Welcome back to my marketing series on Positioning, a concept coined in 1969 by Al Ries and Jack Trout to describe the space in your customer's mind that you want to occupy. Positioning is obviously tightly tied to branding, so be sure you know who you are, as an Author, and that you're branding yourself as the Company you want to keep. There's no point in climbing a product ladder if it's leaning against the wrong wall! (That's one of my favorite Covey-isms)
this series, I discussed the relationship between our products and our customer's perception. Then I moved onto what's 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 (a niche or creneau). Harkening back to Law 5 of the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing for Indie Authors, I advised picking one word, and allowing the other 100,000 to follow, as a knife blade follows its tip.
In these last two entries of the series, today and next Monday, I'll return to the primary concept of positioning yourself and your brand. For Indie Authors, of course, they are nearly one and the same. The bottle's empty. Fill it with whatever you like. Create yourself!
Branding a Public Figure
If you're unclear what branding is for an Indie Author, it's not a book cover design or thematic element across your covers. That's how you "brand" your books. While it's true that your product line can benefit from a clear and identifiable "trade dress" (which many novice designers tell Indie Authors is a "brand" for their cover designs), a book is not its cover. Neither is an Indie Author a book cover. It's you. Or at least, the you that is delivered to the public at large.
Yes, you are now a public figure. How the public perceives you is going to directly affect how they perceive your books--and perception is still everything ((grin)) You can present yourself to the public however you please. Choose wisely, however, as you (and your book sales records) will have to live with those choices.
There have been spin doctors for public figures as long as politicians have campaigned. So, yeah, going back into cave drawings. Societies pretty much want to find and hold up some figure head as the symbol of all things they value and hold dear. We call those figure heads political leaders but really, a political leader is just a person who has charisma and gumption and the nerve to take control in order to take the power.
But that's not at all how you see--or perceive--your local politicians, is it? You think of this person as "a family man" or that one as "a progressive thinker" or the girl on the campaign trail as "the change-maker." You get ideas in your head about who they are and what they are going to do based on the public persona they feed you. They might, in reality, be a totally different person. (They often are which is why the journalists are able to "break" a scandalous story about them.)
The truth and the public perception of it may not match at all. What matters is not the truth. What matters is perception of it.
Be Your Core Self
A lot of people (especially politicians) try to be all things to all people. This tactic shares the demise of the line-extension approach to marketing. Failure is imminent. The problem with this approach is that it's difficult enough to be one thing, to link one word with yourself and your product line. It's next to impossible to link two or three or more!
The most difficult part of positioning is selecting that one word destined to become "you" or your brand's identification in the minds of your prospective customers. The strongest choices will be those that fall closest to the "true you" because you'll be most-inclined to promote those concepts. The more easily you seem to "fit" into the concept you claim to be, the more readily the world will perceive you as that concept. (Be the tip of the knife, not the blade's edge.) Confusion is the enemy of successful positioning. Confusion by your prospects dulls the tip of the knife so the blade can no longer enter their mind. If you cannot gain entry into your prospects minds, you have lost the battle before you've begun.
Be Your Own Special Snowflake
Another mistake people make when selecting their "one word" is to fail to select one of their own, but rather, to copy one that was already tried and proved to work. In essence, they become Joe Noname, Jr. or Jane Cantdecide, III. Actually, do girls get stuck with their parents names? Not usually. Know why? We are innately independent thinkers who hate being told who we are, what we feel or think or how to present ourselves to the world. Have a look at society's greatest issues with raising a girl child. I guarantee half the problems will stem from the fact our kind tend to want independent choice and society tends to want to slot us into some predefined little box. Women have clawed at the walls of those boxes since...yeah, cave paintings.
Don't try to imitate those who've gone before you. Try to outshine them. Be your own hero and forge a new measure of success by defining yourself instead of being defined by industry. That's the crux of the whole idea behind Law 1: Leadership. Create a new concept of who you are, then focus (Law 5) on being that concept with all your heart and soul and mind--and words.
Find a Horse and Ride It
Ignore others who tell you to be like the rest of the Best Sellers' List. Be a new Best Seller List "type" instead. Claim a spot on the list for yourself, or if necessary, change the list. The industry is changing, exploit that (Law 17), don't shy away from it. Find the new category in which you can lead then jump on it and ride it like you mean it. In marketing, trying harder is rarely going to get you the most bang for your buck. Trying smarter is the way to go.
Don't jump on someone else's horse and ride behind them, letting them steer the reins and controlling which way your horse is going. Get your own horse--or kick them off if you're ruthless enough to reposition your intimate competition that way. Personally, I'd rather not succeed at anyone else's expense, but this is business. Sometimes, others have to drop down the charts to make room for me to rise up ^)^
I'm just full of metaphors and similes today, aren't I? Sorry. It's Ries and Trout. They're off on this whole colorful picture story in the second half of the book and I'm flying through it all for you. The point is, there are different "horses" you can ride, but you must choose one to ride alone and it must be your choice, not simply what "everyone else does."
Next week, I'll bring you the final entry in this series and then sure enough, I'll move onto branding discussions. Yep, at long last, I'll bring you the Immutable Laws of Branding series. Mid-May.
Tomorrow's Tuesday Tip will look at using advanced Twitter search strings in Hootsuite.