6 Books You Must Read in 2013

Last year, I offered up 12 awesome books that I felt anyone in my industry should read (you still should!). This year I’m adding six additional books to my must read list. Those of you who are connected with me on Facebook or Twitter may already have seen me posting about several of these titles. So without further introduction, here are the 6 books you must read in 2013.


The Brand GapThe Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy and Design
by Marty Neumeier

What is the difference between a trademark, logo, and symbol? Is your brand what you say it is, or what they say it is? “Brand management is the management of differences, not as they exist on data sheets, but as they exist in the minds of people.” Right on Marty. If you’re serious about going beyond “marketing/advertising speak” and actually getting into the nitty-gritty of results – you can’t miss this one. Although… maybe you don’t mind if your company’s product becomes a commodity?


To Sell Is HumanTo Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others
by Daniel Pink

Chapter 3 (From Buyer Beware to Seller Beware) alone is worth reading several times over. Plus you’ll not only help increase sales but sound really smart at parties when you learn the importance of limiting asymmetrical information for today’s buyer. Pink shows that everyone is in sales and is trying to “move others to take specific action.” Despite the deep content of this book, Pink’s style allows for a relatively quick and easy read without limiting his insight.



Be Our GuestBe Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service
by The Disney Institute

Who else would you trust to deliver not just an exceptional customer experience – but also one infused with joy? Disney delivers the secret to their success in this newly revised and updated book. It also includes highlights of how other companies have incorporated the lessons learned from the Disney Institute over the years. Lots of real world examples to be inspired by.



Upside of IrrationalityThe Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home
by Dan Ariely

No other author has had a larger impact in how I understand “typical” human behavior than Dan Ariely. It also provides TONS of scientific evidence that proves the value of a brand (perfect for those engineering types who think everything your department does is a waste of resources). The next time you scratch your head and wonder why humans don’t seem to make logical decisions – open this book up and you’ll soon understand. This book is a true joy to read and will leave you with limitless ways to take action and improve your results.

Great by ChoiceGreat by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck – Why Some Thrive Despite Them All
by Jim Collins

Wow. I’m still shocked at how this book hasn’t gained the same praise and awareness of Jim’s classic “Good to Great.” Each and every concept introduced in this book will be lessons you will want to keep at your fingertips for the rest of your professional career. Everyone talks about how the world is changing faster than ever before, and is unstable and unpredictable. Jim shows that with the right set of management tools, you can become (and remain) great.



Epic Change by Timothy ClarkEPIC Change: How to Lead Change in the Global Age
by Timothy Clark

“The basic role of any leader is to maintain competitive advantage, not the status quo – that means leading change.” This book may simply be the right book at the right time for me, but I think it much more. Timothy describes the challenges that leaders face when embarking on change in a way no one else has ever done. It is real and raw – but 1000% right. Most importantly, it shows how as a leader you can tap into different sources of energy to counter the added stress and work that change often requires (Here’s a sneak preview).


Now it’s your turn. Which books are at the top of your list this year? Have you read any of the above books? Even more amazing would be to hear how you borrowed something from a book recently and took action on it… Your turn to share!

What is “not in my market” code for?

Not in my market - new home brandingAs professionals in the building industry we are all very familiar with the phrase “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) when we are attempting to get a new community approved. Even my builder, whose average sale price is 3 – 4 times the average resale in the region, hears from the NIMBY crowd from time to time even though their property values will increase. The NIMBY crowd seems to be against progress and improvement (unless it is your own backyard we’re talking about – right?) simply because they don’t like change.

Let me introduce to another group that is equally as large in our industrythe “not in my market” (NIMM) crowd. Those with the NIMM mentality may say they want to improve, but the reality is that they too are afraid of change.

Almost five years ago I packed up my family and moved to Pittsburgh. I spent the first two weeks at my new job shadowing other managers and asking a lot of questions. I was just trying to soak it all in. As I was riding along with a particular manager I was sharing how my previous employer did a lot of training around the model home demonstration because without it customers would miss a majority of the built-in value.

“Oh. That’s interesting. Yeah, see people in Pittsburgh are very different. They won’t let you walk through the model with them,” they told me. “Yeah they feel like you are hovering over them and they just want their own space to look around. It would just be too strange to guide someone through the model… in this market anyway.”

