cover to Cover (skipping some of the “how to get you giant ass corp bosses to go along”)

Category: Marketing,Branding

Twitter Review:  Let your freak flag fly and let your true colors shine.

Look, we’re in a funny (not haha, but strange) place when it comes to marketing our small or independent businesses.  The old way of doing things, print media, electronic media, direct mail, seems to be pretty much over (hallelujah – none of us could afford it anyway).  But now the kool-aid for today’s savvy marketers is to create a “story” about you and/or your small business and/or insert your personality, and grow the WOM (word of mouth).  This is the basis for creating the “personal brand,” creating a compelling and memorable back-story so that your customer/client/followers/evangelists can repeat it.  As my Aussie friends, say, “all good” and I say, “pour me a cup.”  Authors who write business books, this author included, typically use the “big” names to illustrate their points (and possibly their gravitas), StarBucks, Dell, Oreck, ING Direct, but in this case, I have to give Rohit Bhargava a break, he says he personally interviewed every business he writes about.  The only downside/upside to his writing, is that like so many good authorities, he comes from a corporate background (SVP of Digital Strategy and a founding member of the 360 Digital Influence group at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, one of the the world’s largest marketing and communications agencies).  But let’s not hold that against him.  You just have to read the book from your point of view – the concepts are universal to all business, including yours.

My Takeway

So what is so compelling, that I am encouraging the reading of this book?  Because when you are a small business person, an independent, freelancer or entrepreneur, this concept is the quintessential model.  You are the ones who can pivot easily into this terrific, compelling, cost effective way to build a brand.  Yes, I used the “B” word.  You are the gals (and guys) that actually HAVE a back-story.  Most big business is already entrenched.  They have a PR department to tell then what is “authentic.”  They have a LOT to lose by communicating directly with their consumers (as seen in the hubbub, scramble for attention on Facebook with the “like me please like me” button).  There is a trend now, for people to be charmed by your passion, to follow the little guy, to stand up and spread the word about you and your services, products and ideas.  This is a book that can take you from start to finish in understanding how to put personality into your business, but here’s where his book is very different.  In the second half of the book Rohit gives you everything you need to apply these ideas to your small business.  Easy charts, guides and tools that give you the action plan you need to get started.  If you take his advice and use the tools to implement a “personality” into your small (but beautiful little) business, fasten your seat-belts because you may be in for for a very enjoyable ride in 2012.

Elaine Joli

  Short video by Rohit Bhargava:

the Method Method: Seven Obsessions That Helped Our Scrappy Start-up Turn an Industry Upside Down by Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry

Rate:  ****

Read: Cover to cover

Category: Branding, Entreprenerial

Twitter Review:  Build a product that has value, and don’t let anyone stop you.

Who doesn’t love a David and Goliath story?  This is a miraculous adventure taken by two guys, Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry who decided to take on one of the toughest, most entrenched  industries imaginable – cleaning products for the home – Goliath indeed.   An industry that has a hundred year start, tens of thousands of employees plus millions of loyal customers.  What did they have?  An idea, a car and a belief that the world could be a better place if cleaning products not only worked great, but could be good for the environment, smell nice, look nice and, wait for it – cleaning could be an enjoyable experience?  What were they smoking?  I love the quotation of the back of the book by their parents, “We’re still in shock that two kids who couldn’t even make their beds without groaning would go on to start a cleaning company.”  What many saw as entrepreneurial suicide, they saw as an opportunity.  They looked at the size and power of these behemoths, and they countered with speed and agility.  They fought the giants with imagination, engagement, groundbreaking innovation and created a culture.  They also identified a tribe and a small niche market who maybe, just maybe, would love what they love.  This book is their story.  Full of heroics and failures, of genius and ignorance.  But more than just a tale of their unlikely success, this book is full of how they did it, why they did it, and just like their brand, they want to help you with specifics of building a brand that makes a difference, warts and all.  Oh, by the way.  I just purchased my first Method environmentally friendly dishwashing soap, and doggoneit, I feel a bit better about myself. Go figure.

My Takeaway

Although this book has a lot to do with the retail/wholesale sector, the backstory of selling their products out of the back of their trunk and growing the biz is a universally entrepreneurial one.  It took them ten years of experience before they wrote this book – and it is the quintessential idea of having a value based business – regardless of what product or service (or idea) you sell that in the end, will get you where you want to go if you start from an authentic and value based place; if the core of your brand is the values that drive it – not money, not growth for just market share, not by intimidation – but by plugging away at design, esthetics, and by building a culture internally that spread to the marketplace. Well written, engaging, easy and delightful to read, with some extraordinary concepts that entrepreneurs, freelancers, independents and small business could all benefit from.

Elaine Joli