The Referral Engine – A Review

by Jeremy Powers on October 21, 2010

Buy "The Referral Engine" on AmazonThe Referral Engine by John Jantsch is an outstanding primer for small businesses struggling to understand marketing in the 21st century.  I recommend the book to business owners wanting to try to build their own marketing tools rather than hire a professional.

The Referral Engine – The Good

John is a proven business writer and consultant.  You can expect any of his writing to be informative and helpful.  Here are some reasons I would recommend The Referral Engine:

1. Delivers on the title – The book takes you through the requirements, strategies, and tactics to build a “referral engine.”

2. Tools– John has packed this book with guidance on tools he recommends, and many of them are the same tools I recommend.  I like that he is specific.  For example, John doesn’t just tell you to use an open-source blogging tool.  He recommends WordPress.  Being specific makes the advice easier for you to apply.

3. Explains referral sources – You are shown the different qualities of good customers.  You are given the qualities of good strategic partners.  The qualities are not necessarily the same, and John does a good job of explaining.

4. Great index – I have tabbed and highlighted my copy so much the index is really the only way I can quickly find what I am looking for.  The book has become one of my top ten reference books this summer.

The Referral Engine – The Bad

I believe the book is intended for the same small business audience as Duct Tape MarketingThe Referral Engine is a thorough book, but John does go a bit too far into the weeds of online tools.  I know some of my clients struggle using email, and more than a few simply refuse to use smart phones.

1. Tools – What is simple for John (or me) will be overwhelming for many small business owners.  I know many business owners will be intimidated by some of these applications.

2. Emphasis on creating content – Much of the book focuses on building and leveraging good content such as white papers, position papers, articles, and blogs.  I am sure John, a published business author, underestimates how difficult creating content is for many business owners.  Based on the emails and letters I receive, many people struggle with written communication in general.  Writing articles, blog posts, and even tweets is not something they will be comfortable doing.

3. Too fast– John explains blogging on page 128.  Eight pages later, he explains the benefits of adding audio and video to your blog.  This is an incredibly fast transition from basic blogging to worrying about higher forms of engagement.  It is the equivalent of teaching someone to microwave a hotdog on Monday and asking the same person to make clam chowder from scratch on Wednesday.

Overall, I recommend the book, especially to those of you wanting to execute an online marketing strategy without hiring an expert.  The tools and tactics are all well explained.  Be prepared, however, applying even a third of this book will take significant time.

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