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The Simple Idea That Saved A Bookshop

I love books. I even have a board on pinterest of home library photos – is that weird? In recent times I have started, like most, ordering my books online. I get very excited about receiving the books in the mail, to me that is probably the main reason I order online.

However, the other day I ventured into a small book store with my girlfriend as she was after a new read. After looking around for a bit and reading lots of blurbs and judging books by their covers we were attracted to a point of sale display near the entrance. The sign on the stand said BLIND DATE WITH A BOOK. All the books were wrapped in kraft paper so you could not see the title or the blurb. Each book had been recommended personally by the staff at the store, and each book had three words written on the wrapping paper that described the book.

This was genius. We were intrigued, and Sarah chose a book with “Romantic, Funny & Heartwarming” as the descriptors. We felt like we had received a personal gift from a staff member, all wrapped up. We felt like risk takers, taking a punt and couldn’t wait to get home and rip open the package to find out what was inside.

The assistant at the counter assured us that if we had the book title already or didn’t like the book we could return it for a refund or exchange. I had to ask the assistant if the Blind Date books had been popular – she proceeded to let me know that the simple idea had pretty much saved the book store and it contributed to the majority of the sales.

Here are 5 effective brand strategies all businesses can learn from this idea:

1. Position yourself as the expert
Establishing your brand or business as the ‘go-to’ for advice and knowledge is crucial. In the eyes of your audience, you become valuable and worthy of a relationship. If you sell a product, think about how you can also sell your knowledge. If you sell your expertise, think about how you could make a product to add credibility. You can see online stores try to replicate this expert positioning with ‘You Might Also Like” sections – but nothing can beat the real human interaction.

2. Surprise and delight your audience
To have a special and loyal relationship with your audience you must provide special experiences. This is often referred to as surprise and delight. The way to achieve this is simple, give a bit more than expected, go the extra mile and always personalise experiences. A classic study shows that tips at restaurants are proportionate to the amount of lolly gifts given with the cheque. The Blind Date With A Book is a perfect example of doing something out of the ordinary for your audience.

3. Be remarkable
Anyone who has read Seth Godin’s book The Purple Cow will know the importance of being remarkable. The definition of ‘remarkable” is ‘worthy of attention’. To be remarkable you must provide something that is out of the ordinary. Being remarkable is the most sure-fire way to ensure that people will talk about your offering, and as this Nielsen report found “Ninety-two percent of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as word-of-mouth or recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising”. We told a lot of people about our blind date with a book experience. The key to being remarkable is not trying to please everyone, if everyone likes your offering then not many will love it, if some HATE it then some will LOVE it and that is the sign of something remarkable.

4. Lead with the emotional benefits not the features
Thanks to Apple this has become the oldest trick in the book (no pun intended). You only need to look at the differences in the success of the Apple and Microsoft brands. Apple always lead their messaging with how their products will benefit you in an emotional and aspirational sense. Microsoft have traditionally, always lead with the technical features. Apple made an MP3 player much later than most of it’s competitors but instead of leading with “32mb, 4 hrs battery, 350g” they said “1000 songs in your pocket”. The Blind Date With A Book idea forced the book store to lead with the emotional benefits “romantic, funny, heartwarming”, rather than the traditional features of “Author, Size, Title, Blurb, Awards”.

5. Create intrigue
We all love to be intrigued. We respond to stories that make us curios and we have a deep need to close a loop or riddle. Watch this TED talk by JJ Abrams on creating mystery boxes for more insight. You only need to look at which headlines get the most views on blogs to see that the power lies in creating intrigue and curiosity to get an action. When we purchased the Blind Date Book we literally could not wait to get home to find out what was inside, we got as far as the carpark.

How are you incorporating these simple strategies into your business?

– Luke Schoknecht