Is your brand carrying excess baggage?

Guest post by Betsy Talbot, author of Strip Off Your Fear: Slip Into Something More Confident. She and her husband Warren write about the 5 Tenets to Live the Good Life at Married with Luggage. They are currently traveling in Asia.

Isn’t it just a little bit funny that the owner of a site called Married with Luggage is here to talk to you about your personal and business baggage? I thought so, too.

You see, I just accidentally published a book on branding. While my intention was to write a book on personal self-confidence and speaking up, it appears that all those lessons are exactly the same as building a confident brand.

It wasn’t until we reached out to Red Slice for help on solidifying our message and working out our brand schizophrenia that we connected the dots between the book project and the brand. In fact, it wasn’t until we told Maria about the book and what we were doing that we realized we had a problem with brand schizophrenia.

Let’s see if you have the same kind of ‘a-ha!’ moment we did:

  • Can your friends explain in one sentence what your business does?
  • Does your website accurately reflect your message in an instant, or are you expecting people to draw their own conclusions?
    Can a new visitor to your site tell from the home page whether you can help them or not?

In our case, we were holding on to some old baggage with our business. While the evolution of our message and offerings was crystal-clear in our minds, it was a fuzzy picture for a visitor to the site. Even Maria, who
actually named our business four years ago, couldn’t tell exactly what we were doing.

Let me tell you, when your brand strategist cannot figure out your brand, you’re not being clear enough for everyone else.

Accumulating excess baggage

Perhaps your business evolution mirrors ours in some way. We started out in 2008 sharing our goal of long-term travel beginning at 40, and it resonated with overworked and under-lived people our age also wanting to break free from the rat race. As we went through the saving and downsizing process for two years, we attracted an audience of minimalists, savers, and those wanting to downsize. When we started our journey in 2010, travel lovers and early retirees started following our adventures.

We wrote about all of these topics, making one segment of our audience happy at a time.

The longer we traveled, the more we learned about ourselves and human nature, and our business evolved to address those interests with articles, books, and a newsletter. Plenty of personal growth seekers joined our tribe. We were starting to hit our stride in messaging, but we still hadn’t connected it together in a meaningful way for our audience.

It was all in our heads, and we needed to find a way to voice it.

Streamlining your message

We finally asked ourselves what all those people really wanted overall, and the answer was personal growth and meaningful life experiences. All of our topics fell under this goal, but we were doing a poor job of showing how they worked to achieve it. We realized we had to speak to the need of personal growth and achieving meaningful life experiences and not just the various expressions of those needs.

Is this true in your business (or your personal life)? Are you showcasing an overall strategy to resolve an overall need or are you displaying a disjointed collection of “fixes” for your audience? Is your image an accurate portrayal of your current brand promise or an earlier evolution that has long since passed?

As we started working with Maria on our brand evolution and messaging, I saw the distinct parallels between personal confidence and a strong brand:

  • Accepting who you are now and building on your strengths
  • Saying what you want in a clear voice
  • Attracting the right kind of people into your life

While I didn’t start out writing a book about branding, it seems as if the rules of personal confidence and speaking up are good for business, too.

  • Discover exactly what you offer to the kind of people you want to help
  • Clearly state how you can help your target market and what result they can expect
  • Focus only on the people with whom you want to work

There is no confusing it now, and our business revenue and website traffic reflects our renewed focus on our brand and message.

It is true in your personal life and it is true in your business. As I said in my book:

“Speak up. Be proud of who you are, what you know, and what you do. Help other women do the same. When you change your world for the better, you make it better for the rest of us.” 

Now start unpacking those bags. 

Has your brand undergone an evolution and how did you address it in your visual, verbal or experiential branding? What worked and what didn’t? What do you think about brands that evolve? Please share in the Comments.


How you like me now? A chat with Michelle Tillis Lederman

We all say it. We want to work with people we like. But can it really be this easy to conduct business this way? Can we focus on networking with the people we like and with whom we genuinely connect versus just the “right” people? Michelle Tillis Lederman says yes – in fact, it’s better for your work and career in the long run?

Today we dish about likeability, how to be more concise and three red-hot ways to rethink networking.

