Sunday, February 28, 2010

My March reading list and a Raving Fan's book review.

March is looking like a holy terror of a month, but I'm hoping to pound some serious paper by the time we're out like a lamb. Please note that despite my love for the digital realm, I still require paper pages to be able to dive in properly.

You'll notice that the top of the stack is a *gasp* business book, Wired to Care by Dev Patnaik. The horrors! It was a recommendation as part of an agency deep dive on empathy, and is actually supposed to be quite good. My esteemed colleague Steve Schildwachter dubbed it "a business book I actually enjoyed."

I'm right there with ya, Steve; I have grumbled and skimmed my way through many a tedious business book. The sweet ain't as sweet without the sour, and as such, I think it's all the terrible (and oh my, there are so, so many) business books out there that make the awesome ones all the more notable.

My favorite business book of all time, advertising or otherwise, hands down no contest, go pick up a copy right now if you care about your job, is Raving Fans, by Kenneth Blanchard and Sheldon Bowes. I read Raving Fans for a CRM class I took in my final semester at Marquette (MARK 159, for my MU peeps). The gist: in order to be successful, businesses cannot afford to not take excellent care of their consumers. I won't ruin the story because I really want you to read it, but let's take a quick look at the three key takeaways. I found them fascinating because they draw a pretty obvious parallel between happiness in business and happiness in life. Marketing is a study in the psychology of buying and selling, yes? There should be humanity in marketing theory. So, let's take a look.

Principle #1: Decide what you want.
Define a vision. Decide what you want and will be able to deliver. Set up objectives for delivery. You can't be everything to everyone, and your business won't satisfy every consumer. Decide what YOU want to do. This will help you find your most profitable and best-fitting customer relationships. Or regular relationships. Friendships, even.

Principle #2: Discover what the customer wants.
This one's a two-parter: empathize and listen. Determine who your potential consumers are, and learn as much as possible about them. Ask them what they want. Some of them will want what you have, and some won't. Keep and cultivate the former; allow the latter to go. You're not right for them. It's okay. Move on. Stick with the people who are right for you, and look to number 3 as to how to treat them like gold.

Principle #3: Deliver the Vision Plus 1.
Delivering the vision focuses on consistency; Plus 1 addresses the need to over-deliver. A business should be flexible enough to constantly be monitoring their consumer relationships to see how they can exceed expectations one extra percent at a time.  It's looking just past the vision to the changing needs of the consumer. By doing so instead of grabbing blindly at lofty goals, your business can flawlessly execute small adaptations that lead to big change. And, by working on yourself and your personal relationships one digestible bit at a time, you can work towards goals that improve your life and relationships.

Do what you can do, listen to the people you're doing it for, and do it the best you possibly can, and better. Keep listening and adapting to your audience for continued improvement. That's what it takes to build raving fans. None of this stuff is rocket science. And, despite the fact that it seems to speak directly to social media strategy, the book was written in 1993. Business relationships, customer relationships, digital relationships; they're all just human relationships. It's the human element of the customer relationship that makes a customer feel valued; people love to feel like their voices are being heard. And all you can do is be yourself and do your best, in business, in life, what-have-you.

It's something like 100 pages and written like a story about a fairy godmother and three wishes/truths, etcetera. I promise you can handle it. Even more so, I think you'll love it. Buy it for your fancy book-reading-computy device if you must, but check it out.

See? Business books can be fun. And, look how much we learned! I'll be back post-Wired to Care with my thoughts. I'm hoping it gives Raving Fans a run for its money.