Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A conversation with Shel Horowitz

Trained as a journalist, Shel first became aware of the power of the news media when a local paper refused to print meeting notices he wrote for a controversial group--but gave extensive news coverage to its refusal. Now, for over twenty years, he's helped businesses, nonprofits, and community groups get their message out to the public with little or no expenditure.
Shel offers not only copywriting and strategic marketing planning, but also speaks on affordable, effective marketing to national audiences. His third marketing book, Grassroots Marketing: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World , was a finalist for ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year Award.
In June 2003, convinced that there was a better way to run a business than the methods used by Enron, WorldCom, and Arthur Anderson, Shel released his fourth marketing book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First . This new book states that honesty and integrity are important, while market share often isn't...that long-term relationships are better than a one-time sale...and that competitors can be among your best allies.
Dee: Why did you think that your book
Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First was needed in the marketplace?

Shel: When I got the idea for the book, it seemed that every week there was another major business scandal. I've long been known as an expert in frugal marketing, and it hit me one day that the frugal techniques I'd been advocating for years--based on providing quality, building relationships, and dealing with others straightforwardly--were also the most ethical. So I started looking at the question of whether it was possible to succeed in today's world as an ethical business. Then, when I began my research, I was not surprised to see that often, the most ethical businesses are actually the most successful. I thought that this message would be a welcome antidote to the greed-is-great message that was all over the airwaves--and it really resonates with people!

Dee: You talk about "Abundance Versus Scarcity," can you give a few examples how an author could put that concept into action when marketing their own book?

Shel: The best example comes from John Kremer, author of 1001 Ways to Market Your Books: For Authors and Publishers . While I was writing the book, he and I were co-panelists at a publishing conference and he talked about his concept of "biological marketing"--that if you think abundantly, you can be like the farmer who gets 900 corn kernels back for planting a single kernel. I took down most of John's speech on my PDA--and since we both believe in the abundance principle, he freely gave me permission to use the material. I gave him full credit of course. John, of course, reaps many benefits from all the struggling authors he helps--as do Dan Poynter and many of the other publishing gurus. And as do I, particularly through my participation on the various publishing discussion lists.

In my forthcoming book, Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers, I discuss a number of examples of "abundance thinking" by authors or publishers. For instance, there's the client of mine who came to me with a really great novel that had been published by a small outfit that did one of the worst production jobs I'd ever seen. I told him to become his own publisher and do the book the right way. It was a leap of faith on his part, but he hired a book shepherd (a service that I wasn't yet offering, although I do now), spent a fair bit of money, and came out with a beautiful book that he could sell with pride. Another example I love is the guy who took some of his copies and cut them in half as part of a marketing promotion. He also had to think from an abundance perspective, because here he was destroying his inventory. And a very successful promotion it was!

Dee: In -- Chapter 9: How the Abundance Paradigm Eliminates the Need to Dominate a Market and Allows You to Better Serve Your Customers The Death of "Market Share" -- you emphasize serving your customer. Most venture capitalists when investing in a company want to see market share, a huge chunk of projected market share. What would you tell an entrepreneur looking for investors?

Shel: Don't necessarily think you have to take your company public; you give up a lot of control to the bean counters, and often, you'd be better off without them. There are dozens of other ways to acquire capital. As one example, I did a bulk sale of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First , before publication, that paid all the expenses of producing the book.

Dee: How do you define "ethical business practices in 100 words or less?"

Shel: A commitment to honesty, integrity and quality. A desire to serve. A vision that includes the "triple bottom line" of financial, social, *and* environmental concerns. An understanding that there's more to life than making money, but also that service to others will actually make you more revenue.

Dee: You have what looks like nearly 100 endorsements for Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First " listed on your website http://www.principledprofit.com/new-blurbs.html , which one is your favorite and why?

Shel: It may look like 100, but ethically, I have to tell you that the current number is 78 (and constantly growing). It's a very diverse group, including a former US Secretary of Labor, numerous authors and entrepreneurs, the former editor of Writer's Digest, other copywriters, marketing gurus, commentators on the Left and the Right... The one that attracts the most attention is Jack Canfield of Chicken Soup, and I'm very grateful to have that--but I think the one that's most meaningful to me might be Dr. Ken Evoy of SiteSell.com/Site Build It, in part because he rarely endorses, and in part because he actually uses his endorsement to credit me (through my 1993 book, Marketing Without Megabucks: How to Sell Anything on a Shoestring with helping him achieve his own considerable success. Oh, and I should mention that hundreds of people around the world have agreed to the principles I outline in the book by signing the business Ethics Pledge ">http://www.business-ethics-pledge.org.

Dee: If you had to grade (from A is the best to F failure) the major publishing houses, as a whole, on their ethics what would you give them and why?

Probably no better than a C right now. There have been major issues of cowardice, such as the recall and destruction (or apparent destruction) of James Hatfield's Fortunate Son (a critical biography of George W. Bush), which was left for tiny soft Skull Press to pick up--and the suppression of one of Michael Moore's books, Stupid White Men. Whether you love, hate, or are indifferent to Moore, as an author, you should be appalled by the way his publisher treated him. The book was saved only due to an outpouring of support from librarians. You can read about this at http://www.frugalmarketing.com/dtb/freeexpression. shtml.

There have been major issues of plagiarism, and of fiction passed off as true memoir. And of course, there's the growing tendency of the big publishers to publish "safe" books that don't challenge our thinking or our knowledge base; almost all the cutting edge nonfiction these days is either written by those already famous or published by small-to-medium-sized presses, including self-publishers. It used to be that the big houses supported the thought-leader books with a portion of the profits from the blockbusters, and it's a shame that those days seem to be largely over.

Shel Horowitz can be reached at 413-586-2388/800-683-WORD shel@frugalfun.com
-->Join the Business Ethics Pledge - Ten Years to Change the World,
One Signature at a Time (please tell your friends)
Marketing consulting * copywriting * publishing assistance * speaking
How to market ethically/effectively: http://www.frugalmarketing.com
Ethics Blog: http://www.principledprofit.com/good-business-blog /
My thanks to Shel for taking time from a very busy schedule to talk with me.

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