There are enough books on marketing and management to nearly fill Donald Trump’s ego. with barely enough room for Ted Cruz’s heart, Hillary Clinton’s integrity and Bernie Sanders’ knowledge of market economics.
Some folks gobble up these books and adopt their mantras. Others, like me, read them now and then and smile at their interesting insights and apt metaphors, but recognize how feeble is their ultimate contribution to the general business knowledge base.
That’s because many of the most popular books on marketing and management predict or describe the past, expound on one nifty insight, or reveal a series of abstractions camouflaged as a blueprint for success.
Mostly what they leave behind, in my opinion, are snappy descriptions and acronyms — big hairy audacious goals, moving our cheese and directing the elephant.
Consider this: in his seminal book In Search of Excellence, Tom Peters revealed the secrets of 43 of America’s most successful companies. In the 10 years following publication, those 43 companies underperformed the market. Peters was documenting the past.
The Heath Brothers lay out a prescription for the future in Switch. It’s an intriguing formula if you can convert the abstractions to practice and execute it. Good luck with that.
That’s not to say that management and marketing books can’t impart valuable lessons. Indeed, most of them do or they wouldn’t get published. And many of them inspire readers to improve their performance, mostly be reminding them of what they already knew intuitively.
It’s just that “past performance is no guarantee of future results.” In fact, one recent best-selling marketing book’s big insight is the uselessness of all the previous insights. It’s called “Ignore Everyone.”
Which is why much of the audience was captivated by the last AMA presenter, Stan Phelps of 9″ Marketing. Phelps laid out a specific blueprint for marketing success and found examples of companies that are delivering. Not Fortune 500 companies whose achievements are already codified but firms of all sizes (1001 of them!) whose success we can re-examine in 10 years and determine if Stan was on to something.
So what is that something? Okay it’s not exactly the epiphany of relativity. It’s about customer experience being the new marketing. It’s about how focusing on delighting your current customers is far more profitable than recruiting new ones. It’s about giving that little something extra.
And it came with specifics — a hotel chain that leaves pet goldfish in guest rooms and an online shoe company that delivers overnight.
It’s not revolutionary, I know. But it’s also not really debatable. Each of us can examine our own work — even our work within an organization — and critique our performance against this standard. It made me recommit, at least for the afternoon, to going the extra mile for my clients.
And if you like apt metaphors and catchy acronyms, he had those too. So rah for that. And he’s written books. So rah for them. You can buy them if you want. Or you can come to the next AMA event. I have a feeling Stan Phelps will be back.