In earlier entries of this Positioning series, I explained what Positioning is, how the customers try to simplify the words we throw at them, perceiving our message in a way that allows them to fit our words into a convenient "position" in their minds. By choosing one word, and making it the right word for what we're selling, we make the customer's job easier. We become a natural choice, an automatic choice. Not even a choice--an instinct!
Today, in wrapping up the series, I'll go over how all of the concepts tie together and how to put a plan into action. You still have to do the work of marketing, advertising, promoting yourself but once you're correctly branded as the Company you want to keep and pursuing a position in your customer's mind (rather than a ranking on Amazon), you can achieve the kind of success that brings those rankings to you. Don't pursue, be pursued!
Click through to begin the never-ending story that is defining You, the Indie Author.
Words Are Slippery
You're a writer so you probably love the way words can carry connotations, multiple meanings to different people and imply something completely different than you'd intended just because the words are taken out of context.
You're a writer so you probably hate this, too. ((grin)) If you don't, you should. It makes your job as a marketing professional a lot harder. As an Indie Author (or even if you're published by a Traditional Publisher), you need to be a marketing professional. You need to understand how marketing works. You need to get inside the mind of the customer.
The biggest problem you face is that you don't know what's in there already--and most people won't let you just randomly poke around inside their heads (unless you're a character in my new SciFi novel. LOL)
Fire in the Hole!
I've discussed "holes" or creneaus in the market and how to claim them as your own, how to launch yourself into them. Remember, words are triggers for meanings people have buried deep inside themselves. Words don't contain the meanings--or rather, the meanings aren't inside the words. The meanings are inside the minds of the people who hear the words.
That's why words nestle naturally into specific positions inside people's minds. Words may have "acquired" these positions of contextual meaning in the person's childhood or as recently as last week, but whenever people hear words, any words, it's a natural and reflexive operation to make them fit into an existing context. We spend a lifetime building our own, personalized context for the world that only we understand. This process of contextual interpretation and "storage" of words is called semantics, and was defined and developed as a field of scientific study by Alfred Korzybski.
He went further and defined "insane people" as those who try to make the real world fit into the structure of ideas already inside their heads - and sane people as those who analyze reality and then change what's inside their minds to fit the facts of new information just obtained.
This is also called learning (speaking of semantics), but you know, that's an awful lot of trouble for most people to bother with, especially when they're just shopping. I mean, why should your customers have to work and learn just to buy your book? They're already giving you money. Isn't that enough? They shouldn't have to learn and work to do it--and they won't! Don't expect it from them; you'll be sorely disappointed.
Instead, position yourself and your products so as to fit neatly into the structure already inside their heads. You're writing fiction. It's make-believe. You don't need to fit into reality. Your readers aren't "insane" for wanting your non-reality. They're customers who crave your specific flavor of insanity. That is what you should deliver to them.
Use It Or Lose It
True of so many things in life, creating and owning a position is not exception. Owning a position inside someone's mind is like owning an extremely valuable piece of real estate. You wouldn't want weeds wandering in from the neighbor's yard, would you? Likewise, you have to constantly maintain your position in the customer's mind to keep its value high and to guard your possession of it--or risk a hostile takeover by the competition! Repositioning the competition works both ways!
Once you give up ownership of your position, you may find it impossible to reclaim. Positioning is cumulative, so infuse every last thing you do with your brand, your position, the "essence" that is you and not anyone else. Be your own blizzard of special snowflakes.
Too many people (and companies) set out on a path of failure because they try to pre-empt a position already owned by someone else. Don't. Be sure you see the Big Picture, not just the immediate details waving like little fires in front of you. Look at the entire market, not the one little falsely "hot" data in front of you (e.g, one specific segment of rankings on Amazon). Have I not spent this entire series knocking down the trees for you? Are you still so lost in the forest of marketing approaches that you think you can just focus on achieving a rank on a list and that will "position" you?
Let me make this simple--or simpler. Positioning is thinking in reverse. That's worth repeating. Here.
Changing a person's mind in our over-communicated, social-networked, text-abbreviated world is extremely difficult to do for corporations with millions of dollars in marketing money. As an Indie Author, you haven't got a chance with that approach. Don't even try to change someone's mind. Use what's already there and they'll just change their own mind for you.
Now I'll grant you that means you need to actually understand your potential customers, your market, but that's part of the cost of doing business. It's work. It's not fun work, but it's part of running a business--and make no mistake, being an Indie Author is being in business.
Confusion is the #1 enemy of successful positioning. Be clear what one word best defines you and then own it. Find it in the customer's mind and claim it. How? Use yourself. Do you like to read your own writing? I should hope so :) and that means you are one of your own customers. Analyze your own thinking about your own work to understand your potential customers. Guaranteed, if you can find the word inside your own mind, it's already in someone else's as well!
CAUTION HERE: Don't try to decide what you think of your own books or what you want others to think of your books. Just react to what they are. Be honest with yourself or you're going to end up heading down the wrong path. If you don't like who you are or what you write, change that but don't choose a word that is mismatched or requires your customers to change their understanding of that concept. They won't bother. You'll lose. Everytime.
Trying to change the direction of a mind is like trying to turn an aircraft carrier in the open ocean. It can take a mile to get the beast turned around and moving again in a new direction. If you make a wrong turn, it takes even longer to get onto the right course, so look first, then commit to a change and stick with it. Don't turn aimlessly until you see something happen. Don't change every other week. A mile in the open ocean, not one notch on a fleeting top sellers' list. Keep this idea in your mind: you are moving slowly like an aircraft carrier; you are like a tortoise, not a hare.
What Do You Need to Successfully Position Yourself?
Not much. You want a list? Here you go. You need:
6) Subtlety (or Self-Restraint)
7) Simplicity (or Self-Editing Skills--editing your behavior, not your writing)
8) Willingness to Sacrifice
9) Patience (did I mention that already?)
It's not going to happen overnight. It's not going to happen by itself. Positioning is not an action or event; it is a process you carry out deliberately and carefully over a period of time--and then it "appears" to establish you in a "successful position" overnight. Positioning is your secret weapon for "breaking out."
Still not sure how to proceed? Please review my marketing series (22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (For Indie Authors ) for some of the basic marketing skills I learned from Ries and Trout - two the best original "MadMen" and founders of this field's best-ever saying: Perception is Everything! Then, go perceive your own new reality. Be a little insane. Everyone else's doing it (haha).
The Monday Marketing blogs will go on hiatus for a week while I focus on finishing up the release of my new SciFi novel, Conditioned Response. Have you gotten your copy yet? ^)^
Erego, the marketing mania shall return on Monday May 14th with a new series on Branding, as discussed in (what else?) a book by experts Al Ries and his daughter, Laura, called The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding. Get your copy from Amazon and start reading. Yes! Homework but fun homework.
Tomorrow's Tuesday Tip will begin a new section of "Advanced Twitter Tips" which I'll ultimately add to my ongoing Twitter Series. I've just upgraded to Hootsuite Pro and over the next several weeks, you'll get to learn alongside me how it works. Tomorrow, we shall let the Hooting begin!
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