When Alex Banayan was working with his publisher to pick a book release date, they told him that business books come out in the fall and winter, not the spring and summer. Their explanation was that no one takes business books to the beach, so they don’t market them before the natural dip in the sales cycle. Alex pushed back. He said that spring was precisely the right time to release his book. What did he know that the experienced publishers didn’t?
By their calculation, the cost of magazine ads, articles, and interviews to sell the maximum amount of books was not the same in the spring as the fall. By Alex’s calculation, his target audience was probably not magazine readers, and far more likely to be podcast listeners (as one example). If the best business podcasts would have a thinner schedule of author-guests during the spring, that increased his odds of getting on the right programs and reaching the right audience.
While it was still a gamble, he swayed the publisher and it paid off. The Third Door is a national bestseller after being published in June of 2018. The marketing campaign worked. He went from unknown to known and he’s just getting started. Listen to him tell Cal Fussman about it here.
The takeaway is that it can be OK to defy conventions if we can find a blind spot. There are two types of blind spots: the kind where an institution just doesn’t have enough data yet, and the kind where an institution has so much data that they are in pure profit-maximization mode. Either can be used to our advantage.
Focusing on podcasts over magazines was the “not enough data” blind spot that Alex saw. Every so often we can find new mediums to exploit in this way, just think of the transitions from newspapers, to radio, to TV, to cable, to the internet, to social media, etc. and the opportunities each change created. It doesn’t even have to be complicated – text alerts for appointment confirmations from doctors are brilliant.
Focusing on inbound customer service calls is a “profit-maximizing” blind spot for many institutions. How many poor call center experiences have you had? Companies like Zappos defied this logic in order to win repeat customers by offering an experience that felt more like calling a close friend than a disgruntled stranger. While everyone else is cutting costs to deliver a service, we can look for the behaviors that take the service above and beyond the competition. It may cost more in the short-term, but the long-term benefits can be massive.
While we may not be able to market our practices the way Alex marketed his book, we can take his lesson on blind spots to heart. We have to define who and/or what our competition is, and what they likely think works good enough. Competitive advantages come from doing things differently. If we want to show our value, being different is a good place to start.