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Recommended Reading

We have a finalized listing of what will be included in the $1000 perk. This is my list of high-priority reading for anyone who’s trying to get better results from their small business.

Top 3: The truly essential

Permission Marketing
#1 on the list has to be Permission Marketing, from Seth Godin.


Because the kind of marketing I’m recommending to you is fundamentally different from the kind of marketing you grew up with, and that we’re used to.

Unless you’re a teenager (in which case welcome! And congratulations! Props for thinking about business), you grew up with what Seth Godin calls Interruption Marketing. That’s when you’re trying to do something (watch at TV program, read a magazine, drive to work, go for a walk, etc) and someone interrupts your activity to explain why you need to buy their new product or patronize their restaurant or whatever.

That was fine and all, when there wasn’t really an alternative. But if it’s technologically feasible, you’re better off doing what Seth Godin calls Permission Marketing. That’s when, instead of interrupting people who are trying to do something else, you only promote your product to people who have specifically said that they’re interested in hearing more about your product.

How do you do that? Why is it better? What do you have to know in order to make it work?

That’s why Permission Marketing has to be at the top of this list.

Guerrilla Marketing
Guerrilla Marketing is kind of where it all began. Jay Conrad Levinson was (to my knowledge) the first to notice that what makes sense for multinational corporations doesn’t make sense for “Mom & Pop” businesses. And the first to recommend that, rather than meeting the big boys of a field of battle that favors their strengths, you focus on doing the things that leverage your strengths.

In fact, Guerrilla Marketing would be the perfect small business marketing book, except for the fact that he assumes you’re already a marketing expert. (If you ARE a marketing expert, you can skip Bare Minimum Marketing and just buy Guerrilla Marketing.) In many ways, all I’m trying to do is give you enough of a marketing education to be able to make proper use of Guerrilla Marketing. Once you’ve finished my book, this is the book you’ll want to pick up.

The Lean Startup
What is a startup? How is it similar to a mature business? How does it differ from a small business? And what does a startup owner need to know in order to thrive?

Eric Ries has been studying those questions for years, believing that what’s taught in a traditional MBA program are not the skills necessary for those who are hoping to create their own big business. (And he’s right. The MBA teaches you to take over an existing big business. It’s not good for startups. And it’s not good for small businesses of any age).

Not reading The Lean Startup is my biggest regret of the last year. I was starting a new business with some friends, and I was trying to save money, knowing that the months ahead would be lean. And I knew that our business didn’t meet the definition of Startup that most people in the Startup industry use (we weren’t trying to grow 500% and get bought out by Google), and so I figured it wasn’t a high priority.

I was very wrong. By the time I finally got Lean Startup for my birthday, and started reading it, we were too far down the wrong track, and had spent too much money on the wrong things, to recover. Three months later, we closed down. But I could see how the principles of lean startup could have straightened us out, could have gotten us working on the right things, had we only known them.

Ries defines a startup as “a human institution designed to create new products and services under conditions of extreme uncertainty.” Own a small business? Not sure what to put in the business plan template where it says “5 Year Projections”? Yeah, that would be you. You’re a startup.

And The Lean Startup tells you what to do in conditions of extreme uncertainty. Which is, if your business is anything like mine, ALL THE DAMNED TIME.

So buy Lean Startup. Read it. It’s well worth the money, I assure you.

Also Important:

Why We Buy
Paco Underhill is to the modern shopper what Jane Goodall is to monkeys. He’s observed them in their natural habitat, and he knows their preferences, their techniques, their habits, and their methods.

If you own a physical store, Why We Buy is indispensable: it has information on how to set up racks, and where to locate items, and how to make people think your line is moving faster than it is.

But even for those in the service industry, it has some crucial insights. Techniques for compressing time (that is, making wait times seem shorter than they actually are) work whether you’re talking a line at a bank or a week’s delay on design work. The chapter on signs is critical information for anyone trying to put together an advertisement that will actually impart information to people.

Plus it’s fascinating. Which isn’t a reason you have to read it, but it’s a pretty good reason to do so.

The $100 Startup
Chris Guillebeau isn’t a marketing expert, and The $100 Startup is not a marketing book. But it does include some great explanations and insights into marketing. And more importantly, it has a lot of fantastic information on running a microbusiness in the early 21st Century.

Big business marketing is not small business marketing. Big business is not microbusiness. And while I suppose you could implement everything in Bare Minimum Marketing without having ever read The $100 Startup, the fact is that I believe every microbusiness owner should own this book. If I’m recommending books to help your small business succeed (which is indeed my overall goal), I have to recommend this book.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
Not strictly a business book, but so valuable for small business owners that I have to include it.

The thing is, there are a lot of really crucial life skills that they don’t teach us in school. Seven Habits covers the most important of them: identifying what you can do and what you can’t, prioritizing what you want and need to do, and working with other people to accomplish your goals and theirs. Time management — and especially time management for people who don’t have bosses looming to create a schedule for them. Negotiation, and how to do it without losing friends. Skills small business owners need, but have no place to learn.

