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March 27, 2014

The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies (Book Review of the Week-ish)

March 27, 2014 | By | No Comments

I’ve spent the last few days working my way through the fascinating The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by MIT professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee.

First, it’s worth pointing out that this is not — emphatically not — a marketing book, at least not in the sense most people think about marketing. Brynjolfsson and McAfee are big thinkers in the truest sense of the word, exploring the implications of increasingly cheap (if not free) technology on people’s everyday lives and livelihoods. They look deeply at the exponential growth of computing power and how that growth has shaped, and will continue to shape, our world.

Second, this is by no means “light reading.” But, it remains highly readable nonetheless. Brynjolfsson and McAfee tell a compelling story that ties together the work of many leading economists and economic thinkers. Their examination of the economic effects brought about by the computer revolution — the “Second Machine Age” of the book’s title — leaves few stones unturned in its examination of the rapidly shifting landscape brought about by unprecedented technological change.

Given that this isn’t a marketing book, why review it on a marketing and e-commerce blog? Simple, the authors’ comprehensive look at how digital products and services — apps, games, and media — create a “winner take all” environment matters to anyone working in those fields. Even more interesting, though, is their explanation in Chapter 10 of how ratings and review sites create similar effects for all products and services, digital or not. While I’ve long talked about the important role ratings and reviews play in digital marketing today, I’d never seen the long-term effects spelled out so clearly before. Incredibly useful stuff.

Brynjolfsson and McAfee’s world-view may appear utopian (or, at the very least, very optimistic) to some. But they don’t shirk the hard questions, such as the effects technological change has on the job market now and in the future. And this hard look at the world we live in matters. It offers tremendous insights into the challenges and fears your customers may face in the coming years as automation and a changing business environment affects not only consumers’ work opportunities, incomes, and purchasing power, but also their feelings, hopes, and dreams for their lives, and those of their children.

If marketing represents the act of creating customers, understanding their needs, and offering products and services that help them in their lives, then The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies represents an important book for all marketers — and for businesses generally. I highly recommend you pick up a print copy, or perhaps more appropriately given the subject, the Kindle edition. Great information, well presented, and well worth your time.

Interested in how these changes affect your customers in a more day-to-day sense? Then you may also enjoy these slides from another recent speaking engagement “Elements of E-commerce: How Digital Storytelling Drives Revenue and Results” here:

And, if you’re interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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December 13, 2013

The 2013 Thinks Holiday Gift Guide

December 13, 2013 | By | No Comments

Holiday gift guideHo, ho, ho, Big Thinkers! There are only a couple of weeks left to shop for Christmas goodies. And if you’re still unsure what to get your favorite business person, here are my favorite items from this past year. Each of the items on this list represents something I bought this past year and found incredibly useful in my work or personal life. I suspect your gift recipients will, too.

We’ve got three categories of gifts, featuring Business Books, Travel Accessories, and Software Tools, so check out all three for a variety of gift-giving ideas.

Full disclosure: I’m an Amazon affiliate, but otherwise receive no compensation for any of the products listed here; I’ve bought everything here with my own money over the last 12 months and highly recommend them.

Anyway, on with the list:

3 Business Books Worth Reading

“Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works” by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin is one of the best business books of the year. Lafley’s the CEO of Proctor & Gamble, while Martin’s the Dean of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. Together they may have forgotten more about strategy than many will ever learn. The core of the book is a strategic framework that will work for almost any business. Solid, real-world examples help make this immediately applicable. It’s not the lightest read you’ll look at this holiday season. But it’s well worth the effort. Great stuff.
I wrote a full review of Robert Scoble and Shel Israel’s “Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of Privacy” right around when it first came out. So, I won’t repeat myself much here. But this is an excellent read and a worthwhile addition to anyone’s business bookshelf.
I reviewed Chip and Dan Heath’s “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard” a few years ago and named their extraordinary Made to Stick one of the 12 most important business books of the last decade way back in 2007. (In fact, almost anything from that list would make a great gift, too). Their latest effort, “Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work” is a worthy successor to their earlier books and offers fantastic ideas for how to improve your decision-making process. Highly recommended.

