Archive for July, 2009

Stealing Customers for Profit in the Recession

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Have you ever been woken up by cold water splashed in your face? That was what happened to me when I read a blog post on another site the other day. To paraphrase (because I failed to bookmark the site and can’t find it again–drat) he said that those in the printing business should not hold expectations that 2010 was going to improve the state of the market. Furthermore he said that there were only two things companies could do to remain viable during the coming year. The first, was concentrate on customer retention. In this market losing customers is like losing blood. Do whatever you have to do to stop the loss. The second thing  was steal customers from the competition. Honest to goodness, steal was the exact word used. It wasn’t attract new customers, it was steal customers.

Part of me understands his point while another part of me is revolted. In a down economy new customers are rare. Prudent people rarely start new businesses during hard times. Banks are loath to loan and entrepreneurs are careful.  So if new customers aren’t springing up that only leaves current customers. If they aren’t your customer, then they are someone else’s. There is something very distasteful to me about targeting some other company’s livelihood knowing that if you win you may be causing their demise. That is what the emotional side of me says.

The pragmatic side says that you have to face reality. If it takes stealing a customer to keep your company afloat, and allow your employees to put food on their tables, that’s what you have to do. Strike first before they strike you.

pirate skull and knifeIs that cutthroat? Maybe, but business is a jungle and it is survival of the fittest. Don’t we benefit as a society if those moving the bar up are the ones surviving? Don’t we get better goods and services? For the sake of all shouldn’t those weaker companies be weeded out? For the good of the garden thinning has to take place. OK, I’ve managed to mix at least three metaphors in the previous sentences, but you get my point–right?

Stealing customers might be a correct term even though it’s hard to swallow (yet another metaphor). I remember talking to a travel agency some years ago about their marketing. They got tired of fighting for position in the middle of the pack and decided to break out by being unique. What they did is identify ten commercial accounts who did large volumes in travel. Then they determined how much they were already spending on newspaper and magazine ads. They totaled their radio expense. In short they added all of their marketing costs and put it into an imaginary pot. Then they looked at those ten prospects again and divvied up the pot ten ways. During the next year they focused all of their energies on the golden ten. All they had to do was get three and their business would increase. When the dust settled, and the year was over they had six out of ten, and business more than doubled for them.

Those ten golden commercial accounts had been buying travel services from someone else. In effect, the upstart travel agency stole their customers. Or as I like to think of it they won the business. Because they were focused on only ten, they could service the businesses like they had never been serviced before. It wasn’t theft, is was a reward for a job well done. To not reward them with business after this effort would be criminal.

To stay afloat, and even improve during an economic downturn find a way to earn more business. Whinning all day long that business is bad won’t do it. No that won’t do at all.

Ride High in the Club Car or Bump Along Underneath it?

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Talk about trying to catch the train after it has left the station, the big publishing houses are just now looking into Internet and network marketing.  The Internet hit the publishing industry like a runaway freight and it wasn’t truly respected until upstarts like Amazon, and Google were seen riding off into the sunset lifting their glasses of champagne high into the air.

Even now Amazon is leading the book selling revolution with electronic books. What are the traditional guys doing? Mostly moaning about how book sales are down (is that true Amazon?), and gnashing their teeth about how foot traffic into bookstores has decreased.

This is why I say if you go the traditional route your chances of success are very slim.  I’ve read that a new title will get a whole 30 days of shelf exposure before being flung into the discount bin. Or even worse, having their covers ripped off for return credit and the book destroyed. You have to make a big splash early and fast to survive.

Chew on this thought–what if you published your own book and you could take the time it needs to build its audience? What if you controlled the presentation, marketing, and distribution? AND, instead of getting a 10% royalty earned fifteen times as much? This is the essence of self-publishing.

I’m not saying that everyone is ready, willing and able to do what it takes to be a self-publisher, but what most don’t know is that it is easier than you might imagine. You can build yourself up and become an industry thought leader in six months without even leaving home. Blogging makes it possible. The Internet makes almost anything possible. I know–I’m doing it. I started a blog last January (it’s July now) and I’ve had nearly 11,000 hits so far, and my monthly totals are going up, up, and up.

