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Book review: Rework

(If you don't already use it for project management, check out Basecamp. It'll make your life at work so much easier.)

Rework

By Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Random House

$26.95

Gary Vaynerchuk runs a wine shop in New Jersey. Gary’s also the star of Wine Library TV.  Every day, upwards of 80,000 “Vayniacs” log on to watch Gary’s video blog. As of earlier this month, Gary had posted just shy of 830 low budget and high energy dispatches from the world of wine.

Wine Library TV aims to reinvent wine tasting for a new generation, breaking down the barriers, stereotypes and misperceptions that prevent people from discovering and exploring the joys of wine. Gary gives the uninitiated masses an unintimidating alternative to conceited sommeliers, snobby wine sellers and mystical conventions. And all from the comfort of their laptops and iPhones.

And when all those people are done watching the latest video, they can buy Gary’s book, join his monthly wine club and order some vino from his Jersey store.

Instead of chasing customers and trying to buy their divided attention with advertising, Gary’s built an audience far beyond the Garden State.  Instead of trying to outspend, outsell and out-sponsor the competition, Gary’s opted to out-teach them.

That’s a very smart move and it’s one the rest of us could replicate, whether we’re running a start-up, a non-profit or one of Hamilton’s anchor institutions. 

 “Teaching probably isn’t something your competitors are even thinking about,” say authors Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, who are founders of software company 37signals. They’re also contributors to the company’s Signal vs. Noise blog that draws 100,000 viewers every day.

“Most businesses focus on selling or servicing, but teaching never occurs to them,” say the authors. “Teach and you’ll form a bond you just don’t get from traditional marketing tactics. Buying people’s attention with a magazine or online banner ad is one thing. Earning their loyalty by teaching them forms a whole different connection. They’ll trust you more. They’ll respect you more.  Even if they don’t use your product, they can still be your fans.”

When folks like what you have to say, odds are good they’ll also like what you have to sell.  And they’ll buy.

To figure out what to teach, think like those celebrity chefs with hit shows on the Food Network. These culinary rock stars readily share everything they know. They put their recipes in best-selling cookbooks and show off their techniques on cooking shows.

And chefs like Gordon Ramsay aren’t exactly losing sleep, worried sick that you’re going to buy their cookbooks, watch their shows, open restaurant across the street and drive them out of business. That’s because Gordon and his fellow chefs know that recipes and techniques aren’t enough to beat them at their own game. 

“Yet this is what many in the business world think will happen if their competitors learn how they do things,” say the authors. “Get over it. What are your recipes? What’s your cookbook? What can you tell the world about how you operate that’s informative, educational, and promotional?”

Here’s another idea. Give folks a backstage pass to your business. Show them how stuff gets made and how and why you make decisions. Share some secrets. There’s a reason why so many of us watch Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe. 

“When you build an audience, you don’t have to buy people’s attention – they give it to you. This is a huge advantage. Speak, write, blog, tweet, make videos – whatever. Share information that’s valuable and you’ll slowly but surely build a loyal audience. Then when you need to get the word out, the right people will already be listening.”

There’s a whole lot more jargon free and common sense advice in this cookbook for business. It’s so good I checked out the authors’ company and wound up buying their Basecamp program management software, which goes to show that building an audience is the smart way to win a customer and a raving fan.

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