3 Must-Have Travel Accessories

My favorite briefcase comes from Thule. Their EnRoute Strut Daypack carries both a 15″ laptop and a 10″ tablet computer (though I carry an iPad mini) in a comfortable, lightweight package that fits in any plane overhead or, when in a pinch, under the seat of you. Given that I’m fairly long-legged, I really appreciate a compact bag that still leaves room for my feet when tucked under the seat in front of me. A great buy.
Want to listen to music while in your hotel room or working out on your back deck? Try the JBL Flip Wireless Bluetooth Speaker. It connects via Bluetooth to your iPhone, iPad, iPod, or Android device and offers really great sound quality, with plenty of bass. I’m a big fan.
Have your loved ones ever had the battery go dead on their iPhone, iPad, or Android phone while traveling and not have access to a power outlet? Yes, I hate those people who monopolize the outlets, too. But, while we’re all waiting for airports and Starbuck’s to offer more outlets, the Anker® 2nd Gen Astro3 12000mAh Portable Charger Backup External Battery can recharge up to 3 devices simultaneously and carries enough juice to recharge a single device multiple times. And, it weighs less than two-thirds of a pound, so it’s easy to travel with. Very, very useful gift. In fact, I’d be happy to get another in my stocking this year.

3 Awesome Software Tools

EvernoteYes, Evernote is free. But you can buy a Premium edition of the software for only $5.00 monthly or $45.00 per year. Premium provides additional storage space, offline access to all notebooks on all devices, collaboration tools, and improved search features. I use Evernote for everything across my Mac, iPad, iPhone, and Nexus 4 (yes, I may need help on the gadget front), and love how productive the Premium edition makes me. Your favorite business-person will love this, too.
Mp3 cloudplayer logo600pxAmazon Cloud Player is another “freemium” service. The company will store any MP3 purchases you make at Amazon and up to 250 songs from other sources for free. But, for $24.99 per year, you can upload up to 250,000 songs (!). But that’s not the cool part. The cool part is that Amazon makes its player app available for, brace yourself: Macs, PC’s, iPhones, iPods, iPads, Android phones, set-top boxes from Sonos, Samsung, and Roku, and in cars from Ford, BMW, and Mini. Whew. So, you no longer have to worry about the amount of storage on whatever device(s) you prefer. Just connect to the cloud and listen for days. I am a huge fan.
Long-time readers of the blog (or those who’ve read my Guide to Small Business Blogging) know how big a fan I am of MarsEdit from Red Sweater Software. It’s a phenomenal tool for bloggers, regardless of your platform. It continually wins awards as the best blogging tool. And it ought to continue. No matter whether your favorite blogger uses WordPress, Squarespace, Tumblr, Blogger or about a dozen other platforms, MarsEdit works as an offline/online editor extraordinaire. And, yes, I wrote this very gift guide post using nothing but MarsEdit. Very, very cool tool. (Mac-only)

I hope these gift ideas give you some direction for your favorite folks this holiday season. And I hope you and your favorite folks have a happy, healthy, and wholly wonderful holiday!

If you’re interested in learning more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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October 4, 2013

The Master Switch by Tim Wu (Book Review of the Week-ish)

October 4, 2013 | By | No Comments

Columbia professor and policy advocate Tim Wu wants you to know what you’re up against. And with “The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires”—his excellent, important book covering corporate control of information—Wu outlines how governments and conglomerates collaborate to enact gates and tolls around any information channel, from the age of telegraphs through to the current Information Superhighway that is the Internet.

So why am I reviewing a a book from 2011? And what makes this title that’s been sitting on my Kindle for over a year worth reading today?

Lots.