Scott Stratten got so fed up with what “marketers” were doing, that he gave up on education and reform, and decided to call what he does “UnMarketing” instead. The first chapter or so is on why advertising and cold-calling doesn’t work (“Most of your market isn’t sitting around saying ‘You know, I need an accountant to help my growing business, I’m just going to sit here until someone randomly phones me to offer me that service!'” – pg 3), and the rest of it discusses what to do instead. Namely: build relationships and establish yourself as an expert, so that people think of you (in a positive manner) when they need someone who does what you do.

How do you go about doing that? Well, start by reading UnMarketing.

Background and Theory:

The World is Flat
This one is kind of weird, because not only is it not a marketing book, it’s not even really a business book.

So you could skip it if you want to. But what it does is provide a fantastic theoretical context for all of the weirdness that has caused Bare Minimum Marketing, and Permission Marketing, and Guerrilla Marketing.

Why are there so many microbusinesses nowadays? Why does Permission Marketing make sense now if it didn’t in the ’60s? What’s going on in the world, and how do I handle the changes going on in the economy and the government and the culture?

Friedman’s Flat World is the basis of all of those changes, and understanding how and why they occurred is the first step to making intelligent choices in this new, flat world.

The 4-Hour Work Week
Many of us got into running small businesses because we dreamed of having freedom. Of living our lives on our terms. Of being in control of what we do, and when, and how.

But even those who are successful in their business, and are making money and accumulating wealth, often feel trapped in the job they’ve created. They work 40 or 60 or 80 hours a week. They still never get to their kids’ soccer games, much less a week in the Bahamas. That thing about ditching your boss and travelling around the world? Yeah. That never happened, did it?

What Timothy Ferriss invites you to do is (a) figure out what you want to do with your life (b) figure out what it would take to get there, and (c) do that. Because (a) often gets lost in the shuffle of day-to-day crises. But (b) is often much less time and money than you’re imagining, really. Which means (c) might be totally possible. You’ll only know if you look.

Six Pixels of Separation
Mitch Joel is the president of Twist Image, a marketing firm that specializes in using “new media” to help their customers grow. And he does exactly what most social media experts recommend: he maintains a blog wherein he discusses what’s going on in the blogosphere, social media, and traditional media, and what effect that’s likely to have on brands and marketing. So that when someone’s considering hiring Twist Image, they can get a feel for how competent and in-touch and understanding Twist Image is.

Six Pixels of Separation is a blog, a podcast, and a book. The blog and the podcast are both highly recommended for anyone who wants to keep up on how new technology intersects with marketing (which, like it or not, now includes you). And the book is recommended for anyone who’s still feeling a bit lost on how current technology intersects with marketing. Although the book predates several currently big social media sites, the underlying concepts are still fully relevant, and explained very well.

What Would Google Do?
Another good background book. Jeff Jarvis is a self-described “graybeard” who has (apparently) decided to spend his years as a crotchety old man getting upset with OTHER crotchety old men who act like anything new must automatically be bad. Both What Would Google Do? and his newest book, Public Parts, explain the ways in which technology has changed the worlds of communication, interaction, analysis, government, economy, and commerce — and that those changes are not necessarily bad.

I would dearly love to recommend Public Parts, because it’s a wonderful book, but it really has essentially nothing to do with small business marketing. What Would Google Do?, however, has a lot to do with how any business runs and operates and interacts with the market. Again, if you’re feeling comfortable with this new economy, you can skip it. But if you aren’t quite sure you grok how this all works, What Would Google Do? has some great explanations from someone who’s lived through the changes.

The Long Tail

The Long Tail is another kind of odd one, because it’s not usually considered a marketing book. Chris Anderson wasn’t really intending to make comments on consumer behavior or adjustment of business models… and yet his insights are incredibly valuable to anyone who owns a small business or is working as an artist or is in any way self-employed right now.

Because the thing is, Amazon and iTunes have fundamentally changed the way we need to approach business these days. It used to be that you were on the New York Times Bestseller list or you were no one at all. And so the only thing that mattered was how many people liked you.

Now we have the ability to find exactly what we want. Are you into reading military sci-fi with fantasy elements and a independent work-ethic moral? We got that.

More importantly, are you into writing parodies of showtunes, teaching mathematical concepts? Do you want to redo pop music in swing style? Do you want to set up home computing systems that allow people to operate the coffee machine with voice control from the bedroom? Do you want to take psychic readings on pets? Whatever it is you want to sell, you can now reach the people who want to buy it. Yes, you still have to find a compromise between your ideal work and the size of the market. But The Long Tail says that the minimum market size is WAY smaller than you were thinking it was.

You can get all these books, plus Bare Minimum Marketing, by contribution to the Bare Minimum Marketing Indiegogo Campaign.