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How to Build a Potent Brand (Six Clues)

October 27, 2011

Mary van de Wiel

Best known for her individualistic expertise when it comes to coaxing out the real emotional power in brands to spike the bottom line, Mary van de Wiel [alias: Van] is CEO and Brand Anthropologist of Zing Your Brand & Co., a New York-based creative brand consultancy, laboratory and workspace. Dubbed Master Provocateur by clients and media alike, Van brings a highly-eclectic perspective to branding whether as weekly host of NY Brand Lab Radio, leading the quarterly NY Brand Lab Workshops, speaking, consulting, blogging or producing the Brand Reinvention Summit. For 15 years, Van ran her own global branding shop with offices in New York and Sydney, Australia with Fortune 500 clients across four continents. She’s written for Entrepreneur.com, Dan Schawbel’s Personal Branding Blog,and been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, Reuters, VOGUE and Entrepreneur Magazine. She is the author of soon-to-be-published Dead Brand Walking. Follow Van on Twitter @maryvandewiel or download her free audio, 7 Creative Secrets to a Wickedly Bolder Brand as well as two free ebooks (How to Score your Business Brand and Raise the Pulse of your Brand) www.zingyourbrand.com.

 

 

It’s just not enough to be brilliant. People must know and remember that you are. Let’s face it, walking around feeling complacent and entitled because you know you’re brilliant is not a viable strategy, right?  So if you want to be known, remembered and recognized, it’s critical you build a brand that not only positions you as brilliant – but as irresistible and indispensable, too. How do you do that? You create a potent brand.

 

Potency defined OK. Let’s start with a definition of potency here just to get us all on the same page. The word ‘potent’ means (i) power; authority, (ii) efficacy; effectiveness; strength; and (iii) the capacity to be, become, or develop one’s potentiality; and  (iv) a person or thing exerting power or influence.

 

In other words, the more potent your brand, the more powerful, authoritative, effective, strong and influential you are. The best part? A potent brand makes it easier for your world to find you, get to know you and then, want to engage with you (work with you, employ you, salute you, etc.) You get the idea.

 

So how do you start building a potent brand? The world is moving at a staggeringly fast pace. It’s never been more important to get a grip on your brand’s core values, what it stands for and why it’s meaningful.

It starts with asking questions. Take a look at the six clues below plus questions. See how willing you are to give your brand a leg up, as they say. It’s likely to turbo charge your thinking. It’ll then, hopefully, get you moving forward­—and building a brand with potency.

 

1. Be Chief Influential Officer of Your Brand

• Are you poised to become the Go-To-Resource within your area of expertise Y/N?

• How willing are you when it comes to getting out of your comfort zone Y/N?

• Are you ready to stake out your territory in a more authoritative way Y/N?

• Is your Brand Pulse showing strong, pumping and vital signs? (the last time you checked?) Y/N?

• Would you describe your brand as robust and hardy Y/N?

• Is the world around you noticing you’re becoming a center of influence Y/N?

 

2. Set the Right Tone for Your Brand

• Are you clear about the intention behind your brand Y/N?

• Are you really communicating you are who you say you are Y/N?

• Is your brand’s voice clear, authentic and aligned Y/N?

• Are you regularly minding your brand’s behavior Y/N?

• Is your brand’s attitude welcoming, empathetic and transparent Y/N?

 

3. Start Seeing your Brand as Your Platform

• How committed are you to showing up in your brand Y/N?

• Would you give yourself a high score when it comes to inspiring your world Y/N?

• Do you actually think about changing the world Y/N?

• Are you at ease speaking confidently from your brand platform Y/N?

 

4. Pay Close Attention to Your Brand’s Emotional IQ

• Would you say your brand lands a high score when it comes to empathy Y/N?

• Are you aware the world around you has feelings about you and your brand Y/N?

• Do you think you might be keeping your world at arm’s length Y/N?

• Do you focus on actually creating strong emotional connections in your communication Y/N?

 

5. Focus on Being 120% Authentic

• Are you spending much effort on creating a consistent brand Y/N?

• Do you know exactly what a congruent brand looks like (let alone feels like?) Y/N?

• Would the world around you give you a high score as an authentic brand builder Y/N?

• Do you know that feeling when your brand is out of alignment Y/N? (You always know when the wheels of your car are out of alignment, right?)

 

6. Face Facts: The Money’s in the Brand

Note:  Potent brands are profitable. The definition of business, after all, is about profit, purchases, commerce and volume of trade.

• So are you paying enough attention to what your world really needs the most Y/N?

• Does your brand consistently deliver what your world is craving Y/N?

• Are you willing to let your brand go to work for you Y/N?

 

OK. How potent is your brand feeling right now? P.S. Don’t ever forget that building your brand is always a work in progress. (That’s the good news Y/N?)

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How Endorsements Can Raise Your Credibility and Help Grow Your Author Platform

October 25, 2011

A while back we provided some tips on how to go about securing endorsements for your book.

 

Endorsements can make a big difference when it comes to influencing behavior. If you’re a first-time author, you have a major hurdle to overcome in establishing credibility. This is a challenge you will face not only with readers, but with retail buyers—the employees who decide what stock to bring into their bookstores—as well.