I wondered what kind of place I had moved to! People in Pittsburgh didn’t like good customer service, to have their questions answered, or feel important? Thankfully I learned quickly that people in Pittsburgh are perfectly normal.

Even more impressive to me is when a NIMM person will tell a paid consultant the same message. You are paying for coaching and advice from someone who travels around the country and gets a chance to see a TON of different markets… and learn what consistently works across all markets. So why would you pull out NIMM on them?

It made me think that NIMM must really be code for something else… but what?

What is it code for?

NIMM is code for “that sounds scary”

Change is always scary, and it is always necessary in some form.

NIMM is code for “I don’t think I could execute that idea”

I want to be very clear here – executing ideas is hard work. I also think it is legitimate to say that to execute a particular idea would cost more time and energy than it is worth for your company. I am simply advocating an honest discussion around that topic instead of ignoring the current reality of your situation. It may open up other doors you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

NIMM is code for “we tried that before”

Did you only try it once? Is it possible you tried doing it the wrong way? Remember Vince Lombardi’s classic line – “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” More than likely you just hadn’t practiced enough before you tried it.

NIMM is code for “I don’t need to do better”

This is the scariest one. Complacency has set in, and sooner or later you will no longer be relevant or able to keep up with those around you. I suggest you go read Who Moved My Cheese? Right now.

But you don’t understand

I can feel the push back – but every market IS different! There’s even a national campaign that says so. I actually agree. However you are making a big mistake if you translate every market is different into – the PEOPLE in every market are different. Sure, the supply and demand curves of land, inventory, and materials will vary by market. The local job creation rate will be different. Even local aesthetic tastes may cause a home to look completely different from a home only 200 miles away.

However, as Jeff Shore said at PCBC last year, people always want to improve their lives. To that I would add that people always want to feel important, always want to be treated fairly, and always want the best value that they can afford. All of those things may display themselves as different preferences by market – but what drives those preferences is the same everywhere.

I’m not asking you to stop disagreeing or thinking critically. I am asking you not to stick your head in the sand and be a NIMMrod.

12 Books to Read for 2012 – Part 2

Continued from 12 Books to Read for 2012 Part 1

7. Steve Jobs - I’m not going to even try to pretend that Steve Jobs made for the best role model of a father, husband or – even at times – a CEO. However, this insightful look at the development of many of the hottest consumer products ever helps you to understand just how far passion can take you. The idea to put an artist front and center in the development team, to not be run by focus groups, and to add value through curation  are all part of Job’s legacy. You will not want this book to end after you get into it.

8. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – What if you knew that by performing two simple actions you could almost guarantee improved responses to your marketing materials? What if you could drastically increase your sales conversion rates by making a subtle change to your presentation? These seem like fairy tale statements. The promise of a magical silver bullet, right? This classic shows you how you can predictably and repeatedly persuade others to take a desired action. You must promise only to use these powers for good!

9. Browsers to Buyers – When I left Ohio to join Heartland Homes in 2007, the first thing that arrived at my new address was Browsers to Buyers. I had ordered it during my last week at my previous employer, and it spurred the creation of our online sales position shortly after. It is currently being updated by the author – but it still is your best entry into the online sales person role. Just do what it says and see an immediate impact. This year, my online concierge team of 2 will assist with over 170 sales.

10. Brand Relevance: Making Competitors Irrelevant - Brands are not just symbols you can recognize or names that roll off your tongue. Brands, used properly, are a weapon that the competition has no easy answer for. This is perhaps the best book of 2011 that you have never heard of.

11. What’s the Secret: To Providing a World-Class Customer Experience – No one sets out from the beginning to provide bad customer service, but the reality is that most places end up doing just that. What’s wrong here? This insightful book is packed with real life examples and illustrations of how to recruit, train, and empower those who work with you to provide truly remarkable experiences. I don’t know of a home builder yet who does this right… yet. You could be the first with this book.

12. The Toyota Way – Yes, I know about the whole problem with car brakes in 2009/2010, but that still doesn’t mean you can’t learn a thing or two about business from Toyota. Most of us know that “waste” is something that is no longer needed and disposed of, but this book taught me that waste also occurs when you over engineer a product beyond the value level that your prospect is able to perceive. This book is packed with similar insights and is NOT just for manufacturing companies.