Michelle is an author, speaker, trainer and communications expert. She’s a firecracker – and she’s also a blogger, animal lover and rescuer (you can see why we bonded), and a mom.

Her new book, The 11 Laws of Likability, is subtitled: Relationship Networking . . . Because People Do Business with People They Like. The book, featuring activities, self-assessment quizzes, and real-life anecdotes from professional and social settings, shows readers how to identify what’s likable in themselves and create honest, authentic interactions that become “wins” for all parties involved.

RS: Welcome Michelle! Your book is called The 11 Laws of Likability. Saving the actual laws for those that buy the book, what does this mean and how can they make your business life (and personal life) better?

MTL: What makes each of us likable is distinct to us, and to some degree it’s in the mind of the beholder. But the basic drivers of likability are the same for most of us.  It is these drivers that I refer to as the Laws of Likability.

In many cases, likability actually trumps competence and many organizations differentiate the average performers from the stars based on their ability to lead, manage, and interact effectively with others. Life is about relationships and it is those relationships that sustain us and generate results.   Likeability is everyone’s business, and people do business with people they like.

RS: One of your blog posts recently was called “Say What You Want to Say And Shut Up.” Loved it. And for all my talk on clarity, I tend to ramble when I think I’m not communicating clearly. How can we be more concise?

MTL: Start with the punchline.  Is that concise enough?  The simplest way to increase both clarity and brevity is to start with your conclusion. Often, we try to get others to follow our train of thought in order for them to agree with our opinion.  If instead we start with the conclusion, it is much easier to follow, and be persuaded by, the explanation that follows.

Another tip, ask.  Ask, “Is that clear?”  or “Would you like me to elaborate?”  Those questions prevent the rambling and allow us to be clear about what is unclear with a follow up question.

RS: What are 3 actionable tips for effective networking?

MTL: Shift the way you think about networking in 3 ways:

  1. From you to the relationship.  It really isn’t about you or what you need. It is about the relationship and adding value to create connection. Don’t network just for need.
  2. From business to anything.  We often start and stop conversations on business topics such as, “what do you do?” There is nothing wrong with that, but often we find the strongest connections come in other areas of our lives. Talk about a broad range of topics.
  3. From now to long term.  Build the relationships that you want to build, not the ones you think you should. The network that you build based on connection is the one that will be there for you when you need it. Don’t network for now, network for life.

About Michelle: Michelle Tillis Lederman, PCC, author of  The 11 Laws of Likability (AMACOM), is the founder of Executive Essentials, a training company that provides communications and leadership programs, as well as executive coaching services.  Michelle believes real relationships lead to real results and specializes in teaching people how to communicate with confidence, clarity, and connection.

PS: Affiliate links for Amazon in effect. Just to let you know.

What one aspect of networking or communication do you take away from this interview? Please share in the Comments.

“We’re not selling/writing for strangers anymore”

If you are a writer, marketer, content provider, or entrepreneur, please spend 26 minutes listening to this insightful interview with Seth Godin on the Zen Habits website. In it, he talks about not only the state of publishing today, but how to build an audience, what it means to fail and how to finally let go of trying to please everyone.

From the publishing front, which is of particular interest to me as I get ready to self-publish my next book in early 2012, is that we are no longer trying to convince strangers to buy our books. The old model is dead, and self-publishing has turned everything topsy-turvy. Now it’s about collecting friends and creating tribes that you specifically write for and who can’t wait to gobble up your next work. In his view, this makes opportunity more abundant, not scarcer.

Seth ntoes that his experiments with The Domino Project have proven that shorter and cheaper books spread more virally, that cover art with more visuals and less words works well, and that authors don’t need to rely on advances to succeed anymore (especially when that gives the false impression that someone else will be doing the work for you. They won’t.)

Later in the interview, Seth tackes why he does not accept comments on his blog. He states that he used to, but then he started writing with comments in mind and it paralyzed his work. “I don’t write for strangers anymore,” he said.  He decided a blog with posts was better than a blog with comments but no posts. Now he writes to spread his ideas to his tribe, not try to persuade strangers. In his view, the discussion doesn’t stop because he has no comments. There are plenty of places people can debate, get nasty and disagree with me on the Internet if people want, he says.

