In order to market something in a field where I had no experience, I needed to use my head. Actually, my three brains: the head, heart and gut brain. I relied in this case on my head brain – to strategize.
I was trying to devise a plan to create a bestseller out of my first book, Grow Regardless. I needed to quickly come up to speed. I had no experience with the publishing world and book marketing in general. But I had faith in my team – we were all-in on working together to connect with readers and book buyers.
The publishing industry, we soon discovered, grades on a curve. You see, a book doesn’t need to sell a ton of books to make bestseller lists. It only needs to outsell the other books on the market at the time. Normally, this is still a herculean challenge, since major publishers can spend up to several hundred thousand dollars promoting their books, doing everything possible to gain maximum exposure, like booking the authors on morning talk shows and buying ad space in major publications.
Knowing we couldn’t compete with the major publishing houses, we put our head brains together and designed an innovative approach. We aimed for minimal exposure. This would become our advantage. In selecting a release date, we chose the shortest month of the year, in the worst week of the worst quarter for book sales. We released Grow Regardless the morning after the Super Bowl.
In selecting the coldest month of the year, in terms of books sales and weather, we’d avoid competing against the year’s hottest books. Instead, we’d make the bestseller lists by standing out and outselling the weakest books on the market. The lists would then become our validation and greatest marketing tool.
Before the release date, we executed a strategic presales campaign, getting the book into the hands of people who mattered, and building connections. A little luck also never hurt anyone. At a moment when the federal government was passing the unorthodox sequestration regarding the budget, the subtitle of our book, Of Your Business’ Size, Your Industry or the Economy...and Despite the Government!, surely tickled people’s imaginations. The stars aligned, and we hit all of our goals within the first month. Then, we hit every major bestseller list.
Writing this book was not about making money. We donated the proceeds to charity. Our aim in writing the book was to get 100,000 people back to work. It was a David-versus-Goliath story about how some of my greatest life and business mistakes could teach us lessons about changing the cultures of organizations. The book was written from the heart and gut, yet it was the head brain that allowed us to outsmart the industry and actualize a movement by getting the book in people’s hands.
Success isn’t built overnight. It’s not even built after you’ve spent three months writing a book. It's built when you use your head to know your market and engage with your team to make it happen.
In my book, Shift the Work, I explore how important it is for companies to encourage their employees to innovate, and how the most forward-thinking companies encourage their employees to use their head brains in order to connect to the head, heart, and gut brains of consumers.
One of the ways in which our head brains work is by getting clear on priorities. The brain in the head is constantly assessing how to address the stream of new ideas and competing tasks we believe to be our responsibility.
You probably know how hard it is these days to deal with the flood of information coming at us. Our once-extensive attention span has dropped from 20 minutes to a mere nine seconds. The world is changing faster than we can keep up with, and it’s influencing our thinking.
The truth is, to make and manage our to-do lists, we must know and understand our priorities, the things that are truly important for us to take on, including in what order and in what measure. The sorting responsibility isn’t ours alone; managers and companies also must be clear on the priorities. This is part of workplace engagement. Agreement on and space to focus on those priorities contribute to maximizing engagement. But, according to SHIFT’s 2017 All-In Engagement Report, only 23 percent of employees are clear on the priorities that drive-high performance.
We have to move past our existing paradigms and belief systems in order to embrace work with a fresh perspective. This means being open to learning new things that cater to our curiosity, that inform our priorities, and that drive our performance.
When we learn something, our brain seeks to repeat the pattern over and over with hopes of achieving the same result. This is repetitive learning, and it's good for all of us – it makes us mentally nimble, and ready to accept and embrace the change that leads to engagement.
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