Plugging the Hole in My Platform (Part 2)
by Mary Ellen Stepanich, Ph.D.
Last month in my post, “My Platform Has a Hole in It,” I discussed an article I’d read about building one’s platform, or brand, as a way to increase book sales. In the post, I compared my platform to the rickety stepladder I keep in my garage. In other words, not many people know my name, so my brand is almost nonexistent. It’s definitely not strong enough to launch a new career for me as a writer.
However, I did follow the first two steps in the article. As suggested, I asked myself, “Why did I write this book?” Other than the obvious answer, “to entertain readers,” I realized that I also wanted to demonstrate, even with fictional characters, how people can form a group such as a barbershop quartet, be productive, and help each other to solve individual problems while keeping the team together . . . and having fun in the process.
The second step in the article advised the writer to ask, “For whom did I write this book?” When I started my book, I did not have a particular reader in mind. But as I wrote, I realized I was writing not only for lovers of romantic comedy mysteries but also for other singers, mostly amateurs, who enjoy singing in ensembles such as quartets.
Now for the big question, step three: “What am I willing to do for this book?” One of the first actions I took was a scary one. I requested a review and an endorsement from one of the most influential people in Sweet Adelines International – an organization made up of women who sing four-part harmony, a cappella, in choruses and quartets. She responded with a glowing endorsement, so I sought positive reviews from other well known Sweet Adelines – and I was successful!
The article then suggested that I should explore how much money I would be willing to spend to build my platform. Not having an excess of funds, I looked for low-cost ways to let people know I’m here and have a book for sale. I found another source (writer Marshall Adler) who recommended low-cost “guerrilla” marketing techniques, such as leaving sticky notes in random places and chalking messages on sidewalks. I can’t see myself engaging in those “Kilroy was here” type actions, but I did find some other suggestions quite doable, such as leaving a branded pen in the bank, or donating branded bookmarks to the local library.
With very little cost, one can create business cards online and leave them with the tip at restaurants or place them in library books related to your field. And always drop your card in those contest fish bowls asking for business cards. Anyone with expertise, a product, or a service to promote can always build visibility for their brand by offering their specialty as a prize for a local contest.
And that brought me around to the realization that there IS something I can do that will not cost much money, and might actually make money. I can offer to speak to groups on the topic of group dynamics, teamwork, and methods for building an efficient work group. After all, I am a retired professor of organizational behavior! So, my platform may be showing its age, but it still has a lot of life left.
Dr. Mary Ellen Stepanich is a retired professor of organizational behavior who always told her students at Purdue, “I’m very organized, but my behavior is a bit wonky.” She has published articles in academic journals (boring), show scripts for barbershop choruses and quartets (funny), and an award-winning radio play, “Voices from the Front,” for Sun Sounds of Arizona (heartrending). Mary Ellen lives in Peoria, Arizona, with her cat, Cookie, and blogs on her website, MaryEllenStepanich.com.