I started blogging in 2007 because I’d just signed my first book deal with Random House and I realized that social media was about to become a huge tool in any author’s marketing arsenal.
What I didn’t realize was how huge.
It’s become the core of my marketing outreach not just for books, but for everything I do.
But with the launch of my new book, Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel for Brilliance, I decided to take things to an entirely different level, test a bunch of new strategies, and bring video strongly into the picture.
I knew some things would hit big and others would bomb. The results, though, surprised even me.
Here’s how it’s unfolded …
A brief outline of the entire approach
My Major Goals for the Launch:
- Generate thousands of pre-orders
- Build substantial buzz that ramped to fever-pitch on launch
My Major Goals for the Book – Long Term:
- Get ideas and strategies into the hands of creators to help them do great work, without suffering
- Arm entrepreneurs and corporate teams with tools that fuel higher-levels of creativity and innovation
- Create a highly-differentiated design & user experience
- Create a time-release anticipation & buzz-building launch sequence
- Leverage video to turn a text product into a multi-sensory experience
- Give a ton of high-value content, experiences, and tools along the way
- Create irresistible pre-order “experience” offers
- Blend response-principles with social outreach
- Integrate social media, video and applications
The big picture strategy
I’m a bit of a freak about visual feel.
I was heavily involved in the cover design process of the book and I wanted to ensure that everything we created online for the launch also created a visual experience that said, “wow, this is different.”
But, I also knew I wanted to be able to start to let people know something was coming, while we worked on the bigger launch pages. So, I started by adding a very simple “book page” on my blog that had the book cover, a few paragraphs, and links to booksellers to pre-order.
Behind the scenes, though, we were in heavy design and marketing mode.
The big challenge was to create something that was visually stunning, but also was really smart and effective from a response-driven marketing point of view. I’d seen a lot of book mini-sites and, while some were very polished, they were also really ineffective at driving visitors to a particular call-to-action.
And I began to realize that to really pull of what I wanted to do, we’d need to create not only a series of very cool pieces of mixed-media “engagement” content to release, but a website that progressed through a number of different phases that would allow the structure and design to support the key calls to action and media at each point of the pre-launch campaign.
So, here’s what we did …
The tactics and the sequence of events
Phase 1: The Opening Shot and Conditioning the Market
This happened almost two months before the book came out.
Traditional book marketing wisdom says this is way too early. But the main point here was to get onto peoples’ radars and start to build an emotion around the “brand” of the book.
We were also looking to start building a segmented list of people who’d be interested in pre-ordering the book, which would allow us to reach back out to them a number of times over the course of the launch.
I also didn’t want to put up a full mini-site with navigation at this point. It was too early to be giving so much information and asking for any substantial action. This was all about building energy, emotion, anticipation, and a list.
I wanted to set the tone for what was to come and use storytelling and video to make that happen. So we hired Michelle Vargas and her video production team to create a very simple, yet really powerful book trailer where I actually never even mentioned the book or asked anyone to buy it. In fact, the only call-to-action in the video came in the form of a bigger question about life at the end. You’ll have to watch the trailer to see the question.
Here is the video:
Click here to watch it on YouTube
- Sign up for info about pre-order bundles
- Share the page on social media
- Leave a comment
At first, we were going to use the typical WordPress comment section, but changed it to Facebook comments to capitalize on the viral potential within the Facebook platform.
I had Charlie Pabst, from Charfish Designs do the building all the way through every phase of this launch and he also did the design for the first few phases, until we launched the full mini-site.
Here’s a screenshot of the first landing page (it’s not public anymore).
I didn’t overtly ask anyone to spread it around, but rather leaned on the gut feeling that we’d created something that would really resonate. Sure, I hoped people would consider it worthy of sharing. Whether they were compelled to share it or not would come down to how good the video was and how clean the page was.
A few minutes later, I had my answer.
It took off. The site started getting shared very quickly, Facebook comments poured in creating powerful social proof, the social buttons underneath the video were racking up serious counts, and the pre-order notice list started to build.
My email was flooded with stories from people all day, sharing their own stories. I literally sat in front of my screen for an entire day on the verge of tears. It was amazing to be sitting in the eye of a tornado of such deep emotion and connection like that.
We then pulled back and let that energy feed on itself for about a week, then it was time for phase 2.
Phase 2: Rolling out The First “Experience”
In this phase, I wanted to inspire people to not only pre-order, but pre-order more than 1 book for a number of reasons.
One, because I wanted to move books. But, also, for a more old-fashioned, human reason. I love when someone hand-selects a book and gives it to me. There’s something really powerful about that. It’s much more meaningful. So, I wanted to encourage people to buy multiple copies and give the book to friends. To create that connection.
But as a marketer, I also knew that the more options I introduced at once, the more likely potential buyers would be to suffer the paradox of choice and buy nothing.
So I started with a single offer, the one I thought would be the most desirable (and likely to be purchased). This was a 3-book bundle “experience.” I knew I’d create other offers, but I held them back to avoid muddying the decision-making process and hurting conversion.
We kept the same design, but stripped the Facebook comments and list-building form and added in long-format copy for the 3-book offer. We also kept the video in mega-size on top because, by then, we knew it was really moving a lot of people and driving a lot of sharing of the site.
It was also important to me to create an offer that was truly extraordinary, not just another dopey “pre-order and you’ll get a bazillion PDFs worth $2 gazillion dollars that everyone knows are available without cost all over the web.”
