The Curve – where your book fits in your business
You know about the Curve, even if you don’t think of it in those terms. You’ve noticed how successful businesses have been developing offerings at a wide variety of price points, and how they’ve been focusing particularly on giving stuff away in order to get people’s attention and engagement. You probably do it yourself – it’s the entire principle behind content marketing, in fact. But have you thought strategically about how and where your book fits in?
First, let’s define the Curve. The phrase comes from Nicholas Lovell, this week’s guest in The Extraordinary Business Book Club and author of The Curve: Freeloaders, Superfans and the Future of Business.
‘The Curve comes in three parts. You have to find an audience. That probably, but doesn’t necessarily, involve free. You have to earn the right to talk to them again. It’s no good having a newsletter that you get people to sign up for if they immediately unsubscribe because your content is boring and rubbish. Then, having done those two things, found them and got the right to talk to them again, you have to let those people who really want to spend money with you, the people who love what you do, the Superfans, spend lots of money on things they really value.’
I use this model with clients regularly now, and I’ve noticed some interesting ways the Curve can break down:
- It stops prematurely. Often, people don’t have any way that superfans can spend serious money with them. Maybe they have a free webinar, a newsletter, an online course, workshops and some one-to-one client work. That’s great. But when their one-to-one clients want more, there’s nowhere to go. How can you create products and services that your superfans will value so much they’re prepared to pay prices that make you blush? You only need to sell one VIP package a year to make that sort of deal worthwhile. And if you sell four or five, you might just have transformed your business at a stroke.
- It has gaps. One client suggested that the call to action from her book should be to contact her to discuss a company-wide bespoke consultancy package. The risk here is that if there’s no offering between the book and your top-rate offering, you’ll lose most of your interested-but-not-committed potential clients. People need time to get to know and trust you. It can take years – literally – for some clients to move their way step by step along the curve, gaining confidence and trust at each step.
- It isn’t smooth. Your job, as Nicholas Lovell puts it, is to move people along the curve. It therefore makes sense to show them that next step and make it as easy and obvious as possible. At every step some people will be satisfied (for now at least) and pause, others will want more. Make it as easy as possible for them to know what the next step is and take it, ideally in a single click. (Otherwise known as the call to action, CTA.)
Your book probably isn’t free, so it’s a little way along the Curve, but you can create a free taster. The obvious answer is to put up a sample chapter, but that’s a pretty unsatisfying experience for a reader, as you’ll know if you’ve ever tried it yourself. As Lovell puts it: ‘the free thing should be a whole experience or a whole useful thing that is free.’ His solution was to create a free short ebook, 10 Ways to Make Money in a Free World, which summarises the principles of The Curve and gives ten practical ideas for implementing it. (The additional benefit is that this neatly exploits Amazon’s algorithms – everyone who looks at this book sees The Curve itself top of the list of books that ‘Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought’.)
But what about the other direction? Once someone’s bought the book, which is only a short way along the Curve, after all, since most books have relatively low price points, what then? If you map your target reader against your target customer, what’s the next logical step for them on YOUR business’s Curve? And then your job is to make that step as simple and obvious as possible for them. Your potential superfans will finish your book and say to themselves, ‘That was great! Now what?’ Your job is to give them a clear answer.
For more on how free works, see these Birds blogs: