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Ctrl Alt Delete

Book Review of: Ctrl Alt Delete

Reboot Your Business. Reboot Your Life. Your Future Depends on It.

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Review of Ctrl Alt Delete, by Mitch Joel (Softcover, 2013)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)


This book holds a great deal of sound advice. I will highlight a few of those things, in a moment. First, I want to point out that the book isn't what its front and back covers suggest.

When I read the title, subtitle, and summary, I got the impression this book was about changing your business model. We read, for example, " reboot and start rebuilding your business model." It's not really about that. A business model is something like, "We sell online and suppliers dropship for us." Or "We repair and refurbish old lawnmowers but don't sell new ones." It can even be, "We are a Red Snapper dealer" and you might want to reboot it because, "In this economic Depression, people are buying cheap mowers they know will wear out in a few years and our sales are lagging so we need to change our business model."

For a small business that's a pure B to C online seller, changing the business model might include such things as becoming a C to C seller, opening a brick and mortar store, shifting the business over to something other than online selling, or closing the online business and opening a Subway franchise.

Mitch Joel doesn't elaborate on the Google factor, but I believe it's at the heart of the need to change something very important. And if you understand the Google factor, you see what changes is the marketing strategy.

Google began systematically wiping out small businesses in 2011 by initiating "Pandageddon." Many victim companies scrambled to please the Google Gods, got zero help from Google, and consequently spent huge sums on "SEO firms" that provided false hope and false answers. After much guesswork and little success in meeting Google's nebulous new requirements, a new best "best practice" among small businesses began to emerge in 2012. That "best practice" is to do everything possible to make Google irrelevant to the business. For example, selling on the Amazon Marketplace because Amazon will do well regardless of what Google does. Amazon Marketers share in that advantage.

This isn't a change of business model. It's a change of marketing strategy. Yes, replacing Google is an existential requirement for many small businesses. But it's a marketing change, not a business model change. Pandageddon proved that "trust Google" is not a good marketing strategy.

Two years and two months into this mess Matt Cutts announced that Panda will "soften" its effects on smaller sites. But it's too little, too late, for the thousands of folks bankrupted by this fiasco because they trusted Google to "do no evil." Did Google finally have a twinge of conscience or did the higher-ups finally see the changes severely degraded the search experience on Google? Probably the latter, as more and more people are finding that other search engines deliver a better search experience. This also sounds the alarm to rethink your marketing, if Google has been central to it.

For this purpose, this book is a real gem. Mitch Joel is a marketing guy. That's his frame of reference. Based on what I outlined above and based on what Mitch actually addressed in his book, a change of marketing strategy is what he really means. Not a change in business model. However, many of the concepts he covers could lead to a change in business model. Some concepts will, for many people, definitely mean rethinking their entire approach to work and life. But I believe for most readers, it's going to be a marketing rethink.

Many businesses (and not just the small players, but some really big names) are responding to Pandageddon by pouring resources into "social media." This is, to my way of thinking, just a reincarnation of the SEO firm response. It's usually a panic reaction, not the result of a thoughtful analysis. And this is exactly why many businesses are finding that their social media efforts are not working for them. Besides draining scarce resources, these efforts often do more harm than good. If that's the situation with your business, read this book and you'll understand why that's happening. You'll also understand what to do about it.

Mitch Joel knows what to do about it, because he's done it and he can cite examples of various companies that are succeeding with it. He explains why some fail and some succeed, so you can understand how you might implement your own social media strategy. This understanding is why you should care about this book. It's why you should read it, then read it again while taking notes. There are good ways to engage customers regardless of what screen size is involved. Mitch explains what these are, why they work, and the direction things are headed. All good stuff.

Some of Joe's tips (in my own words):

  • Think about what you are doing, rather than robotically executing mindless tasks. Whether you use bots or humans for this sort of thing, it's a misuse of resources that could be deployed to actually connecting with customers.
  • Don't advertorialize. This is a tactic of desperation. People like to get expert advice. They don't like being subjected to a sales pitch badly disguised as an "article" or blog comment.
  • Focus on influence, not reach. For example, much of what passes for "content" is drivel produced not to delight the customer but to get the task done and check off the box. Not only does it fail to engage customers, it tends to alienate them. "But, hey, we did 33 tweets today, wrote 2 blog posts, and tricked 9 people into friending us"--do these metrics mean anything? Would you hire a brain surgeon who has this mentality?

These seem like common sense tips, but stop to evaluate what's going on in your firm. Or in how you actually do your work. Joe has many specific tips, but I pulled these out because (to me) they demonstrate the kind of mind-set that's needed to succeed today. For some people, that really will be a reboot. For others, it's just a realignment with the principles they've embraced all along.

This book consists of 12 chapters (and an interlude) spanning 250 pages. It also has a prelude, introduction, and index.

A note on the mechanicals. I reviewed the advance uncorrected proof, not the final copy (courtesy of the Amazon Vine program). The advanced proof was woefully in need of good copy editing. I hope the errors were cleared up in the version that's for sale. That said, the errors were of the technical variety. These included pronoun misuse, confusing further and farther, verb confusion, and those other sorts of technical errors. But the composition was good.


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