Not familiar with this series? I've been relating each of the 22 Immutable Laws discussed in the Ries/Trout book to the business of being an Indie Author. Catch up on my previous discussions by clicking here. Be sure to look for the complete series, edited and in eBook format, coming soon (est. late February, 2012).
Today, I'm discussing Immutable Laws 18 and 19: Success and Failure. Find out how alike these two seemingly-opposing concepts really are when it comes to marketing strategies by clicking through the jump-break.
Law 18: Success
This law is a word of warning, a cautionary tale that most vow to remember and then quickly forget the second it becomes relevant. Once you have attained a level of success, it's easy to think "I have arrived!" and sit back to reap your rewards. But you must be more vigilant than ever of your choices and mindset once you become successful.
For one thing, your success means you've just become a target. Remember, the Law of the Ladder states there will always be someone beneath you in the rankings looking to climb over you to get to the top. Then there's the Law of Duality, which stresses that even at the top, The Highlander rules (There can be only one!)
It's not quite as cutthroat in Indie Publishing as it might be in other corporate business environments but it's definitely a competition. Your existing customer base could turn on you--turn to the competition--at any given time. Your new customers expect you to treat them like their money matters to you just as much as it did back when you were just starting out. Otherwise, why aren't they giving it to someone else?
Just because something worked to get you to the top, doesn't mean it has the ability to keep you there. You must constantly analyze the market--and more so, your own strategies and decisions--to ensure you're maintaining your brand, maintaining your focus and maintaining your leadership as the unique and special snowflake you thought you were when it all began. Stay true to yourself and never lose sight of your brand, be the Company you want to keep, and new customers will buy into the program, too.
But staying on top is not just a matter of maintaining your customer base and soliciting new customers. Success also attracts attention--more so by your competitors than by your customers. Don't become arrogant and think you can shrug off your competitors and don't become cocky and think they're eating your dust and no longer competing with the likes of you. When you reach the top, you're not done. You're now beginning an even more complicated marketing campaign.
Maintaining position in the rankings can often be harder after you've sold, say 100,000 copies, than it is when you've only just topped the first 100. Once you've achieved a certain measure of success, you might find yourself leveling out. You may have achieved the meteroic rise by using tactics that got you pulses of results--that is, discrete events that resulted in large quanties of sales over a short amount of time gleaning overnight changes of rank. If this is you, then did you ever learn how to make that slow and steady climb to the top? If not, you might find yourself falling down the ranks even more quickly than you shot up them!
Tortoise vs. Hare - Not Just a Fable Anymore
If you've achieved large success in a short time, you probably got used to doing a specific thing and getting a big result for it. You caught a break instead of learning how to chip away incessantly at the rankings and making a solid foundation under yourself that won't slip away as you push off it to the next "product ladder rung." I can't help but envision the cliff scene from "300."
Throngs of Indie Authors are pushing at the backs of the leaders, the Top 100 (who are, in turn, pushing against the Top 10) because everyone wants to be in the same spot and there's only enough footing to support a finite number of us.
Eventually, unless you have a rock-solid following (customer base) holding you up, you're going to fall over that cliff. Your sales will plummet and you'll have no way to stop the fall.
You are a "hare" and you need to become a "tortoise" to keep from falling off the cliff. Trust me, the masses behind you are ready, able and willing to keep pushing, non-stop, until you get out of their way. Know how I know this? I'm a tortoise and I'm pushing--more slowly than your fellow hares but I'm relentless. I Will. Not. Quit. Ever. ^_^
I'm often in conversations with potential competitors about strategic methods of approach to various marketing activities. It might be a race, but I am pure "tortoise" and seem to attract the attention of a lot of "hares." Why? Because they want to understand who they're passing on the way to the top and wonder if I'm a threat. Immutable Law 18 would warn them that I am a threat--very much so--and tip them off that the way to defeat relentless tortoises like me is to be just as relentless. To become a tortoise themself.