Not my style. I wanted to create a genuine experience that both expanded on the book and also allowed me to create a real value proposition that was somewhere between 50 and 100 times the cost of the book.
So, I did some things that have never been done before and decided not to just keep it digital, but create something powerful and tangible.
I spent months working with badass Austin, Tx illustrator, Marty Whitmore and Megan Morris from IdeaSchema to create two insanely cool concept illustrations around two key ideas from the book. These were then turned into 16″ x 20″ limited-edition, signed, numbered giclee fine-art prints — real works of art with real value.
Here are mini-images of the two illustrations:
The value of this bundle went into the thousands of dollars, and it was a real value. People realized that. Once we had this all ready to post, we went live, I again posted it around social and the pre-orders began to flow.
Time for the big shift.
Phase 3: Mini-site, Multiple Offers and Buzz-Central
We gave that first offer some time in the market. Then, behind the scenes, I’d been working with the amazing Reese Spykerman to design the fuller mini-site. But even then, I didn’t want the entire site to go up all at once.
Too much to think about.
And as long I was creating multi-book experiences with additional elements that allowed me to create irresistible offers, I didn’t need a whole lot of extra information about the book itself up. People were buying the larger experience and the larger value proposition. At this point, the book pretty much rode along as the sprinkles, not the cupcake.
I knew that would need to change over time, but not yet.
We launched the new design, but only in the form of a landing page with multiple pre-order offers and, again, people started buying. Though, as I suspected, the 3-book experience was very much the sweet spot.
I then introduced a number of videos, all designed to keep drawing people back to the site to experience the video content. And I spread them around, too, both on the book site and on my main blog. I hosted all the video on Youtube in order to create the greatest opportunity for sharing, too.
One video was a really goofy, tongue-in-cheek offer to shave a company’s logo in my hair and dye it to match if they brought 10,000 books (Marc Benioff from Salesforce.com, call me, dude!). That got a lot of giggles and the production value and animation was actually super professional.
The next was a slideshow video based on a poem I wrote called Have a Little Faith. It had a powerful indirect message for the exact demographic that would benefit from the book. I went subtle again with the call-to-action here. You can see it at the very end.
There’s nothing about buying the book in the video. It’s more about creating an emotion that anchors to the book in a very under the radar way, while also creating a standalone experience that had value, regardless of whether the viewer ever bought the book.
Click here to watch it on YouTube
At the same time, with each passing week, the buzz around the book, the offers, the videos and the ideas from the book were gaining steam.
Uncertainty and its “multi-sensory brand extensions” were pretty much everywhere. Pre-orders were rolling in.
About two weeks before launch date, I staged in the full mini-site with a ton killer reviews, sample pages, the whole yadda yadda. You can see the current full site design here.
Oh, and, I should probably also tell you, I was running a bunch of this while spending 3-weeks driving up the California coast with my family. That was an interesting adventure!
Phase 4: Launch Window
This is where we are right now.
During this entire process, I’ve also been doing a massive amount of outreach to my community, my relationships and friends to inspire them to help in the final launch phase. A lot of people offered to help get the word out, both because they believed in the book, and in me.
That, by the way, is an incredibly humbling thing.
I wanted to make that process as easy as possible, so I offered to write a lot of guest posts (like this one) and do a ton of interviews.
This was a huge amount of work, but many of these folks were friends who were doing something really nice for me, so to the extent that my personal bandwidth could handle it, I was happy to do it.
Starting about 10 days before the launch date, I began to post more actively about the book and ask my tribes to do the same. Every day, the buzz continued to build.
This week, I then launched a story-sharing contest which has seen the creation of dozens of insanely inspiring personal stories, both in the comments on my blog and on websites all over social media.
On Tuesday, I released a special online application called the Creative Mindset Audit tool, which is a mindset assessment app I had built for the launch. I mentioned this tool across social media and hundreds of people started completing the assessment and sharing both the tool and their scores.
And, today, to celebrate the actual launch day for book, I’m holding a live-streaming book launch party at TheUncertaintyBook.com.
I’ll be live-streaming there from 1-4pm EDT (New York) time, having a ton of fun, answering questions, having special guests stop by and giving away a bunch of super cool prizes that include a Kindle FIRE, Kindle, iTunes and BN Gift Cards and more. But you’ve gotta be there to win. Feel free to swing by and say hello, btw!
Wrapping it all up
While this may seem like a lot, what I’ve shared here is actually only a fraction of what went on behind the scenes. And, since this is already a monster post, I’ve left a bunch of things out.
I have an amazing team and, in the end, what we’re really all trying to do is not just move a ton of books (we pre-sold thousands, btw), but change a lot of lives.
The book’s website is still getting shared across social media like crazy with nearly 3,000 Facebook shares, 1,110 tweets, and, to my surprise, it’s been emailed more than 600 times. That’s all due, in large part, to the power of the book trailer video and the strong emphasis on sharing on every page. But, it’s also about the message.
I worked so hard to bring this book to market, because I know in my heart it’s going to help people. Especially artists and entrepreneurs who struggle with the need to make choices and take action in the face of uncertainty. The big message is that you have to go to that place, but properly armed, you don’t have to experience it as anxiety, pain or suffering.
And, that’s a message I hope people can get behind and experience.
Truth is, this is all fun, cool stuff, but the single most important thing you can do as a marketer, an entrepreneur or a creator is … build something remarkable.
Do that, everything else falls into place.