In the first several entries of this series, I discussed the relationship between our products and our customer's perception. Then I moved onto the discussion of a French expression, cherchez le creneau or finding and filling a "hole" (creneau) in the market. This is sometimes called "niche marketing" and is positioning at its core because the focus of niche marketing is on the creation and exploitation of a new or unique position (or niche or creneau).
Naming the niche can be as important as identifying and claiming it, so today I'll delve into choosing a name--for yourself, your books, even your genre. You have to choose your words carefully, but then we are in the publishing business. Covenient, huh? Click through the jump-break to begin.
Don't Hurt Yourself--or Your Position
Last week, I discussed how anonymity can be a valuable commodity, not to be spent until you can spend it in a big way. Publicity, Writ Large, can replace anonymity with an emboldened position in the prospect's mind. Publicity to destroy anonymity can be the way you "smash into the prospect's mind, fully-formed." (see Immutable Laws of Marketing, Law 3 and Law 4).
That "one word" is like the point of a knife. It opens up the prospect's mind to let your sales message penetrate and settle into a new position in their mind. Choose wisely, and your "name" will enter the mind painlessly, easily and create a simple creneau your product sales message can now fill. Choose the wrong name, and it will be like stabbing your prospect between the eyes, clashing with their common sense and known information. As a result, they'll defensively resist your attempts to insert your sales message into their mind. They might even actively resist it.
Your "name" is critical. In positioning, the shortest distance between two points is not always the best path to take. Sometimes, the most-obvious name is not the best name. However, the best name is always the one that creates and claims a new, strong position. It must be your "name" and make you a unique and special snowflake (not really a snowflake, per se, because that position's already claimed by me and my Webbiegrrl Blizzard ;-)
Rubber Band Names
Last week, I discussed what I thought to be a mistake by mega-successful Thriller writer, James Patterson. He's doing "line extension" marketing by trying to cross-market his adult novel concepts to the children's market. He's trying to stretch his "name" by extending his "line" of products (books) into a new market.
He's actually doing television commercials advertising both adult Thriller novels and children's bedtime stories in the same paid commercial. Talk about diluting the message! He's literally throwing away his good name. A good name, like a rubber band, can only stretch so far. The further you stretch it, the weaker it becomes. Eventually, it will either snap (and break) or bounce back to the original position, defeating all the work you expended to stretch it in the first place.
Why doesn't the stretch work? Simple: line-extension names have no independent position in the mind. They simply act as a satellite to the original brand name, weakening and blurring the position of the original brand name in the prospect's mind. In other words, the harder Patterson tries to connect the idea that the same best-selling author of suspenseful thriller novels is also writing soothing, comforting bedtime stories for children, the more he's going to debunk his own hype as a master of suspense.
Let me be clear, I don't think Patterson's Alex Cross books are ever going to lose popularity in their original target market, but I do think James Patterson is going to lose the power of his name if he keeps trying to stretch it over into the children's storybook market. And I don't think he'll ever achieve the kind of success (under his own name) in the children's storybook market that he did in the adult thriller market.
How many people want a thriller writer to help them put their children to sleep at night? Patterson should have chosen a new pen name for the children's market and not identified his best-selling thriller name with it.
Choose your brand (if not your pen name) to identify yourself in a new and unique way with a distinct concept or genre niche. Don't try to be "the next..." someone else, or even "like" someone else. Be as unlike everyone else as you can be and still have a recognizeable story to tell your readers. Your uniqueness (your difference not your sameness) is what will act as the tip of your knife and open up the customer's mind for you to fill a new position. Don't keep stabbing in the dark at the customers. Lure them in with a new and different message.
The Shopping List Test
Now that I've said what not to do, how do you know what brand or name is best? Your name should become synonymous with a concept so uniquely "you" that you could be identified on a shopping list by name alone. This is the Holy Grail of a positioning strategy. What does that mean, really?
Kleenex brand facial tissues are and have been the #1 brand of facial tissues in the United States for decades. I believe their successful positioning is so strong that to say you "want a Kleenex" in other parts of the world will even be understood to mean you want a facial tissue despite "Kleenex" brand not being sold overseas.
Blue jeans by Levi Strauss Company. Where on the planet are there actually people who do not know what "a pair of Levi's" means? In fact, you can say "Levi's 501s" and people know that means a pair of button-fly blue jean trousers. The name has become the noun. That's positioning that works and that lasts--over a century for Levi's!!
What about with books? I have a friend who never ever reads the genres I write--except when he reads mine :) Almost a decade ago, he told me he likes "Tom Clancy novels" and immediately, I knew what style of book he liked to read. That's because Tom Clancy has a unique style of storytelling that always has certain characteristics his readers can count on finding. He always delivers action, suspense, gripping page-turners with engaging characters. It could be a story set in outer space and it wouldn't matter. Tom Clancy writes books people don't want to put down.
Does that work with other genres? Sure. Danielle Steele is inextricably linked with steamy romance novels--and "a Harlequin novel" is inextricably identified by nearly everyone who reads books as a romance novel regardless of whose author name appears on the cover.
If you've already chosen your name and/or published a few books, you can still make a concerted effort to build a position around your name--or if you must distance yourself from a "wrong" position (impression by the customers as to what you write), you can even reposition yourself around a new name. Repositioning can be done to yourself as much as to the competition. The key is to identify and claim a position, any position, so long as it's YOURS.
Tomorrow's Tuesday Tip will be Part 2 of my blog on Amazon Kindle/Shelfari's Book Extras - Symbiosis with Book Bloggers! Hope to see you then.