 

Consumers are undoubtedly swayed by endorsements of all kinds. There are celebrities of every kind connected to products of every sort. Celebrity endorsements are a multibillion-dollar industry in our country. Though it’s impossible to track exact sales results back to specific endorsements, investors seem to think they work: stock prices are often positively impacted when a company secures a super-high-profile endorser. Companies also see an increase in sales when the right endorsement hits the airwaves. It’s true that not all endorsements have this effect, but it happens often enough for huge companies to spend huge budgets continuing the practice.

 

No one knows for sure what goes through the consumer’s mind when she sees an endorsement (except the consumer herself, of course), but the theory goes that the association of a particular product with a famous person influences the consumer to act. Maybe she thinks that the product must be the best in its category or else the celebrity wouldn’t be associated with it. Maybe she thinks that if she uses the same product the celebrity uses, she will somehow be like the celebrity. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that the endorsement influenced a purchase.

 

Relating this concept to your credibility as a first-time author is pretty straight- forward. Consumers don’t know who you are (yet), so you influence their buying behavior by being associated with someone they do know. That’s not to say that all your endorsements need to be from world-famous celebrities, though of course the bigger the name, the bigger the influence. Your endorsers do need to be recognizable and influential in terms of what they do, who they work for, or books they have written. Basically, they have to have serious credentials—credentials that will give your work credibility.

 

Strong endorsements work wonders with retail buyers for the same reason. Retail buyers know that those endorsements are going to sway their customers, so they take them into account when deciding whether to stock your book on their crowded shelves.

 

You can leverage endorsements in other ways that will help build your author platform as well. Below are some suggestions that will continue growing your reach and your audience.

 

  • Leverage the relationship with your endorser to reach their platform through a plug in their newsletter or as a guest contributor to their blog
  • Use your biggest endorsements as a lead-in when approaching media and bloggers about featuring your book
  • Share your endorsements with your social networking connections and ask them to share the good news with new readers
  • Connect with your endorsers through any social networks they’re on and ask  if they will share their endorsement of your book with their fans and connections
  • Ask your newsletter subscribers to respond to a survey about which endorsement is the most influential, letting them know that the winning endorsement will go on the front cover of the book (and of course, they can pass along that survey to friends and peers)

 

Always remember to give something of value to the people you are enlisting to help, whether they are the endorsers themselves or your already-loyal readers and subscribers. If you can find a way to benefit everyone involved—even if it’s in an intangible way, like connectivity to the final product—you will get less resistance and better results.

 

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Platform Development Series: Income

September 30, 2011

Got Platform?

The term “platform” is ubiquitous these days. We see it in the business world, we hear it bandied about among authors, experts, and speakers, and we experience it in the social media landscape. This phenomenon isn’t accidental. Platform is a powerful concept that reflects the content, brand, positioning, credibility, audience, and intellectual property you develop. Your platform lives at the intersection of ideas, influence, and income—and your book’s success depends on it.

In this three-part series, we’ll share valuable information and resources to help you create, maintain and boost your platform. To learn more about Greenleaf Book Group’s platform development program, visit greenleafbookgroup.com/platformdevelopment.


 

Platform  Dev DiagramPlatform, Part 3: Income

Income. It’s the last piece in the platform development puzzle and the final brick on your path to success. It’s an absolutely essential function of your business and brand. It’s where your audience shows you the money, and it’s where all your idea-generating and influence-building pays off—literally.

 

Income is the ultimate product of great ideas, great content, and strong influence in the form of interaction and conversation among your audience. Income means monetizing your ideas and converting customers into closed leads. Great ideas combined with a powerful interaction strategy can lead to great business if handled correctly, as Bethenny Frankel of The Real Housewives of New York City fame has showed us over the past few years.

 

We usually think of The Real Housewives cast members as, well, housewives. And with a few exceptions, that’s mostly what they are—women who have the financial luxury to spend most of their days throwing catered dinner parties and gossiping with pricey cocktails in hand. Not many reality TV stars have made   the leap from “personality” to true entrepreneur, but Frankel was able to use the show to build and promote her now-infamous Skinnygirl brand.

 

When Frankel first appeared on the show, she was the relatively “broke” housewife, a natural foods chef living in a 700 square-foot closet of an apartment and struggling to make rent. But she had an idea—a low-calorie margarita—and she used the exposure she received from the show to cultivate her influence and create a strong brand. Two years later, and she’s sold her Skinnygirl cocktail line to Beam Global for a price rumored to be around $120 million—an unheard-of number in the spirits marketplace for a single celebrity. Even though reality TV is often seen as a joke, Frankel is dead serious in her income-building. And now uber-rich.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lA5XEHP4BRs

 

You, too, can make income happen when you’ve built enough influence and interaction around your content and found your audience’s pain points, or points of interest. Check out our suggestions below to seamlessly and successfully make income a part of your platform-building experience.

 

 

1. Diversify your offerings. You’re going to want a diversified set of product offerings, or assets, to generate multiple streams of income—content, products, services, and programs. You can customize these for audience segments and areas of expertise. Below are a few specific examples of great income-generators:

  • Speaking and presenting—keynotes, breakouts, or workshops
  • Book sales
  • Training sessions and facilitation
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Custom downloads from your website

 

Income sphere

 

Don’t be a one-hit wonder when it comes to generating salable content. Be dynamic. Not only does Frankel continue to market and support her claim to fame—her Skinnygirl margarita—she also offers health DVDs, several bestselling books, online personal training, shapewear, and dieting and cleansing products. All of this is, of course, in addition to her countless paid media and event appearances.

