BY TJ Walker
There is nothing wrong with making it big in a traditional medium in the traditional manner, i.e. Martha Stewart establishing herself with a bestselling book. But you may greatly enhance your chances of reaching a breakthrough if you are the first or one of the first to dominate a new medium, such as Gary Varnurchuck becoming an Internet video star with his TV Wine Library.
These days, there are a gazillion ways to produce and promote your own media outlet, with little or none of the taint associated with, say, vanity publishing in the 80s, 70s and earlier.
Here are just a few of your many options:
- A live online TV network
- A documentary
- A DVD training video
- A premium pay website
- A web portal that covers your whole niche
The possibilities are endless. Here is my one big piece of advice: don’t bet the farm on any one new product or distribution mode. Unless you are primarily a technologist, don’t gamble all of your savings and retirement on one big thing. When I was younger I would devote a couple of years of my life to a syndicated TV show and then a couple more years on a nationally syndicated radio show—things that would have turned into a jackpot of they had been successful. But they weren’t, and I was left in financial ruin each time with nothing to show for my years of work, lost investments and lost income.
Don’t make the same mistake.
Of course, these days, if you really want a national radio show, you don’t have to be on a big network. You can simply do an Internet radio show through a variety of free services. This way, you contain your hard dollar investments and your only investment is your time. Of course, time is money, but if you limit any new or speculative venture to no more than 10% of your time you have minimized your potential losses.
As an idea person, there can sometimes be a tendency to fall in love with the next new thing that we are absolutely certain will help us reach the masses. Caution! If you are like me, you can find yourself suddenly working 20 hours a day on a new project that will make us the next Craigslist, Facebook or Huffington Post. Be very careful, because this can also be a way to dig yourself into a ditch where you can’t ever get out, or at least not out without spending a decade in poverty or crimped personal conditions.
So please don’t risk money on new products or communication networks unless you can afford it. And by that I mean that if the new product or service fails, it will have no impact on you meeting your living needs and your on-going business needs.
For example, when I self-published my first public speaking book, Presentation Training A-Z, I allocated $10,000 in hard cash and staff salary time to cover the production and printing costs. Here were the potential scenarios I was looking at:
- If it became a run-away best seller and is then bought for millions more by a huge publisher, then I make a fortune and it all turned out nicely.
- It sold moderately well and I made a modest recoup on my investment.
- It didn’t get bookstore distribution, didn’t get major reviews, and didn’t sell more than 5000 in the first year on Amazon, my website or anyplace else.
- Same as # 3, but the book also did the following:
- Became my business card when I meet people who need presentation training.
- Became a part of my sales proposal when someone inquires about my presentation training workshops. Every prospect was sent a copy.
- Became a part of the pre-training required reading for paid clients in workshops.
- Became an active workbook for clients during training.
- Became a post-training reference manual for trainees.
- Became a hook for getting me used as a public speaking expert for TV, radio and print interviews.
- Became a part of my bio and credentials used to increase my speaking and training fees.
- Became a part of my overall brand that resulted in 6-figure yearly revenue increase.
As you can probably guess my book “failed” in the sense that it didn’t do either one of the top two options. But it did every part of option 4 above. So yes, I consider that book a success, not to mention that it became a part of my track record used to get major publishers interested in my books after that.
The key to minimizing risk with new productions and communication vehicles is to make sure you stay within your niche. When everything you do is in your niche, then a product t5hat is not a huge success in its own right can then be used for prospecting, positioning, PR and other parts of your value chain for customers and prospects. All of the benefits I listed above would not have accrued to me if I had just suddenly self-published a book on hang-gliding. Why not? Because I have no other products, services, or business activities related to hang gliding. The book lives and dies on sales alone and chances are I would have sold about 2 copies on a book on that subject, so it would have been an abysmal failure.
As mentioned earlier in this book, so much of your success is going to be based on your selection of a good, tight niche. If you do that and stick with it, your adventures with new products, shows, and media will likely be either moderately successful or very successful. However, if you stray from your niche, you are then playing the lottery with your time and money. You are hoping for lightening to strike or otherwise you have wasted large amounts of time and money—and that’s no way to build a long-term guru business.