While a company might need to be a little more open to direct dialogue and interaction, this attitude should hold true with our brands as well. While increasing market share is always a good thing, you need to speak to your “people.” I’ve been doing a lot of work lately with solopreneurs who don’t realize the power they already yield with folks who are on their side or audiences who are primed for their message already. Great brands don’t try to please everyone, so why should your business? It’s just waste of energy and resources.

Photo Credit: Squidoo

The spy who stole: Book publishing realities

In what could turn out to be a book-in-the-making on its own, a recently published UK spy novelist was found to have plagiarized most of his content from various sources, including several James Bond books. The book’s been recalled, the author’s career is in ruins and questions abound.

The author cites pressure and self-doubt as what drove him to do this. He said he couldn’t keep up with the changes the editors demanded. He openly confesses this on spy novelist Jeremy Duns’ blog, The Debrief.  Poor Mr. Duns also took a reputation hit since he offered to endorse the book (and hadn’t picked up on the plagiarism).

The hits to brand reputation are like ripples of water from a stone being thrown into a pond. The author, the endorsers, the publisher, the reviewers….

I  have many questions about this. But mostly, for the publishers. If editors and publishers are really doing the jobs they claim to do, if they are truly adding value to the bookselling process with their “quality control” (as they often cite) then how the hell did they miss this?

I’m not excusing the author’s disgusting behavior. He makes the rest of us  look bad. But if the last bastion of going the traditional publishing route is that you get a better quality product in the end (note: not what I believe anymore) and then something like this happens, what the heck do we need publishers for?

It used to be publishers helped to market, edit and improve books. Now new authors are required to come to the table with a “marketing platform” already in place into which they can sell. And I have friends who are going the traditional publishing route telling me these NY publishers are asking for them to commit to hiring a freelance editor, because their editors don’t have time to edit anymore. So publishers are not helping market the books and they are not helping to edit the books? I’m confused…..

As I’ve mentioned in a prior post, publishers can’t whine about the state of the industry anymore. When you are a middleman, you need to add value to the equation. I can totally see how big publishers help with credibility and open more doors for distribution. But the cold hard fact is that unless you are a celebrity or Stephen King, most publishers won’t help to market your book ify ou are an unknown. 

And now it appears they won’t even check to see if your content is original or not.

I’m not saying there is no value in traditional publishing. I know lots of people who’ve had great experiences. And I would love to sell my book to one of the big guys one day, just to have that amazing experience.

What I am saying is that there is a business lesson here for all os us: if you don’t add value to the process, sooner or later, that will come back to bite you. You need to constantly be looking at ways to benefit your customers and differentiate from the other options out there. Or risk becoming irrelevant in the process.

How to create and market your brilliant new eBook

Congrats. You’ve finally decided to showcase all of your brilliant talent, thought-leadership or savvy into an eBook that can deliver value to customers – and will help them know, like and trust you and eventually buy from you. What a great way to extend your brand and build your sales pipeline.

Good friends Betsy and Warren Talbot quit their jobs and sold everything they owned to travel the world in 2010.You can learn more about living the good life at their blog, Married with Luggage. Amidst their adventures, they realized they had valuable info to share about saving up and paring down to make their dream a reality. So they got wise and wrote a new digital guide to help others do the same, called  Dream Save Do: The Step-by-Step Blueprint for Amassing the Cash to Live Your Dream . I’m proud to say it just launched today so get your hot little mitts on it!

Given all they learned about creating and marketing an eBook, I asked Betsy to share some tips and insights so you can  create and market a killer eBook for your own business or personal passion:

RS: Hi Betsy, over on the other side of the world! What advice do you have for someone who says, “I’ve written my ebook and posted it on my site…why isn’t anyone buying it?” 

BT: You probably thought that the hardest part about publishing an ebook for your site was actually writing it. Yes, it can be, but that part of the work ends when you turn it into a PDF and make it available for download. What never stops is the actual marketing and promotion of your ebook.  Throwing up a link on your sidebar with no other promotion says that you don’t really care if anyone buys it or not. So people won’t. Even if you do get a few “drive-buys” from your regular audience, you won’t ever make a living or amass the kind of email subscriber list that will grow your business without attracting an outside audience. 