 

 

 2. Keep an open mind.

A successful income strategy also means building partnerships and welcoming the right sponsorships, spokesperson opportunities, affiliate marketing, and anything else you can think of. Don’t be afraid to dive into new territory.

 

When Frankel was first approached by Bravo to join The Real Housewives cast, she refused for two months. However, she considered the influence-building potential of the show, and cites business exposure as the only reason she finally said yes, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Keeping an open mind not only allowed Frankel to launch her Skinnygirl line; it also earned her a spin-off show, Bethenny Ever After, which garners over a million viewers per episode.

 

 

3. Facilitate the process.

Make sure that your content is easily found and easily bought. Invest in a user-friendly and well-designed website to help facilitate and automate ecommerce. Don’t settle for a second-rate one, either—your online presence is going to be where your audience turns to learn about you, buy from you, and stay engaged with you.

 

Remember that income is ultimately about selling more of less. It’s about the long tail. Sometimes it’s best to start by giving away valuable content. You’ll build trust and get people engaged. They’ll want more.

 

 

4. Repurpose.

Ideas are valuable. Keep a list of your ideas for income-generating content and revisit it often. Just because someone might not be willing to pay for your product now doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to sell it. As your influence grows, you’ll be able to leverage more of your ideas into income-making opportunities.

A list is also a good idea because it will help you figure out ways to divide and repurpose your content assets. For example, you could turn your book or blog into a workbook or webinar series. Keep in mind that services and programs like speaking, training, and coaching have a higher perceived value and require higher pricing. You should focus on breaking into these worlds if you haven’t already.

 

 

Frankel was able to negotiate the astronomical purchase price of Skinnygirl because of her unique idea and powerful influence. Still, it took some time and some great opportunities for her to get there. The lesson for anyone who aspires to grow is that building a platform happens one “I” at a time—with ideas, interaction, and income. The more time you spend on each component, the better your platform will be and the stronger your income-generating opportunity.

 

The other idea to keep in mind is that in the end, you will be as successful as the quality of your platform. And the quality of your platform will determine your opportunities and income over time. As you focus on building your platform, think about Gary Vaynerchuk, Suze Orman, Bethenny Frankel, and other creative entrepreneurs that have transformed great ideas into influence and income. Each has mastered the three “I’s” and this mastery has resulted in a powerful platform.

 

 

For more information on the ins and outs of what a platform is and how to get started on developing one, check out parts 1 and 2 of Greenleaf’s platform development series, in which we discuss the necessities of great ideas and strategic influence. Want help expanding your influence and developing your expertise? Greenleaf offers a broad range of platform development services, including integrated brand strategy; keynote and presentation design; print and online product development; speaker reel and video production; social media strategy; and more. For a full list of what Greenleaf can do for you, visit www.greenleafbookgroup.com/platformdevelopment.

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Platform Development Series: Influence

September 29, 2011

Got Platform?

The term “platform” is ubiquitous these days. We see it in the business world, hear it bandied about among authors, experts, and speakers, and we experience it in the social media landscape. This phenomenon isn’t accidental. Platform is a powerful concept that reflects the content, brand, positioning, credibility, audience, and intellectual property you develop. Your platform lives at the intersection of ideas, influence, and income—and your book’s success depends on it.

In this three-part series, we’ll share valuable information and resources to help you create, maintain and boost your platform. To learn more about Greenleaf Book Group’s platform development program, visit greenleafbookgroup.com/platformdevelopment.

 

Platform, Part 2: Influence

Money is personal. Spilling your economic guts to anyone other than your spouse, partner, or family members is unheard of to most people. But not to Suze Orman. Orman, a financial advisor-turned-television host and bestselling author, listens to personal financial pain on a daily basis and gives empowering solutions for people in tough situations. It’s especially helpful in today’s economic climate. Her advice is often abrasive. She challenges her fans to make immediate proactive changes in their financial lives. And as creatures of habit, it’s never easy for us to make changes like these.

 

With her loud, in-your-face approach and established expertise, Orman’s reach extends to millions of people. They love her, and her Twitter community alone shows it, topping 1,100,000 followers. Her TV program, The Suze Orman Show, has been on the air for ten years and continues to be one of the most highly rated programs on CNBC. She’s also penned nine consecutive bestsellers and hosted the most successful fundraiser in the history of PBS. That’s powerful.

 

Everyone wants Suze’s advice. And when Suze talks, not only do people listen—they share what they’ve heard with others. She gets people talking, which helps drive word of mouth. It’s hard not to admire Suze’s ability to wield widespread influence and connect. And her path to platform success is worthy of study. It didn’t happen overnight. But she tapped into a deep need (personal financial advice) and transformed that into a brand—one that allows her to continue to capture people’s attention.

 

Interaction sphere

 

If ideas are your foundation when it comes to building a successful platform, influence is your most important tool. Without meaningful influence, great ideas can die. So you want to be sure to find your audience, cultivate your relationships through offline and online channels, and build a following.

