So, I stumbled into a bookstore of a major chain yesterday. I couldn’t help myself… bought five books. As I finished checking out, the clerk said, “Can I have your email address for our newsletter?”
By reflex, I just said, “no.” Too much spam, not enough trust, no real need to read their newsletter. Then, of course, I got curious. “Do many people say no?” I asked…
“In fact, almost everyone does,” she said. Obviously, asking wasn’t her idea.
In the old days, when permission was new, all you had to do was ask. Now, it seems, it’s not so easy.
What if she had said, “Hey, good for you. You just qualified for a $20 gift certificate. Want them to email it to you? You also get a list of special books six times a year…”
That’s a totally different offer, right? That’s an offer about me, not them. Something I can use right now. A definite promise of what I’m going to get (and not get) by email.
Reminded of a good lesson today. If you’re a Fast Company reader, you may have read my article in the latest issue: In Praise of the Purple Cow. For a limited time, the article offers a copy of my new book in exchange for postage and handling.
Anyway, people who signed up before the store was ready for orders got a message from Fast Company alerting them that they could finish their order now.
Problem was, the URL was wrong. Ouch!
Lesson? Don’t send a mailing to your whole list (even if you’ve got permission! especially if you’ve got permission!) without testing it on a dozen people first. And if you were one of the people who got the wrong link, my apologies to you on FC’s behalf.
No, not doing it. Just thinking about what it means. (jumping to conclusions can get you in big trouble, buddy).
In the last twenty-four hours, I’ve read about the big services launching huge ad campaigns, I’ve seen stickers on store windows and heard about people using services like Match.com. Must be a trend.
If you haven’t taken a look, it’s worth a glance. We’re talking about women with Harvard MBAs or residencies at major New York hospitals. Men who are running non-profits or training for the Olympics (at least they say they are).
What’s this all about? And why should we care?
Well, if we add to this phenomenon the huge growth of monster.com (and the death of the newspaper classifieds) its seems as if personal marketing is now officially important.
You market yourself to get a job (not wait to find a classified for a job you’re qualified for and actually want.) You market yourself to find a mate (not wait until someone finds you in a singles bar or adores your cute little dog in the park). What used to be the exclusive province of Coca Cola or Amway is now at the heart of just about everyone’s life.
Marketing, after all, is about putting a product out there and finding an audience for it.
When you market yourself, are you boring? Invisible? Easy to pass up?
Just as companies have no choice but to depend on the Purple Cow, on remarkable products and on word of mouth, I think the lesson of all this personal advertising is NOT that you can advertise yourself to a happy home and job, but that it’s ultimately word of mouth that’s going to make it work. It’s word of mouth that points people to your singles page or word of mouth that forwards your resume to the right guy. The difference now is that this digital word of mouth (call it an ideavirus if you want) is aided by a personal web site with your religion and desires on it, or a hotjobs website with your Linux skills outlined.
Used to be we could count on the “marketing department” to take care of our company’s stuff. Of course, that’s not true anymore. The only way to make a Purple Cow is for everyone in the company to contribute. With online dating, the same is true.
It’s no longer good enough to be good enough. With 100,000 singles out there, and 10 million resumes, the only people getting what they want are the ones exceptional enough to stand out.
It’s just ink and cotton…
But these (some of them) are pretty clever. Who said all that’s left is commodity products?
Loyal readers will remember that I used permission marketing techniques to market my book Permission Marketing. If you wrote to (it still works): email@example.com, you get the first four chapters of the book for free. I ended up with an astonishing 150,000 plus requests, and it made the book successful.
With Unleashing the Ideavirus, I decided to follow the advice in the book and give the book away for free. (it’s still free at www.ideavirus.com). We ended up, by my estimate, spreading 2 million copies around the world that way. As that happened, the hardcover edition went to #5 on Amazon US, reaching #4 in Japan.
