My dad gave me one dollar bill, ‘Cause I’m his smartest son, And I swapped it for two shiny quarters, ‘Cause two is more than one!
One of my favorite Christmas gifts when I was a child was a book of poetry by Shel Silverstein titled Where the Sidewalk Ends. The poem above (“Smart”) is one of 130 or so poems in the book, and I read it over and over again, mostly just because—as a brand-new reader—I could.
Since that Christmas, I've liked getting and giving books as gifts. I give them as new baby gifts, birthday gifts, housewarming gifts, and most of all holiday gifts.
I suppose it’s because books have a gravitas that most other gifts lack. What’s more, they are the perfect blend of thoughtful mixed with lazy: They are easy to ship, they don’t break, and you don’t need to worry about taste or fit. (And even if you guess wrong, they are also easy to exchange, re-gift, or—in a last-ditch effort—the can be re-homed at the local public library.)
Giving books to business colleagues, clients or customers is a little tricky, though. I like to stick with new books (or those published since the last giving season), but I don’t want to give a tome that’s too weighty—the literary equivalent of a thick, dense pot roast in a season of canapés. Although if you do lean toward the more filling title, you might consider Web Analytics 2.0 by Avinash Kaushik (Sybex, 2010) or Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson (New Rides, 2010).
For business book gifts, I prefer fun, easy reads that have a general appeal, like the three that are on my giving list this year:
1. Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History by David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan (Wiley, 2010).
The gist: The Grateful Dead broke almost every rule in the music industry book. They encouraged their fans to record their live shows and trade tapes; they built a mailing list and sold concert tickets directly to fans; and they built a business model on live concerts, not album sales. Businesses today can learn a lot from the Dead about collaboration, community-building and “freemium” content, because they pioneered so many concepts that today have taken root in social media and inbound marketing.
Best quote: “Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right…” -Basketball legend and Deadhead Bill Walton, in the foreword
Who to give it to: Well, deadheads… duh. But also anyone on your list who works a business struggling to understand how to embrace social tools to grow and deepen relationships with customers. And I’m not saying all teenagers would find this book interesting, but I fetched this book more than once off the floor of my teenage son’s room. Just sayin’.
2. The Micro-Script Rules: It’s Not What People Hear, It’s What They Repeat… by Bill Schley (N.W. Widener, 2010)
The gist: In a world of tiny Twitter posts and Facebook updates, you need to package your key ideas in messages than can be instantly absorbed and understood. You can’t break through by delivering more information, but by being smart and tactical about the information you are delivering. Make every word you use in your marketing and messaging count, and convey your “story” in as few memorable words as possible.
Best quote: “But isn’t a Micro-Script just a catch phrase or a sound bite? Sure—but it’s much, much more—a very special kind of sound bite. A story bite.” Page 19.
Who to give it to: Haven’t we all dealt with those who seem to have a difficult time getting to the point of their story? For example, I’m giving one to my Aunt Azniv, whose longwinded stories spin maddeningly before she gets to the point. Maybe you know someone like her, too?
Give this book to those people, certainly. But also to anyone (teachers, business leaders, brand managers, politicians) who needs to communicate effectively and succinctly with a time-starved audience. (For that matter, give it to the kids waiting in the mall line to see Santa.) Tapping into and telling your brand’s story effectively is the cornerstone of your marketing, right? So if telling your story with brevity and clarity is critical, this book is a great resource.
3. Whoogles by Kendall Almerico and Tess Hottenroth (Adams Media, 2010)
The gist: The authors typed a few letters or words into Google, and then reproduced—with screenshots, for inclusion in this book—the most ridiculous suggestions by Google, based on what others have already searched for. Sure, you’ve searched for some bizarre things on Google, perhaps—things you might not dare to ask anyone else, out loud. But you’ll be amazed at how tame your searches are compared with some other outrageous searches out there. The oddball. The unenlightened. The downright creepy. It’s all here, and it’s all true.
Okay, so this book isn’t exactly going to help you in your business. But it’s entertaining and smartly penned, with amusing commentary that makes for a fun afternoon by the fire.
Best quote: So many quotes, so little space…. But right up there is this one, from an actual Google search. The Question is from Google; the Answer is the author’s commentary: “Q: Can pigs eat pork? A: Not kosher pigs.”
Who to give it to: Anyone who has ever used Google, especially those with a sense of humor.
So how about you? What books are on your list to give (or get) this season?
Image credit: jpockele