 

Remember, influence is about capturing people’s imagination and emotion, their hearts and minds, and engaging them to share your ideas. It’s essential for your platform. Influence also allows you to amplify your message as it moves from person to person to group to larger networks. Here are four driving points behind building influence:

 

 

1. Provide great content. We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: You need to begin with a solid content strategy. You need content designed around a problem or pain point for your target audience, content that exists in different formats to help different types of learners. Orman’s audience needs financial advice. She provides it across several media: her website, TV, radio, social media. And Orman not only makes sure that her financial recommendations are top-notch, she also makes them in a way that’s unique and personable.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUhx66ANiqY

 

 

When you create consistently great content in different formats, you provide value and benefit to your audience and win mindshare. You get them talking. Eureka! That’s influence.

 

You can read about how to get started on creating content that people care about in Part 1 of Greenleaf’s platform development series.

 

 

2. Help your audience share your content, online and offline. People want to share. Sharing information is not only entertaining, it’s educational and gratifying, too. Use our natural tendency to share—your job is to connect with people and give them tools to share your message.

 

Your content should be designed to resonate and get people sharing. If it’s not worth their time, they won’t share it. And it’s not worth your time to create. So make it shareable, fun, different, or controversial.

 

It’s essential to have a diversified web presence. A clean, professional, well-designed, and easily navigated website experience is a necessity—but don’t stop there. Start blogging regularly and reach out to other bloggers in your arena. Consider doing a blog swap to build your readers. Maintain your social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, and make an effort to regularly post relevant information and interact with your followers. Making a webinar, podcast, or video series is a great way to share your content—and those media are usually the most viral.

 

According to a HubSpot survey, U.S. Internet users spend three times as many minutes on blogs and social networks than on email. Forty-six percent of people read blogs more than once a day. Is your content part of their conversation? Track your online influence by comments received, feedback given, number of likes, and the frequency of sharing among your readers, fans, and followers.

 

Face-to-face sharing is also a part of your influence. Offline, conversations happen following a presentation you give or an appearance you make. Always give them a (branded!) handout with your most valuable content—something that people will leave on their desks and discuss with their coworkers.

 

 

3. Do some sharing yourself. Linking to videos and sharing links to notable content, even if it’s not your own, is low-hanging fruit you can do every day to create interaction and build up your influence. Show your followers that you care enough about them to share content that others create—use your influence for more than just a personal advertising tool, and it will, ironically, become one. Note that your brand and image alignment matter. So if you’re a health expert, make sure you look like the embodiment of health and that you’re sharing information about well-being.

 

Your fans will want to know a little about you, too. In return to her fans, who share very private information with her on a daily basis, Orman makes sure that she puts herself out there as well. On Suze’s “About Me” page of her website, viewers find a video—not the usual paragraph upon paragraph of description. The video not only gives viewers a sense of Suze’s expertise—it gives them a sense of her personality. She also has a highlighted section of her website devoted to “scrapbooks.” You’ll find her fans calling her “girlfriend” left and right.

 

Sharing notable content from others—in addition to the content you create on your own—will help you build influence and trust. You’re adding value, including people in your conversation, and building your credibility. You’re promoting great content. And you’re coming from a place of contribution. Your fans know that they can trust you to give them valuable information, and they’ll tell other people to use you as a resource.

 

 

4. Quantify. Regularly quantify where you are in terms of influence. Analyze the number of online connections and offline contacts you have. It’s a good rule of thumb to measure where you are monthly or quarterly. Track the number of fans, followers, and page hits you have. This is especially important if you’re spending any money on ad campaigns. Make sure your ad spend is converting into influence.

 

A quick tool for measuring your influence is Klout Score. Klout Score gives you a ranking based on a few different components, including the number of people who see your social media posts; the number of people who re-share your posts; and the relative influence of other people in your network. Our bet? Orman has a great Klout Score.

 

 

As you move forward to build influence, focus on setting goals and growing your networks exponentially. Your platform grows with each “like” and each mention you receive. Facilitate the process by providing great content, interacting with your audience, sharing relevant links, and measuring your status. Pay attention to those—like Vaynerchuk, Orman, and others—who have mastered the art of influence. And most importantly: have fun with your influence-building. What’s more exciting than sharing your ideas and making new friends?

 

Platform  Dev Diagram

Check in with us tomorrow for part 3 of this series, where we’ll uncover how you can use the combination of great ideas and high influence to generate income.

Interested in getting a read on where you are in the development of your platform? Find out how you rank at MyExpertScore.com. It’s a free tool we’ve created to help you measure your current status by giving you a personal expert score. One you finish the test, we’ll give you additional strategies to take you to the next level. Give the test a try, and feel free to get back to us with any feedback!

 

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Platform Development Series: Ideas

September 28, 2011

 Got Platform?

The term “platform” is ubiquitous these days. We see it in the business world, hear it bandied about among authors, experts, and speakers, and experience it in the social media landscape. This phenomenon isn’t accidental. Platform is a powerful concept that reflects the content, brand, positioning, credibility, audience, and intellectual property you develop. Your platform lives at the intersection of ideas, influence, and incomeand your book’s success depends on it. 

