What, exactly, are the rules?
Why do these rules exist?
By whose authority are these rules upheld?
What's more important—the spirit or letter of these rules?Read More
This is a more advanced look at how I've been able to build the AONC site into a diverse community over the past year.
I've already written 79 pages about this subject, so this follow-up is mostly for the 50,000 people who have read that report so far. What I want to do in this article is focus on using multiple spheres of influence to create widespread, perceived authority.
One of the most important parts of developing a following is answering the “reason why” question and proving yourself to be an authority on at least one thing other people care passionately about.Read More
As promised, here is the analysis and full results from the latest product launch. But first, a few notes on trust and authority – the good kind, not the kind you should fight against.
Having established that all purchases are highly emotional, and that buyers conduct an elaborate, internal analysis about price and value whenever they choose to purchase something, let’s talk know about trust.
We experience a certain combination of fear and trust whenever we buy something. The fear is that we will have wasted our money; the trust is the expectation that we haven’t. We look for immediate validation. Is the first song on the record good? Does the first article in the magazine hold my attention beyond the title?
If trust is confirmed, good. If not, we get worried. That’s why it’s important, whenever you sell something, to work hard at establishing and keeping the trust of your customers. Validation can come in many forms (and it’s good to mix it up a little), but the more, the better.
“Working for Yourself” Case Study
Two weeks ago, I launched my second information product, the Unconventional Guide to Working for Yourself. I completed this one after a month of writing, including an all-night session in Sri Lanka, and a few days of recording audio after I had returned to Seattle.
It was no exaggeration to say that I was hesitant to create a product that had to do with making money. It’s not that I think there’s anything wrong with making money – we all need money, and I prefer earning it on my own instead of working for someone else. Aside from robbing banks, those are the only two options (and I suppose that bank robbers are technically self-employed).
I was hesitant because I knew that when you sell something even remotely related to finance and employment, certain people get twitchy on you. They think you are up to something suspicious, even if you have an established reputation you probably wouldn't want to squander.
By the way, most rational people don’t do this, only those who were suspicious or skeptical to begin with. The rational prospects look at the offer, consider the qualifiers and “reasons why,” and then make their decision based on the value consideration. If yes, they buy; if no, they don't -- but they don't usually think less of you for it.
It’s Kind of Like Saying Who You Vote For
This week I received my early voting packet for Washington State, and I was proud to cast my vote for Barack Obama. In 12 years of being an eligible U.S. voter, this is the only time I can remember being genuinely excited about electing a candidate. There are a lot of good reasons to vote for change, but for me one of the most important is that this election has the chance to restore America's standing in the rest of the world.
If you don’t like Obama, do I worry that you’ll be turned off by my saying who I voted for? Not really. I have friends who support John McCain, and I don’t suddenly think their opinions are invalid just because they have reached a different conclusion than I have. I read blogs that are somewhat critical of both mainstream candidates, and as long as they don’t hit me over the head with too much rhetoric, I don’t mind.
It’s only the people who decide that you are a bad person or somehow naïve for expressing an opinion who will get upset.
I don’t care much for intolerance anyway, so if someone stops reading because I say I like Obama, then I think they’d probably be offended at something else sooner or later.
In the end, I decided that the same kind of principle holds true for creating a product about finance and self-employment. A few people get mad because it’s “not what you are supposed to do,” and a lot of other people will happily support you. Others decide it’s not right for them, but that’s OK – because they still care about other things you’re doing. I'll show you all three groups in the analysis here.
When I launched the first guide on Discount Airfare, I was careful to explain my controversial (apparently) opinion that artists should be allowed to make money. I did that to preempt the complaints about selling a product, lest I be unfairly accused of "selling out."
This time I took the qualification process even more seriously, clearly explaining several good reasons to not buy my product at the beginning of the launch process. I did this because I wanted only the customers who I knew would be thrilled and find the product very useful to them.
The Launch Day
I always get up early when launching a new product. In this case, I set the launch time for 7am PST, and I usually need at least 45 minutes to review everything before the actual launch.
