Several months back we did a little informal survey of our subscribers, asking, ”What’s the most influential book you’d ever read?”
82 of our readers responded with a list of 63 titles. And I proceeded to read the top 12 by number of mention.
For any of you interested in gaining additional insights into your following, I highly recommend this little exercise.
Here is the list of books our readers deemed most influential:
1. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
2. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
3. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
4. Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz
5. The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace Wattles
6. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D.
7. Zig Ziglar’s Secrets of Closing the Sale
8. Winning Through Intimidation by Robert Ringer
9. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
10. A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink
11. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
12. Conversations with God by Neal Donald Walsh
You can tell a lot about people by the books they read, the films and sitcoms and series they enjoy, and the magazines they read. (By the way, there are a ton of other great title recommendations you can check out in the comment section of http://www.daniellevis.com/the-book-that-changed-your-life/, the blog post I used to gather this data).
All of us have a belief system that acts as a filter through which we experience the world …
It governs our thoughts, feelings, actions and reactions. And that belief system is formulated, in part, by the books we’ve read — particularly those we credit as having influenced us above all others.
If you have a measure of understanding of someone’s belief system, you can therefore anticipate their likely reaction to a given thought or idea. And modify your communication accordingly.
Man is not a rational animal, but a rationalizing one. We naturally gravitate towards ideas that validate and confirm our existing biases and predilections, sighting them as evidence that we are right.
And in the realm of marketing, the gestalt belief system of your target audience is analogous to the actual belief system of someone you wish to persuade. It forms the bedrock of agreement from which your sales arguments must spring.
I’m not saying you have to sell your soul and pander shamelessly to the belief system of your market. It’s natural that there be a certain amount of give and take between your own personal ideologies and those of your target market. That said, you should be attracting people who tend to see the world in much the same way you do.
And to a certain extent, I see this reflected in the titles above.
There are of course certain ideas and sub-texts put forward in these books that I identify with more strongly than others. And some I disagree with. A certain amount of diversity is to be expected.
If you see too much diversity, however, I take it as a sign that you’re targeting too broadly or being too impersonal in your marketing. You may need to reveal more of your personality and beliefs in order to attract prospects with which you have closer natural affinity.
In so doing, you may scare away those who are ill-fitted. But you also magnetize those who are kindred spirits, and those who can be inspired to embrace your particular brand of thinking. It’s that ideological bond — more than anything else — that results in client longevity and repeat sales.
That’s why if something gets under my skin I tell you about it, even if it tends to ruffle a few feathers and purges a few hundred unbelievers from my list. Our business is stronger for it.
After a certain point, your customers stop buying your products and services, and they start buying you — provided you’re interesting enough…
It is your willingness to stand up for strong ideas, to take sides, and to assume potentially unpopular positions that creates that enduring interest.
Some of the bestselling and most durable authors on the above list are in fact unconventional personalities promoting polarizing ideas in the face of staunch criticism. Their mammoth book sales are in direct counterpoint to the general popularity of their ideas.
As an example, should you google Robert Kiyosaki — author of the Rich Dad, Poor Dad series of books on personal wealth — with any degree of enthusiasm, you will find volumes of derogatory remarks.
Some are accusations of wrongdoing, which are poisonous to his reputation. But many are legitimate attacks on his ideas, and in fact positive, beneficial marketing forces.
The controversy created is no doubt one of the reasons Kiyosaki has been able to sell 28 million books in the Rich Dad, Poor Dad series. This is not to take anything away from his brilliant use of the winner/loser story archetype to dramatize his teachings.
Ayn Rand is another glowing example of a mega-successful author championing ideas that are far from mainstream…
The controversy and debate her work inspires has fueled the sale of over 25 million copies of her books. Not to mention back-end newsletter sales that once topped 20,000 paying subscribers.
Rand’s newsletters, by the way, were dry as dust, virtually unsellable. Nobody would have read them had Rand not first sugar-coated her abstruse philosophies in cheesy mass-market mystery novels.
Atlas Shrugged, in particular, is a marketing masterpiece. As are Rand’s paradoxical Nietzsche-inspired, brain-twisting catch-phrases like “The Virtue of Selfishness” and “The Destructiveness of Altruism“. Unabashedly heretical, they draw potential new readers to Rand like moths to a flame.
Rand’s central message was simply this: THINK. Become the master of your own beliefs. Test them with your faculty of reason to see if they are defensible, or indefensible. Take nothing on faith.
Fortunately for us marketers, few people do this…
Instead, they allow the operating systems of their minds to be installed and modified willy nilly. Rarely do they examine their beliefs to see where they came from, or if their beliefs are genuinely serving them. Indiscriminately, they permit unexamined ideas to color their judgment and behavior, for other people’s ends.
Modifying the firmware is a simple matter of harmonizing with, validating, and affirming these accepted beliefs and ideals… showing people how some aspect of their existing behavior is dissonant with those cherished beliefs and ideals… casting blame for this dissonance on a scapegoat… and then demonstrating an alternative course of action that allows them to reduce or eliminate the dissonance.
The tendency for a person to want to change his or her behavior is motivated by an aversion to the pain that goes along with the violation of their self-concept.
Dissonance-reducing behavior is ego-defensive behavior…
By reducing dissonance, a person maintains the integrity of their self-image as right, good, smart, worthwhile, accepted, admired, and so on.
Immersing yourself in your target market’s favorite books, films, and other popular culture offers valuable clues into their most cherished beliefs, ideals, identities and desires… giving you the confidence to test edgier marketing that’s capable of agitating people and getting them to take action.
What are their predominant political philosophies? How do they perceive money and risk? What religious views are likely to dominate their thinking? What are their greatest fears, and highest aspirations? What kind of characters do they identify with, idolize and revere? What kind of characters do they despise? What symbols and themes do they respond to or react against?
All of these things and so much more can be inferred from popular culture and used in your marketing.
Until next time, Good Selling!