In this three-part series, we’ll share valuable information and resources to help you create, maintain, and boost your platform. To learn more about Greenleaf Book Group’s platform development program, visit www.greenleafbookgroup.com/platformdevelopment.

 

Platform  Dev Diagram

Platform, Part 1: Ideas

 

Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk has appeared on everything from Ellen and CNN to NPR. He’s written two New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers. And he has amassed almost one million Twitter followers. One million! He grew his family wine business from $3 million in annual revenue to more than $45 million in eight short years. At age thirty-five, Vaynerchuk operates a slew of businesses and even boasts a gaggle of fans that refer to themselves as “Vayniacks.” In short, he’s a walking billboard for what a concentrated platform can do for you.

 

Becoming a mega-expert like Vaynerchuk sounds incredibly appealing and, for those just getting started, equally daunting. So let’s break down where you should begin. A strong platform starts with strong ideas. Ideas—the content you create—are your foundation; they’re a major reason people will talk about you. Ideas are a form of currency that translates into value for your audience, and the beauty is that that value can translate into money for you.

 

Building valuable content that an audience will care about enough to use, share with others and, ideally, purchase, depends on four components: (1) finding your passion; (2) knowing your audience; (3) choosing an effective content strategy; and (4) creating solid, new content on a regular basis. Let’s take a look at these to help kick-start your content conquest.

 

 

1.    Find your passion. It‘s essential that you care about your topic. If you’re not engaged, your audience certainly won’t be. So choose a meaningful topic that keeps you curious, one you spend a lot of time thinking, writing, and talking about.

 

Ideally, you’ll be passionate in an area where you’re already credentialed. If you’re a fashion designer or marketer who loves fashion, there’s a golden opportunity to create content on the subject of fashion. If you’re a professional magician who wants to create a platform in the world of deep sea diving, you’ll have to work a lot harder than the Jacques Cousteau types who are already in the water. Take your passion and create content around it. Keep it simple, fun, and engaging, and always look for ways to make it remarkable.

 

 

2. Know your audience. The content you create must match your audience’s needs and interests. Be sure to conduct a thorough audience analysis before you begin developing content and interacting. Create demographic and psychographic profiles. You need to know the answers to these questions:

  • Who are they?

    Ideas circle

  • What do they do?
  • What do they struggle with?
  • What do they care about?
  • Who else do they admire?

Knowing what your competitors bring to the table is essential, too. Remember, you must differentiate yourself, and you should focus on filling a hole in the field.

 

 For example, Vaynerchuk had the foresight to realize that e-commerce would grow exponentially, and he started winelibrary.com in 1997. He also quickly identified an empty spot in the wine-tasting world—non-fluffy, honest feedback. He started making video wine reviews and spoke to his audience on their level, using terms like “sniffy sniff” and “oakmonster.” His reviews were soon reaching over 100,000 viewers per day. He filled a need in the lofty world of wine collecting with excellent, informed content in a guy-next-door voice.

 

 

3. Decide on a content strategy. With your passion and audience in your pocket, now you need to decide how you will present your content. Will you do it through blogging, infographics, videos, podcasts, presentations, webinars, articles, a book, or something else entirely? A mix of these is likely the most effective way to present your content, and as you craft that mix it’s important to track what your audience responds to. How do they learn best? And what works especially well for your content? You can also look at your competitors—what content strategies are they using effectively?

 

You also want to figure out your short- and long-term goals and pin down who will create your content. Do you want a blog with one weekly post, or do you want multiple posts per week? What about videos? Are you planning to create your own content? Or do you have a reliable assistant or support team that is in tune with your message and can do much of the heavy lifting for you? Your answer to these questions might depend on whether you’re creating a platform for yourself or your business (or whether your “self” is your business). If you are developing your personal platform, it’s important that fans feel like they’re interacting with the real you—not your personal assistant. As literary agent Rachelle Gardner writes on her blog, “It’s harder than ever to attract people to books. The way to do it is increasingly through personal connection, and that means YOU, the author, making connections with your readers.”

 

Vaynerchuk took the time each week to record himself on camera for his (recently-retired) video blog, “The Daily Grape.” He was being himself for his fans. And if you look at his Twitter feed, it’s a stream of responses to his followers. No wonder people feel connected to him—they are.

 

 

4. Create solid, new content on a regular basis. Make a schedule for yourself and stick to it. An editorial calendar is not just for newspaper editors. It helps keeps you focused and productive, and can help you envision and manage your workload. The sooner you get started, the better. The Content Marketing Institute provides a guide to starting an editorial calendar, pointing out that the calendar not only keeps you on track—it helps you think of ways to repurpose your content as well. Finally, be sure to keep up with new developments in your field. Once you’re perceived as an expert, you need to remain one. The members of your audience need to know they can depend on you, first and foremost, for new information and ideas. Make it happen through consistently great content.

 

When passion and good ideas connect with an audience need through a well-thought-out content strategy, great things can happen. Think of Vaynerchuk. He took what he knew and loved—wine—and spoke to his audience in a unique and casual way, through a medium they responded to—vlogging. 

 

Vaynerchuk’s success all started with his content, and yours will too. The more content you create over time, the more your ideas become the fuel that powers your brand platform.

