August 22, 2013

Prior Planning Prevents...Well You Know

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

That aphorism has been around for nearly a century, but Marty Clarke took it to heart. The one-time corporate executive is in demand these days as a communications consultant and speaker, but that’s largely because while he was in between jobs, he gave himself another one: Author.

“The company (he was with) had imploded,” Clarke said while in transit from one business meeting to another. “I found myself with time off, so I used that time to write a book.” The result was Communication Land Mines, 18 Communication Catastrophes and How toAvoid Them, published in 2004.

Now, we’ve all seen television shows where someone steps on a land mine, and we know what happens next. Clarke says in one’s professional life, land mines can be just as dangerous, but with one distinction: You usually don’t know you’ve stepped on one. There it is in print: On page 10 of Communication Land Mines, Clarke says “The damage done by communication land mines is often silent and invisible.”

Whoa. Then how do you know if you’ve stepped on one? And if you have, how can you mitigate the damage and ensure you don’t do it again?

Those are the questions Clarke sought to answer. He takes on such topics as leaving a far-too-lengthy voice mail (“The Endless Message”), not speaking clearly and slowly when leaving a telephone number (“Phone Number at Mach Speed”), going on and on ad nauseam in email (“The Term Paper”). The former English major also takes on some grammatical challenges (who vs. whom, for example), as well as those who send much more information than is needed or even wanted (“The Metric Ton Mailer”).

All told, the book walks people through a series of gaffes which have the potential to annoy or frustrate those on the receiving end, and possibly even derail the career of those committing the faux pas.

“My wife says all my material is born out of rage,” he said with a laugh. “When I was an executive, anytime anyone would leave their phone number too fast I would write it down.” The same went for when he’d have a similarly exasperating exchange with someone face to face or via email.

The end result was that when Clarke finally got around to creating the book, he had his topic in mind and a ready-made source of examples. “When I was ready to write, I almost had an outline,” he said.

And after writing the book, Clarke found himself looked upon with a much greater degree of respect. He says writing the book gave him credence and trustworthiness. “The book is the great legitimizer,” he said. “Gravitas is exactly correct.”

Clarke said writing a book can also give you additional insights into a topic. That’s a common theme among authors, including many of those profiled in these blog posts: financial advisor Dan Prisciotta (Defend Your Wealth), marketing expert Laura Ries (Visual Hammer), attorney Ned Minor (Deciding to Sell Your Business). In other words, what you don’t know or may not have considered thoroughly often comes clear as you research and write your book. It may even lead to further efforts.

That was certainly the case for Clarke. He followed up Communication Land Mines with Leadership Land Mines, 8 Management Catastrophes and How to Avoid Them in 2005, and then four years later Sales Machine Land Mines, 6 Sales Revenue Killers and the Blueprint to Avoid Them.

Clarke said the second and third books took longer to write than his first book. For one thing, he didn’t have that handy outline already prepared. For another, he was no longer out of work, so he didn’t have as much time to devote to the books. “By the time I wrote them, I was giving speeches, consulting, and had begun training, so I couldn’t put in as much time.”

There’s your return on investment right there. Clarke used his first book to establish his credibility and expertise while building his brand to the point the public could and would seek out the author and subsequent books. Then those books furthered his reputation. You can see the same in the multiple books by such successful authors as doctors Andrew Weil and Mehmet Oz, fiction writers John Grisham and Kathy Reichs, cookbook authors Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa) and Marcel Desaulniers.

Now, because of his Land Mines books, Clarke is able to work at his own pace on the subjects he decides, while gaining the satisfaction of helping others avoid those nasty pitfalls. “It gave me the living I enjoy today,” he said. “Without them I would not be nearly as successful as I am.”

August 8, 2013

You're Never Too Busy for Your Book Project

Ghostwriting and the Traveling Executive

Creating a book can be tricky at the best of times, but what if your job required lots of time and travel? How will you be able to fit in reviewing chapters, coordinating with your ghostwriter, and supplying materials? As always, the secret to success is organization. This means organization of your projects, your priorities, and your personal time.

When you first hire your ghostwriter, let him or her know that you travel frequently and will sometimes be in and out of communication. Provide your known travel plans for the foreseeable future and note when you will be completely off the grid. This will give your ghostwriter a good idea of when and how you can be reached.