I used to launch products and web sites at 8am EST, which meant that after I moved to Seattle I’d need to be up around 4:30 a.m. to accomodate this preference – but I decided that 10am EST would be just fine for this one.
Test… test… test.
There are always a few surprises when you sell something new. No matter how many times you test things, something will always go wrong for someone. The order link won’t work, the thank-you message won’t go out, the site will go down – count on it. This is why it’s good to stay close to the phone and email during any launch.
This time I got up at 5:30 a.m., ran through all the logistics, placed a test order, and so on. A few minutes before 7:00, I made my coffee and uploaded the order page to the site.
Some of you said you liked how I was willing to share real sales figures in a recent update. I’ll do the same thing here.
My initial goal was to sell at least 100 copies of this product in the first week. Within 24 hours, almost exactly 100 copies had sold, helping me reach the goal six days early. Yay!
More copies have continued to sell every day since then, and a number of people have asked about setting up a consulting session – something I didn’t really like to do before, but now I’m considering as a limited commitment for people who have already started their very small businesses.
The total conversion rate from the first week of regular readers was about 3.4%.
Since 1% is a general marketing baseline and I deliberately tried to disqualify people from buying the guide if it wasn’t a good fit for them, I thought that 3.4% was great. If anything, I want to be sure that I don’t focus too much on this side business while I continue to work on the more important goals of getting my book contract (more on that in a moment) and building our community here.
After all, even though I sold about $4,000 in the first 24 hours, the figure of 100 buyers represents only a small subset of readers. I have to keep the focus on the reason why people come here to begin with: to hear about unconventional strategies for life, work, and travel.
You guys are why I am doing it, whether you buy something or not… although naturally, I greatly appreciate the support and endorsement of your investment.
Good News / Bad News
The bad news was that, like last time, I heard from a few people who were upset about something that seems fairly irrational to me. Without fail, these comments come in from people who have never bought anything, and in fact have never communicated with me before.
I’m going to quote from one of these emails below for your consideration:
You preach about everyone being the master of their own destiny, but expect everyone to buy your [expletive] ebook on making money. This was a good blog until you blatantly tried to rip us off. How could you possibly try to [expletive] tell me what to do?
At first I thought this guy had meant to send this message to someone else. Expect everyone to buy? Blatantly try to rip you off? Tell you what to do?
I’m at a complete loss as to how anyone could get these ideas. I actually told people why they shouldn’t buy the guide, offered a more comprehensive guarantee than any I’ve ever heard of, and said that the primary goal of the guide is to help people create their own freedom to do what they want. Ironic, isn’t it?
There’s not much I can do in these cases except say, “I wish you the best” and move on – never argue with a crazy person, my mom likes to say -- but it does make me a little sad to hear how misguided someone can be.
Anyway, I know that the vast majority of people don’t think that way. Such is life with any kind of marketing in the blogosphere, even the no-hype kind. I posted the email here not because I’m upset, but so you can see that there will always be critics out to write you off whenever you do something of interest.
The lesson for me in this case is to avoid being distracted by random, negative messages like that. Before the end of the first afternoon two weeks ago, I had 60 new customers who were excited about the new product. I should have been thinking about those 60, and then the additional 40, and then everyone else who is happy -- not one negative message that I don't feel is valid.
Here is a sampling of the feedback from new guide owners:
First of all, congratulations. You've put together a great guide. It's helpful, realistic and down-to-earth, and I think it's one of the best ebooks I've read in a while. Very well done, and I hope it gets picked up widely!
Every bit as good as I'd expected, so many congratulations on putting together such a fantastic resource. I know a lot of people will benefit from it, including me. I've been in business for more than twenty years, and my view is that it's loaded with invaluable tips and top ideas which I'll be putting into practice myself.
I especially enjoyed the strategies for starting a microbusiness - especially the parts where it's broken down into pros, cons, and next steps. Including actionable items that I could get started on NOW is extremely helpful, especially for getting me to get off my butt.