So, with My new book, Purple Cow the challenge was to create a plan that represented the ideas in the book itself. In a nutshell:
Sell what people are buying
Focus on the early adopters and sneezers
Make it remarkable enough for them to pay attention
Make it easy for them to spread
Let it work its own way to the mass market.
So, I started with a topic I knew a population was interested in–new marketing ideas. Books about change are important, but nobody gets excited about change they way they get excited about Jet Blue.
Working with my colleagues at Fast Company, we put an excerpt from the book on the cover of the February issue (In Praise of the Purple Cow). In that article, we mentioned that subscribers and readers could get a free copy of the book if they paid $5 for postage and handling (while supplies last, only in the USA, close cover before striking): Get a Free Copy of Purple Cow….
So far so good. More than 650 people signed up in the first 24 hours, and ALL the free books we allocated (about 5,000) will be gone soon after I write this.
The next step was to do something else remarkable and make it easy to spread the idea. So here goes: The book is NOT available on Amazon and NOT available for sale one at a time. The only way to buy one is to buy TWELVE! Visit the Purple Cow web page and you can see how you can buy a set. Obviously, the goal is to get you to share 11 with your colleagues, further spreading the word.
Did I mention that we ship the book in a real honest-to-goodness milk carton? We do.
So, pretty soon the 4,000 copies we allocated for this bulk offer will be gone.* Then what happens?
Well, my hope is that after seeding the sneezers, the book itself is remarkable enough and Purple enough that other people will want a copy. By then, my big-time New York publisher (who shall be revealed soon) will have books ready for every bookstore in the land.
This plan, which seems risky and chaotic, is exactly the sort of thing I’m recommending for most new products. Small risks, focused audiences, limited mass marketing. Not that risky. But if you’re used to the other way, yes, chaotic.
*if you do the math, you can see it was hardly risky at all. With 10,000 copies printed, the first print run is extremely unlikely to lose money, even at the extremely low retail pricing we’re using to get it started. You know what’s risky? What’s risky is telling you my plans in advance, because when they fail (and they do! often!) I look pretty dumb. But here I am, as a public service, marketing out loud.
I finally had four Jet Blue flights in a row, enough time to watch my copy of Memento. This movie cost about $5 million to make and was one of the most profitable movies of the year (last year… the year before?).
It succeeded because it was remarkable. The movie runs backward. There are websites around the world devoted to decoding it. And the official site (which couldn’t have cost $10,000 to make) is brilliant and only reinforces the puzzle.
Just as I sought out the movie (“people who bought Pi also bought Memento…”) and told you about it, thousands of others did the same–
That’s the point of the Purple Cow. Spend your money on reaching people who care, and who sneeze.
Start with the site and then see the film
I promise this isn’t the last time you’ll be hearing about Purple Cow from me, and I promise not to hype it or bore you… BUT… it’s a marketing book, it’s self-published, it’s a limited edition and you can’t buy just one copy at a time. I’m selling twelve-packs at the apurplecow site. (my goal is for people to buy a bunch and share them–which is part of the point of the book.)
It’s at the printer now and we’re shipping in four weeks. You can find an excerpt in this month’s Fast Company magazine. And we’re about half sold out of the entire print run in two days. I hope you enjoy it.
This company has launched a protocol, not a product, and it’s amazing to see how quickly a few motivated/crazy people can turn a mere idea into a hot product. The guys at gloo labs may be onto something.
Check out glooLabs. This is a new invention/operating system/protocol/device inspired by something I invented one day in the shower.
In a nutshell, devices using the gloo technology are able to use a wifi wireless network to grab music (or other content) from your computer and play it through your stereo (or whatever).
So… in the short term, if you’ve got a bunch of music on your Mac, you can use a powerful remote control (just jazz? just Coltrane? just songs from last week?) and play it on your stereo. In the long run, because the protocol is open, developers will come up with ways to synch or program or who knows what.
I’m pretty excited that something I helped dream up is now a real live product, and I also believe that this is a major step forward for anybody who’s interested in how the digital home shapes up–smart devices using dumb networks and open systems.