Wednesday, October 21, 2009

LEAP! 101 Ways to Grow Your Business on the Synergy Energy Show

Growth Strategy #51: Be Innovative

By Stephanie Chandler

When I first met Allen Fahden, I knew right away that he was someone I wanted to know better. He has creativity coming out of his pores. You can practically see the wheels turning in his head as he concocts ideas. Here's one that just might inspire you too.

Allen Fahden wrote a book, Innovation on Demand, but he didn't have a publisher. So he took it upon himself to print 10,000 copies of his book and was left with no money to market it. In a radical departure, he decided to use his own book's methods for creating innovative ideas to develop his marketing strategy.

Opposites Create Opportunity

One of Fahden's major innovation techniques involves putting an opposite spin on what people expect. To sell his book, he first asked the question, Where are books sold? Answer: Bookstores.

Then he asked, What's obvious about bookstores? Answer: They're getting bigger and have more titles.

Finally, he asked, What's the opposite of a huge bookstore with thousands of titles? Answer: A smaller bookstore with only one title.

The result of this inquiry? Fahden opened a one-book bookstore in downtown Minneapolis. His theory is that once you create your opposite idea, make everything else follow the norm. With this in mind, here's how he set up his store:

1. Big bookstores have many departments, so Fahden's one book bookstore had many departments. The store mesmerized visitors with thousands of copies of only one book, Innovation on Demand, in thirteen different departments: Art, Architecture, Anthropology, Psychology/Self-help, Business, Sports, Religion, Travel, Philosophy, Humor, Technology, Law and Fiction & Literature.

2. Big bookstores have names and slogans, so Fahden called his bookstore READdundant: The bookstore that repeats itself over and over again redundantly, repetitively and tautologically. His slogan proudly declared: "More books? Hey, we like the one we have."

3. Big bookstores have liberal return policies and customer service, so Fahden's had a liberal return policy. "If for any reason you are not completely satisfied with your book, it would be cheerfully exchanged for any other book in the store, your choice."

4. The store's top ten bestsellers list featured Innovation on Demand in all ten positions.

5. The cash register gave change only in rare two-dollar bills (the opposite of most money).

6. If anyone wanted a book signed by the author, they would get an extra two dollars back. "My signature devalues the book," Fahden would explain.

7. When the store had a sale, Fahden would select several copies of the book and raise the prices.

8. When doing readings in the store, Fahden removed the consonants from the book. He claimed with vowels only he could read the entire book aloud in ten minutes.

9. You can't make this up: More than 50% of the books sold from the Psychology/Self Help section.

Two days after opening, City Business featured ReadDundant on the front page ("New Bookstore Opens Anew"). On day Four, three network TV stations featured the store on the evening news. Then came radio interviews, NPR; major market newspaper stories, all on the front of sections; and even network television and the BBC.

Then, People Magazine gave the bookstore a full color page; a rare exposure to 35 million readers for a first-time author with a different way to promote. At the center of the photo, a sign that captured the personality of the one book bookstore: "Shoplifters Welcome." Incidentally, during the store's three year run (until they condemned the building), no books were ever stolen. But just after the People article, somebody stole the sign.

By using his own opposite innovation methods, Allen Fahden gained more than book sales and big publicity. His efforts resulted in speaking and consulting opportunities as well.

I view Fahden's story as a challenge. How can you do the opposite? How can you get outside the box for your industry and shake things up? How can your business end up getting profiled in People Magazine?

Copyright (C) 2009 by Stephanie Chandler

Excerpt from LEAP! 101 Ways to Grow Your Business by Stephanie Chandler
Hear her on the show: Synergy Energy

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