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Board Member’s Memo: Your Business is the Product

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by Mark Wesley, Owner, me+mi publishing —

Mark Wesley

As an independent publisher, how can you make it easy for buyers to find your company? Something has to get their attention, and it will not and cannot be just about your books.

As a publisher, you need to create the best books you possibly can. The minimum viable product for a trade book is a great story, great editing, and great design. But how do you create a successful publishing company? With more than a million new books published every year clashing against all of the noise and distractions in the marketplace, it is difficult to get the attention your publishing company needs.

As an independent publisher, you are in this fight with one arm behind your back. Let’s do the math: 1 million new books are thrust into the market every year, and if 1 percent are focused on the category your books are in, that would create 10,000 choices for a potential buyer who is in charge of evaluating said category. Do you think the potential buyer of your category is going to review and sift through 10,000 choices? Trust me; they will not. We need to understand our buyers, empathize with them, and help them solve problems. Distributors and retailers have limited time, limited resources, and a lot of responsibility for the selection of books that will actually sell through and, in the end, increase their company’s bottom line. The average reader also has limited time and money, and unlimited places where they can spend it. In one research study, it was reported that the average consumer sees over 5,000 ads per day. That is a lot of choices, confusion, and distraction. One way buyers deal with these realities is by picking what has been tried and true for them over the years–in other words, making a bet with a well-known publisher.

How can you help remove these obstacles? How can independent publishers make it easy for buyers to find your company? Something has to get their attention, and it will not and cannot be just about your books. What you are doing is building a publishing company, you need to focus on your business as the product and create a brand promise that is authentic, consistent, and different.

What Is a Brand Promise?

Your brand promise is the message you are striving to achieve when you reach out to buyers about what you are and how you are different from all of the others in the marketplace. Every decision made by your company should consistently reflect your brand and your brand promise: the employees you hire, the customer experience you offer, the quality and appearance of your books, your marketing platform, and your company website. It is how you do business compressed into something your buyers can grow to know, trust, and love. Your company is more than the books you sell. Your business is your product, and you must give it the attention it needs. Connecting your brand to everything you do will provide buyers the clarity, confidence, and trust they need to make purchases from your company now and well into the future.

Brands Are Created from the Inside Out

Many companies make the mistake of putting their emphasis on developing a marketing plan to build their brand. Countless hours and dollars may be spent on determining the best colors or logo that indicates what they offer. These things are important, but they only give your company a superficial connection to your customers. Have you ever seen a commercial on TV that got you to go to the company’s store, only to be disappointed with the disconnect with what you saw in the ad and what you actually experienced when you interacted with the staff and products in real life? They broke their brand promise to you. When you make a brand promise to your buyers and don’t deliver, they will not return!

Brands should be created from the inside out and executed through your staff and the experience they deliver. One of the most significant issues in delivering on the promise is the failure of leadership to first evangelize the brand promise throughout the company. After all, what good is a brand promise if the staff you are relying on cannot deliver on the promise? A successful brand begins from the inside and transforms your employees into brand advocates. That starts with you as the leader understanding what your brand promise is and organizing your business based on that promise. You hire based on your brand, and you train your people based on your brand. If you do this, the output from your employees will be to act, be, and bring your brand to life. That is brand strength.

Moving Forward

Your brand promise is another foundational part of creating a great publishing company. It helps differentiate your company and define who and what you are. It is connected to every part of your business and every contact with your buyers. It will make it easier for buyers to not only find your books in a sea of books and other distractions but actually look for your publishing company and your books. You are not just selling books; you are selling trust, reliability, happiness, and all the emotions that drive buyers to make that important bond with your company. This makes it easier for you to build a relationship with your customers, and that will lead to a sustainable and profitable business.

Mark Wesley is The Business Gardener and Marketing Strategist. He owns me+mi publishing and has spent the last 25 years developing products for major US publishers. As an EMyth-certified business coach and Duct Tape marketing consultant, Wesley helps clients improve their leadership, branding, marketing, and customer engagement skills. He can be reached at wesley@metamorphicx.com.

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