 

 

Check in with us tomorrow for Part 2 of this series, in which we’ll take a look at influence—that is, how to spread your ideas through interaction with your audience.

Interested in getting a read on where you are in the development of your platform? Find out how you rank at MyExpertScore.com. It’s a free tool we’ve created to help you measure your current status by giving you a personal expert score. Once you finish the test, we’ll give you additional strategies to take you to the next level.

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Market with a Shout-out! Widen your Network with Social Media Swapping

August 23, 2011

Twitter accounts with four followers. Stagnant Facebook fan pages. Blogs that languish in the wilderness of cyberspace, never to be viewed by human eyes. We’ve all seen them (in fact, we’ve even owned some of them). Does this sound eerily close to your own situation? Don’t give up yet.

 

One of the best ways to kick-start your social media strategy is to participate in a content swap. Content swaps can range from exchanging Tweets to hosting reader giveaways to sharing guest posts with another blogger. All these strategies can increase your exposure and help you widen your social media reach.

 

Intrigued? Here are seven simple steps to running your own content swap:

 

  1. Figure out whether content swapping will work for you. Social media exchange would work well for someone trying to build his or her online platform. If you’ve had a Twitter account for a while but feel underwhelmed by the 147 friends you worked tirelessly to acquire, try content swapping. Exchanging social media is probably a good idea for everyone, though. Whether you’re a social media celebrity wanting to offer something new to your followers or a complete blogger noob looking to establish a following, you can benefit from content swapping.
  2. Decide what it is you want to exchange. Do you want to swap posts? Tweets? Or do you want to offer a free giveaway per Tweet mentioning you? The possibilities are as wide as you are creative. A simple swapping of blog posts is probably the easiest, but if you’re targeting your Twitter account, getting bloggers to mention your free giveaway for followers might be a better strategy.
  3. Determine whether you will offer any add-ons for readers. Will you give a free guide or download to the readers of the blog you are guest posting on? This would be a good way to get people to listen to you and actually read your guest post—an especially good option if you aren’t established in the market yet. People love free stuff, and if you’re offering a complimentary ebook download with your post, it might make the difference between being ignored and being read.
  4. Identify a relevant blogger. You want to look for a blogger in the same niche as yourself. Spend some time researching your audience: Who are they? What do they care about? What do they do online? Who do they read? Once you identify a few bloggers in your space, be strategic in who you choose to reach out to. You want someone who’s similar without being in direct competition with you. Also be sure to target someone that’s popular but also accessible (i.e., don’t try to hit up Perez Hilton on your first try).
  5. Contact the blogger and outline the plan. Make sure to be clear about what, exactly, the mutual benefit is in your swap. Will this blogger’s readers get a freebie? Will he or she gain more followers by being on your blog? After all, a blogger sharing content with you will want to get something out of the deal as well.
  6. Execute the swap. Write the post, making sure it is specific, actionable and relevant. Include your contact information in the post. You can even note that the post is open for syndication on other blogs, as long as you grant permission. Before the post goes up, try reaching out to other people in your blogging arena, asking them to make a quick one-line mention about the giveaway or guest post. Keep up with any inquiries you receive and be sure to check the post often. Respond to comments as they come in, and interact with the readers or Tweeters.
  7. Evaluate. Was the swap worth the effort you put into it? Did it result in more “likes,” more followers, and more page views? Even if it didn’t translate into an explosive increase in followers, check your page analytics to see if more people visited your site. If you run a business, exposure for your company will be more important in the long run than an extra Twitter follower.

 

If you don’t have the time or energy to go through the research and coordination it takes to participate in a social media swap, have no fear. In the last few years, several companies have popped up that specialize in facilitating content swapping.

 

Pay With a Tweet allows users to “sell their products for the price of a Tweet.” According to the Pay With a Tweet website, French electropop band The Teenagers is swapping its new single for mentions on Twitter. AppStorm has a great guide to setting up a “Pay With a Tweet” button on your website.

 

Social Media Swap is a free, member-based portal meant to connect users with other people interested in exchanging everything from Tweets to “Stumbles” to Facebook page likes. The site allows you to pay, buy, and swap. Similarly, Smorty, a blog advertising company, coordinates blog post exchanges by connecting active users with each other.

 

Whether you go DIY with your content swapping or take advantage of one of the companies offering swap services, a strategic swap can give you targeted readers, more page views, and an increased page ranking—all great benefits for a one-time deal. Looks like your involvement in bartering and trading didn’t end when you got rid of your copy of The Oregon Trail after all. Happy swapping!

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Getting a Jump on Sales with Preorders

July 11, 2011

Many authors begin the hard work of generating sales for their book long before the actual release date. There are many different options for collecting these preorders, as well as many ways to make the most of them, helping you meet your goals and priorities for the project.

 

One method of collecting preorders is to set up a preorder button on the book's website. During the preorder process, customers will be prompted to fill in their basic information and make a payment through the website for the book (or books) they order. Matching Amazon pricing or offering signed copies can be an added hook to get people interested.

 

It is also common to create a dedicated landing page for preorders, which you can utilize in your marketing initiatives, that drives consumers to a central location to make their purchase. This is a popular option when you are incentivizing customers by giving them access to extra content at no charge with an order. The landing page can host this content, and once the order is placed, the customer can be given a code to access the free content.

