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Book Review: ‘Highly Recommended’ by Paul M. Rand

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New book is highly recommendableHere’s an interesting question. What do you want people to say when they recommend you? That’s one of the best questions raised in a new book by Paul M. Rand, Highly Recommended: Harnessing the Power of Word of Mouth and Social Media to Build Your Brand and Your Business.

The book answers that question and many more. Rand writes that the book, “is about actively recruiting recommenders — those people who feel connected to you, familiar with you, impressed by you, and yes, loyal to you.”

Rand writes that once a business or an author like himself, answers that one vital question, it becomes easier to work to become highly recommendable.

The book came about after the author gave the commencement address at Northwestern University’s Integrated Marketing Communications graduate program.

The speech was about living a recommendable life and included five lessons including the following:

  1. Determine how you want to be talked about and recommended.
  2. Live your brand.
  3. Be human and transparent and live up to your mistakes.
  4. Stay engaging and interesting.
  5. Evaluate and evolve, regularly.

All are highly recommendable lessons that can easily be applied to personal and business worlds.

While the book covers so many topics vital to successful marketing, some of the top concepts Rand explores include word or mouth marketing. He writes that it is “the Holy Grail of modern marketing.”

The idea that word of mouth drives modern marketing is staggering because it also happens to be the oldest form of marketing. You could say it is the first form of marketing. Yet, it is still as strong today as ever, especially with the rise in use of social media, which is in its most basic definition, is word or mouth marketing.

Rand offers the success of Angie’s List as proof positive of the power of social media and word of mouth marketing. He writes that the success of Angie’s List is due in large part to the fact that “consumers want, and are willing to pay for, recommendations they can trust.”

Another must have topic for any really good book on marketing is why people become brand loyal. Rand offers five basic reasons people attach themselves to certain brands:

  1. They want to be the first to know and first to tell others about a product or a company.
  2. People like to do “favor banking” where they share their information with others who share back.
  3. When a brand has products that become recommendable because of other products in its line, Rand calls it “credibility rub-off.”
  4. People recommend products to project a desired image.
  5. Some people recommend products and companies because they truly love the products or the brand.

Rand uses the first part of the book to give his take on word of mouth marketing. The second section is his recommended road map to extracting recommendations from consumers. The last section looks at how to make getting recommendations part of the business operations.

A short list of interesting and engaging concepts he explores include:

  • Interact with versus interrupting customers
  • The influencer ecosystem
  • The four Ws of listening – who’s talking, what are they saying, where are the conversations taking place and why it all matters
  • Connectors, mavens and salespeople
  • Hashtags that become bashtags

The book is well written and easy to read. Rand introduces a few new concepts that are easy to implement into any type of marketing. It’s a great book for those new to marketing and it’s a good refresher for those that have been in marketing for a while.

Rand is the founder, president and CEO of Zocalo Group, a marketing agency that works with clients on digital, social media and word of mouth strategies. He has served as the president of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA). Rand is on the U.S. Council of Better Business Bureaus.

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