Yesterday my friend Ramit Sethi launched his book I Will Teach You To Be Rich, a personal finance book based on his highly successful blog. By midday, he was the #1 selling book on Amazon.com! I knew he was on top the second it happened. I knew because I was watching him live on his blog, along with 1,000 other “believers”. He was streaming a live videocast all day long, answering questions from viewers, giving away prizes and even taking a call or two from mom.
What’s remarkable is not that he got to the #1 spot, but rather how he got there. There’s a lot of chatter on Twitter right now pointing to Ramit’s book launch promotion as “the way to launch your book to the #1 spot on Amazon.com”. Well, I’m here to tell you a dirty little secret: the promotion was only the match that lit the fire. The fire burned so bright because he’s spent five years stacking the wood.
The simple fact is that five years ago Ramit knew he’d probably write a book on personal finance someday. So, he made himself highly influential within certain communities and networks. His influence was measured in many ways yesterday by the success of his book launch. The reach of his influence will continue to grow as he touches more and more people, but the power of his influence depends on other things entirely.
Robert Cialdini names six “weapons of influence” in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. They are building blocks that provide the base for a successful personal brand or marketing campaign. Ramit has done an excellent job at employing these weapons, and I have no doubt he’ll continue to do so. He’s a case study.
Now, let’s take a look at how Ramit really launched his book to the #1 spot…
Ramit’s been establishing his influence over a community of young entrepreneurs and personal finance buffs for years now through his blog. His tone is super conversational and he’s always generous with his time. In fact, a couple years ago when I was first interested in starting a blog, I wrote Ramit asking for his advice. We spent no less than three hours on the phone as he walked me through all of the elements of successful blogging (I still have the notes!). When it came time for him to call in a favor, I – along with the rest of his network – responded with the same enthusiasm he gives to us everyday.
Commitment & Consistency
Wow, is Ramit committed. He committed to his blog five years ago, and still posts regularly. He emails his subscribers, responds promptly to emails, and – most importantly – he stays topical. Never has he violated the trust of his community by soliciting through his blog or by advertising for his company, PBWiki. When he does post about an opportunity for his readers, it’s with an authentic and disclosing tone. Hell, he even asked his readers if it would be OK by them if he placed some relevant ads on his blog’s sidebar.
A certain degree of social proof is inherent in a book release. The fact that a publisher is willing to publish your book gives people a comforting sense of pre-selection (“well, he must be legit – they’re publishing his book”). But even more important to building social proof – especially in communities where bookwriting is relatively commonplace – is the ability to get endorsements from people that others respect and look up to. In many cases, these people are your friends. This is why word-of-mouth marketing works so well. Twitter was Ramit’s friend yesterday.
Ramit has spent the last five years establishing himself as the authority on personal finance advice for young people. I could write for days on how he made his blog successful, but in short he demonstrated his authority to his readers by consistently posting relevant and useful content. But outside the blogosphere his status as a personal finance authority was absent. So, he worked the phones (hard!) to get mentioned in The Wall Street Journal. That was his first big press. The press hits that followed I’m sure were tough to score, but definitely easier than the first one. Why? Because he now had more social proof as an authority on the subject.
If you don’t already like Ramit from his blog (he has a very likable and distinctive voice), then you were certain to like him in his live video feed the day of the book launch. He knows he’s a charismatic character, so why not show off that charming personality and dapper sense of style all day long? At one point, he had upwards of 1,000 watching him answer questions, give away prizes and call his publisher to “send more books to Amazon!” He was completely authentic and genuine, and it was easy for him to be that way. He made it clear that he wanted to share his moment of success with us. We all like people more when they make us feel special.
And finally, the promotion. Ramit couldn’t create scarcity for his book, so he created scarcity for the next best thing: time. The promotion he ran the day of this book launch was brilliant, but to be honest it was a very small part of his success. It was a catalyst used to awake the sleeping army he had already amassed at his back. The scarcity of time artificially increased the power of his influence during the 8-hour promotion, but it worked. It permanently increased the reach of his influence (Twitter followers!), and it also gave everyone in his network a great value proposition to spread the word. So instead of me asking my friend to spend her hard-earned money on a stranger, I can say, “Hey! You can win $1,000 or a Kindle just by buying this book!” He armed his army.
We learned a lot from Ramit yesterday. Perhaps the most impressive part to me was the emotional connection he was able to make with his audience. I found it to be reminiscent of the Obama campaign, particularly with his use of personal plural pronouns (we, us, our), making us feel that that #1 spot was just as much our success as it was his. And in many ways it was. We helped a friend succeed, and we know that he would do the same for us. It’s that reciprocity thing.
Congratulations, my man.