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The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk, Harper Business, 240 pages, $24.99, Hardcover, March 2011, ISBN 9780061914188
Gary Vaynerchuk might seem like a rare breed: his energy radiates through the screen when you watch his videos or read his posts. However, he would likely argue that he isn’t at all rare. He simply loves what he does and tells people about it. Then the word spreads. Seems simple enough, but his first book, Crush It, described in great detail just how you might go about telling people about what you love.
As more and more individuals started to take advantage of social media, businesses took notice, asking, “Is this stuff just fun and games, idle chitchat, or is this kind of communication something more, something to be harnessed?” If Crush It was the social media manual for individuals, The Thank You Economy is the essential guidebook for leveraging social media to improve your business.
What does that title mean, exactly? To Gary, The Thank You Economy is about caring about customers, about going to where they are rather than waiting for them to come to you. Take the steps to thank them for what they’ve done, offer help to make their lives better, have any conversation you want with them and, according to Gary, they will be more inclined to become advocates for your company and offer you their business again and again. It's a give and take—and you must be the first one to give.
Certainly, there will be corporate skeptics out there who prefer to let their product or their brand do the talking. But here is an excerpt from the book that will be difficult for them to argue against:
Brand managers and company leaders are obsessed with numbers because the numbers matter a great deal, if not to them personally, then to their superiors, their stockholders, and the financial and business media. I get that. But let me ask this: what is the return on investment for any kind of customer caring? Is there a formula in a sale or in a recommendation? No, but until now good managers and salespeople have killed their customers with kindness anyway, because even without hard numbers to quantify the ROI, they instinctively know that earning a customer’s trust is key.
Now, Nielsen has numbers that prove the link between generating trust and making a sale isn’t just theoretical. When Nielsen conducted a study on what drives consumer trust, the results were clear: almost 70 percent of people turn to family and friends for advice when making purchasing decisions. Where have people been talking to their family and friends lately? Facebook reports that 60 percent of the people online are going to social networks, with half returning every day. If there is ROI in friendship and family, there has to be ROI in social media.
Touching on all aspects of creating a strong and trustworthy business—customer service, strategy, sales and marketing—The Thank You Economy is a book that will change the way you think about social media's role as conversation-starter (and just maybe sustainer) in your business.
Ten Steps Ahead: What Separates Successful Business Visionaries From the Rest of Us by Erik Calonius, Portfolio, 256 pages, $25.95, Hardcover, March 2011, ISBN 9781591843764
There’s a lot of press being given to The Social Animal right now, a wonderfully written new book by David Brooks built around the latest research from numerous fields—most notably brain science and the unconscious mind. But there is another book coming out soon that also delves heavily into the latest research on brain science that we hope grabs your attention, Erik Calonius’s Ten Steps Ahead.
Being released this month by Portfolio, Calonius’s book focuses on the brain science of visionaries. Why visionaries? As the author writes:
Visionaries are not only the stuff of legend. When we string them sequentially, one visionary following another, we have described the arc of history.
A former writer and editor for the Wall Street Journal and Fortune who collaborated with Dan Ariely on the best-selling Predictably Irrational, Calonius writes engagingly, spinning brain exercises and visualizations wistfully in with the science and stories of visionaries. And what stories! One of my favorites is of Jeff Hawkins. It tells the story of him cutting down a block of wood until it fit comfortably in his shirt pocket, and then attaching a paper face on it with some simple function keys.
Hawkins walked around with his wooden prototype for several weeks. If you had spied him on the street, you might have seen him stop suddenly, as if struck with an idea, pull out a piece of wood, perhaps punch a few buttons, then slip it back into his pocket. He had a “pen” to write on the screen as well—actually, it was a chopstick that he had whittled down to size. […] The PalmPilot, as it was called, debuted in the spring of 1996 and changed not only pen computing but the entire personal computer industry.
One of the strengths of Calonius’s stories is that he’s spent time with almost everyone (other than Walt Disney) he profiles in this book. He’s hung out in the garage where Steve Jobs built Apple computers and listened to his stories of how it all began. He wined and dined with Richard Branson on his houseboat, Duende, where he launched his business empire. Hearing their stories second-hand through the author makes them come alive a little bit more than they would otherwise, brings them a little bit closer and makes their vision seem more accessible and attainable.
The book also teaches us that visualization is a skill we can learn. We just have to have the courage and conviction to put in the effort and give it a go. And picking up a copy of Ten Steps Ahead isn’t a bad place to start.
The Responsible Business: Reimagining Sustainability and Success by Carol Sanford, Jossey-Bass, 368 pages, $39.95, Hardcover, March 2011, ISBN 9780470648681
There has been a movement in business thought toward responsible practices and sustainability these last few years, and business books have reflected that—Peter Senge called it The Necessary Revolution in his latest book. Last month, we reviewed what might become the movement’s manifesto, aptly titled by its author, Umair Haque, The New Capitalist Manifesto. This month, I think we may have found the movement’s textbook, The Responsible Business by Carol Sanford.
I say that not because it reads like a textbook (quite the contrary), but because it is indispensible to the study and field of responsible business. Sanford begins by stating that, for all the good intentions and commitment to corporate responsibility we have witnessed recently, she is “concerned because the responsibility-sustainability train is finally leaving the station, and it’s going the wrong way.”
As companies have begun appointing “responsibility officers” and started “green initiatives,” Sanford has been arguing (as she has for the last three decades) against setting environmental goals and creating officer posts for responsibility. Her argument is that these efforts should not be an “add-on responsibility,” but a “full-on responsibility”—that a business must be “systemically responsible.”
Responsibility isn’t a set of metrics to be tracked or behaviors to be modified. It is central to both the purpose and prosperity of a business and must be pervasive in its practices.
Sanford identifies five stakeholders—what she calls “the pentad”—in Responsible Businesses: the customer is the “foundational shareholder”; the co-creator, “all the people and organizations who contribute to the creation of a product or service”; the Earth, “the original source and infrastructure without which human activities would be impossible”; the community the “business needs to partner [with] in order to source its materials and workers, manufacture its goods, sell its products or services, and recycle or store its waste” and; the investor, “without whom a company’s dreams would be difficult or impossible to realize.”
And she describes how the pentad works:
The pentad depicts a chain of logic that begins with the living image of a customer and flows organically through co-creators, Earth, communities, and investors. This flow results in improved health and vitality for all stakeholders.
The author fills the book with examples (from DuPont to Seventh Generation) of how this is a recipe not only for responsible businesses, but profitable ones. And, in the end, Sanford believes this is the natural state of business:
This may sound strange, but I can hardly wait for the corporate responsibility movement to run its course so that business can get back to being responsible by nature.
We love many of the books coming out of the responsibility movement, but we couldn't agree more.