Next, try to create a schedule with your writer based on your travels. If you know you'll have some downtime or a long plane ride in a few weeks, that would be a good time for your writer to send you the first couple of chapters. And once your writer gets started on the project, you two can nail down the schedule on the basis of your availability and the ghostwriter's need for feedback. You should be prepared to set aside a good chunk of time at the beginning and end of the ghostwriting process, but be sure to stay involved during the middle portion to ensure a great final product.

Try to set aside some time each week to check in with your writer via phone or e-mail. Give your writer advance notice, saying, "On Thursday afternoon, I will be devoting several hours to the book. You can expect a call/e-mail from me, and I will complete X task." Tasks can be anything from catching up on ghostwriter queries to sending edits. Even if you've hired an autonomous ghostwriter who can handle the bulk of the project without your input, you'll still want to keep in touch.

For many execs, publishing a book is a very time-sensitive matter. You may be creating a corporate anniversary project, an in-demand memoir, or a groundbreaking business book. Your ghostwriter will understand these time constraints. However, you should also be able to take some time out of your schedule for this book. Your involvement, no matter the subject of the book, is key to creating a finished product that you and your readers will enjoy.

Each project is different, so my best advice is simply to be organized and stay in touch with your writer. You two will create a schedule and a system that works well for both of you. Check out some of the other entries on this site for tips on how to communicate with ghostwriters, prepare your materials, and make a realistic timetable for your project.

August 1, 2013

A New Book for New Brands in a New Market

Perhaps it’s peculiar that a marketing expert wrote a marketing book without determining ahead of time how it could help him market himself and his company.

But for Zain Raj, the reason for writing the book was not to place himself upon a pedestal. It was to codify a new set of rules and standards he believes holds great implications for marketing.

“It’s a new approach to building brands,” said Raj while in transit from one meeting to another. “The traditional model no longer is relevant. Brands needed to operate in a new market.”

Raj published BrandRituals, How Successful Brands Bond with Customers for Life, in January of 2012. By then he was already recognized as a branding and marketing expert. He was CEO of Hyper Marketing Inc. of Chicago, formed by the mergers of SolutionSet MediaWhiz Partnership (where Raj was President and CEO) and D. L. Ryan Companies, Ltd. He had previously served as President and CEO of two other marketing firms, and had held leadership positions at several others.

But when Raj wrote Brand Rituals, he wasn’t thinking about further polishing his credentials, but about the ways in which marketing had changed since he began his career in Mumbai, India, in 1984.
Raj writes that building a brand is no longer about affecting consumer beliefs but about changing customer behavior. The book presents a four-stage approach to a Brand Ritual:
  1. Achieve an initial transaction by offering new value for your product or service.
  2. Magnify consumer attraction by being digital at the core.
  3. Build connections with relevant innovations and experiences.
  4. Create a bond between your brand and the customer by aligning on core values. Raj says a higher number of bonded customers is not only possible but absolutely necessary if you and your company want to create sustainable brands that defy competitors for decades.
While Raj has not made the book the centerpiece of his own marketing efforts, he’s not neglected it. He has written about it on his blog and refers to it or its principles on Twitter.

“My ROI is on satisfaction: To have people say, ‘I just read the book’ and they got something out of it,” said Raj. “This was to get the ideas out. I thought people could benefit from it.

“I never thought of it as marketing myself, but it gives me one more thing in my marketing tool kit.”

While Raj hasn’t focused on his book – after all, he’s busy running a global marketing conglomerate – his employees have found it useful on many levels. Not only can and do they use the principles he espouses in the book, but it gives them added credibility when meeting with clients or prospective clients.

Oh, yes, and throughout the book Raj uses the term marketeers to refer to people in marketing. His rationale is that the people who marketing professionals – the people who try to understand and analyze customer attitudes and behaviors – should think of themselves as the musketeers, the grenadiers, the bombardiers on the corporate battlefield. The marketeers.

But whether the reader embraces the term marketeer or marketer, the point of the book is to help them determine ways in which customers can create a bond with a brand to truly make them customers for life. If he can do that, then Raj feels he has succeeded.