What can the entrance to Target teach you about marketing?
I was at a Target department store last night when I saw two women try to enter through the “Out” door. They stood in front of the automatic sliding doors, seemingly a bit perplexed as to why they wouldn’t open. The magic occurred as I triggered the door mechanism when I approached the exit. For a moment, I thought, “Duh – it says ‘OUT’ right there!” But I quickly recalled that I’ve done exactly the same thing on more than one occasion, because for some inexplicable reason, Target’s doors are backwards! The entrance is on the left, and the exit is on the right.
In America, the cultural norm is that we walk on the right – which extends to entering on the right, meaning that when there are distinct entrances and exits, the entrance is on the right as you face the building, and the exit is on the left. Why is this a big deal? Ask anyone who works in a kitchen the dangers of entering through the wrong door. As a culture, we’re just conditioned to this, so we expect it always to work this way. When it doesn’t – as at Target – we can be thrown off balance.
Now I’ll admit I didn’t spend a lot of time researching it, but I did try, and was unable to find any mention in Target’s literature or any articles/sites about the retail chain as to why they’ve chosen to make their doors completely counter to America’s cultural norm. The thing is, it’s noticeably different. And that, in and of itself, is worth mentioning, because there’s a lesson in it for your book marketing strategy.
There’s no doubt that every author wants to make a splash and stand out from the crowd. We’ve talked about this before. The absolutely best way to do this is by making a stellar product – in your case, write a great book. But there’s more to the book than just the writing. There’s also the cover design to consider. Your website. Your overall brand. Of those last three, where should you work to differentiate yourself? Not necessarily in the cover, and only with care and caution in the website. Here’s what I mean.
Say you go to the bookstore or peruse Amazon for other books on your topic. You find out that almost all of the current books have white covers, so you decide to stand out by making your cover red. Will it work to get you noticed? Perhaps – but maybe not in the way you want it to. Your red book cover may catch people’s eye … but then, either consciously or unconsciously, they could very likely find themselves wondering, “Why is that one so different?” and pass it up completely to compare two or three of the more typical white-covered books. This is not a given, but it’s something to consider. When all the books have a similar look and feel to them, if you do something that is radically different but is not exceptional, that difference could work against you.
Likewise for your website. Over the years, we’ve come to expect website menus to run along the left-hand side or across the top. Market research also shows that the capture box for building your e-mail list works best when positioned in the upper right-hand corner of your website. Say you want your site to have a different look from the rest; moving these key features is not the place to make those changes. When a user is accustomed to doing things one way and you overtly shift that, the end result is often disorientation – and in the case of a Web visitor, that quickly translates to a click to the next site.
The same is true for your media releases. Yes, we’ve discussed the fact that reporters and prominent bloggers receive dozens – perhaps hundreds – of media releases in a week. Of course you want yours to stand out. But the fact is that there’s an accepted template for media releases, and if you go off the path and vary yours too widely from what people expect, the result could be that your release gets tossed, rather than generating interest, and perhaps a story.
Think about it. You’re a busy reporter and you know a news release typically has a headline, a dateline, a first sentence hook that captures the essence of the pitch, and a quote about the proposed story. But in your release, you start with your bio because you feel that’s the real selling point. Oops. Busy reporter has just tossed your release because things weren’t in the expected order, and they didn’t have time to go hunting through your release to find the pertinent information.
Are you seeing a trend here? Different alone isn’t going to cut it. If you want to make it different, it has to also be exceptional! It can’t simply be different and annoying, like the doors at Target.
How can you make your book cover exceptional? Really amazing art might do it. A different size or shape might do it. French flaps or a pop-up jacket might do it. But then again, you might just be spending a lot of money on gimmicks that don’t pay off.
With the help of the right Web designer – someone who understands the art of attraction, the science of technology, and the business of search marketing – there are myriad ways to make your website stand out.
As far as making your news release stand out, you’d be better off trying to phone the reporter to pitch the story before you send it than to try to get creative with the release itself.
I absolutely encourage you to push the limits of creativity in your marketing strategy, but to do so in the places that pay off. I’m as big a rebel as you’ll find in many arenas, but sometimes it turns out that the path that’s been paved is there for a reason.
We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.