Beginning with the economist Joseph Schumpeter’s notion of creative destruction, Wu outlines a clear and compelling outline of how information empires—think businesses like AT&T, Hollywood film studios, and Google—eventually close previously “open” networks to increase profits and constrain competition.

Now, first, remember that I’m a little conflicted here. My own business depends on intellectual property and extracting a fee from information. But it’s all sorts of hubris for me to suggest I’m the type of business Wu worries about. In fact, Wu seems somewhat disinterested in who wins or loses in business terms.

Instead, Wu has bigger fish to fry. As he asserts after a few dozen pages of setup,

“In an information industry, the cost of monopoly must not be measured in dollars alone, but also in its effect on the economy of ideas and images, the restraint of which can ultimately amount to censorship.”

What appears at first a history of business and economic principles quickly underscores the real cost to consumers: the loss of freedoms, in particular, the freedom of speech. Not surprising, really, when you consider Wu coined the term “net neutrality.”

Recent signs suggest steps towards closing the open Internet in ways very likely to keep Wu up at night: the Washington Post recently accused Comcast of “…acting more and more like a monopolist” in how it prices access to the Web, while the W3C, the body controlling the open standards behind the World Wide Web, is planning to include digital rights management (DRM) technologies in its latest draft specifications. And I’m not going anywhere near the Edward Snowden/NSA stuff here, but draw your own conclusions.

“The Master Switch” is not a light, breezy read. But it’s an important one nonetheless. If your business depends on information and understanding how gatekeepers emerge between you and your customers (spoiler alert: it does), it’s well worth a read. And if your ability to speak out against injustice, intolerance, or oppression depends upon those same gatekeepers (again, it does), the book takes on added importance. Give it a look when you get the chance. You’ll be glad you did.

If you’re interested in learning more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past book reviews, including:

Tim Peter

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September 26, 2013

The Age of Context by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel (Book Review of the Week-ish)

September 26, 2013 | By | No Comments


“The future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed.” William Gibson

So, I’m back with another (long overdue) installment of the Tim Peter Thinks “Book Review of the Week-ish.” But I couldn’t have picked a better book to bring back the feature with than Robert Scoble and Shel Israel’s “Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of Privacy,” a fantastic book that highlights what the future will look like and, in many ways, what today already does.

Because, as the William Gibson quote I highlight above so rightly points out, the future already exists. So much of what we’ll take for granted then, someday, exists now, today. Maybe the future exists in only a nascent form. But Scoble and Israel point clearly at what we should expect it to look like.

In case you doubt their ability to do this, remember that Scoble and Israel showed what the future of marketing would look like in their seminal work “Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers,” a book written in 2004 that got many things right about our current, content marketing-focused present.

If the book has any flaw, it’s that it’s unapologetically optimistic.

Me? I don’t mind.

But the authors’ enthusiasm for living a public life (in particular Scoble), opens the pair up to attacks of lacking seriousness or critical thinking. In fact, the authors avoid in-depth discussion of recent privacy issues highlighted during the recent NSA/Edward Snowden/Bradley Manning-type scandals until Chapter 12 of the book and even then, gloss over the topic a little more lightly that expected. It’s an unfortunate choice given how passionately many people feel about the issue.

Still, their reticence to tackle so weighty a topic in what is, ostensibly, a business-focused book is understandable (Full disclosure: I have avoided discussing the same topics at any length in my blog posts and podcasts, too).

However, for business leaders and (business book readers), “Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of Privacy” is required reading. By basing their observations on what exists today, profiling those pushing to make a given future happen—in effect, predicting the present more than the future—Scoble and Israel paint a compelling view of the what your future will look like. I highly recommend giving it a look. You just might like where we’re heading. And, if you don’t, you’ll at least know what to expect.

If you’re interested in learning more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past book reviews, including:

Tim Peter

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March 22, 2013

The Art of Explanation: Making your Ideas, Products, and Services Easier to Understand by Lee LeFever (Book Review of the Week-ish)

March 22, 2013 | By | One Comment


Lee LeFever underscores his excellent new book, The Art of Explanation: Making your Ideas, Products, and Services Easier to Understand, by suggesting it’s, “Your guide to becoming an explanation specialist.” As you might expect from a book about becoming “an explanation specialist,” it’s also a perfect explanation of what you can expect.

