Book Review: Smarter, Faster, Cheaper

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In my continuing quest to not get personal visits from Buck Woody (blog|twitter) I’m making sure that I make good on my commitment to read 12 personal development books in 12 months. We’re up to #4 (again demonstrating the degree of fear that Buck can put in a person) and the book is Smarter, Faster, Cheaper: Non-Boring, Fluff-Free Strategies for Marketing and Promoting Your Business by David Siteman Garland (blog|twitter).

The extended title on the book covers what it’s about quite well. David Garland is considered one of the top marketers these days and he seems to follow the processes laid out in his book. I say this because I received a tweet from him after I tweeted that I’d finished reading the book. One of the processes laid out is to set up search routines to keep an eye out for your name, your companies name, your book’s name, and go to where those things are being posted and respond, in person.

I can sum up a huge part of the book in those last two words, in person. He’s very much about the concept that what you’re selling is not a widget, but yourself and that the more and better you sell yourself, the more and better your widgets will sell. The focus of the book is on marketing and selling, which is good, that’s what I expected and wanted. I’m just still having trouble wrapping my brain around the fact that I’m in sales & marketing. But, the good news, for me anyway, is that David Garland’s idea of sales is to generate useful content. Wait, what was that? You mean writing books, blog posts, articles, recording videos and presenting online & at user groups is sales & marketing? Sweet! I’m in favor.

The point is, you have to move away from the ideas of marketing the old way, buying commercial time on TV and move into using the intertubes to do your marketing. That marketing is done by becoming a trusted advisor, or as Seth Godin has it, a linchpin. You do that by generating material, like this blog, and handing it out for free. You take part in discussions in forums, twitter, whatever, and grow yourself into a trusted resource THEN, you carefully sell. I’m sold. Of course, I’ve been sold. I got this message a year ago, right before I changed my career path. The book goes on to discuss various mechanisms of engagement and production you can use to build up that material which will turn you into a trusted resource. There’s a lot of great advice about how to manage your online presence, how to overcome fear (of failure, success, what have you), produce video, and probably most importantly, building a community. The book is all about building out a community of people that you help and who in turn help you. A real community, not just a bunch of readers or viewers, but an interactive group of individuals. Again, I’m in favor.

Unusual enough for a modern book, he has an Index. In fact, he has a good index. When I saw that I had to check to see if I was reading one of my history books or a technical book. No one puts indexes in books any more (apart from historians & geeks). Excellent.

So that’s what the book is all about, how did it affect me, personally? I have to say, I’m a bit… meh, about it. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a very well written book and I believe in what David Garland is pushing here. I think he’s 100% correct and I think the book would be very useful to others. Unfortunately, I’ve read several of Seth Godin’s books and I’ve been pursuing this line of approach already, so… while the book reinforced the things I know, the approach I’m taken, the beliefs I’m working under, it didn’t add a lot to them. But I think the fault here is the reader, not the book. However, I still found it useful, if for nothing else the reinforcement that I’m at least striving in the right direction (which is very nice to have).

I did find the chapter on reputation, “Your Reputation in the Transparent World We Live In” … scary and useful. I’m sure that doesn’t sound good, but it is. I’ve made several adjustments to how and what I do online over the last year and I suspect I’ll be making a few more changes based on this. I’m just nervous about going too far and becoming boring (right, right… more boring).

Anyway, on to the next book, Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself by Daniel H. Pink.


  • Why don’t more non-technical books have indices? Anyways, while I agree that your personality and presentation can be used as differentiators, your widget needs to be aces first. Garland’s widget is his personality + presentation, but I’d wager that isn’t true for the majority of his audience.

OK, fine, but what do you think?