Three Books Every Business Leader Should Read


By Tricia McKinnon

Hacking Growth, Contagious and Blue Ocean Shift are three business books you should read to learn new strategies and ideas for long term growth.

Hacking Growth by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown is an excellent book with powerful insights on how to drive growth. It contains examples of the growth strategies employed by Facebook, LinkedIn, Yelp, Costco, Paypal and many more organizations. Highlights include insights into how Dropbox’s referral program which offered customers free storage space for referrals, resulted in an immediate 60% increase in referral traffic. It also discusses how Facebook accelerated its growth by embedding functionality into its app that encouraged users to invite more friends to the platform. 

One of my favourite quotes from the book is"often people think there's a silver bullet to getting traffic and going viral.  What we’ve learned is that there are times when you can get some spikes in virility, but if you really want that long-term major user growth its got to start with a good product." 

My key takeaways for organizations is that no matter how good your marketing is if you do not have a great product you will struggle to find, maintain and accelerate growth.

Contagious by Jonah Berger is a book about why things catch on. While advertising is still beneficial strong word of mouth is often the key to success.  One of the reasons strong word of mouth about a product or service is so effective is that it is often directed to people that are likely to be interested in the product or service.  You are not going to recommend a product to your best friend that you do not think he or she is likely to use.  After analyzing hundreds of contagious products the author outlines six principles that cause products and services to be talked about, shared and initiated.  One of those principles is using stories in your marketing messages.  People tend to tell stories instead of sharing facts and figures.  Therefore it is important to embed products and ideas in stories that people want to tell.
One of my favourite quotes from this book is: "word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20% to 50% of all purchasing decisions."  

My key takeaway for organizations is that everyone still loves a good story. What stories will you be telling to capture the attention of your most valued existing and target customers?

Blue Ocean Shift by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne is one of the best strategy books I have read.  It is the follow up book to their widely popular book Blue Ocean Strategy. The book provides useful insight into how organizations have created new markets even when the opportunities were not readily apparent.

For example, the authors recommend targeting "non-customers". These are customers that your organization turns away for a variety of reasons (i.e they are too expensive to serve). Square, which was founded by Jack Dorsey is a company that is profiled in the book.  Before Square there was an entire market of small businesses and entrepreneurs that did not allow customers to pay by debit or credit card. Square comes along and starts offering an inexpensive way for individuals, small businesses and even large organizations to accept credit and debit card payments on their iPhones, Androids, or iPads simply by adding a Square reader.  
One of my favourite quotes from the book is: a “blue ocean shift is a systematic process to move your organization from cutthroat markets with bloody competition…red oceans full of sharks – to wide open blue oceans, or new markets devoid of competition”.
My takeaway for organizations is: have you thought about customer segments that you are not serving today but perhaps could with a different offering or business model?


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