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Be the Author of Your Own Success
How to Build Your Business Like You Would Brand, Write and Publish a Book

August 2017

Kent Gustavson, Ph.D.

For many entrepreneurs, becoming a thought-leader and publishing a book or guest article is something that comes later on in their company’s story, once the dream has turned into a reality. It is a great way to raise your social profile, immortalize your ideas and experience and get a nice ego boost in the process.

In many ways, making it in the world of publishing and startups really isn’t that different. Both are saturated, with more than 15 million existing titles available today on bookshelves in the United States alone, and with 100 million new businesses being launched each year. As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd, and make your title or company a lasting success.

Just like authors, entrepreneurs need to find a special recipe to make their ideas stick out. New books have less than 1 percent chance of being stocked in an mainstream bookstore, so a great text needs a sexy title, an eye-grabbing front cover and compelling content that appeals to a specific audience. In the same vein, with 90 percent of startups failing, it takes more than just a great idea or product to make it out the other side in the cutthroat world of business.

However, if you build your business in the same way as you would brand, write and publish a piece of content, it can keep you on the right track from the first page.

1. Have a Target Audience 

Writing a book the “right” way means starting with a clear target demographic that you want to reach. In the world of literature, only a few real masterpieces – by legends like J.K. Rowling or J.R.R. Tolkien – appeal to various different age groups and demographics. Normally, it is best to highlight your specific audience, and then build your company – or book – in a way that speaks to them in a language they understand.

I call this the two-way mirror. Men tend to read most often on the toilet or when on a commute, and women would rather sit with a coffee or be curled up in bed to really enjoy the experience. The key is that they can’t see you, but can you see them. Great authors are really able to reach out through the book and grab their reader because they know exactly who is reading their book.

From the first page of your business’s story, it should be clear whom you are targeting with your product or service. This will guide everything you do, from your website and logo design, your big mission which you share and your marketing tactics to the channels that you aim to promote on.

If you know there is a need for what you are selling on the market, and there is a specific group who will be interested in your product or service, it will be a driving force to finish your project, and bring on others to support you, be it staff, investors, crowd-funders or early adopters.

2. Have a Sexy Title and Cover

As a child, our loving, supporting parents told us that appearances don’t matter … it’s what’s on the inside that counts. In the mean world of business and publishing, this is terrible advice. People do judge a book by its cover, and they won’t give your content a second of their time unless your outer shell looks the part.
Books like “Made to Stick,” “Skinny Bitch” and “Eats Shoots and Leaves” mix great front cover designs and snappy titles that make dry sounding topics like public relations, dieting and punctuation sound edgy and interesting, and catch your eye on a bookshelf or e-commerce site.

In the same way, if you have a product or service that isn’t sexy on first glance, like SaaS, third-party payments or anything to do with big data, you need to wrap your company in a peacock-esque mix of great design and UX, and a meaningful narrative to make people engage with what you are doing.

It’s not as simple as snatching up a great domain name but just copying someone else’s product. Your company needs to have the flash and flair of an eye-grabbing homepage with individual design, a great logo, branding, taglines and graphics that stick in people’s minds and imaginations.

But when you have people’s attention, there needs to real valuable content when they flick past the first page.

3. Contain an Engaging Narrative 

Any author can hire the most inventive artists and graphic designers out there to design a cover that stops people in their step, but if there is no interesting story or message inside, people will toss it to one side early on. People tend to lean toward specific genres, but they want something new and exciting.

It works the same way in the increasingly cluttered startup ecosystem. It is important to separate your company from all others competing for space on the same shelf, and show them why your company is different from the norm and deserves their attention.

If there isn’t much difference between your product and your competitors, the way to do this is by focusing on the founder story and your big mission that makes your company unique.

What inspired you to spend months or even years developing this product or service? What problem are you trying to solve? Why are you going to make a positive influence to the world, and make life easier for millions of people?

These are the stories that need to be placed in front of your audience.

4. Be Rich with Compelling Content 

So now you have a company that looks and sounds good, but like a purple carrot or an heirloom tomato, you need to provide real substance that actually tastes good to the readers, and gives them an appetite for more.

Surprisingly, this is an uncommon thing in today’s market. Far too often, after buying a book with an amazing cover, great branding and was featured on the front page of Amazon or the front row of a bookstore, it ends up being vacuous, repetitive or dull after chapter two.

You can’t just tick some boxes; you need to provide the full package. Great design and UX is important, but your product or service should serve a real purpose too.
If there is meaning behind the great brand, concept or product, and it really improves people’s lives, then like-minded audiences will begin to spread the word. If the content is vacuous and uninteresting, you might achieve a bunch of downloads, but you’ll never create a movement. And even if consumers jump on the bandwagon and download your app or buy your product, will they keep using it for more than a week, recommend to all of their friends or buy it again?

Whatever your product or service is, it should serve a clear purpose for the user, one which they can come back to time and time again. There is a little bit of magic in a great book. Something that will keep it on bookshelves, Kindles and in libraries for decades to come.

The best way to do this is by making a real difference to the reader or user. This could be creating an experience that will stick in their memories and they will share with their children in years to come, or offering takeaways that will push a business to the next level.

When you design your company, you should aim for the same, creating a product or service that will really leave its mark and be a game changer. If you are going to put the time and effort into building something from scratch, don’t create a fad – create a legacy. I95

Kent Gustavson, Ph.D.,  is an award-winning author, publisher, ghostwriter (over 50 titles), TEDx speaker, educator and serial entrepreneur. He is a social media and content expert, and his personal profiles are proof of what he preaches, as they have been viewed over 100 million times. He founded Blooming Twig in 2005.