Let’s be real. For a world so heavily dependent on communication, it’s amazing how frequently we fail to get our message across. Content marketing depends on clear communication, yet we often struggle to deliver our meaning and intent to our audience, right?

Happily, LeFever offers a wonderful guide to closing the communication gap all too common in business and in life. The book walks you through the steps necessary to improve your explanations, regardless of the form those explanations take (though, obviously, the material is particularly well-suited to presentations, video, email, and similar forms). LeFever’s day job at Common Craft revolves around taking complicated material and translating it for audiences of all kinds (their YouTube videos are legendary). The experience LeFever has gained over the years shows clearly throughout the book, which is filled with many examples from Common Craft’s library.

While the book covers some of the same ground as other excellent titles like Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen, Nancy Duarte’s slide:ology, or Dan Roam’s amazing The Back of the Napkin and Blah Blah Blah: What To Do When Words Don’t Work (and in fact, LeFever highlights and recaps Roam’s “6×6 Rule” in chapter 16), The Art of Explanation earns its own place on your business bookshelf by focusing first on communication and only then on your selected medium. It complements these other titles; it neither replaces them, nor vice versa.

If your business success depends on the skill with which you communicate (here’s a hint: it does), you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of The Art of Explanation: Making your Ideas, Products, and Services Easier to Understand, today.

Interested in more? Sign up for our free newsletter and get more information on how to build your social, local, mobile marketing strategy. And, if you’ve got a minute, you might enjoy some past reviews from our Book Review of the Week-ish series:

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October 15, 2012

The Desert Island Library: 6 Essential Modern Marketing Books

October 15, 2012 | By | One Comment

Desert Island LibraryI read lots (and lots and lots) of books each year. But a client recently asked me a challenging question: If I were marooned on a “desert island,” with no access to another marketing book again, what 5 or 6 books couldn’t I live without?

5 or 6?!? I thought. Impossible! There are so many that have influenced my thinking over the years (and so many great new books every year), there’s no way to trim the list down to such a small number.

And yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realized there are only a handful of books I reference again and again.

Now, this list is by no means designed to be comprehensive. It simply represents the books I’d recommend to anyone getting started in marketing (especially online marketing). Ironically, most focus on marketing generally, rather than specific tools. You’ll find little discussion of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or Foursquare on this list. Instead of “how to market,” the list focuses on how to think about marketing.

So here’s my collection of outstanding thinking about how to understand and communicate with customers, how to grow and build a business, and how to think about marketing overall:

  1. Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout. The definitive guide to positioning your products, what it is and why it matters. Ought to be required reading for anyone in business.
  2. Permission Marketing : Turning Strangers Into Friends And Friends Into Customers by Seth Godin. You can’t have a marketing book list these days without including something by Seth. For me, it’s this seminal classic (though I thought seriously about All Marketers are Liars instead). Both are light, easy reads, heavy on inspiration with just enough detail to point you in the right direction. Definitely worth the read.
  3. Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition by Steve Krug. While it’s technically a usability book, Krug highlights how your customers act online overall and directs you to think clearly about how they’re going to interact with your messages online. Also, one of the funniest business books I’ve ever read. There’s a good reason this book (along with Positioning and The Long Tail) made both this list and my list of the “12 Essential Business Books of the Last 10 Years.” It’s that useful.
  4. The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business andTransformed Our Culture by John Battelle. While its view of Google is a little dated, having been written in 2006, no book explains why search has become the default online advertising medium as effectively as Battelle’s The Search. Absolutely essential reading if you want to understand not only why search remains critical to consumer behavior, but why its continued dominance remains inevitable.
  5. The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More by Chris Anderson. Another classic, Anderson’s The Long Tail introduced a critical concept to online marketing (and to business generally). Arguably, the single most influential and important book about how the Internet has changed business in the last decade. Indispensable.
  6. Groundswell, Expanded and Revised Edition: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. Li and Bernoff answer the critical questions about social media such as why people participate (or not), whether a particular social network seems likely to catch on, and why specific social channels may work (or not) for your business. Fantastic book.

