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The Why of publishing
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EmilyLabramBlog
The IPG
Posted by IPG
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Bibliocloud's Emily Labram looks back on an IPG Autumn Conference session and suggests some ways publishers can use their founding 'Why?' to become more customer-centric
Those of you at the IPG's Autumn Conference will remember the excellent keynote on branding by Saatchi & Saatchi's Richard Huntington. Since then I've been reflecting on Simon Sinek's Golden Circle and how using three simple questions—Why, How and What—can help independent publishers to define the needs of their customers, refine their publishing and sell more books.
For publishers, the questions can be defined like this.
‘Why?’ Your mission and purpose as a publisher, and the customer needs you meet
‘How?’ Your strategy—how you meet those needs better and more efficiently than the competition
‘What?’ The resulting products and services.
When followed in this order, every decision you take about your publishing—from the choice of author to format, price, cover and marketing—will apply your strategy to meet your customers’ needs. Many publishers, especially independent ones, have a really strong founding purpose, but it isn't always clear to customers.
One example of a publisher who leads with their 'Why?' is The Do Book Company. It started firmly from the ‘Why’: a clear mission to inspire busy people to make positive changes in their lives. Its books are defined by specific benefits for people with specific needs, and are designed to produce fast, easy results for their time-poor readers. The company’s guiding principles inform each book, and its clarity of purpose and customer-centric approach have produced success.
Starting with that ‘Why?’, all publishers need to keep asking questions until they can identify equally specific needs. If your current 'Why?' is too fluffy—like 'great content', 'better books' or 'spreading knowledge'—then it will have the demotivating effect of corporate jargon. Keep asking questions to refine it. Who are our customers? What needs do our books meet? And how do our customers change as a result? An example dialogue might go like this.
‘We're all about better books.’
'OK. Better for whom?'
'Children. Reluctant readers, aged 7 to 11.'
'But how do these children change as a result of those books?'
'They develop a love of reading, which helps them catch up with their peers and succeed at school and in life.'
That last line defines the ‘Why’ of the publisher. You will know you have answered the question satisfactorily when you have photographic clarity on your delighted customer, and the image genuinely fires you up. In this example, it might be a child glowing with praise, on receiving a greatly improved school report.
Once the ‘Why?’ is asked and answered, the follow-up questions of 'How?’ and ‘What?’ become much easier. It makes publishers more customer-focused, and allows them to work out how to meet people’s needs better than the competition.
The Golden Circle can be applied to either an entire publishing mission or individual books. The clearer the Circle, the more desirable your products, the more efficient your process and the better your sales. It can help to start a virtuous cycle of profitability and free companies up to reap the benefits of publishing for years to come.
Emily Labram is product manager at publishing management system Bibliocloud, who won the IPG's GBS Services to Independent Publishers Award in 2017. Click here to request a free demo of the system. For a longer version of Emily's blog, click here.

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