Why am I doing this? Exposure. Name recognition. I haven’t even published my books yet, but before I do I’m laying the groundwork. I’m networking and making world-wide connections daily. That’s so cool I can hardly stand it. If you scroll down the right side of my blog you will come to a yellow map of the world. Click on it and see how far and wide my words have gone.  I even have a language translator so that they can read what I’ve written in their own tongue. Technology–don’t ya’ love it?

Social Networking (web2.0) is flipping the whole book marketing system upside down. It used to be that you would sell books and then people would come to know you. Now people can get to know you and then you sell books. Which method would you rather use?

I’ve been following T.A.P. (The Author Platform) to learn the ropes of blogging and social networking.  Without this guidance I would be lost. TAP very clearly shows the path to follow and gives very valuable tidbits of information along the way. I can heartily endorse it because I use it. Oh, and by-the-way there’s a No Risk 15 day FREE trial too. What could be sweeter? Just click here for more information.

What do I get out of it? I get a little slice of the action, it’s true, but more than that I get the satisfaction of knowing that I’ve helped my fellow self-publishers, which is the same reason I have for creating The Red Hen Association of Self-Publishing Authors (click here for more information). I believe that we all benefit if we strive to raise the bar. We can do that by producing better self-published books, and selling them smarter than the big guys.

Everyone Has a Book, but . . .

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

I love to question generally accepted truisms and it drives my wife crazy. “Why can’t you just accept it or let it go?” She tells me. This trait used to get me into trouble in school too. Just because the teacher presented something as a fact, that didn’t mean it was. Teachers don’t like little snot-nosed kids challenging them. I took more than one trip to the coat closet, I can tell you.

Everyone has a book in them and 80% want to write one.

I am bringing this up for two reasons, the first being the statement that “Everyone has a book in them.” I looked for the source of this quotation and it seems to be either unknown, a cliché, or anonymous. If anyone knows its origins, I would love to hear about it. The second statement treated as fact is that “80% of [people/adults] want to write a book.” How was that research conducted I wonder? Did a student with a clipboard wander up and down the streets stopping pedestrians to ask, “Have you ever thought of writing a book?” No matter how the research was done or even if it was done, it might be true. Ever since I wrote the manifesto for The Red Hen Association of Self-Publishing Authors (to read click here) everyone I know is either writing a book, has written a book, or has a close friend or family member working on a book. You might be tempted to ask, “Bill all of those sources you quoted know you, and you’ve written books, shouldn’t the figure be 100%? Okay smarty that would be true if they all pointed to me, but they didn’t, they were talking about themselves or some other person. I have enough sense to exclude myself from this highly questionable research I conducted.

Are 43.56 million books being written right now?

If you use my personal experience as valid research (note: not actually recommended) and take a wild a_ s guess, you would probably be correct in assuming that most would never really attempt it. But just suppose that 20% did give it a go. The adult population of the US according to the last census was 217.8 million. Twenty percent of that figure would mean that there could be 43.56 million books in process right now. Over forty-three million is a mind boggling figure. Even if 1/2% is true that would still come to nearly 11million books. Good grief–no wonder only 4% or less of manuscripts presented to publishers ever make it into print.

Family histories and journals are books too.

Let’s address the maxim that everyone has a book in them. I suspect that is true also. If for no other reason, our life stories will make interesting reading for someone. Especially once, we’ve passed on. After my father retired from his job as a computer systems analyst, he spent time gathering diaries and journals about our immediate ancestors. For me it was a good read. For someone unrelated, not so much. The point being that it is a book. A book printed on a home printer and hand bound with a metal strip you can purchase at any office supply store.

Is the book my father self-published going anywhere other than the bookshelves of his children? Probably not. But, what if one of our descendants became famous or heaven forbid infamous, wouldn’t someone love to have their hands on this information so they can speculate all day long on what made that person tick?

The difference between a book, a good book, and a great book.

The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

The question isn’t does everyone have a book in them. That answer is yes. The real question is does everyone have a good book in them? This answer is obviously no. The authors that can weave a story in such a way that it becomes a living thing are still far and few between, but as we have already discussed there could easily be a million books in development right now that given a chance could be the next Catcher in the Rye. There are too many manuscripts for traditional publishing and distribution to handle. If you are the next yet unrecognized great author, you may have no choice except to publish your own book, promote your book, and take it like The Little Red Hen to the next level by yourself.


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