Book Reviews Email marketing Employees Internet marketing Marketing Small Business

Hiring staff to help with marketing? Start them off with these business books.

Over the weekend, one of my readers emailed and asked this very smart question:

We are hiring someone “green” to do marketing for us in about a month. I thought that starting someone from the ground up would be a good way to build someone’s skills for our business and not have to pay a small fortune at the same time. Do you have a couple of books that you would recommend for this person? I’m looking for books on both general marketing theory and on the nuts-and-bolts.

Still Life with Plato
photo credit: chefranden

So that you don’t overwhelm them on that first day, let’s go with 6 books.

That’ll start them off with a good baseline so they won’t spend a huge pile of your money and have no idea whether it was well spent or not – plus it may avoid scaring them to death:)

It’s hard to come up with a list that short until these 2 questions came to mind:

  • What books would I least want to give up if I found out they were the last copies ever?
  • What books would I want someone to have if they were going to spend a lot of my money on marketing without my oversight?

With those thoughts in mind, it was easy:)

Number 1 – your business procedures manual. (no, not the HR policy manual, ugh)
I’m sure you have one, right? I mean, we’ve ALL read Michael Gerber’s E-Myth (that was sneaky wasn’t it?), so we know how important that procedures manual is. I’m talking about the manual that your newbie assistant manager would use to run the place while you are off on that romantic cruise that you promised someone about 15 years ago. It has all the vendor contact info, how to turn off the alarm, how to lock up for the night, how to Z out the cash register (and when), how to do all the things that someone has to be trained for – step by step, so you don’t have to be a dozen places at once, or interrupted 72 times per day.

Number 2 – Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini. Doesn’t seem like a marketing book from the title, but it’s critical path brain food for someone who will be coming up with copy, headlines, emails and so on. Both practical and theory, this one is a keeper.

Number 3 – The Ultimate Marketing Plan by Dan Kennedy. Mostly practical. Dan isn’t much on theory, instead he relies on results. Not very thick, not very expensive, but worth a ton.

Number 4 – The Secrets of Successful Direct Mail by Dick Benson. Not just about direct mail, if you look closely. Definitely a must have for anyone who sticks an envelope in the mail. The list at the front is worth the price of the book.

Number 5 – My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins. These come in 1 volume, so I counted them as one. So there. Claude was marketing like a master before your parents were born, or most likely so. Even this many years later, something to have on your marketing nightstand.

Number 6 – Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples. That’s Caples as in Ogilvy, Caples and other world-class folks from last century.

Total expenditure: About $94 or so new, even less if bought used.

PS: Being the shy person I am, I would have recommended a 7th one: Business is Personal – The book, but it isn’t out yet…

In fact, it was a little hard not to include a handful of others on this list, but this will get you started. Next time, perhaps I’ll limit it to books written in this century:) And besides, I don’t think Gary Bencivenga has a book:)

Direct Mail Email marketing Marketing Small Business Strategy

Direct mail? Old school, yet dead tree ROI continues to please

Email is “free”, notwithstanding the copywriting, measurement tools, ISP issues with delivery and a few other things.

With “free” comes your favorite target – spam email.

You can afford to send 100,000 emails without testing – though the smart ones do not. On the other hand, most can’t afford to send 100,000 direct mail pieces without testing FIRST.

I can assure you that those who can afford to send that much direct mail each month would never do so without testing first. No question, direct mail has it’s share of issues – most can be solved with smart mailing (as opposed to carpet bombing).

So while newspapers and magazines see falling advertising inches, direct mail continues to grow – because done right, it works.

And lookee here, even the Wharton School of Business says direct mail works (archived pdf here).

Just one example: Those “silly little 4 page print newsletters” I create get places that the same content will never get via email.

How do I know? Because newsletter clients tell me this every month when I call for the next month’s snippet of content. They say things like “I can’t believe how well these things work.” I hear it over and over again – and best of all, no one else in their market has a clue.

Competitors sure wont duplicate the effort. Too lazy. Too busy stepping over dollars to pick up dimes.

Whether I do it for you, or you do it yourself, just flippin’ do it. Measure it. Go to the bank. Repeat.

What are you waiting for? You have Wharton’s permission.

