Book Review – Steal These Ideas!

I would jump at the opportunity to have an afternoon conversation with the managing director and head of advertising / brand management at Citigroup Global Wealth Management.  Especially if I knew that his father wrote the original direct subscriber letters for Playboy Magazine – from the “bunny's perspective!”  How much would I pay for that opportunity?  A lot! 

However, all we have to pay is $18.95 (or less) to have that conversation with Steve Cone when we buy his book, “Steal These Ideas! Marketing Secrets That Will Make You a Star.”

Steve Cone is opinionated.  He knows what works and what doesn't – and he tells you why.  He writes in a very engaging, conversational style.  He speaks from personal experience – the campaigns that he has worked on; and from an historical perspective.  Some of his comments about “Tag lines” or slogans are very amusing: e.g. from JP Morgan Chase – “The Right Relationship is everything.” (Am I using a dating service?)

We live in an over-communicated society.  The first challenge for any business or service is to get noticed – and to create some excitement.  However, once you get noticed too many art directors sabotage your efforts – they use fonts that make it difficult to read (sans serif; white reverse type.)  Too many ads fail because they do not give the consumer a compelling call to action – the reason to STOP everything now and order the product or service.

Steve Cone writes extensively on how to develop an effective “Tag Line” for your business.  He neatly integrates this with “building your brand” and creating your “unique selling proposition.”  For Cone, marketing successfully is all about simple ideas brilliantly executed that reinforce your brand message.

Of special note is the chapter on creating effective brochures.  Six great suggestions:

1) Put a picture of a person on the brochure along with one-or-two-line highlights of the contents within.

2) Summarize the key takeaways of the brochure in bold and easy-to-read copy.

3) Tell readers what you want them to do – on every page.

4) Regularly use a question & answer format withing your brochures. (Great suggestion!)

5) Have a real contact name and return address prominently displayed.

6) Potential readers will make split-second decisions about whether to read or toss it.

And Chapter 12 – “The Three Most Important Customer Lessons You Will Ever Learn,” is priceless.  This chapter provides more wisdom, insight and practical tactics that most MBA programs!  The lessons are:

1) People renew the way they are acquired.  (Think about PBS renewal campaigns.)

2) The most critical time in a new customer's relationship with your business is the first week after her initial purchase. (Amen!)

3) Forget complicated clusters and demographics. (There are only 5 basic customer groups.)

This book is a quick read – and one that you will often return to for ideas and inspiration.  The premise is – there are no new ideas.  Learn how to adapt proven tactics to improve your company's marketing.  The secret is how well you execute these ideas! 

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