I can hear you hares shouting now, But I'm winning the race! Hah! Even if you haven't read Aesop's Fables, haven't you heard that "winning" is Charlie Sheen's strategy? The mistake there is neglecting to notice "winning" is a transitive verb denoting a process in motion, not a finite achievement in the past. Okay, Sheen made other mistakes (grin) but don't follow his ego-driven lead unless you want the same results. Sheen had a good ride but I'd still rather be the Jon Cryer of the pair--or better yet, the kid with the $15 million net worth at age 15. Shame I'm 51 already but I'd still take the $15 mil!
Ego can help you--it's probably what helped you achieve your level of success. Ego can assure you in moments of doubt that you do actually have that magical "it" in you. Just don't be too full of it (grin).
Law 19: Failure
This is the other side of the same coin so I'm bundling the two together. When you achieve some level of success, as noted, you start expecting success--so encountering failure can be a negative experience. Some successful authors who've risen the ranks into the Top 10 can actually feel rejected by falling back down into say, slot #63. The rest of us think Wow, they're in the top 100! but these previously-successful authors have neglected Immutable Laws 18 and 19: they expected their success to last forever. Only rocks live forever.
Expect and accept failure as part of the journey. Being a tortoise gives me a distinct advantage. I know that I'm going to keep going no matter how much it rains, no matter how many little rocks in the road I have to maneuver around. I don't stop. Ever. I take every little setback--each customer who says "Your book sucks!" or "I'd rather buy something I actually want than pay for your book."--as a learning opportunity. You may never get these kinds of customers to buy your book. You may never even learn the real reasons behind why they didn't. That's okay. Not everyone in the world needs to like you or buy your book. A tiny fraction--say a few million--would be just great, wouldn't it?
Try to learn something from every sale you fail to close. If someone does not click through, figure out why not. Then you can fix it. Observe what works and what doesn't. If you dwell on the fact they didn't click and simply feel badly about it, you're not failing; you're a failure. It's that transitive verb thing again ^_^
Failing is okay. Because it's a process--and not over 'til the fat lady sings--and as a process, you are in motion. You still have a chance to succeed. You just have to learn what negative thing is going on right now this second so you can turn it around. That's when re-applying the earlier Immutable Laws becomes key. You have to figure out where you went astray as soon as possible because it'll only get worse if you don't. Instead of seeing failure as an end; see it as a new beginning. Even better, see failure as a means to an end.
If you can set your ego aside and admit you failed, you can improve and find a new measure of success. Ries and Trout point to the success of the Japanese for marketing with an egoless approach--and quick admission of a mistake as a human flaw that won't be repeated, together with a plan for corrective action towards the successful future. It's not just patriotic doublespeak.
Think about the Japanese for a minute. Never even mind that this tiny little country came out of a nuclear attack in World War II to dominate the world economy in micro-electronics. Just look at the eBook market since that's our business. The Japanese are more innovative and willing to be early adopters of new ideas than any other nation with cell phone service ;-) Japanese were reading eBooks on cell phones in 2000. What kind of phone were you using in 2000? Did it have a cord attached to it? Probably.
Be forward thinking and failure becomes an asset, not a weight dragging you down. Be true to yourself but be the unique and special snowflake you were meant to be, not a clone of the flake next to you. (haha)
Next week we'll look at Law 20: Hype. It should be a good one, don't you think? Over the hiatus while the blog was down, I also came to a decision: I'm going to be publishing this series as an eBook just as soon as I get my first book out (Conditioned Response), so probably sometime in mid- to late-February, 2012.
For Tomorrow's Tuesday Tip, I'm torn between some new Twitter tips I've been wanting to share and a Facebook tip I just ran across. Be sure to tune in after 10am EST to find out which one it'll be!
Thanks for joining the blizzard. Follow @webbiegrrl on Twitter for more tips tweeted throughout the week.