 

But collecting preorders can also be as simple as keeping a spreadsheet with all the information that you manually collect from customers as they place orders directly through you leading up to the pub date.  

 

A different route is to simply send people directly to a retailer, such as Amazon, to place their order during a specified period of time, usually immediately following the release of the book. In this case, it's important for your publisher to know how many orders you expect to be placed at least three weeks in advance so they can ensure that adequate stock is in place in the supply chain to meet the rush of demand. (Also see our recent newsletter tip, In The Loop.)

 

Regardless of how you collect the orders, the idea is to have a complete record of all customers and their orders at the end of the preorder campaign.  

 

Once all of the preorders are collected, you have to decide what your priority is for these sales. Have you generated all of these preorders so you can generate maximum revenue from your book right away? Or is your goal to have all of these sales count towards your retail track record? (Shameless plug: With Greenleaf, you have the flexibility to meet either goal, and we can help execute the orders or connect you with experts in the field that specialize in placing those presales in a strategic and planned way for maximum impact.)

 

If the primary goal is to maximize revenue with preorders, you’ll want to sell the books directly. Revenue generated through direct sales is not shared with a distributor or retailer, allowing for larger margins. Remember to bill the appropriate shipping charges directly to your customers if you want them to cover the cost.

 

If the goal is to drive retail sales as high as they can go, run preorder sales through a retail channel that reports to BookScan (the book industry’s go-to tool for measuring retail sell-through). This will make these sales a part of the book’s auditable track record.  For bulk preorders, we work with a company called 800 CEO Read and they make this process very simple. Corporate customers (or your own company) can buy the books from 800 CEO Read, which reports sales to BookScan.

 

If you plan on generating thousands of preorders and want to use them to make a run at a bestseller list, we recommend working with an expert who specializes in handling this type of campaign.  A campaign like this requires careful coordination and planning and the ability to process thousands of individual orders in a short time span.

 

What are your goals leading up to pub date? What’s worked to help you generate preorders? Share and discuss!

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Rollin' in the Digital Dough: Make the Most of Your Ebook

July 5, 2011

 

Now that you’ve successfully converted your manuscript into an ebook, it’s time to start selling your hard work. Making money from your ebook all starts with a good blog. Ideally, you’ll have been blogging like a madman for the past year or longer, gradually gathering a strong base of readers who share your interests and interact with you on a daily basis. Sound about right? (If not, check out these links on ProBlogger and ViperChill on developing a popular blog.)

 

Once you have a group of people following your free content, you have a built-in audience for your words with a price tag.

 

Pre-pub hype

Begin by doing one of the things you do best as a blogger: talk about yourself. Create hype on your blog by posting about your ebook in advance of its publication. Ask your readers to contribute ideas and feedback; if your audience feels like they had a say in what went into your book, they’ll be more likely to pay for it when it comes out. Continue mentioning it before its publication to create a sense of anticipation. Your excitement will be contagious and your readers will feel like they’re a part of the process.

 

Landing page

While readying your ebook for its launch, pay special attention to the creation of your landing page. Give your ebook its own exclusive URL; this adds credibility and authority to your ebook. Write great copy for the page once you have it set up. A catchy slogan at the top will be effective, as will a well-written description and “About the Author” page. Try to avoid sounding too pushy or salesman-like in these areas.

 

The design of your landing page should complement your ebook; be sure that you have a great cover and promotional images. Just because your book may not make it into the physical world doesn’t mean you should skimp on design.

 

Any extras you can fit onto the page will make the site more dynamic. Sarah Mae, author of How to Market and Sell Your eBook, recommends a video of you talking about your ebook—but try to keep it under two minutes!

 

Don’t forget to include some testimonials from well-known bloggers and experts, and be sure that the all-important “Buy” link is easy to find.

 

Online interaction

Now is the time to harness your online community. The key to selling a lot of ebooks is getting high-traffic sites to link to your blog. Start by identifying your target audience; after all, you don’t want to bother commenting on a juggling blog if your book is about real estate. Write down who you imagine your audience to be and research those communities online.

 

Once you find the relevant online forums and blogs that will help you develop your platform, participate in them. Offer suggestions, advice, and comments; remember to make your username the same as your blog name so that people know how to identify you. Keep in mind, though, that no one likes a spammer. Readers should trust you and know you as someone in their loop. Start mentioning other bloggers’ sites on your blog and they will eventually mention yours as well.

 

Volunteer to be a guest on a podcast. Write articles for free. Start contributing to sites like AllExperts and eHow. If readers know you as an expert, they will not only want to read your blog; they will want to buy your book.

 

Keep it cheap

All of us consumers know what it’s like to bypass an ebook simply because of its $11.99 price tag, even when you’re dying to read it. People just aren’t willing to pay a lot for digital content. Use this to your advantage.

 

Start by giving away sample chapters, both before your publication date on your blog and post-publication on your landing page. This will not only prove to readers that what you have to say is worth paying for; it will also create a buzz around your launch. You should consider coordinating a giveaway with your publication date. To celebrate, give away gift certificates, prizes, and your book. For example, if you are an attorney, you could give away a free hour-long legal advice session in addition to your ebook.

