Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Book Review: speak human by Eric Karjaluoto

After I quoted "speak human"last week you are probably not surprised when I say: I love this book! SmashLab Founder Eric Karjaluoto explains in depth why classic marketing is useless for small and mid-size companies and what works instead: "Outmarket the Big Guys by Getting Personal" (as the subtitles states). But it is not a book for everyone...

While most Social Media books focus on big companies and how to adapt their classic marketing strategies to this "new" social media thing Eric Karjaluoto heads into the opposite direction. Based on his 10 years marketing experience in a changing market his book focusses on real communication. It allboils down to one basic rule: "Get Personal". He calls this way of communication "speaking human" in contrary to the top-bottom communication most big companies normally do.

The books is divided into five parts each one having between four and six chapters. Each part - on his homepage they are called "sections" - has a headline and each chapter in there represents one argument for this parts headline. Although you could understand them as main rules to follow they build upon each other. It is a step-by-step plan constructing the concept of "Getting Personal". His writing style is clear and structured. He knows when he is repeating things and makes clear why he is doing so. It is easily readable even if you are not a native speaker.

Karjaluoto breaks with a lot of common dreams and rules in business. And it is necessary to do it. So i f you are still dreaming about "growth" for your company this book is worth every penny. It will shutter this dream but you won't be disappointed: shattering this dream is crucial for real success and Karjaluoto will explain you why. This takes up most of the time: the first three parts are focussed about breaking the classic rules of business and going to a different direction. Only the fourth chapter is looking on how to transfer what you learnt into Social Media.

While the whole book takes place in reality with a lot of nice examples of actual companies this fourth chapter is short and theoretical: it ends with the chapter "Ten (Digital) Marketing Stories". Ten stories he made up. Totally fictive. No Real-Case-Studies. Sad. It leaves the reader on his own. And this is only one example, the same is valid for the many tools out there and the different ways to use them. He keeps it theoretical and without any real life connection or examples. Only "Could be" and "Might work". This leaves a bad after taste; you get the feeling it might not be true at all. It might have been better to not include this chapter at all.

This might also be the reason why I rushed through the fifth part. Although I just finished reading it last week I can't remember much of it - actually I had to look into it again for this article. The only thing I remember is I wanted to get through it as fast as possible. While reading you get the feeling the author wanted the same. It is very theoretical and rushes through a lot of not-yet-finished ideas; some of them belong into this book (like "Forget Viral" or "Starting a Fire") others don't (the theory of "The Inverted Pyramid" could be a book itself...). In any case this last part reads itself like an unsorted idea pool, it is missing the clear structure the first three chapters have.

And that is twice as sad because some of these ideas are really smart with great arguments but they get lost on the pool of unclear theoretical thoughts and secondly because this book deserves a better ending.

But that does not mean, you shouldn't read it. As I said at the beginning: I love this book. And if you are not yet sure about the marketing for your small company you should spend the $ 22.95 for this book or read chapters he publishes online every couple of weeks. If you are looking for a book about how to adapt these techniques into Social Media on the other hand this book is not enough: This is the missing part and makes the theories feel a bit more "unproven" than they have to be.

If you know a good book containing this missing part or just want me review a certain book drop me a line.


karjaluoto said...

Hi Benjamin,

Thanks for your thoughtful review and kind remarks about Speak Human. I do appreciate you reading it, and sharing your thoughts here!

Although I believe your criticisms are reasonable—and astute—I would like to explain why those areas were treated as they were.

I considered the “Ten (Digital) Marketing Stories” section carefully before going the “hypothetical” route. I favored this approach as it seemed the best way to illustrate that regardless of size or offering, many varying organizations can use digital effectively. I agree: they would have been better as real-life case studies. Finding so many varied and holistic examples just wasn’t terribly practical, though. As such, I responded as though these were groups that came to us asking how to use digital to address some common problems. (BTW: We have provided a number of more specific examples in an earlier white paper, which you can find here: http://gu.nu/mnw)

You (rightly) point out that the fifth section is less fluid than the rest of the book. I struggled with this too. That part was in some respects an extension: intended as a series of practical suggestions readers could put into action immediately. This is a weird kind of thing to compile, as every reader is conceivably coming from a different place: some will do it all on their own, while others will need better ways to communicate with their marketing people or agency.

Chapters like “The Inverted Pyramid” were included to provide a general framework for starting to consider a marketing/messaging strategy. Similarly “Finding and Enabling Great Partners,” was a brief set of ideas on how to start looking for people who might help with all of this. These sections just skim the surface. In my mind, though, it was more important to touch upon them a little, than not make any mention. Similarly, I didn’t want to go into such depth that I pushed the page count overly high.

So, that’s why it was done the way it was. Believe me, your points are valid, and ones we too wrestled with at great length.

I also have a little favor to ask of you. I’m quite happy with the review you wrote here, as it both addresses areas that were strong, and others that could have been better. This is just the kind of thing I’d like others to be able to read before buying the book. Is there any chance you’d consider posting this review on Amazon, noting the things you have here? I’m sure that a balanced, insightful review like yours would be helpful for others contemplating buying the book. :-)

Thanks again for reading!


Benjamin Kampmann said...

Wow. This is a great paper you got there. Why didn't you include those examples into your book? Is it because they are mostly big companies? We are also struggling finding real good small company examples :( ...

Thanks for your insights on the other topics as well. Helps to understand the structure the book and the way it is written.

As you requested I posted parts of this review on amazon.com as well. Linked it back to this review so the readers can read it totally as well as your comment - which I find *really* helpful!

Gave you five stars as well ;)

Post a Comment