What do you think? Does this list capture the best thinking about marketing today? Or did I miss something obvious? Let me know in the comments if there’s something you can’t live without. I’d love to hear what it is.


Are you getting enough value out of your small business website? Want to make sure your business makes the most of the local, mobile, social web? thinks helps you understand how to grow your business via the web, every day. Get more than just news. Get understanding. Add thinks to your feed reader today.

Or subscribe via email.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to follow Tim on Twitter.

Tim Peter & Associates helps companies from startups to the Fortune 500 use the web to reach more customers, more effectively every day. Take a look and see how we can help you.

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July 26, 2012

Running Lean by Ash Maurya (Book Review of the Week-ish)

July 26, 2012 | By | One Comment


Running a business, quite frankly, can be a bitch. Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s fun. It’s thrilling. It’s incredibly rewarding. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t also frustrating sometimes, too. Every business owner and manager has had the experience of pouring your heart and soul and time and energy into your product or service, only to find that:

  1. Your product doesn’t do what you wanted it to, or, worse…
  2. Your customers don’t want it.

Well, that’s super fun, right? Right. Not so much.

Wouldn’t it be great instead if there was a way to run your business that helped you anticipate your customers needs more effectively? That helped you build products and services your customers actually wanted? That helped you allocate resources more efficiently and drive greater business results?

Of course, this would be a much shorter post if the answer was, “No.”

Happily, a methodology does exist that helps answer these questions (unless, of course, you were looking for a shorter post). It’s called “The Lean Startup Movement” (or just “Lean Startup”). Originally developed by Eric Ries on his “Startup Lessons Learned” blog, lean startups eventually became codified in Ries’ amazing book The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses. If you don’t have a copy, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Just go buy one.

The only issue with Ries’ book (and this is a minor quibble), is that it’s more “big picture,” focused on why Lean Startup method works as well as it does, while offering a framework most businesses can adapt to their specific needs. (FYI… anyone who’s been reading this blog for any amount of time will recognize I advocate similar ideas — Ries was “preaching to the choir” on this one). While it features many case studies and real-world examples, The Lean Startup lacks the sorts of templates and tools that a small business owner or team manager can immediately apply.

And that’s where Ash Maurya’s Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works excels.

Starting from the standpoint of “Practice trumps theory,” Maurya outlines a clear, step-by-step plan that almost everyone can immediately adapt to his or her business situation. Not sure how to prioritize your efforts? See Chapter 4 (One example of “preaching to the choir”: Maurya recommends reading Douglas Hubbard’s How to Measure Anything, which I reviewed when it came out). Want to know how to measure what’s working? See Stage 3 (especially Chapter 10). You’re a fan of the “minimum viable product (MVP)” concept but not sure exactly how to get from idea to execution? Check out Maurya’s “MVP Interview” in Chapter 11. Thinking about adding new features? See Chapter 13. And so on. It’s a book loaded with practical, real-world tools, techniques, and tips you can use today — and tomorrow, too. And don’t get me started on how much I like his implementation of Kanban boards. Way, way cool.

It bears pointing out that Maurya is a software developer as well as a business manager (as is Ries). And, there’s no question that the book frequently presents the Lean Startup process through the lens of creating web software. However, remember that software exists to automate processes. If your business relies on process at all (and, for your sake, I sure hope it does), you can apply the same techniques easily.

Ash Maurya has written an invaluable addition to any business library. Page after page, I found myself thinking, “Wow. I wish I’d had this book years ago.”