 

Check out Carolyn McCray’s “Anatomy of a Successful Ebook Giveaway” article, in which she breaks down the measurable impact of giving away your book. For instance: If you are planning on giving away a hundred free ebooks on six different blogs, you can expect in return ten backlist sales; seventy-five email addresses you can add to your newsletter; five reviews of your book; and three long-term contacts. Not too shabby, right?

 

McCray also advises taking some time to develop your “you’ve won” email. Include a coupon for a major discount on another one of your titles to get readers buying. Also ask them to sign up for your newsletter, offering the chance to win a gift card to the first hundred to do so.

 

Pricing your ebook strategically will ultimately bring in more money than demanding a hefty price will. Keep your asking price under $9.99; $5 is even better.

 

Stay involved

Finally, don’t relegate ebook marketing to the bottom of your to-do list after the initial few months. Make sure you remain engaged in relevant online communities and be sure to keep up with your posting. Readers should be able to depend on you to be a regular poster, regardless of whether you’re prepping to release your book or not. Maintaining a regular readership will help to continuously sell your ebook and will also open up the opportunity for future publications—two things we’re comfortable assuming you want.

 

 

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Read a Few Thousand Good Books Lately?

June 20, 2011

Today's post is by Brian Feinblum, the chief marketing officer for Planned Television Arts, who has been promoting and marketing authors since 1989. You can reach him at feinblumb@plannedtvarts.com or catch his blog at http://www.bookmarketingbuzzblog.blogspot.com.


Imagine being sequestered somewhere for about a year, getting paid to do what you may love the most: read books. Lots of them. Every day. Nonstop. A marathon of books, books, and more books. Could you do it?

 

The equivalent in sports-watching is taking place right now. Major League Baseball, in its infinite marketing wisdom, is paying two guys to watch baseball day and night throughout the season. They will watch 2,450 regular season games and then the playoffs and World Series. They are on display to the public—you can go to their first-floor “fan cave” in a space formerly famous for occupying the original Tower Records on East 4th Street in Manhattan.

 

Besides watching games, the two superfans film a reality show that airs on www.MLB.com. These unabashed baseball addicts interest me because they call into question the old adage about too much of a good thing. I wonder, after it’s all done, will they’ll ever want to watch another game? Or will they come away as addicted as ever?

 

Can publishing sponsor some gimmick like this? Could Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, or Macmillan pay someone to read books by its best authors, nonstop? Would Amazon sponsor a read-a-thon to highlight the readings of its best customers? Should Barnes & Noble pay someone to read as many books on its Nook as possible over the summer? Maybe someone wants to set a Guinness World Record for most books read and blogged about in one month?

 

The writing profession does get its due—there are many book and author awards out there. There are a number of best-seller lists one can make. There’s attention drawn to a book by reviewers and bloggers. There are public book signings. And there is countless coverage on social networking sites. But maybe the industry, as a whole, needs some fanfare. It’s been a rough few years for traditional publishing, considering layoffs, consolidations, shrinking sales, and store closings.

 

It’s time to celebrate the profession and art of writing. Go buy a book—or read one.

 

Or a few thousand of them.

 

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Utilizing Amazon Author Central

June 7, 2011

Are you using Amazon Author Central? If not, why? It’s an excellent author-friendly tool that can be used to promote your book and your platform that only takes minutes to setup. If you have more than one book, it’s a central location where an Amazon shopper can find your entire bibliography in one place. How’s that for an easy way to cross-promote your work?

 

Amazon Author Central allows authors to create a custom profile that customers then use to learn about the author and make purchases. The content you can place on your Author Central page includes:

  • A bio—Tell readers a little bit about yourself so they'll connect with you as a person.
  • Photos—Include your author photo and any other images your readers may like to see, perhaps your workspace or things that inspired your writing.
  • Video—Want to get that trailer up on Amazon? Uploading it here only takes a few minutes!
  • Events—Want to drive traffic to your speaking engagements and readings?  Advert them here.
  • Blog feed—Linking your blog to your Author Central page is just another way to grow your list of blog followers and give readers more of what they want: a connection to you as an author!
  • Twitter feed—Extend your social media outreach even further by displaying your tweets on your author page.

Recently, Author Central began providing weekly sales data from Nielsen BookScan (a service that tracks sales of print books in stores across the country) for free to authors who sell their books on Amazon. You can view your sales data in a variety of ways.  Amazon gives you a basic total from BookScan and shows how many units more or less you sold compared with the previous week. They also visually display your most recent four to eight weeks of sales data on a map of the United States. Alongside that display you will find a list of geographic areas from New York to Los Angeles and the number of books you sold in each. 

 

Access to BookScan data can help you determine whether your publicity efforts are paying off, and tells you what markets you have the most demand in so you can amp up your promotion accordingly.

 

Finally, for those who like to keep tabs on their Amazon sales rank, the sales data tab displays a line graph of your book’s sales rank history on Amazon and tells you what your current rank is. As with all sales rankings on Amazon, the data is updated hourly. 

 

You can also use Author Central to modify the description of your book listing on Amazon or write a message directly to your readers. 

 

We encourage all of our authors to create an Amazon Author Central page. Even William Shakespeare has an Author Central page. It has to be cool.

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