Book Review: UnMarketing

It’s Sharpen the Saw Season, as Stephen Covey might say. Thus, my first ever book review.  If things go well, three more are on the way this winter.

The subtitle of UnMarketing, by Scott Stratten, is “Stop Marketing. Start Engaging.” It’s not about social media marketing per se, but it does represent the new thinking about marketing and selling that is so epitomized by the way social media work. In other words, customers are in charge, not you, and your job is to make it easy for them to turn to you when they want to buy by establishing helpful, two-way relationships with them and forgetting the hard sell. There is particularly significant emphasis paid to customer service, both pre-sale and post-sale. Stratten pulls few punches, praising some companies by name and calling others onto the carpet.

End of the cold call, start of authentic relationships.

Who Should Read It: I would particularly recommend the book for small business owners, consultants and entrepreneurs – people who may have other jobs besides marketing and bring some perceptions about marketing that come from not being able to keep up on how the Web and social media in particular have changed consumers’ expectations of vendors. On the other hand, even sales and marketing professionals, especially in B2C, will benefit from some of the principles here.

What Really Works:

  1. The Title. And by that I mean the overall concept. I’ve already talked up UnMarketing as a concept in a work discussion – it’s a great title and absolutely true. I like that it’s not a “Social Media Book,” but that social media is infused throughout. In the real world, as I’m always preaching, there isn’t online and offline, there’s only Inline – everything working seamlessly together.
  2. Hierarchy of Buying. The author’s Hierarchy of Buying for service-based businesses is a useful organizing principle for UnMarketing. It puts cold calling on the bottom – “annoying 99 people in a row to potentially talk to someone who may hire you based on no trust and price alone” – and the power of current satisfied customers at the top, which is why current, happy customers, ergo great customer service is so important. I loved the anecdote about great service at Lush because it happened to me too.
  3. Thought Leadership. While the tactical means to go about it isn’t as easy as the author implies for many industries and organizations (see below), I like the focus on establishing thought leadership as a means to build trust and a relationship with people well before they may be ready to buy.
  4. Web Links: Many examples come with links to resources online – using bit.ly links to make it easier for those of us reading in tree format. Here’s a Domino’s Pizza franchise apologizing to a customer on video and here’s how an online billing outfit called FreshBooks makes fans.

What Doesn’t:

  1. The book is written in the first person and all of the author’s examples are based on his own personal experience as a consumer, motivational speaker and social media activist.  While the basic principles apply to anyone, when he gets tactical, especially in the second half of the book, I question the applicability of every approach.
  2. Although he has some interesting anecdotes from big brands like Wal-Mart and Zappos.com, he assumes that “you” is usually “you” literally, not your company or brand and that you don’t have to manage any of the complexities of a larger organization.  Again, the principles apply to almost anyone but the tactical details do not.
  3. He starts selling himself more the farther into the book you get.

Bottom Line: If you are an entrepreneur starting a small business, read the whole book and you’ll have a leg up on the competition, unquestionably. If you work in sales, marketing, customer service or communications for a larger organization, I’d read the first few chapters and skim the rest.

`You can follow Stratten on Twitter at @unmarketing.

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Aaron Pearson

Aaron Pearson is a senior vice president in the technology practice of Weber Shandwick, a global communications firm. He is also an adjunct instructor at the University of St. Thomas Opus School of Business, where he teaches a master's course in communications technology. His B2B experience includes industries such as healthcare, manufacturing and agriculture, as well as functional audiences from IT to HR.

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