I have about 50 reviews like those so far, both from the new guide and the first one. I’ve also asked people to send in suggestions for what could be improved in a future version or an email series I’m doing for the buyers. The feedback I’ve received thus far from many of you has been excellent. We’ve already issued some new material on the basis of those comments, and more will be on the way.
I have three more Unconventional Guides outlined, but at least two of them won't be written until early 2009. For now I want to continue promoting the current guide and working with the affiliates who are selling it around the internet. I’ll probably do a short post on the unconventional affiliate program in the next couple of weeks, but for now if you’re interested, just check out that link and let me know.
My number-one, most important work priority right now is finishing the latest version of my "real book" proposal (it’s up to 40 pages; who knew such a thing had to be so long?) and getting the process for the publisher shopping fully underway.
Next spring, I want to take the business side of things further and do a series of webinars for those who are interested. The webinars will be like the guides, only in multiple sessions and highly interactive. Anyway, more on that later – as mentioned, the proposal completion and book shopping are the most important projects for me at the moment. Onwards and upwards.
Miraculously, I don’t think I made any huge mistakes with this product launch. I’m certainly open to constructive feedback, and I realize there are things I could have done to increase the sales further, but overall I’m happy with the results.
Here’s a couple of technical points, for those interested in the details:
(If those two statements don’t mean much to you, don’t worry, you’re not missing out on anything terribly important.)
The Best Lesson
When people trust you, they know you are going to put out good work. Some of them are actually willing to pay for it.
I’m tremendously grateful for that trust. Thanks so much.
And for everyone who does not want a very small business, as promised, I am not “selling out” (whatever that means). As you can see from recent posts, I will continue to write about lifestyle design, world domination, unconventional travel, and whatever else I come up with that you guys enjoy.
### RSS Feed | Email Updates | A Brief Guide To World Domination | Unconventional Guides: Working for Yourself: Creating Personal Freedom Discount Airfare: Surviving Stress and Maximizing Fun Did you enjoy this article? Please pass it on to others at StumbleUpon, or share your own thoughts in the comments section.Read More
“I fight authority; authority always wins.” –John Mellencamp
Citizens, consumers, and rebels of all kinds have been fighting authority for as long as history has been recorded. Sometimes they lose, as John Mellencamp sang in a great rock song, but other times, the underdog manages to unseat the strong and mighty.
I should say from the beginning that I don’t necessarily think all authority is bad. I’m in favor of gentle government regulation, general law and order, and checks and balances that prevent abuse of power by anyone. For this, you need authority. Anarchy is not a useful system of governance anywhere.
But sometimes, authority is dangerous and outright harmful. In these cases, it should be resisted in full force. Other times, authority may not be that bad, but it is used to prevent you from doing something that would be good for you without being harmful to anyone else.
In many of these cases, it’s worth it to stand up to authority… but you need a strategy.
From authority wielded by college administrators to world dictators, here’s how you fight it.
First, count the cost.
Be convinced you’re in the right before taking action. Fighting authority can be a long and lonely road, so take the time to make sure you believe in your campaign enough to sacrifice for it. (Yes, there will usually be sacrifice, and we’ll come back to that in a minute.)
Second, count the rewards.
Because the cost can be great, you have to decide if it’s worth it to you to challenge deep-seated authority. What will happen if you win? How will your world – and hopefully more than just your own world – be different?
In the Civil Rights Movement, for example, the reward of equality was clearly worth fighting for, but it was only fully achieved for a future generation – the children and grandchildren of the movement’s participants. Regardless, the participants believed in their cause so much that they were willing to suffer for something that would not be fully realized right away.
Other challenges to authority may not have the same level of rewards as an entire social movement, but there will always be a relationship between cost and rewards. Since you can only fight so many battles at a time you might as well pick something important.
Then, decide on Direct vs. Indirect confrontation.
One decision you’ll have to make when fighting authority is whether to do it directly or indirectly. The indirect way will usually be easier. You may be able to get what you want by simply going around the authority and finding your own way.
