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The Spark: Alex Turnbull, Founder of Groove, on the One Marketing Book Every Founder Must Read

Behind every great innovator is a great book.
by Caitlin Schiller | Jun 4 2015
In our contributor series, The Spark, we ask founders and leaders in their fields to share one outstanding read that inspired them on their journey.

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Like most essential inventions, Groove materialized from a cloud of frustration.

Have you ever taken a look at the average help desk software? With their own complicated topographies, laws, and fleets of functionalities, they are worlds of complexity that rival a George R.R. Martin creation. In running his first small company, BantamLive, Alex Turnbull was dismayed that his only options for customer help software were either incredibly complex or couldn’t give him what he needed.

So he decided to build something better.

Groove was built for the small business that’s moved beyond email, but doesn’t require a catalogue of complex doodads. It makes every interaction with a customer more personal, more trackable, and more usable so that more companies get to be the brand that everybody loves.

We asked Alex what book has inspired him on his journey to making Groove great, and he pointed to a classic that you may have completely missed.

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The book that began a revolution

Alex picked The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries, one of the world’s biggest names in marketing strategy. One of its key lessons is that for a brand to make an impact for the ages, it’s got to slough off the temptation to be everything to everybody.

Unlike Ries’s paragon of a brand, however, this book has wisdom that applies to everybody from marketers to PR directors, and especially, to entrepreneurs. As he built Groove from the ground up, the 22 Immutable Laws became Alex’s go-to marketing primer.

“While the laws themselves are incredibly valuable, the most powerful lesson that the book taught me was how to think about marketing. Primarily, not to do what everyone else was doing, simply because others were doing it,” Alex comments. “It teaches you a framework that I think Rick Perrault described very well in his interview on our blog: when others zig, you zag.”

Practical applications

Learning to make moves others have completely overlooked is a lesson that Alex has taken to heart in building Groove, and it shows up in spades in his approach to getting noticed. Content marketing certainly isn’t new, but Alex’s blog, which chronicles Groove’s every incremental move on the journey to $500k in monthly revenue is some of the freshest founder content out there.

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Alex does one better than simply telling Groove’s story to include truly inspiring interviews, like my personal favorite with Neil Patel of KISSmetrics, that go beyond and juuuust to the left of what you’re expecting from the blogosphere.

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Buried treasure

Speaking of zigging where others zag, this methodology is the precise reason that Alex recommends The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: many others haven’t ever read it. Though the book is 20 years old, Alex contends that it’s still just as applicable as the best advice posted online yesterday.

“The conversation about “the best resources” is so dominated by the latest books and blogs that have come out in the past few years, that we tend to forget that many people solved the same business problems we’re solving now a long time ago.”

You can read more about Alex, the people who inspire him, and Groove’s journey to 500K a month on their blog.

Previously in Spark: Gary Swart shares the 3 books that shaped oDesk into the world’s largest online workplace

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