Do people know why they need your ebook? What idea or program or information is contained inside that they just can’t live without a second longer? What need do they have that you can fill? What fear do they have that you can soothe?

Where have you tried promoting your ebook? If you rely solely on your website you are doomed to poor sales. Isn’t the point of writing an ebook to attract new readers and customers? 

Did you talk the ebook up as you were writing it? Did you involve your followers from the start to make sure you included the information they really wanted?  

When you can accurately describe why people need your ebook – in your sales page, blog posts, guest posts, interviews, videos, tweets, and updates – then you will see the sales come in.  

RS: It’s always all about communicating the value. What about free eBooks? Why should people pay for a designer or editor when they are planning on giving the ebook away? 

BT: Email subscribers are the golden egg. Those are people who have raised their hands and said “I want to give you my private email address so you can regularly send me info about your products and services so I can easily access my credits cards and Paypal account to buy from you.” (Well, maybe they didn’t say that specifically, but that’s what they meant.) 

When you think only in terms of what you will make off the direct sale of your ebook, you are missing the bigger picture. Your email subscriber list is a directory of people who like your message, want to know more about your expertise, and are already primed to buy your products and services in the future because they’ve given you permission to market to them. 

When you put out really quality materials – whether free or for thousands of dollars – people notice. When you throw together a bunch of blog posts into a Word document, turn it into a PDF and call it an ebook, people also notice. How you put out your information is as important as the information itself, and not recognizing that will keep you in the minor leagues. 

Most designers will work with entrepreneurs in their price range. For instance, we like working with Shea at On a Budget Design because she offers a DIY service. She sets up the style sheet and layout of an ebook for the first chapter or so, and then she turns it over to the author to finish. It is a great way to get a professional-looking ebook without spending a lot of money. The bonus is that it can be tied to your existing brand look and feel, which makes your business look a whole lot bigger and more professional than it might actually be. 

RS: Right on, girl! Your brand has to maintain quality and that means ponying up for quality talent – within your budget of course. You created a pretty comprehensive marketing plan for the book: what advice can you give others about this?

BT: Any author will tell you that the traditional book publishers no longer have the budget for promoting new books. (editor aside: true that!) New authors are required to have their own marketing plans, do a lot of the promotion themselves, and really work their networks in order to sell books. In fact, most authors won’t even get a book deal without a solid platform and marketing plan in place first. 

If that’s true for those guys, then it is doubly true for putting out your own ebook. No one else is as invested in the success of your ebook as you. 

Knowing how your ebook fits into your overall marketing plan before you even write it will help you develop tactics along the way to creatively market it. In a saturated market, it is hard to stand out, so putting extra time into this plan will mean the difference between selling it to one person (thanks, Mom!) and reaching a substantial audience. 

In fact, this post is an example of creative marketing, telling a new audience about *how* we wrote and published our ebook without ever even actually mentioning what’s in it. But you’re dying to know, aren’t you? And some of you might even check it out just to see what kind of design we used or how we wrote our sales page or even designed our press kit. 

If you market it like everyone else, you’ll get the same kind of results as everyone else. But since you’re reading Red Slice we know you aren’t going to do that, now are you?

RS: Love it! Thanks Betsy and safe travels.

Please follow Warren and Betsy’s amazing adventure at Married with Luggage. And don’t forget to check out the digital guide Dream, Save, Do for practical advice on how to make your dreams – whether that’s your own business, traveling  the world or something else – a reality.

Widows, Champagne and Entrepreneurship: Learn from Veuve Clicquot

If you think small, family-owned businesses have it rough right now, step into Veuve Clicquot’s (The Widow Clicquot’s) shoes in this dynamic book, The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It. Talk about an “entrepreness” with moxie to spare. [Read More]

Reboot and Reframe: Branding lesson for life #7: Find the Humor

Enjoying the sunEven when things are serious, it helps to find the humor. It helps us cope, deflates a tense situation, and helps you think more clearly and problem solve than if you were angry, frustrated or sad. Laugher helps you get out of the “red zone” and into a more calm, productive state of mind.