Competition Customer service Email marketing Internet marketing Marketing Small Business Technology

Is your small business website a Store or a Brochure?

Your website should act as if it is a combination of an additional business location and a smart, helpful staff member who never sleeps.

A brochure website may be all you think you need, but brochure sites tend to be relatively static, changing only occasionally.

A store site may or may not have the ability to purchase products online, but it will act as a store or a staff member in every other manner.

For example, you might have

  • copies of repair manuals
  • instructions for how to troubleshoot common issues with the items you sell
  • information about and photos of your staff and their training/expertise/experience
  • checklists that help your prospects and customers decide how to purchase the types of items you sell
  • video or photos that help your clients maintain, operate or use your products
  • a calendar of events for your business, optionally with an appointment calendar if your business performs services by appointment
  • industry news, in plain English, that will be interesting to your clients

Why all this stuff? Because it helps your business become more valuable to your clients than your competitionâ??s brochure website will be.

  • When your clientâ??s lawn mower needs a part on Sunday afternoon and your store is closed, your website can help them.
  • When your client is out of town on business, is swamped in meetings all day and remembers when she gets back to her hotel room at 10pm that she needs to cater a party for 12 next weekend, your website can help not only help her plan a menu and book the catering job – but also provide her with a short list of things to consider when arranging the event. Things she might just forget during that hectic out of town business trip.
  • When a prospect wants to shop anytime outside of your business hours and has some “me time” to analyze their purchase options, your website can be the resource of far more decision-making information than the same old manufacturer-issued info that everyone else’s site contains.
  • When a prospect wants to order a custom replacement door for their home or office, your website can help them figure out what measurements and other info will make the buying process easier when they call or visit your showroom.
  • When a client wants to check on the status of a repair order, a custom order, or schedule any sort of service that you offer.

Seems like common sense, but there are still far too many businesses out there with brochure websites that offer nothing in the way of helping their clients buy and use their products and better utilize their services. Is your website a store…or a brochure?

Email marketing Marketing Small Business Technology

Have you lost a customer today?

Not long ago, I received this email from a vendor that I’ve done business with in the past:

Dear Friend:

It’s been awhile since your last order from As a valued customer, we would like to invite you to take advantage of this exclusive offer available only to select customers.

Save 10% on your next order on!

To activate your savings, just enter your promotional code at check out. is a great place for purchasing ink cartridges, approved media and many other Primera products.

Promotional Code: xxxxx

This discount is valid through March 28, 2008, and is offered only for billing and shipping addresses in the USA.

Best regards,

Primera Technology

Primera Technology, Inc.
Two Carlson Parkway North
Plymouth, Minnesota 55447 U.S.A.
Phone: 1-763-475-6676
FAX: 1-763-475-6677

They should be congratulated for noticing that I haven’t bought anything from them in a while, and of course, for going beyond that and making the effort to contact me and make an offer to get me to order again.

But…it sure isn’t very personal. Let’s look at where they could have personalized it a bit more:

1) They have my email address and ALL of my contact information. Yet they only chose to use the email address. Why not “Dear Mark” instead of “Dear Friend”.

The “friend” reference reminds me of all the sterile emails I get from my “How do the presidential candidates use their websites and email” project. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, McCain and others asked for my name and/or email during the “send me candidate news” signup process, yet they don’t bother to personalize the emails using my name or where I live (they can easily figure that out using common automated tools or services).

Only Ron Paul has sent personalized, location-specific emails – and even with his campaign, it isn’t done in every email.

2) They signed the email: “Primera Technology”. Not “Bob Smith, Northwest Sales Manager”, or “Mary Jones, Lost Customer Search Team” or anything along those lines. Whoever happens to be running this campaign should have included their name and contact info in case I have questions, problems etc. The email response address goes to their generic sales email address, and the other contact info provided is similar to that. Generic, generic, generic.

3) How is the success of this offer being tracked? Thankfully, they seem to be prepared for this by using the promotion code. Perhaps they are sending some of these emails out with personal names and from a specific person and they are testing the response to each option using the promotion codes.

I doubt it, but I hope I’m wrong.

Learn from every promotional piece you get. Analyze how you would have done it differently, as well as what was done wisely. Use them to make your promotions better.

And most of all, keep track of how long it has been since I last visited your store. Don’t let me get lost.