That’s it. The 12 books you shouldn’t put off reading any longer. They’ll have a positive impact on your attitude, your outlook, and most importantly – your results and how you achieve them. Here’s to a great 2012.

PS – Let me know what book you would add to this list!

Click here to see the first six books that made the list.

12 books to read in 2012

Special eBook Coming Soon!

 Presale Without Fail

I’m very excited to announce that my first eBook will be launching on September 29th, 2011!

It is titled Presale Without Fail: The Secret to Launching New Communities & Phases with Maximum Results. Inside is a step-by-step guide to success that is backed by years of trial and error – and decades of scientific research into the mind of the consumer. I have used it to sell anywhere from 6 to 28 homes in a single day! If you keep your eyes open at some very important people’s websites (ie: Myers Barnes, Mike Lyon, etc.) in the coming days you’ll find a special code that will both give you exclusive early access to the eBook AND enter you to win on hour of Skype time with me to answer any questions you may have.

The download is available by clicking here.

I hope you enjoy it!

A Builder’s Online Strategy: Elicit a Response

Elicit a response from your websiteQuick review – the 7 E’s are:

1. EARN Google’s trust
2. ENTICE people to visit your site
3. ENGAGE those “just browsing”
4. EMPHASIZE your differences
5. ENSURE you’re part of the short list
6. ELICIT a response – generate a lead and convert it
7. EMPLOY your happy home owners to earn more trust

The goal of any marketing activity – online included – is to create a lead. Never forget that your website is part of your sales funnel. Yes, it’s also your pretty online model home with lots of great content, photos, etc – but those things are what draw your prospects in, and now you need to get them to take action. The first thing is that taking action must be as easy as possible:
E – Eliminate all requirements except for email address
A – Allow multiple ways for the prospect to take action
S – Sell the benefit of taking the action
Y – “Y” not – don’t make it seem like a commitment

Eliminate requirements

Once someone begins to attempt to contact you, don’t screw things up by requiring too much information up front from your prospect – an email is all you should require. The dating analogy always works well in sales and marketing. Suppose someone of the opposite sex says hello to you – do you require them to show you a clean verified background check and clean testing before you continue your conversation? After all, some will complain, “I don’t want to waste my time if they aren’t good.” This is 2011 – your problem is NOT to weed out all the tire kicker prospects so you have time to work with the “serious” buyers. I’ve already talked to this in other posts, but any traffic (walk-ins, phone calls, emails, referrals) you get in today’s world should be considered “serious.” Any.

Allow multiple ways for the prospect take action

I’m not so much talking about the medium they use (contact form, email, phone, etc…), but I’m talking about the total number of ways to get to connect to your online sales councilor or your on site sales team. On the Heartland Homes main site there are 10 (I may have even missed one or two) different ways to contact our sales team. Wherever the prospect is when they decide they want to respond – we’re ready.

Sell the benefit

Don’t be rude. Asking someone to fill out a form or email without telling them why they should is just plain rude. Make sure it is easy for your prospect to understand why they should take the next step. Common benefits are more specific information about a house type or community than is currently listed, a helpful service, or a free needs analysis to get tailored advice on what will best suit their needs.

“Y” Not

Don’t make it seem like a commitment – that’s why you don’t often see a big BUY NOW button as the conversion method for home builders. Let them know they’re going to be interacting with someone who is “not in sales” – of course they WILL be, but the prospect should never catch a hint of commission breath.

After you make sure you’ve made it easy – then consider ways to elicit a response that are a little more subtle yet effective. One particularly effective way is to listen up and pay attention. Here are a few quick examples of what I mean:

1. On the Heartland Homes site when you view a particular home, the site tracks it without you needing to log in (easy). So that when you visit another community, the homes you’ve already spent the most time viewing will show as a featured home.Listen Up! Featured Homes that change as you browse

2. When you select a particular home type, and then select a community that offers that home – the site displays a brightly colored box announcing the match you’ve created and an offer to customize it for you.Listen up! Selected home / community match

3. If your site has a search box, make sure you are monitoring what things are being searched for. It’s free market research. Take action on the most used search terms by creating relevant content or improving existing content.

Don’t be “that site” that treats everyone the same and doesn’t listen or pay attention. That’s not going to help you stand out – or generate more leads.

So how do you try and elecit a response from your prospects? What has worked the best for you or your company?