5 Books I Read in 2020 That Made a Difference

5 Books I Read in 2020 That Made a Difference

If there’s something you want to learn, there are few activities as valuable as reading books.

Authors often share their best ideas and tips in their books. And considering you can get most books for about $20; you’d be hard pressed to find a more valuable resource.

Here I share five books that made a difference for me in 2020.

Killing Marketing by Joe Pulizzi & Robert Rose

Killing Marketing book

Joe Pulizzi is the author of Content Inc., one of my favorite business books. And Robert Rose, of course, has a long history with Joe Pulizzi, especially at Content Marketing Institute and with the PNR with This Old Marketing podcast.

And then you have the two teaming up to write a book. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, as I shared in my book notes on Killing Marketing about a year ago, the first few chapters seem to waffle endlessly on what is bound to be a forgone conclusion for forward thinking marketers. Pulizzi and Rose were clearly writing to traditional marketers who have yet to understand or embrace digital best practices.

The middle chapters are where the book delivered a goldmine of proven strategies, tactics, and ideas one could apply to their enterprise, or even their small independent business. From revenue streams to qualities that make an e-newsletter successful, there were multiple gems worth mining for. I just wish the book focused primarily on these, but as they say, the best part of a book is usually about an hour into it.

Killing Marketing (affiliate link) alerted me to aspects of digital monetization and marketing best practices I wasn’t even aware of. And it reminded me of key takeaways I already knew. I experimented with an e-newsletter in 2020, and my discoveries in this book served as the guiding light.

No B.S. Business Success in the New Economy by Dan S. Kennedy

No B.S. Business Success in the New Economy by Dan S. Kennedy

It’s because of No B.S. Business Success in the New Economy that I no longer judge Dan Kennedy books by their title or cover. This book is a veritable goldmine for entrepreneurs and independent creators, even though Kennedy’s target audience is primarily professionals.

What does it take to succeed in business? What is the mindset required? How should you think about relationships and connections as applied to ambition? How do you structure your inner circle? This book will answer every question posed and more.

About the only downside I can think of is that I wish I wrote the book. Because it will leave you feeling empowered and better equipped to handle any challenges that come your way.

No B.S. Business Success in the New Economy (affiliate link) should be on the bookshelf of any ambitious creative or creator and it should be devoured from cover to cover more than once.

Speak to Sell by Dan S. Kennedy

Speak to Sell by Dan S. Kennedy

You should only open your mouth when you are ready to sell.

You should only open your mouth when you are ready to sell. Click To Tweet

If I were to sum up legendary marketer Dan Kennedy’s Speak to Sell in a sentence, the above would be it.

This is not a how-to book. Kennedy doesn’t tell you how you can turn every presentation, radio interview, podcast interview, webinar, or otherwise into a money-making opportunity. But he tells you why you should approach every engagement that way.

When you understand just how disciplined Kennedy is about his work, and the lengths he will go to protect his personal productivity, it shines light on why Kennedy has always approached the opportunity to speak in this manner. He is always looking to maximize results from every effort, and he puts lesser entrepreneurs to shame with his work ethic and vigilance.

From Speak to Sell (affiliate link), I understood that there must be a purpose behind every public message you share. If there isn’t, you’re just speaking. But when you are clear on your intention, you are speaking to sell.

Sex Money Kiss by Gene Simmons

Sex Money Kiss by Gene Simmons

Kennedy’s Speak to Sell soon led me to Gene Simmons’ Sex Money Kiss. And it wasn’t long before I saw just how philosophically aligned the two are.

I don’t think any musician or creative can come away from Sex Money Kiss uninspired. When you understand that Gene Simmons considers himself lucky that he gets to make money at something he loves, and when he was first getting started, he was happy to be able to do it on evenings and weekends, you see that he’s far more pragmatic than he’s often given credit for.

Sex Money Kiss is not in the voice of a Rockstar who has conquered sexual and musical mountains. It’s in the voice of a caring father who wants to pass on his best advice about life. And there is far more content in the book than most readers would even suspect. Simmons puts some professional authors to complete shame (I read my share of awful books this year too, and one specifically was by a well-known marketer).

Simmons’ relationship and marital advice will be shirked by some readers. But Simmons is about the only figure who will help you understand that every decision you make is a monetary decision and that perspective is as valuable as it is rare.

Sex Money Kiss (affiliate link) reignited my passion. And it helped me see the world from a different perspective. It offered practical advice on how to structure my days and weeks. It helped me to see the financial implications of every decision I make, including relationship decisions.

Traffic Secrets by Russell Brunson

Traffic Secrets by Russell Brunson

Russell Brunson is infamous in the digital marketing world – for good reasons, and for not so good reasons.

But if you had read some of his earlier works, and thought to yourself, as I had, whether this man would ever find his stride as an authority, Traffic Secrets banishes any doubt from your mind.

Brunson makes a bold move here, as he now has in his catalog a book that will need to be updated at least every two to three years, as it specifically mentions platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Google, and so on.

If 2021 so far is any indication, there could be some massive upheaval in the social media space. Though I will withhold any specific comments as to what I see coming.

