Last week, I spent a few thought-stirring days in Portland at a publishing workshop organized by Todd Sattersten. We talked about the future of publishing, which is in the middle of epic change.
The workshop offered innumerable lessons, not only for publishing, but for any form of marketing. I learned there were 11,000 new business books launched last year alone, which hints at the odds of breaking through the clutter in a book store. Launching a winning business book is even tougher than launching a new cereal bar in the grocery aisle or app in the app store.
At the same time, books are becoming commodities. The value of words is dropping to free, as detailed by Chris Anderson in Free (and his original article in Wired). Chris outlines many industries where consumers are increasingly expecting free as a price point for certain things. Yet, there is also a “monetization” push underway, as businesses push to generate revenue from other sources.
Modern business leaders have to consider “freeconomics”, what to offer for free and what else to charge to compensate for free.
When facing a commoditized, hyper-competitive category, we discussed the importance of focusing on your audience and building a tribe. One of the ideas I liked was the Valentine, a form of your work that you give away for free. A Valentine is not a marketing tchotchke. It should have real value: the content on your blog, the quality of a sample, the utility of your iPhone app. Think of what you give away for free as a Valentine. By regularly giving away Valentines, you strengthen your tribe who will in turn be more likely to pay when you charge for your work in different forms.
I like the “Art Pays For Free” philosophy of the Do Lectures. They give away their talks for free online. These free talks build a tribe. These talks are their Valentines. The Do Lectures is then able to charge £1,500 for a ticket to go to the event in person. And they are able to sell limited edition art posters at £35 a piece.
There is an opportunity for any brand or business to reevaluate what it is giving away for free and what it is charging. And to send Valentines to its tribe.