As business owners, things will go wrong.  You may piss off a client or you might not make your sales figures in a given month.  But to diffuse the situation (and save your sanity) you absolutely need to find the humor in the situation.

In the darkest times when I was recovering from brain injury, my friends and family, true to form, found some lighter moments to help them cope.  Some might call it gallows humor, but I’m thankful they banded together and found some light in the dark.

While things may seen earth-shattering in your business, everything can be dealt with in one way or another.  The trick is not to let it break you, but to find your way to put it into perspective. It’s amazing what laughing at something that seems insurmountable can do for the psyche.

View the juicy video for Lesson #7  here.

When have you used humor to deflate a tense situation or overcome a setback?

BACKSTORY TO THE SEVEN LESSONS: What do recovering from a  brain aneurysm and branding have in common? Quite a bit, it turns out. Recently, I got the wonderful opportunity to share my dramatic story at a Women Business Owners luncheon and I promised I’d post the lessons here for everyone. This is a seven-post series. You can get your own copy of Rebooting My Brain, my humorous and heartwarming memoir, right here.

Lesson #1: Focus (and backstory to the series)

Lesson #2: Be Authentic

Lesson #3: Count on Your Tribe

Lesson #4: Practice Patience

Lesson #5: Learn to Say No

Lesson #6: Face the Fear

Ask the Expert: Author Maria Gamb on how to be a leader, what corporations are doing wrong and how to influence your world

Healing the Corporate World. Doesn’t that just sound inspiring? It sure did to me, when Maria Gamb and her book of the same name recently crossed my path. Maria reached out to me when she saw a promotion I ran for my book and we promptly connected over being first time authors  – and sharing the same name. 

maria RTC 033So who is Maria Gamb? She’s a former Fortune 500 trailblazer who served for twenty-plus years as an executive in businesses valued at upwards of 100 million dollars. Today, she is founder, CEO, and “Chief Change Agent” of NMS Communications, where she helps executives and entrepreneurs alike lead profitable, innovative businesses  A leadership expert, Maria Gamb, launched her first book this past October. Healing The Corporate World: How Value-Based Leadership Transforms Business From the Inside Out. It will soon be available in digital format.

Her passion is to help businesspeople transform themselves and find their happiness, success and fulfillment. Maria is a native New Yorker, animal lover, avid cook and total foodie (all of which we also have in common!)

RS: Welcome, Maria! Seems to be a huge trend of entrepreneurship going on in our world today. Why?

MG: I think there are several reasons why entrepreneurship is on the rise: One, job cuts and the lack of new work have fostered the opportunity for many to take action on the dreams they’ve long held close to their chest. Two, some are done with the frustrations of the corporate arena and believe they can do it better. So rather than complaining they are taking action. Three, there are those who realize that they want to be more in control of their financial stability since the existing establishments haven’t proven to be as secure as the past. And finally, four, they just have a great idea they know they want to get out into the world.

The reasons for entrepreneurship vary but the economic issues of the past few years have been a huge catalyst for sure.

RS: What do you see as the fundamental challenge with the way corporate America operates today?

MG: Fundamentally, one of the issues within corporations is that they are often times wrapped in fear. Fear is the easiest and most concise word to use. Fear of changing direction. Fear of expanding or moving into something new. Fear that they may fail. Fear of doing something beyond the status quo. These fears are magnified in their people and how they operate with one another every single day.

During President Obama’s State of Union address recently he spoke about the need for innovation and newness in business. That this, in fact, will bring about new jobs for American workers. It does take a measure of bravery by the organization, the leaders at the top, cooperation of middle management and the people within. Without a doubt, it’s a matter of saying “we’re all in this together” rather than “let me just think about me and what I have or want”.

This is only one of the major shifts that need to occur. Many reading this will say “OK, but that doesn’t work where I work. So I’m out of luck”. Well, this may be true in one regard – perhaps those around you are not willing to shift.

So I would respond by asking what that person is doing within their own sphere of influence to foster their team to work beyond their own fear and perceived limitations to become a positive utopia within what may be a less-than-ideal situation. You see, it all starts with one or two people making the decision to shift their own way of working, then others follow. That’s what creates a movement. My book Healing The Corporate World goes into this in greater detail and extends this invitation to the reader.

