Ask Steve Chazin to share ROI metrics on his first venture into e-book publishing and his response takes on an almost sing-song, Twelve Days of Christmas cadence:
A hundred thousand downloads. Nine speaking invites. Seven newspaper articles. Five actual speaking gigs. Two TV appearances. One pending TV show. And several offers of full-time employment.
Chazin, in other words, is a walking, talking advertisement for the potential of well-crafted, value-adding content to propel its author — be it an individual, or an organization — into a higher orbit of brand recognition and business opportunity.
How’d he do it? We’ll get to that shortly. First, some background.
A self-described “Renaissance man,” Chazin holds a master’s in electrical engineering from Princeton University. He’s currently CMO at Dimdim.com, which he describes as a “Web. 3.0 software start up aiming to change the way the world meets online.”
In the later ’90s, Chazin held marketing, sales and engineering positions at Apple. He counts himself among those who helped put the company on a return path to profitability after Apple had lost some of its product mojo and financial momentum earlier that decade.
Post-Apple, working as marketing VP for an early-stage tech firm, Chazin found himself at odds with the company founder. The two did not see eye to eye on the value of, and proper approach to, marketing.
“He is a true engineer,” Chazin explains. “And he saw marketing as the thing you do three weeks before you launch a new product. Very tactical.”
Unable to change the boss’ mind, Chazin in 2007 decided to write, in e-book form, marketing and branding lessons he’d distilled from his time at Apple. “I was really writing it for him (his boss),” he says. “To get him to step back and look at the bigger picture — the role that great marketing can have.”
Before long, Chazin began to see another, more intriguing reason for writing and promoting the e-book: To crack open new career opportunities.
Chazin wrote during his daily commute by bus and train between his New Hampshire home and Boston office. On Sept. 7, 2007, he published a blog post and, with it, MarketingApple: 5 Secrets of the World’s Best Marketing Machine. If you’d like to be download 100,001, visit Chazin’s blog.
What takeaways can Chazin offer from his experience? Here are some steps he took:
- Develop a jargon-free news release. Taking advice from Web marketing consultant and author David Meerman Scott (who he’d hired earlier to advise his employer on marketing), Chazin developed a news release describing and promoting the book. In the release, he took pains to avoid terms such as “revolutionary” and “groundbreaking,” the sort of corporate gobbledygook against which Scott has been a vocal crusader.
- Circulate the release to a targeted list of bloggers. Chazin researched and pinpointed about 100, including some who blog about all things Apple, and others who focus on marketing and brand. He e-mailed each a copy of the release, along with a link to the e-book (note he did not attach the book itself).
To build his blogger list, Chazin searched Google and also Technorati, where he looked for those with high authority levels. When he found a blogger who he thought might resonate to the book, he’d check their blogroll to find other potential targets.
- Be direct and demure. In his e-mail to bloggers, Chazin says his tone was “very simple, very conversational. Like a blog post would be. ‘Just want you to know I’m sort of joining the ranks. I’d value your feedback on this.’ I didn’t ask for an endorsement or a link. Just, ‘Hey, thought you might be interested in this.'”
- Mini PR campaign. The day after sending an e-mail to the bloggers, Chazin distributed his “very short, very direct” news release on PR Newswire. He also had a PR firm issue a media alert, making it known he was available for comment on stories regarding Apple, social media, Web 2.0 and related topics.
- Give design and format their due. Content and subject matter are critical, of course, but Chazin says devoting attention to design and format issues — copy length, color scheme, cover — also pays. He focused on keeping copy short (eight pages) and took time to get the color and layout feeling crisp and clean.
He incorporated just a slice of the Apple logo on the cover, giving the book a sophisticated feel — much like the brand identity of its subject. After he signed up with Typepad to build a blog around the e-book, he took care to make the two — blog and book — look like design extensions of one another.
- Organic SEO. Because his e-book and blog are peppered with “marketing” and “Apple,” Chazin says he’s risen steadily in search rankings that incorporate those words, especially at times when Apple itself isn’t making news. Incidentally, he says the number of Google search results for his name has quintupled since he launched the e-book and blog.
“It just started escalating,” Chazin says. “Somebody would read it, they would blog about it, recommed it to their friend. Somebody took it and converted into an e-paper and posted it to a SlideShare, where it got 5,000 or more views within a couple of days. Pretty soon, it was generating its own momentum.”
Interestingly, Chazin did not make use of social media beyond blogs. “I wasn’t that plugged in at the time,” he says. “This was in the days before Twitter, and Facebook didn’t have their application. So my social network was pretty much focused to LinkedIn and a blog that I’d never posted to until that day.”
Still, pretty soon Chazin was getting calls from reporters, event planners, students asking to quote him in their research papers, and potential employers. The rest? E-book history.
Some bonus tips from Chazin:
- Keep it simple. “With design I focused on keeping it easy on the eyes. And boil it down. In my case, there wasn’t really a call to action except apply these principles to your own business — or hire me.”
- Make it actionable. “What do you want your prospect, your buyer, to do next? In my case, it was contact me, which is why I put my phone number and e-mail address in there.”
- Be modest. “If you’re trying to come across as a thought expert, but you come across as arrogant, people don’t feel they can relate to you. So, in whatever business, I think it’s important to show humility.”