Highly Recommended: Harnessing the Power of Word of Mouth and Social Media to Build Your Brand and Your Business

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Release Date: 
September 16, 2013
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“Highly Recommended is highly recommended.”

“Whether you are an independent professional, a leading consumer brand, an industrial manufacturer or even a global not-for-profit, how people talk about you and recommend you is the most important key to your success in this new work of social business,” Paul Rand asserts in Highly Recommended.

It used to be, success required not much more than showing up and a middling level of competence. Then to succeed you had to be good. In recent years, good enough was not, for to succeed you must be highly effective. No more. As the author asserts, “To succeed, let alone to thrive, you can’t just be highly effective; you must come highly recommended as well.”

With business marketing still dominated by “pushing various marketing activities to get brand messages in front of potential and existing customers, essentially interrupting target segments,” it is hardly surprising that daunting, difficult even unfathomable are the experiences of so many entrepreneurs, executives, professionals seeking to connect their offers with the market. As the typical prospect is exposed to as many as 30,000 advertising messages each day, it is hardly surprising that response rates on various forms of marketing pitches are far below 1%.

What Paul Rand promises in Highly Recommended is “an easy way for marketers to understand and act upon making their brand eminently, talkable, sharable, and recommended.”

Since 70% of brand content today is created by consumers and word-of-mouth accounts for 92% of the reason to buy, what people say about you is ever more important than what you say. As Intuit’s Scott Cook observes, “A brand is no longer what we tell the customer it is; it’s what the consumers say it is.”

In this time of extraordinary change, Paul Rand asserts, “Today’s business can’t just use social media, they have to become social businesses, inside and out, and from top to bottom.” His goal for his book is “to harness the power of being a social business, to become the most highly recommended organization in your industry, category, and/or niche.”

Paul Rand offers five key lessons embracing how you want to be talked about, congruency between what you aspire to be and what you actually are, transparency to acknowledge faults: “when you or your brand goofs up. Fix what you can, and ask for forgiveness when needed.”

Stay engaging and interesting, which means “following the 90/10 rule, spend 90% of your time on your social channels, listening, paying attention, and engaging with your consumers on their terms. Spend 10% of the time talking about yourself. Not a bad approach for your life, either.”

And continually “evaluate and evolve . . . be introspective and insure that you are living a life—and being recommended—in the ways you want to be . . . take ownership of your life and your brands.”

The author advises, “Becoming Highly Recommended is about being recommendable at every turn of the consumer experience, before they buy, while they buy, after they buy, the next time they buy, and when their friends buy, all cylinders in the marketing and servicing machine must be firing.”

The author’s perspective is informed by his handling professional work to ensure his clients’ brands become the most talked about and recommended in their category,” including Nissan, Subway, Unilever, Dart Industries, Frito-Lay, Dupont, Phillips, Roadway International, Storck, and Cricket Wireless.

Emphasizing the product being marketed, this marketing book conveys a most positive and welcome message, one all too missing in so many marketing tracts, which concentrate on price or promotion or packaging.

In those books the actual quality of the product and the circumstances that surround that product are presumed to be adequate, or there may be some passing reference such as “of course, you have to have a good product.” But this presumption is more often problematic than true.

Too little explored in the marketing literature is what it means to have a good product in the dynamic second decade of the 21st century. Highly Recommended goes beyond the hucksterism, sometimes verging on distorting lipstick-on-a-pig style of dressing up what fundamentally is that distinctive of a product.

The focus is on the core of the marketing communication linkage, recognizing that the customer experience is a function not only of expectations created prior to the product service experience, but in the congruency between those expectations and the reality of what you deliver.

Though Highly Recommended is a business book, included in the introduction is the entirety of his commencement speech to Northwestern University’s Integrated Marketing and Communications graduate program, championing the theme to “live a Recommendable Life.”

Offering big ideas, stories and statistics, counsel and prescription, for some Highly Recommended will be inspiring and energizing, while others might experience this book as marketing tough love.

Highly Recommended is highly recommended.