The Best Things I Read in 2017

I’ve consumed a lot of content this year, including hundreds of articles and podcasts, and several books.

I haven’t read as many books as I’d like, which is something I’m trying to improve. However, I realized that there was a lot of really impactful stuff I ran across, and I wanted to share it with you.

Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday

Definitely the best business book I’ve read all year.

This book is a highly practical guide to creating, launching and selling any product. Even though I’ve launched several products already, I found it really useful.

Here’s a couple quotes I highlighted.

On creating:

We must set out, from the beginning, with complete and total commitment to the idea that our best chance of success starts during the creative process.

On your audience:

Presumably you have some vision of people purchasing or using this thing you’ve spent all your time making. How could you not know who they are? It’s not going to happen by accident!

On marketing:

As Seth Godin has written…”Sell one,” he says. “Find one person who trusts you and sell him a copy. Does he love it? Is he excited about it? Excited enough to tell ten friends because it helps them, not because it helps you?”

This book is filled with practical knowledge and concrete examples, I highly recommend it.

The One Thing by Gary Keller

I’m not finished with this one yet but so far it is great.

Not everything matters equally, and success isn’t a game won by whoever does the most.

Gary talks about getting laser focused on your goals, to the point where it’s only one thing you’re really striving for. Everything else revolves around that, or gets ignored.

Here’s a few practical tips I got from the book so far:

  • Think hard about one outcome you really want, long term. For example, becoming a well known author, selling 1000 product subscriptions, or losing 20 pounds.
  • Write down everything you could do in a given day, then boil it down to one single thing that will help you reach your goal the most efficiently. That’s your one thing.
  • Don’t rely on willpower, use it to generate a habit. You need about 66 days of willpower to build a habit (like going to the gym), then it becomes easy.

I’m looking forward to the rest of this one.

Advice Frameworks by Tomasz Tunguz

This one is a bit more philosophical, about giving advice.

“Advice is one person’s experience generalized”, an entrepreneur told me once. “It’s a single point of view with all kinds of survivorship and attribution bias. Advice can be a terribly dangerous thing, because it can be used as a shortcut for thinking.”

When people give you advice on how to run your business (or your life), they almost always do it with limited information. No one has as much insight into your life as you do, so how can someone else know better?

It’s great to hear about the experience of others and synthesize that into your decision making process. But if someone tells you “do X instead of Y” it’s probably bad advice.

I’m tempted to give advice to other people, but I’m trying to change the way I approach it. Instead of telling someone:

You should do X

change that to

My experience with that has been X, and here’s what I learned from that.

How Seth Godin Would Launch a New Business

This interview with Seth Godin is a fantastic primer on how to launch a new business.

Seth is big on starting small, selling something to 1 person, then 2 people, etc. For example, if your audience is stay at home moms, create something and sell it to one stay at home mom, then another. This is a much better strategy than buying ads or trying to scale right away.

Even though I’ve started several businesses and products, I always learn something by going back to the basics.

SaaS demos by Wyatt Jozwowski

I’ve heard several different SaaS founders talk about doing live product demos to get their first hundred customers, and then continuing to do them perpetually.

This is a great example of Paul Graham’s advice to do things that don’t scale. Sometimes we focus too much on scaling, when the most profitable thing we can do is convert customers one at a time.

Brennan Dunn did this with his newest SaaS offering. A genius part of his strategy was doing manual onboarding with customers. He got on video calls with dozens of people, and watched what they had trouble with. He did this before building any type of automated process. Brilliant!

This might not work for a WordPress plugin, but if you have a demonstrable SaaS product, it can be a great way to make sales.

Sales Techniques from Sumo.com

Many of us product developers don’t touch direct sales with a 10 foot pole, but that’s a mistake. Great companies like Sumo.com and Convertkit use direct sales with great success, we can learn a thing or two from them.

I heard this one on Noah Kagan’s podcast. Noah interviewed his lead sales guy, Anton Sepetov, and asked him what makes for a great salesman.

A few things I took away from this article:

  • Direct sales is not about being pushy, it’s about being helpful and genuine.
  • Following up is crucial. Noah mentions most of his responses come from his second email,
    when the first was ignored.
  • Be normal. Don’t use business jargon and try to sound smart, just be you!

I also love Nathan Barry’s article on how he used direct sales to grow Convertkit. It’s a must read.

Lessons Learned Buying 29 Companies with Jonathan Siegel

If you’ve ever considered selling your business, or you’re just curious about what prospective buyers are thinking, this one is for you.

It’s another podcast episode from Noah Kagan, and I found it fascinating. Jonathan Siegel buys flailing businesses and turns them around, many times doubling profits within a year.

The part about this that interested me was getting inside the mind of someone looking to buy businesses. Jonathan mentioned that he does really simple things to improve a business that he buys, like raising prices, content marketing, improving customer relations, etc.

Hearing what he does to improve these businesses is a great lesson on what we can do to improve our own.

That’s it for my list, what was your #1 favorite read in 2017? Please share with me in the comments so I can put it on my personal reading list.


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Posted by Scott

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