Welcome to the first annual list of Best Small Business Books, here at Small Business Trends.
The year 2008 was a banner year for business books, and we had a lot to choose from. So making choices was very hard.
Each book on this list was chosen because it was fresh and remarkable in some way. Also we tended toward books that offer practical advice for entrepreneurs and those running small businesses that you can implement right away. Each book can help you get and keep profitable customers, and be a better, more successful business owner.
Not every book came out in 2008 — a couple were published or revised in 2007, but were getting a great deal of buzz and interest in 2008 and so were included.
1. GROUNDSWELL – People are talking about companies and their products all over the Web … it’s a groundswell of activity. Written by two Forrester analysts and based on actual research with real companies of all sizes, this book introduces you to the world of social media and online communities.
- Why Read This Book: Social Media isn’t going away. This book shows you how to weed through the morass of social media tools using a 4-step process to build a social media strategy for your business.
- Key Take-Away: Start a blog and build a customer community around your product or service.
2. 7 TRIGGERS TO YES — By far, THE most practical book on the subject on sales and marketing influence and persuasion. What makes this book stand out from others on the subject is its simple, applicable practicality for the small business owner. Review of 7 Tiggers to Yes.
- Why Read This Book: Russell Granger shows you how to apply the “triggers” in exercises that you can implement today to help you get what you want in your next meeting. Talk about immediate gratification.
- Key Take-Away: Use the 7-Triggers Form to prepare for your next presentation.
3. NEUROMARKETING — The subtitle of this book reads, “Understanding the Buy Buttons in Your Customer’s Brain.” And that’s what this book explores, showing us how the right sales and marketing messages can bring a response from that part of the brain that decides to buy.
- Why Read This Book: You will understand how the brain makes decisions and how you can focus your designs and messages to get customers to pick you.
- Key Take-Away: Use vivid and contrasting examples in your marketing, like before and after shots. Tell an emotional story with the most important points at the beginning. Keep reasons to buy tangible and easy to grasp (a twelve-year-old should “get it”).
- Why Read This Book: Professor Scott Shane shows with hard data what it means to be a successful entrepreneur.
- Key Take-Away: In an odd way this book is encouraging because it demonstrates that starting a business is hard work, and startups take time to grow. You may be right on track and doing better than you think, compared with others.
5. BUYOLOGY — Martin Lindstrom commissions one of the largest studies of what turns us on about particular products and marketing messages – and the results are surprising. Using MRI scanners to record brain activity, the study measures which products and ad messages evoke the most favorable response. For instance, you’ll learn why fear-based anti-smoking messages make smokers want to smoke more, not less. A fun and insightful read. Read a review of Buyology.
- Why Read This Book: You will learn how to make ads and brand campaigns more effective.
- Key Take-Away: It’s the emotions and colors that are tied to your brand experience that remind buyers of you.
6. REALITY CHECK — Hilarious, in-your-face business advice. Guy Kawasaki uses his engaging style to call out every moose on every boardroom table and then some. You won’t be able to stop yourself from flipping chapter to chapter to see what hysterical idiosyncrasy of entrepreneurship he’ll tear into next – and what you’ll learn from the process. Read a review of Reality Check. Another review here.
- Why Read This Book: You can use this book as a sort of true-to-business encyclopedia. Got a difficult boss or client? Turn to the difficult boss chapter and get Guy’s insights.
- Key Take-Away: Don’t ask for funding if you don’t already have customers. Another favorite is Guy’s 10-20-30 presentation rule; 10 slides, 20 minutes and 30-point type.
7. BACK OF THE NAPKIN — If you’re going to spend your meetings doodling, then you might as well use those doodles to solve real problems. This is an incredibly useful book for anyone that has to present complex persuasive information.
- Why Read This Book: This book will make you a more creative problem solver.
- Key Take-Away: The next time you have to communicate something – take the time to draw it out. You will get insights AND intrigue your audience.
8. RUB MY TUMMY AND IT’S A DEAL — A completely different business book, this is a collection of cartoons by Andertoons designed to make you laugh at yourself and your entrepreneurial or corporate circumstance. Use the cartoons to inspire your next meeting or get a message through with a smile. Read a review of Rub My Tummy.
- Why Read This Book: It will make you smile.
- Key Take-Away: You can use cartoons on your business cards or commission them for client presentations, to get your point across with humor.
9. MADE TO STICK — Why is it that some stories (like the juicy ones) go viral while your latest product launch stagnates? The Heath Brothers (Chip and Dan) give you the 6-step method on how to construct your own story or marketing message so that it will spread.
- Why Read This Book: It outlines the six elements that make stories viral.
- Key Take Away: Make your stories as visual and descriptive and emotionally charged as possible to make them memorable.
10. TOILET PAPER ENTREPRENEUR — Mike Michalowicz tells it like it is. This is the no BS guide to taking that idea and actually putting some action behind it. It’s written as if he’s right there in the room with you – not pulling any punches. Read a review of The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur.
- Why Read This Book: You will feel better about your entrepreneurial prospects when you see how many creative low-cost resources are out there.
- Key Take-Away: Mike’s 3-Sheet plan gets you inspired and focused to build, grow and manage your business right away.
11. COMPLEXITY CRISIS — Just walk through any supermarket and you’ll see an incredible proliferation of products. What you may not realize is that with all that choice comes more complexity. And the more complexity there is, the more cost there is. (Our bonus pick.) Review of Complexity Crisis here.
- Why Read This Book: You will see the tell-tale signs of complexity that can bleed your profits dry — and how to eliminate complexity.
- Key Take-Away: John Mariotti (previous CEO of Huffy and Rubbermaid Office Products) shows you where and how to recognize when complexity is hiding in your financial statement. If you’re not an accounting wiz – this is worth every page.
Now – what do you think? Feel free to nominate your own choice in the comments section, and answer both points: (1) Why read the book, and (2) Key take-away for a small business owner or entrepreneur. (And compare to our Reader’s Choice List of Best Business Books.)
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About the Author: Ivana Taylor is CEO of Third Force, a strategic firm that helps small businesses get and keep their ideal customer. She’s the co-author of the book “Excel for Marketing Managers” and proprietor of DIYMarketers, a site for in-house marketers. Her blog is Strategy Stew.