Direct confrontation is another beast altogether. Fighting authority one-on-one can lead to bloodshed – or at least hours on hold with customer service – but sometimes, there’s no other way.
To help you make the decision, first answer these two questions:
#1: “Is there another way to do this?”
When you’re confronted with authority that tries to prevent you from achieving your goals, think about whether there is any other way you can do what you need to do.
For example, there is usually another way to graduate from college, another way to earn a living, another way to get the airline to waive the baggage fee, another way to get a visa to Pakistan, or almost anything else.
Again, count the cost and count the rewards. If the traditional path isn’t that difficult, save your authority-fighting for something more important.
#2: “Can I simply ignore the authority standing in my way?”
Direct confrontation can be dangerous, because authority does not like to be challenged. Sometimes you can simply ignore authority and go through the back door.
In most of the African countries I lived in from 2002-2006, the government was relatively weak. Most citizens paid no taxes and lived nearly all their life outside the realm of the law. Disputes were resolved personally or by small, informal authority figures such as tribal elders.
If the citizens in most of these countries were to directly confront the government, the government would put up a fierce fight to put them down. No expense would be spared, and the fight would be brutal since no one likes to give up their power. But if the citizens were to just live their lives without challenging authority, the dictators (often benevolent, sometimes not) who ran the country would look the other way when the people chose to ignore many of the laws.
(In this system, citizens receive few benefits from the state, such as law and order, legal protection, and recognized home ownership, so it’s not necessarily a good way to live – but that’s another story.)
Next Stop, Sacrifice
A fundamental principle of lifestyle design is that you can usually have anything you want if you’re willing to work for it, but you can’t have everything. Tradeoffs must be made, and if you’re fighting authority, you may lose time, status, sleep, money, or worse. The bigger the challenge, the higher the risk of great sacrifice. Consider yourself warned.
Successful Challenges to Authority
Let’s look at two examples of successful (but quite different) challenges to authority: the American Revolution, and the rise of online resistance to the mega-corporation.
“I have no fear that the result of our experiment will be that men may be trusted to govern themselves without a master.” –Thomas Jefferson
The American Revolution was remarkable in that it changed the norms of government for most of the Western world. Until America declared independence from the British Monarchy, most people took it for granted that a king would always be around to tell them what to do.
Just a few years later, the French Revolution followed the American one. In a short time, two of the world’s most powerful monarchies were dismantled or permanently weakened. Every world democracy, especially those who have overthrown monarchies or dictators to install a system of self-governance, owes a debt to the instigators and sustainers of the American Revolution.
Later, the Civil Rights Movement (CRM) followed the path of these revolutions by exposing the great conflict in American society: that even though “all men were created equal,” until the CRM, some were more equal than others.
Challenges to authority need not be governmental in nature. Consider the popular site The Consumerist. This is a great example of how the internet and adoption of social media has helped underdogs (consumers) fight authority (corporations).
For a long time, consumers who had somehow been cheated by corporations had few places to turn to for assistance. Sure, advocates like Ralph Nader helped us get seat belts and deal with major injustice, and perhaps the local news station’s investigative reporter could help once in a while, but for the most part, consumers were left to suffer the perceived injustice on their own.
Not so now. When a company like Best Buy screws someone over (judging from the site, it appears that Best Buy is a frequent target), the Consumerist posts up all the details. Thousands of people read it within minutes… and so does the company, because they are finally beginning to understand the destructive power of negative P.R.
In contrast to their preferred methods of communication, corporations have been forced to respond to many consumer complaints posted on the site. They do not always give in, but accountability has been introduced to the marketplace because of sites like the Consumerist.
I’ll have more to say about authority later, because this is a big topic… but for now, what do you think? What are some other examples of authority being successfully (or unsuccessfully) challenged?
P.S. A quick note to everyone in Canada who is reading today -- Happy Thanksgiving!
I hope you guys are enjoying your holiday. There is no need to fight authority up there at the moment, unless someone tries to take your pumpkin pie.Read More