RS: I love the idea of focusing on your own “sphere of influence” rather than trying to boil the ocean; reminds me of the principles in Seth Godin’s book, Linchpin.   So how do you define ‘leadership’? How do we know it when we see it?

MG: Plain and simply put, the correct definition of a “leader” is a person who is in service to others. Yes, service. Not a doormat. But in service to the people around them. How we know that this person is truly a leader is ask a few questions:

Do they care more about those they lead or themselves?

Are they committed to the enrichment and achievement of others?

Are they constantly seeking ways to grow, expand and create more opportunities for others? Which can mean jobs but may also mean advancement.

There are several other attributes of a powerful leader. But this is a good starting point. Remember, a great leader inspires, nurtures, provides vision and advancement to others. That’s what the “service” part of the definition truly means. When you have a person who can do these things, others follow them with enormous loyalty.

RS: What is your key piece of advice for developing our own leadership potential within ourselves?

MG: Being a leader is very much a journey of recognizing who you are, what motivates you and putting down your ego to allow others to shine. I offer these 3 points:

  • Be willing to put down your own “stuff” and “need to be right” all the time. It only shows your insecurity when you do.
  • Be willing to partner with others. Otherwise you’ll be a leader in isolation. And well, that’s not a leader at all it’s just someone talking to themselves.
  • Operate from a set of values that you hold dear. Then never compromise your actions. Those around you are always watching to see – do you mean what you say? Yes? Then take the actions that follow that no matter what. This builds trust.

Marketing to women? What she’s not telling you

If you market to women in any way, shape or form, run and pick up a copy of What She’s Not Telling You: Why Women Hide the Whole Truth and What Marketers Can Do About It . Written by three women who run a women’s marketing research firm and have done work for big global brands around the world, it’s chock full of advice on how not to let patterns women show in research lead you to launch a dud.

Chock full of case studies, the book guides you through the half-truths women tell, why they tell them and how to probe around them to get to the whole truth that will really benefit your brand. I adored this book and found it an easy and practical read.

The half truths talked about in the book are:

  • Good intentions – women may tell you what they intend or want to do, not what they will do
  • Approval seeking – they may just tell you as a researcher what you want to hear – or what those in the group with them will support
  • Martyrdom – ensure you speak to her specific “flavor” of martyrdom when crafting messaging that speaks to her needs (hint: Alpha Moms and Beta Moms have different types of martyrdom and if you land the right one with the right group, you will solve their problems without offending them
  • Ego Protection – women may speak from the person she wants  to be versus who she really is
  • Secret Keeping – women tell themselves little lies that a researcher could get lulled into thinking means their product or service fulfills a need that is not really there.

The book does a good job of showing how their research techniques have helped get around these half-truths and to the real whole truth for their clients. Lots of it is very “feminine” in nature (gaining trust, making yourself vulnerable before expecting your participants to do so, learning how to really listen to what she’s saying, etc.) and it sounds like many of their testing sessions actually evolved into therapy sessions. But overall, I found this book’s findings fascinating and, let’s face it ladies, quite true in the context of knowing myself and my own friends.

I particularly loved the example of how to take advantage of “green marketing” the right way with women. Hint, not very many women are as green as they claim, and you only find that out if you can video them or “dig through their cabinets”. Might be more practical to enable “green behavior” while still giving good value for the price and making it super easy for them.

If your business relies on marketing to women, you will want to check out this book.

Disclosure: I was not paid or even asked to write this review. I just enjoyed this book and wanted to share it with all of you. However, the link above is through my Amazon Affiliate program so when you buy, I get some coin. Not a bad trade for turning you on to a good resource, now is it?!

Which problem is killing your business?

As a new book author, I have learned a ton about the publishing industry over the last year or so. I’ve pretty much been riding by the seat of my pants and unspoken rules are revealed to me each day, much like an onion shedding its layers. I used to think publishing a book was fairly straightforward – and it can be if you self-publish and have millions of devoted fans ready to devour your product. But you have to work to get to that point, as Seth Godin just announced: after millions of best-selling books  he’s able to bypass the traditional publishing establishment and self-publish direct to his legions of fans.