Now, don’t get me wrong; running a business isn’t going to be easy just because you read a book or two. It’s still going to require some heavy lifting and hard work. But, whether you read Running Lean in hardcover or the Kindle edition, I’m pretty confident you’ll find you’re spending less time cleaning up after yourself and more time building things your customers actually want.


Are you getting enough value out of your small business website? Want to make sure your business makes the most of the local, mobile, social web? thinks helps you understand how to grow your business via the web, every day. Get more than just news. Get understanding. Add thinks to your feed reader today.

Or subscribe via email.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to follow Tim on Twitter.

Tim Peter & Associates helps companies from startups to the Fortune 500 use the web to reach more customers, more effectively every day. Take a look and see how we can help you.

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January 19, 2012

Search Engine Optimization All-in-One for Dummies by Bruce Clay and Susan Esparza (Book Review of the Week-ish)

January 19, 2012 | By | No Comments


I don’t read a lot of “…for Dummies” books. And I suspect that many of you don’t either. Which, as “Search Engine Optimization All-in-One For Dummies” demonstrates, appears to be a really bad idea. Written by SEO legends Bruce Clay and Susan Esparza, you’re getting the very best advice from two of the very best SEO’s in the business.

SEO continues to provide one of the best, most cost-effective ways to grow your brand and your business. But, as many search engine optimization techniques remain cloaked in mystery and myth, companies often struggle to improve their site’s search rankings—and their business. Happily, Clay and Esparza shine light into the dark corners, unravel the mysteries and bust the myths to help you accomplish your goals.

More a desk reference than “read it end-to-end” kind of book, the book (really an anthology of multiple, shorter books), bristles with tips, tricks, and techniques you can use right away to improve your SEO efforts and your business results. Clay and Esparza make a key point early on, noting that those efforts,

“…can earn your site a higher ranking in search results pages. However, do not confuse the means with the end. Keep in mind your real goal—getting lots and lots of people to visit your site. [Emphasis mine]“

The authors refer back to this “real goal” repeatedly. They’re not focused on ways to “game” the search engines. Instead, they’re offering results-oriented advice that will help you in multiple aspects of your business. For instance, the section on “Discovering Your Site Theme” works both as an exercise in SEO and almost equally well for developing your overall positioning within the market.

The book provides excellent insights for the on-site, link-building and technical aspects of search engine optimization. So much so that I’d strongly recommend buying a copy for your technical, e-commerce and marketing teams—even if that’s just you. Clay and Esparza offer an intelligent, engaging and entertaining look at an important topic. Don’t let the title fool you. While it may say “…For Dummies” on the cover, grabbing a copy is one of the smartest things you can do.


Are you getting enough value out of your small business website? Want to make sure your business makes the most of the local, mobile, social web? thinks helps you understand how to grow your business via the web, every day. Get more than just news. Get understanding. Add thinks to your feed reader today.

Or subscribe via email.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to follow Tim on Twitter.

Tim Peter & Associates helps companies from startups to the Fortune 500 use the web to reach more customers, more effectively every day. Take a look and see how we can help you.

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January 5, 2012

The New Relationship Marketing by Mari Smith (Book Review of the Week-ish)

January 5, 2012 | By | No Comments


“No man is an island” — John Donne

Conventional wisdom suggests that networking remains core to business success, even in our highly connected culture. After all, a Facebook account without any friends is just kind of sad, isn’t it? And a Twitter account with no followers isn’t much of a tweet… er, treat. LinkedIn without any links… well, you get the idea.

Thankfully, Mari Smith’s wonderful new book “The New Relationship Marketing: How to Build a Large, Loyal, Profitable Network Using the Social Web” illustrates how you can effectively build and nurture your network with an honest, authentic approach too often lacking in modern marketing.

Smith puts more emphasis on “relationships” than “marketing” or the “social web.” Not that she minimizes the importance of the tools or tactics. Not at all, in fact. But, what Smith does do is put the focus first on building the right relationships with the right people in the right way. This focus on how you deepen, enhance and extend your relationships in ways that benefit you and your friends, fans, and followers makes the tools and tactics far more effective than the far more common other way around.

