Monday, December 19, 2011

MONDAY MARKETING Law 17: Unpredictability #pubtip #amwriting #marketing

Welcome back to the Monday Marketing series. I've gone over branding (as the concept applies to Indie Authors) and looked at branding your tweets  as well as staying true to the Company you want to keep. I'm reminding you about my branding discussions this week because it's been a while since I mentioned it and this week, it becomes particularly relevant to understand your chosen brand.

Over the past few months, I've reviewed one chapter a week from The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, the best little book on marketing ever written. It's only about 1/4" thick in paperback, so if you haven't read it already, take 5 minutes to read it now. Done yet? I've given you 5 minutes a week, so you should've read this ten times by now (grin)

Every marketing choice you make should have your brand behind it, should be made so that it strengthens your brand. While it's important to know what the opposition is doing, you need to stay true to yourself above all else.

Today, I'm reviewing Law 17: Unpredictability. This is one of those laws where you need to really know yourself and your brand in order to apply it. The law states (paraphrased here) that unless you can write your competitor's plans, you cannot predict what they'll do next. That's why you need to focus on what you do know and can control: your next move. Click through the jump-break to begin.

The Enemy Has Other Plans
I'm not a Civil War buff, but I found this example of the Law of Unpredictability in action particularly amusing. When Confederate General Pickett was asked why his charge at Gettysburg failed, he replied, "I've always thought the Yankees had something to do with it." In other words, he was successful enough to survive alive, but failed the mission when the enemy didn't behave "as expected." The opposition never behaves as expected.

To quote Carl von Clausewitz (famous Napoleonic war military strategist and attributed for many war-related quotes): no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy. This is the crux of the Law of Unpredictability. In fact, his coining of the phrase "fog of war" referred to the need to be alert to the unpredictability that is guaranteed to occur on the battlefield. The bottom line is, you must remain focused but flexible since the only guarantee of unpredictability is the situation will change.

Successful short-term marketing strategy is coming up with that angle or word that differentiates your product or company, that identifies your brand as a unique and special snowflake among the blizzard of choices. You cannot predict what the opposition will be doing three days or three weeks from now--let alone three years down the road. You can only predict your own actions. Instead of creating a long-term marketing plan, give yourself and your brand a long-term direction that will maximize the one word you "own" in the customer's mind.This sounds like a lot of marketing double-speak until you have an example so let's look at one with staying power.

Staying Focused Results in Staying Power
Dominos Pizza is the one in the book and amazingly, it's still not outdated more than 20 years later. When Domino's founder Tom Monaghan set out, he wanted to create a system that delivered pizzas quickly and inexpensively. That was the short-term "angle" or "word" in the customer's minds. Domino delivers is still a slogan in use today because that was the long-term direction he had.

If he could have owned the phrase home delivery, he would have, but Domino delivers is nearly as good, isn't it? And no matter what the competition does, with all of their line extensions into breadsticks and stuffed crusts and foods that aren't pizza, Dominos still delivers pizzas quickly and inexpensively. Monaghan stayed focused and stayed on top. Dominos broke into the market and maintains the majority market share by staying focused on brand, not short-term returns, not long-term strategies--but short-term strategies and long-term direction.

Branding the Unpredictable Future
How do you hedge your bets and choose the right direction for the long term? You don't. You choose your long-term direction based on your chosen--you remain faithful to the Company you want to keep. Another classic example in Ries and Trout's handy little book is Xerox. Way back when they first considered introducing a plain-paper copier, naysayers in marketing firms told them no one would pay five cents for a plain paper copy when they could get a thermofax (or mimeograph!) for less than two cents. Xerox executives ignored the "expert" advice and moved forward with their long-term direction--making plain-paper copies the "standard" of document replication.

Today, not only is the name Xerox synonymous with the concept of copying a document, but neither thermofaxes nor mimeographs even exist anymore. They were made obsolete by the Xerox commitment to plain paper copies. Xerox maintained their long term direction while introducing short-term changes to accommodate the changes in technology.

Ironically, scanning and reproducing documents at remote locations--essentially, faxing them--is one of the many features Xerox introduced to its deluxe copier lines. However, while the initial faxes were output on thermal paper, they streamlined those deluxe machines and have since returned to their brand's "word" of plain-paper copies. They kept the short-term change of how the process was implemented but maintained the end product in line with their long-term brand name.

The Predictable Future of eBooks
Given how the eBook market has changed just in the 3 months since I began this marketing series, I cannot imagine anyone trying to predict the eBook market six months or a year from now. The Big Six have tried, even Amazon is trying to force the market into a specific niche where their Kindle format is the "standard" but since the market is still evolving, it's not possible for a single form or format to dominate. Yet.

The one thing Indie Authors can control and predict is our own content--regardless of the delivery system. Don't tie yourself to one or another--choose both. Choose them all. The most-predictable thing about the future of the eBook market is that it will continue to expand and evolve, spawning new technologies to accommodate new content. Interactive eBooks are still not quite caught on, more because of the lack of tools to create them without learning how to code in various programming languages than for the lack of imagination of authors to create them. Once the tools become true point-and-click level of ease of use, the Indie Authors out there are going to start thinking of new ways to incorporate interactivity into their books.

I've been saying this about interactive books since 2003 and while interactive books are exploding on the children's market, the other markets of books haven't yet seen it--but I still see it coming. Reader involvement is our inevitable goal. The interactive book makes the reader engage more and that's too irresistible an opportunity for Indie Authors (who get more involved with our book's production and distribution all the time) not to pursue it.

Experimental book formats where readers get to choose the path the plot takes, where books are closer to "games" than mere books, are definitely coming. I probably won't ever create one but 10 or 20 years ago, I imagined it would be fun to try. I think the next generation will be combining XBox Kinect and iPhone Siri technologies with literary content providers to let readers "experience" a story, not merely read it on a flat screen.

That's my personal prediction for the future.

The only knowable prediction, however, is that eBooks are going to continue to grow in popularity and readers will always want to feel as strong a sense of being "in the story" as they can get. That level of emotional and intellectual connection is why a reader loves a story and recommends it to their friends and family. That level of connection is what makes a book a success.

That level of connection should be a part of your long-term direction. Not the technology that lets you create the connection but the connection, itself, and that comes from your content--which you control completely. Choose wisely, Grasshopper. Create content that supports your brand and create a brand that supports your content. The future may be unpredictable but your customers should always be able to predict what kind of reader experience your products will deliver.

What's Next...
Next Monday's entry in this series is the Law of Success--a cautionary tale for those who are already seeing returns and think they're really "onto something great here."

Tomorrow's Tuesday Tip will be a revisit to Scrivener for Windows, which it turns out is not only available free for a 30-day trial, but is available for purchase at 50% off for all winners of Nanowrimo 2011. Tune in tomorrow to see how to get started.

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