More “Free Stuff” on the Internet

Participating in message board discussions is another free way to raise your profile within your community of current and potential customers and in your area of expertise. A message board is nothing more than an online discussion forum where people with common interests and knowledge exchange information by posting questions and answers, along with other relevant comments. Messages usually require approval from a moderator before being visible. They can be archived indefinitely.

Answering questions on message boards gets you recognized as an expert. Asking questions gathers valuable information. Both help grow followers for your social media sites as discussed in the following chapter.

  • Message boards are available for virtually every industry, profession and product. For example, Intuit hosts an “Accountants Community for QuickBooks Practitioners and Accounting Professionals” where experienced users of their hugely popular QuickBooks software ask and answer questions. In essence, Intuit supplements their customer support function with participants’ expertise. Search the Internet or ask your network contacts for message boards relevant to your business and expertise. Then contribute your knowledge frequently.
  • LinkedIn Answers and Yahoo Answers message boards, like many others, rate responders by how many participants “Like” their answers and how often their response is selected as the best answer. This is a highly desirable feature and a real feather in your professional cap.
  • Include a link to your website in your message board signature.

Reprints of press releases, blog posts, articles written by or about you and even your “best answers” are excellent testimonials to your expertise and prominence in your industry. Toot your own horn by periodically distributing copies to customers and prospects. Include them in customer mailings, mail orders, newsletters, marketing packets and similar material. Always keep a supply in your lobby.

  • Including a professional photograph with published material puts a human face on your business.
  • While distributing marketing materials as email attachments is easy and cost efficient, it also increases the risk that recipients will not open the email due to security concerns over computer viruses often transmitted in attachments. For that reason, including critical points in the actual body of your email may be preferable.

More marketing tips from Avoiding Market Obscurity on Monday. Have a great weekend!

Publish or Perish – Part 2

On Monday, I began a discussion of how publishing paradigms have been redefined by the Internet, making it much easier and cheaper to publish original works. I began Part 2 of that discussion by posing a question you may never have thought of. What would it do for your professional credibility and for promotional efforts if you could hold up your own book every time you spoke in public? Even if you never sold a single copy, but just displayed the books and handed them out as door prizes, I suspect it would provide a tremendous marketing advantage over your less prolific and linguistically talented competitors.

Let me be clear. I am not talking about creating the great American novel or something that knocks John Grisham and Dan Brown off the New York Times Best Seller List. I should also caution that if your intention is to generate enough royalties to quit your day job, following this idea is not likely to accomplish that goal.

I am talking about authoring a paperback book that demonstrates and shares your considerable body of knowledge and skills, and that is written and packaged in such a way that you can be proud to hold it up in front of any audience. Its primary purpose is that of a marketing tool to promote the sale of your products and services by establishing you as a recognized expert in your field. Think of it as a marketing cost rather than a potential profit center.

There are numerous print-on-demand companies available online to authors. Most offer publishing packages ranging from free (and therefore very basic) Do-It-Yourself to a variety of optional services such as cover design, professional editing, eReader formats and distribution assistance. Each option adds a layer of fees, and can very quickly disqualify this idea from my “free or low cost” criteria. I suggest you avoid companies that charge significant fixed setup fees, impose minimum orders or do not provide online marketing assistance. Other variables include pricing strategies for paperbacks and eReaders, and royalty options.

CreateSpace is one of the best-known print-on-demand companies. Its website was designed to walk novice authors through a self-publishing process. It allows you to easily design and publish professional looking paperback or hard cover books with no minimum orders and at single copy prices that can literally be less than a Venti cappuccino. It also offers several free online marketing portals, allowing different pricing strategies in each.

Here is how Amazon explains their subsidiary. “CreateSpace provides one of the easiest, fastest, and most economical ways to distribute your content to millions of potential customers on Amazon.com and other channels. Media formats supported through CreateSpace include books, DVDs, CDs, video downloads, and Amazon MP3s. With the CreateSpace manufacturing-on-demand model, your products will be produced as customers order, so you don’t have to make an up-front investment in inventory. Plus, CreateSpace takes care of the customer service and order fulfillment on your online retail orders, so you can focus on promoting your titles.”

Here is a final thought on this idea. Unless you are fortunate enough to find a solution for world hunger, there is probably nothing you will do in your career that deserves to be promoted more than publishing your first book. Use every tool at your disposal to promote it!

  • Issue a press release
  • Publicize it on your blog, social media network and website.
  • Promote the book within your network groups and to your customers by throwing a launch party. If you have contacts with newspapers or other local media outlets, invite them as well. Consider donating a portion of the event’s book sale proceeds to a local charity. The charity will in turn promote the launch party to their network of volunteers and supporters.
  • Finally, distribute your book as holiday presents to your key clients and prospects.

I look forward to speaking with you again on Friday.

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