Believe it or not, we are already in June. This means we are almost halfway through 2018. Hence it’s a good time to take a bit of a pulse check to see how your business is doing in achieving its goals and strategic objectives.
To help you stay on course, there are three books I highly recommend that founders and management of start-ups and SMEs in B2B must read. These books present some ideas and approaches for you to consider as you manage your company’s growth strategies and plans. They also reinforce some very important tried and true principles that should be adhered to as your company continues on its growth journey.
Here are my top three picks:
As referrals and references are key to driving B2B growth, this book should be mandatory reading for EVERY member of a start-up or SME operating in B2B.
Written by Mark Organ, CEO of the Advocacy Marketing firm Influitive, The Messenger is the Message details why and how companies should implement advocacy marketing programs. For those of you that do not know what advocacy marketing is, Mark describes it as “a system for making customers happy and then capitalising on that happiness to benefit your business.”
The book discusses how advocacy is about building relationships, establishing trust among peers, mobilising and creating a community of advocates (ie. a core base of enthusiastic customers) whom you look after and in return they will assist your company in various ways such as providing referrals, references, giving input on product development.
What I really like about The Messenger is the Message are the many practical examples and ideas it provides that should be used by B2B start-ups and SMEs –even those that have limited budgets and small teams.
Some examples include:
- Authority in Action: providing opportunities for advocates to increase their authority such as speaking at events, writing blogs or articles as well as provide access to industry leaders
- Access Behind the Curtain: providing advocates with the opportunity to be the first to test new products, gain access to your company’s roadmaps and action plans
- Hug the Haters: invite users to discuss issues, work on the service experience and develop ideas to WOW customers
Regardless where your company is at in developing its customer advocacy, The Messenger Is the Message will provide you with ideas and approaches to better harness the power of your advocates to further drive the growth and success of your Start Up or SME.
Although Seth Godin’s bestseller, The Purple Cow was originally published in 2003, it is an example of evergreen content as the fundamentals and principles that he discusses in this book are more relevant and vital to start-up and SME success in B2B now more than ever before. His core principles align with and reinforce our Listen Innovate Grow B2B Framework as listening to customers and innovating are must underpin how B2B SMEs and start-ups must operate to achieve sustainable and profitable growth.
Seth’s core premise is that businesses must be remarkable in everything they do. This is achieved by “overhauling your offerings with dramatic improvements in the things the RIGHT customers care about.” Seth rightfully emphasises the importance of targeting a niche and creating “idea viruses” ie offerings that are remarkable and WOW a small slice of the market that really respond to what you sell. He says that idea viruses often come from being “too something” such as too simple, too complicated, annoying. While these offerings will not appeal to everyone, there will be a portion of the market for which these “too something” offerings will be just perfect.
Seth also outlines four principles businesses should adopt to foster continued innovation and growth:
- Look after the 20% of customer who loves you. Create WOW experiences.
- Milk the Cow (ie your remarkable offerings) for everything its worth. Try to extend this as long as possible
- Target markets with Otaku. Otaku is a Japanese term meaning more than a hobby and less than an obsession). Customers with Otaku are the ones you should seek! They will learn about your products, try them out and tell others and sneeze (ie spread the word!)
- Create an environment where you are likely to invest in a Purple Cow.
If you have never read, Purple Cow get yourself a copy and read it! If you have, read it again!
This book was written by Reid Hoffman founder of LinkedIn and is aimed at both start-up entrepreneurs as well as individuals seeking to progress their careers.
The Start-up of You also presents some evergreen principles that all B2B Start-up and SME owners and managers should practice such as:
- Always operate like an adaptive start-up with a “permanent beta” mindset whereby your company is continually evolving and is a “work in progress.”
The gem of the book is his concept of ABZ Planning which recognises the need to continually listen to your markets and customers as well as to have a plan but to be flexible and responsive. Owners and managers will need to use the following three plans:
- Plan A: What you are doing now. With Plan A, you iterate regularly as you learn.
- Plan B: When you change the direction of your business or the path to get there based on what you learn. This could be due to identifying the true market need, discovering better opportunities or that Plan A simply is not working. The Best Plan B’s are those that are different but related to what you are already doing
- Plan Z: Your company’s fall back position. It allows you to take on uncertainty.
Reid also rightfully emphasises that real planning is about mapping out SPECIFIC steps to make goals happen and then TAKING ACTION and learning from it. The Start-up of You is a book that Start-up/SME owners and managers should read, reflect on and incorporate into their strategy, innovation and customer planning activities.
TAKE ACTION NOW
Review your company’s progress on achieving its 2018 goals and consider the following:
- What aspects are you getting stuck or falling short?
- Customer acquisition or retention
- Service and delivery
- What actions can be taken to address these issues?
Pick one of these books as a starting point to help you “course correct” and improve your company’s performance.
Don’t forget to Download Your Free Sample Chapters of our upcoming book, Listen Innovate Grow.