Regardless, Brunson is smart in clarifying that a) there are many sources of traffic available, b) traffic is platform driven, c) how we use these platforms is based on what’s working now (algorithm dependent), and d) you only need to focus on one channel to make seven-figures in your business. At the end of the book, he notes publishing daily and developing your Dream 100 connections is enough to cross that threshold.

After reading Traffic Secrets, you will get that if you’re engaged in digital marketing, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. You can pick a suitable platform (based on your audience and the type of content you’re creating), learn its ins and outs, emulate people who are more successful than you are, and with persistence find traction on your chosen channel.

If you thought it was all upsides, I will say this – I kind of wish Brunson read my writing tips. There are some things about the way he writes that drives me insane. And that’s coming from someone who also doesn’t follow the rules 100% of the time.

With Traffic Secrets (affiliate link), I’ve been able to take my Medium, Twitter, and YouTube game to the next level. And those are the platforms I intend to focus on in 2021. If anything, I’m doing more with Medium and Twitter than YouTube.

Final Thoughts

My reading habit was on the uptick in 2020. But I’m looking forward to reading and discovering many more great books in 2021.

What will you be reading in 2021?

Do you have any recommended books?

Leave a comment and let me know.

The Music Entrepreneur Code paperback

Shh… Don’t tell anyone. Only the cool kids are talking about it.

Get your copy of The Music Entrepreneur Code.

Killing Marketing by Joe Pulizzi & Robert Rose Book Notes

Killing Marketing by Joe Pulizzi & Robert Rose Book Notes

Killing Marketing bookContent Inc., written by Joe Pulizzi, is one of my favorite books of all time. So, I wanted to see what his newer book, Killing Marketing was all about.

I am clearly not the target audience for this book, as indicated by the opening chapters, which I found to be a snooze fest. But I got exactly what I was looking for in the middle chapters, which made the book worthwhile.

Here are my book notes – what I found most compelling and applicable to me in Killing Marketing.

Focus on Your Audience & Their Problem, Not on Yourself

The book tells the story of #FlipMyFunnel, which I was not familiar with. The key point that I was reminded of is to focus on your audience and not on yourself. This will likely be reflected in the Music Entrepreneur HQ initiatives moving forward.

Conferences can be Profitable

It seems obvious, I suppose, but the people I’ve talked to in the music industry were basically using conferences as a loss leader. But Content Marketing World is an incredibly profitable arm of Content Marketing Institute. I guess, in many ways, it comes down to your target audience, the product and what they’re willing to pay for it.

Revenue Streams for Publishing Companies

I do think of Music Entrepreneur HQ as a publishing company of sorts, as most of my work revolves around scripting and writing.

Authors Pulizzi and Rose indicate that the main direct revenue streams for publishing companies are:

  • Advertising and sponsorships
  • Conferences and events
  • Premium content offerings
  • Donations
  • Subscriptions

The book gets into a detailed explanation of each, most of which was obvious.

What I found interesting was that there are basically three types of premium content offerings – direct-for-sale products, funded content purchased on demand and syndicated content opportunities.

Direct-for-sale products are the most obvious – eBooks, audio programs, courses and other info products would all fall under this category.

Funded content purchases are content you create that’s bought by others. I didn’t realize that this was an opportunity and one I’m going to be paying more attention to moving forward.

Syndicated content is when your content is syndicated to other sites for a fee. Generally, I’ve been syndicating content for free, and didn’t know you could tap into this as a revenue stream.

I can certainly think of other revenue streams one could take advantage of but since CMI is a multimillion-dollar company, I better take their word for it.

The Audience is the Asset

Content blindness comes from focusing on the content rather than the audience. The content isn’t the asset. The audience is! Content is the means to get to your audience.

This would suggest that the most efficient model is creating the minimum amount of content with the maximum amount of resources. I couldn’t agree more.

Businesses should have one mission and one audience. Again, I believe this wholeheartedly.

The book talks about James Altucher, who makes it his goal to identify massive pain points his audience can relate to and then talk about how he attempted to recover from them. I love that. I’m going to be stealing that from you, James!

Qualities That Make an E-Newsletter Successful

Successful e-newsletters are consistent (published at the promised time every single time), valuable and exclusive (they feature unique content). Great model.

The Three-Legged Stool

It’s an old concept but it still works, no matter how pervasive our digital lives become. If you aren’t getting the results you want with digital, incorporate print and events too. That’s your three-legged stool – digital, print and events.

The book also touches on the idea of “experience business”, something I’ve been talking about for years (maybe I got it from another Pulizzi book). The idea is that you can create more value for your audience by creating experiences for them.

Pilot Programs

I discovered that pilot programs within a business should last at least 12 months. You must have a goal or vision of how the business will be different after the fact. You must also have agreed-upon metrics that help you determine when to keep it or cut it. I’m doing this from now on.

Commitment

Commitment level determines content marketing success.

Get busy living or get busy dying – The Shawshank Redemption

Rose states that commitment and flexibility can both be a virtue in business. Sometimes you need to stay committed to generate results. Sometimes you need to stay flexible to pivot when opportunities present themselves.

The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do. – Michael Porter

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