When Mike Stelzner launched Social Media Examiner in October 2009, he was virtually unknown in the social media industry. The ‘king of white papers’ was crossing over into an incredibly crowded market place, one in which the experts appeared to have already been picked.
Yet within 12 months his ‘little’ company possessed 40,000 email subscribers, 20,000 Facebook fans, boasted 450,000 monthly page views on its website, and had earned a spot in the world’s top 25 business blogs. In the social media industry alone, socialmediaexaminer.com became one of the world’s top two blogs. And that’s not all. Mike’s company made more than $1 million in the first year!
If you’re like me you’re probably scratching your head wondering how he did it.
Well. Mike reveals all his secrets in his new book, ‘Launch: How to Quickly Propel Your Business Beyond the Competition’.
In the book, Mike compares your business to a rocket ship. Content is the fuel that keeps it moving and other people control the speed at which it moves. At the same time obvious marketing messages are likened to gravity, which holds your business back. The book centers on the Elevation Principle which says that great content plus other people minus marketing messages equals growth.
Let me say this. Launch is not your typical detached, pie-in-the-sky, self-help kind of book. It is potent business advice that is based on the author’s real life experiences. And you can trust his advice because Mike Stelzner used these very same principles to achieve extraordinary success both in the white paper industry and more recently in the social media industry as well.
So without further delay here’s my comprehensive review of the book:
The author’s purpose is to introduce business owners to a new way of marketing. The world has changed and the old methods of marketing have failed to deliver on their promise. Entrepreneurs everywhere are becoming increasingly disillusioned by the ineffectiveness of traditional marketing.
Perhaps you feel the same way. If that’s the case, the author’s intention is to share with you the same set of ground-breaking ideas that he used to propel his own business beyond the competition. The book displays a bold, fresh marketing approach to grow your business by focusing on the needs of others, giving gifts, working with outsiders, and toning down the marketing messages.
What to Expect
At 233 pages the book is broken into nine chapters and five appendices.
The book takes a hard look at traditional marketing and suggests very good reasons why this old model doesn’t work anymore. Interestingly though, it isn’t knocking traditional marketing as much it’s making the point that people’s attitudes towards marketing have changed – with all the information options out there people don’t have to, nor do they want to listen to self-centered marketing messages.
Thus marketers are advised to adjust accordingly and give consumers what they really want. And what they want is valuable information, access to great people and recognition – and they want it all for free!
In contrast the Elevation Principle is introduced as the antithesis to traditional marketing. It is described as ‘the process of meeting the core desires of prospects and customers by helping them solve their basic problems at no cost.’
Chapters 2 and 3 of the book are foundational and help you to develop a mindset that inspires the content creation process. For instance the book demonstrates how to create and establish a clear vision for your business, how to craft measurable goals and how to discover people who can contribute great content to your business.
Chapters 4 and 5 reveal the power of working with outside experts and explain how to identify the kind of role models that could become future business partners. This is an effective yet much underutilized technique that should be studied carefully. For instance it explains how to work with an expert when you’re not one yourself, what you can do to persuade experts to work with you. This section also discusses reciprocity marketing an idea that was made famous by Robert Cialdini, author of the best-selling book ‘Influence’.
In chapters 6, 7 and 8 the book goes into great detail regarding the craft of creating engaging content and how to implement the ten most effective types of content. In my opinion, this is the most value-packed section of the book. It explains with outstanding precision how to create your primary fuel: how-to articles, expert interviews, book or product reviews, and case studies. It also explains how to create your nuclear fuel: survey-based reports, white papers, contests and micro-events.
Chapter 9 is the conclusion of the book. It begins with the author cautioning marketers to ‘cage’ their marketing messages. Drawing an interesting analogy from the movie ‘Braveheart,’ he illustrates why marketing messages are most effective when they’re released at precisely the right moment. The book ends with a very detailed guide on lead generation techniques, how to grow your email list, how to promote your products and services, and a quick recap of the elevation principle.
The five appendices at the end of the book tie everything together very nicely. By illustrating brilliant examples of primary fuel they provide a reference point for the details hashed out in the book.
After reading this book you should expect to have a fresh and enthusiastic appreciation for great content and for other people’s input in your business. If you’ve been relying entirely on traditional marketing you will be challenged to rethink your path. On the other hand if you’re already creating content, you will be greatly encouraged to keep at it and perfect your game.
Summary of Key Ideas
- Great Content: It is the fuel for your business. There are two types of fuel. Primary fuel is that which causes your business to move. This kind of fuel doesn’t last long and needs to be replenished often. It takes the form of how-to articles, book reviews, expert interviews, case studies, news stories and contrarian stories. These forms of content are typically found on your website.
Nuclear fuel is the other type of fuel, which is much more powerful but more difficult to produce. However it is precisely this fuel that will propel your business to unimaginable heights. It takes the form of survey-based reports, contests, white papers, and micro-events. While creating this type of content requires enormous effort on your part, it will quickly differentiate your business in a dramatic way.
- Other people: They control the speed of your progress. An integral part of your growth strategy involves doing great things for other people without expecting anything in return (although in reality when you lift other people up, they lift you up as well).
For instance a well nurtured blog audience will rapidly accelerate the growth of your business – by continually gifting them with free valuable content that helps to solve their problems, they will share your content with others and promote your brand. Outside experts can also help to grow your business rapidly. For example you could seek out book authors or known industry experts and ask them for an interview. Your gift to them is exposure to your audience. This might even lead to a future business partnership that greatly benefits your business.
- Eliminate Marketing Messages (At first): Marketing messages are likened to friction that causes your rocket ship to slow down – the more you use the slower your ship moves. Marketers are advised to tone down the pushy messages and instead create the kind of environment that customers will want to frequent. However there are ways to employ ‘under-the-radar’ forms of marketing. The secret is in knowing the time and place for traditional marketing.
In short if you make it your goal to produce great content that centers on helping people with their problems, they will start to wonder how much more valuable your products and services really are. It won’t be long before they open their wallets and become your customers.
The best thing about Launch is that each chapter feeds your mind with inspiring, actionable ideas for your own business. The author was very successful in demonstrating the fundamentals that connect consumers to business organizations. Also Mike’s writing style suits me perfectly. The book is well-written, well-organized and incredibly focused. And whether you’re in a plane or sitting in a graduate class Launch is an engaging, and enlightening read.
While the elevation principle is certainly very compelling, I’m not sure that everyone will embrace it. There are still many marketers and entrepreneurs who dismiss content marketing as a fad. At their own risk they continue to lean exclusively on traditional marketing. The author’s challenge to make that mental shift and ‘cage’ marketing messaging might appear to them to be counter productive to their goals. And that’s why it’s important to reiterate that Mike’s business advice is trustworthy, precisely because he has tried, tested and proved it himself.
After reading Launch, I must conclude that it is one of the most intelligent business books I have read in a long time. I highly recommend it to any entrepreneur or marketer who wants to create a transformational experience for their brand.
The book gets five stars and a thumbs up!
Do you want your own free copy of Launch? To qualify for the giveaway here’s what you need to do: Just post a comment below to share your ‘first impression’ of Launch based on this review. The most interesting impression wins the book 😉 – no matter where you are in the world, I’ll ship it to you! That’s it.