Sure, anyone can do this. But do they have the base that Seth has to make that a successful proposition? Well, guess it depends on what your goals are and the size of your tribe.

Putting all that aside, I’ve heard a lot of hoopla casting eBooks, Kindles and iPad’s as the assassins to the traditional brick and mortar stores and your lovely independent bookseller around the corner; That publishing as we know it is a dying due to the new vehicles and opportunities that people with good ideas have for spreading their words.

Well, I have a different theory: it’s not these new technologies or shrinking margins that are going to kill the traditional publishing-bookseller industry: it’s going to be their willingness to adapt and get the heck out of their own way. I present my exhibits to the court below.

Is your business suffering from any of these ailments? If so, better change course before it’s too late:

Exhibit A: Refusal to Acknowledge: At the recent 600 person Pacific Northwest Writers Conference, the elephant in the room was self-publishing and alternate options. While the conference focused heavily on how to sell your book, build your marketing platform, etc, two funny things happened: A breakout on alternate publishing forms erupted in a minor mutiny when attendees demanded to know why the conference was focused on the “song and dance of pitching to big agents and editors” but no one was talking about eBooks and self-publishing as credible options. In this session, a so-called book marketing expert even said: “I don’t believe in social media or authors needing websites. It’s a waste of time.”

Is there a market change or customer need that you are ignoring or refusing to see to protect the status quo?

Exhibit B: Refusal to Adapt: In the large editor panel, I asked what they thought about the long time to market when going the traditional route when I was able to publish with an independent press from contract to book in four months? The response: “Given that reviewers want galleys 3-6 months in advance of the publishing date means you’ll always need a long lead time. Plus it helps with quality control and editing.” Really? The reason we are not going to adapt the model is because the REVIEWERS (Publishers Weekly, et al) won’t adapt their models to current market dynamics? By the time my book’s “galleys” were ready, so was the final book!

Are you allowing the tail to wag the dog when it comes to adapting your manufacturing, marketing or distribution model – instead of adapting to what your customers want and need?

Exhibit C: Refusal to Trust: I had to convince my publisher to post an excerpt on Scribd. She said she’d heard bad things about it and forwarded me an article about an author suing them for copyright infringement. I explained that Scribd itself did not pirate the work; someone else must have posted it and that Scribd is just the channel (like YouTube). I also explained why we should get in front of it and post our excerpt ourselves to control the marketing and message. After all, Chapter 1 is already available on the publisher’s website: What’s to stop someone from stealing it from there? At least on Scribd, people will actually see it who would purchase the book. This fear of piracy and infringement is real, but the upside of promoting the full book is so well worth it.

Are there marketing channels (like social media) or new technologies you are ignoring out of fear, when they could be prime ways to reach your customers?

Exhibit D: Refusal to Coordinate: Because my book is a short run printing (my publisher is not Random House and doesn’t print 50,000 at once) it is listed in a separate “small press” database (DB) on Ingram, one of the distributors in the business. This same DB houses self-published and Print on Demand (POD)  books, and the retail bookstore chains refuse to carry those, mostly because of the lack of return policies and quality concerns. We had to make it very clear to local booksellers that my book is NOT a POD or self-pub and that it’s 100% returnable to convince them to carry a local author. Borders in downtown Seattle agreed and I just did a signing there; Barnes & Noble, however, marked it as POD in their system and the stores are saying they physically can’t order such books through the system and we have to talk to NY. NY has said they will fix the issue, but that the stores are wrong and can order anything they want. I’ve since learned that basically forward-thinking managers can “go rogue” and order the local authors their customers want but it’s not “policy.” We’re stuck in the middle  – trying to give local booksellers great content and signing events to help them boost sales. So now Borders gets me for a signing, while B&N competing down the street can’t get out of their own way. Borders even told me, “People are craving local authors right now – similar to the local food movement!”

Are you not communicating effectively with multiple locations, partners or employees to the point that the only people who lose are your customers? Are your policies getting in the way of you staying competitive or giving your customers what they want?