The first half of the book looks at the basics of relationship marketing while the second covers the details how to grow your personal brand. Smith illustrates each of these with personal anecdotes and experiences that demonstrate what works—or doesn’t—in practice. I particularly liked Smith’s detailing the “11 Common Fears” of social media marketing. Rather than dismissing these fears out of hand, Smith looks at where these fears pose valid risks and how you can address those risks in your relationship marketing efforts. That alone may be worth the price of the book.

Additionally, I loved Smith’s tools such as “relationship circles” and “Hollywood Squares” lists for keeping track of your relationship building goals. Ms. Smith knows her topic well and offers practical advice for growing your network, your brand and your business in a clear and conscientious way.

In our “always on,” hyper-connected world, building effective, authentic relationships with people in business and life may matter more than ever. And doing so in a way that’s considerate of the people you connect with will separate you from the pack of smarmy snake oil salesmen so common in the “social guru” game. Pick up a copy of “The New Relationship Marketing”
for yourself and learn how to build not just follower counts, but real relationships, real networks and, ultimately, real business using the social web.


Are you getting enough value out of your small business website? Want to make sure your business makes the most of the local, mobile, social web? thinks helps you understand how to grow your business via the web, every day. Get more than just news. Get understanding. Add thinks to your feed reader today.

Or subscribe via email.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to follow Tim on Twitter.

Tim Peter & Associates helps companies from startups to the Fortune 500 use the web to reach more customers, more effectively every day. Take a look and see how we can help you.

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December 27, 2011

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (Book Review of the Week-ish)

December 27, 2011 | By | No Comments


So I finally got around to reading Walter Isaacson’s amazing biography of Steve Jobs. It’s a fascinating look at a fascinating man.

Part of what I found so interesting is the scale of Jobs’ flaws relative to his gifts. Most people have heard about Jobs’ prickly nature, his treatment of subordinates (and just about everyone else, when it suited him), or how his odd eating habits may have contributed to his death.

But few things illustrate Jobs’ shortcomings more than the stories detailing the man’s relationships with his children. One of the more telling insights occurs late in the book, as Jobs is dying of cancer. Isaacson recounts asking Jobs—a man notoriously in control of his image—why he agreed to a biography that would undoubtedly show his blemishes as well as his brilliance:

“I wanted my kids to know me,” he said. “I wasn’t always there for them, and I wanted to know why and to understand what I did. Also, when I got sick, I realized other people would write about me if I died, and they wouldn’t know anything. They’d get it all wrong. So I wanted to make sure someone heard what I had to say.” [Emphasis mine]

Now, most people, when they want their kids to know them would choose to spend time with their children. They would work to rebuild damaged relationships. They would take an interest in what their kids were doing.

Jobs opted for a biographer.

To be fair, he may have realized too late just how poorly he’d done these things and realized he didn’t have enough time to choose the traditional route. But I found it amazing that a man famous for his “reality distortion field,” accustomed to asserting his will to challenge conventional wisdom and assumed “facts,” couldn’t reconcile his role as a CEO with his role as a parent.

Obviously, as both an entrepreneur and a father, this topic resonates for me. I have never built a company as large or as influential as Apple or Pixar. But I see no reason you can’t build a great company and raise great kids (again, to be fair, it seems Jobs’ kids are pretty well adjusted, in large part due to his wife Laurene).

And it’s this dichotomy between Jobs’ passions and problems that make me recommend it for every entrepreneur, manager and business leader. Because again and again I found myself asking:

  • “Do you have to be a prick to produce results?”
  • “Do you always have to abandon people to move forward?”
  • “What do you have to sacrifice for greatness?”

Isaacson never suggests that Jobs’ way is the only way. Actually, quite the contrary. But he does engage the reader to ask these questions of themselves. And that’s definitely worth the read. Grab a copy for yourself and get ready to learn more about Steve Jobs. And more about yourself.


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