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Smarter, Faster, Cheaper: A Review

The phrase “smarter, faster, cheaper” sounds exactly like what any small business owner or entrepreneur (or manager or executive) wants in their business.  We all want efficiency, speed and low cost, don’t we?

Smarter, Faster, Cheaper [1] is also the name of the new book by David Siteman Garland [2] (book website here [3]).  The subtitle “Non-Boring, Fluff-Free Strategies for Marketing and Promoting Your Business” is a description of what’s inside this book.  The author uses the phrase “smarter, faster, cheaper” often compared in the same sentence with the phrase “dumber, slower and expensive” to highlight the difference between today’s marketing and traditional forms of marketing.

Regular readers of Small Business Trends will no doubt recognize the author.  He is an expert contributor here.  David Siteman Garland caught my attention with his exuberant upbeat attitude — an attitude that permeates this book. So I couldn’t wait to dive in when he sent me an advance copy of his book.

Content as Core to Your Marketing

This is a marketing book.  But marketing is a wide topic, so let me narrow it down for you.  This book is heavily oriented toward marketing via creating online communities and online content.  Although in a few places it covers offline marketing such as networking at events, the majority is geared toward the online world.

John Battelle, Founder of Wired magazine, once made a crucial observation when he said that everybody is “in the media business today.”   If you expect to have your business found online and spur online word of mouth through social media, you have to be creating and sharing content.  It’s content that gets indexed in the search engines that your prospects and customers will search.  It’s content that customers consume online.  And it’s content that people share and discuss online.  There’s a huge, never-ending, 24/7/365 conversation going on; your business needs to be part of that conversation online.

Let me put it to you this way.  Today, without content you might as well be armed with a crossbow but no arrows in your quiver.  You may aim, but you’re going to find it hard to hit your target.

And content is really where this book shines:  when it discusses strategies and techniques for creating and promoting online content to market your business.

The Big Picture

But David’s book is different from, say, a how-to-blog or how-to-use-social-media book.  Yes, you will get some tips for how to write successful blog posts online, how to create effective video, and how to use Twitter or YouTube.  But this is primarily a book about marketing, so the emphasis is on strategies and tactics for promoting content and using content to build a community of loyal followers for your brand.

This is a book that’s always bringing you back to the big picture. At regular intervals, David forces you to step back and think about your overall business goals.  For instance, in a chapter about online video, he says “forget viral, focus on function.”  Sure, we might dream of a video that goes viral and gets a million views.  But as David points out, the real value of video is “providing content for a targeted market.”

That sounds deceptively simple — you might even think simplistic.  But I think it’s a profound point that more businesses should pay attention to.  I see this come up all the time with small businesses that get sidetracked by attempts to create viral videos or “link bait” articles.  While funny or outrageous, they may not get you any more customers.  Worse, they  may even be a turn-off for serious prospects.  And they’re certainly a misuse of your precious company resources of time and money if they are off base message-wise.

What I Liked About Smarter, Faster, Cheaper

I mentioned David’s exuberance — well, that comes through in the book like a cheerleader with a megaphone.  Part of the reason his personality comes through so well is the informal writing style.  It makes the book very readable, with its me-to-you style in sentences like this:

“Here comes another hockey example (stop groaning! Hockey is a great metaphor for business … and for life).”

Another thing I liked about this book is the down-to-earth advice.  For instance, in a section on how much time you should spend creating content, such as blog posts and videos, versus marketing it, David writes:

“Your time — and any given person’s time — is finite.  The biggest pitfall here is to spend all of it creating — worrying about this word or that word, staring for hours at a shadow in your video, being concerned that it is not perfect, and other endless time wasters.  None of us is Shakespeare or Spielberg.  This doesn’t mean that we should rush through the creation process and put out garbage.  But from my experience, and picking others’ brains, you have to focus at least as much time and energy on marketing and promoting (hence, this section of the book).

Those who have created strong content often skyrocketed because of the 20/80 rule.  Twenty percent of your time is allotted to creation; 80 percent to promotion, relationship-building, and so forth.”

Why Read Smarter, Faster, Cheaper

Content is fundamental to any online marketing strategy today.  You have to become good at creating content. But creating alone is not enough.  You must be adept at spreading your content widely, and starting and engaging your market in conversations.  In short, your business must develop a competency in marketing your content.  And that’s why you should read Smarter, Faster, Cheaper [1].