Every business owner secretly -- or not so secretly -- dreams of finding the one thing that will make him stand out. Every entrepreneur wants to have a jaw-dropping detail to add to conversations at happy hours, board meetings, and high school reunions. Every small business wants to move out of the minors and play with the big boys.
The easiest way to get a leg up on the competition today is by establishing thought leadership. For example, writing an eBook lends instant credibility (why do you think David Letterman introduces someone as "author of Super Awesome Book," rather than "expert of Super Awesome Subject?"). Best of all, it's something someone batting in Double-A can write as well as the Derek Jeters of his day.
Why Online Publishing Matters to You
People's articles are mentioned in passing -- "Did you know Bob wrote an article about that in Forbes?" -- but writing a book carries an added long-term cache. Anyone can write a blog or toss off a quick "best of" article, but book authors are seen as established, invested experts. They have dozens of pages' worth of insights to offer.
Truly, any kind of publishing creates credibility. When a third-party publication prints your work, they're backing you up, so to speak. Having impartial approval of your credentials is invaluable to prospective customers, investors, and partners.
Books are instant credit, and eBooks take it one step further: They not only establish your expertise, they immediately leverage that credibility into action and interactivity, two things every company desperately needs. An eBook allows you to include links back to your company website or to specific pages with incentives, promotions, or contests. This increases lead generation and direct sales without any extra legwork on your part; it's combining your social media efforts with an informational product. Cost-effective marketing is something today's small business owner simply can't afford to pass up; when your sweat equity is involved, and not your wallet, it's even better.
Bottom line, there are four compelling reasons why you should get your expertise published:
- It's relatively cheap, which is good for startups and small businesses on budgets.
- It's effective -- there's a guaranteed return on investment.
- It helps establish you and your brand in a crowded marketplace.
- People trust publications more than ads.
How Your Business Can Benefit
An eBook allows you to not only engage your prospects and customers in conversation, but, like an online forum, it enables you to lead the conversation. Publications create reasons for discussion -- rather than grasping at radio advertising straws, you have a ready-made excuse to ask your customers' opinions or explain your thinking to them. And they, in turn, have your contact information so they can directly interact with you.
This does two things: 1) it eliminates the need to pitch prospects, since they're instead contacting you, and 2) it earns trust, which is key to success, particularly when closing sales online. Think of eBooks like old-fashioned tech "white papers" -- they're opportunities for your company to create education-based materials that display your values and voice.
For you, your team, and your customers, ditching boring advertising is an added bonus of publishing. Online communities, shaped around your book, topic, or industry, allow you to act like an excited member, rather than a salesperson. This makes you more approachable to your audience. You're also bringing a value-added product to your base: You're providing helpful directions and insights, which proves you know what you're talking about and aren't just out to make a buck. Adding to their buying confidence, not coincidentally, enhances your bottom line.
But online publishing also gives you a viral leg up against the major leaguers. It's harder to get a video, social media campaign, or infographic to take off when you're a mammoth company -- people already have set ideas about your brand. Small businesses can introduce, build upon, or rebuild their company brands by messaging on company sites, issuing press releases, writing articles, and participating in social media. You have a fresh slate to work with, and inserting existing customers' words and testimonials in your eBook (much like critic reviews in mainstream publications) can boost your sales.
The marketing variety afforded by your online publishing -- contests, user-generated content, rewards programs, loyalty points, surveys, and blogging -- ensures you're less yawn-inducing than competitors. You can even donate resources, such as server space, online guides, mentors, contest prizes, or sponsorships to site administrators. Interested in helping others? Offering real resources? Lowered cost of sales via automated processes and publishing links? Check, check, and check.
You know your niche well -- that's why you're in business in the first place. Don't be intimidated by the big sluggers. The payoffs -- better marketing, enhanced credibility, more clients, and a shift toward the major leagues -- outweigh any risks. So what will your eBook be about?