We all have defining moments in our lives. For me, one of the most important (and one I have never mentioned in these columns) was the day in September 1985 when Seth Baker walked into the offices of the Newport Ensign newspaper in Newport Beach, California as the new owner of the publication.
I had never heard of him nor did I know anything about his publications or background. All I saw was a very well-dressed, handsome man, tall and commanding. He had an air of confidence that said, “I can fix whatever ails this newspaper.”
At the time I was controller of a small newspaper group which, in addition to the Ensign, owned several newspapers around Culver City, California. I had to make a decision, stay with Culver City papers or go with Seth Baker and the Ensign.
For two months I worked for both companies. It was a strange experience, filled with uncertainty, like being a split personality. Then in November 1985, Seth’s financial guy left and he offered me the job. I accepted and went from controller of a small private company in financial difficulty (which is why they sold the Ensign in the first place) to Chief Financial Officer of a $3 million public corporation. I worked for Seth for 20 years before moving on to run my own company.
A couple of days ago I learned that Seth had passed away July 20 at the age of 84 in Pompano Beach, Florida, where he had retired last winter. That was a sad moment because he had a profound influence on my life and in his last few years continued to be a good friend. I fondly remember relaxed lunches at Via Alloro on Canon Drive in Beverly Hills.
So who was Seth Baker that he had such an influence on me? When I met him he was the publisher of Beverly Hills  and Newport Beach  magazines. Prior to that he had been a stockbroker, was for a short time married to Joan Benny, daughter of comedian Jack Benny, had owned Los Angeles Magazine for five years and had run Broadcast Network ABC’s magazine division for four years. He was also the divorced father of two children, Scott and Ariane, who were in grade school when I first met them and who eventually both worked for their father, Ariane as an advertising representative and Scott as a magazine publisher, before going on to successful careers of their own.
When I first came to work for him the company had money in the bank and within a few years acquired the Manhattan Beach Reporter, Palos Verdes Peninsula News, and the Agoura Hills Acorn. Over the years there were great times and hard times but through it all, Seth kept up the image of the successful Beverly Hills publisher, putting stars on the cover of his magazines every week, working tirelessly at the office and at innumerable social events and client lunches to keep the ad pages sold, and cultivated powerful relationships.
I especially remember the celebrity-studded annual birthday parties for Beverly Hills , usually held at a fancy restaurant or hotel ballroom, attended by almost everyone who was anyone in Beverly Hills.
The magazines, at his direction, were splashy and bold, filed with color photos of the latest parties and personalities, an in-depth interview with a celebrity, gossip columns, Hollywood history from Jim Bacon, English royal scuttlebutt from Richard Gully, movie reviews from Rex Reed, and a few lonely classified ads in the back. Advertisers included Saks Fifth Avenue, Chanel, Neiman Marcus, high-end jewelry, almost every Rodeo Drive store, and many local businesses. The format was so powerful that although competitors came and went none stayed around for long.
Seth could be difficult to work for at times but at the same time he was very loyal to the people who worked for him. He was known to fire people and rehire them immediately. Most people ended up staying a long time. Chris Barr took the cover photos for two decades or more, Dustin Baily headed up production for years. Some of the sales staff worked there for many years.
And I was in the middle of it all as Seth’s number two. I ran all of the financial affairs, consulted on editorial from time to time (as a former editor) and helped hire people. I attended the parties, lunched at Spago and places like it and got a taste of the good life and people who lived it.
In later years, Seth’s health declined and he was able to do less and less to promote the magazines. Eventually only Beverly Hills  was left and that petered out the middle of last year. (I hear a new owner will revive it later this year.)
I knew Seth for 27 years and worked every day with him for 20 years. I saw from the inside how a successful business is run and how a successful business can change overnight into a disaster. Through it all, Seth gave me a free hand with the finances and gave me a part in most of the major decisions. It was exhilarating, scary, fun, and educational all at the same time.
At its most basic, writing skills are the key to marketing success. If we can’t express our message in a coherent and understandable way, our audiences will not respond.
I use the terms “marketing” and “writing” in the broadest possible senses. Marketing is the process of getting your your message about your ideas, products and services out to the consuming public, whether they pay for them or not. Writing is the process of putting words together in an understandable and clear manner, whether those words are distributed in a blog, book, speech, video, or by telephone.
Success in creating a public market for whatever you have to sell depends primarily on how close an emotional connection you establish with your audience. This emotional connection is established by talking not about the idea or product but about the needs of the audience member and how the product meets those needs.
The single best way to create that close connection is by using stories. The story creates a direct emotional channel into the heart of your listener or reader, allowing your message to enter without walls of any kind and creating instant rapport and connection.
This means that the way you write and the way you talk on videos is critical. It isn’t a matter of laying out a few facts, which just bore your reader. It amounts to attracting your reader or listener with the way you show up in your marketing materials.
In this blog, I will talk about how you can create that connection with your writing and how it can just as easily be broken.
If you want to sell your book, you have to do several key things before you write the first word. These have little to do with the quality of your writing and everything to do with the purpose of your writing.
The very first one is to ask yourself who you are writing to. This is your audience, your target market, or whatever else you choose to call it. Who represents this market, what do they want, what to they need, what do they fear? Be very certain who you are writing to before you write the first word.
Second, ask yourself what they know. If you write too advanced a book for your audience, they will not read it. If it is too general or too simple, again your audience will not read it.
Third, ask yourself what you want them to know after they have read your book. This does two things. It gives you an end point but it also tells you what you have to build up to as you write. The chapters you create will be the steps from what your audience knows to what you want them to know. You can’t decide what to put in the chapters unless you know this.
Now that you know who you are writing to, your writing has purpose. When it comes time to market your book, you will know which organizations to speak to, how to position your marketing materials, what radio shows to get on, and where you will find your email list and social media followers.
By deciding these three items, you have already started to market your book. Good luck!
One of my favorite stories from the Santa Barbara Writers Conference back in the 1990s comes from one of the presenters. I’d tell you who he was but that was so long ago I can’t remember his name.
Anyway, he taught a workshop seminar on how to begin your story. He would have the writer read his or her story in front of the whole group. The kicker is that he opened the session with this comment: “I’ll let you read until something happens or until I decide that nothing will ever happen.”
I loved this comment because it went right to the heart of the problem most writers have today. They get so caught up in describing the character or setting the scene in minute detail that they never get around to starting the story.
Readers will put up with this only so long then they get bored and move on to another book or story. The best way to start a story is at the latest possible point and with the key action that changes everything for the main character. Then work in the description and back story as needed. It’s interesting that often much of that back story and description is never needed.
By the way, that instructor stopped everyone when he decided nothing was going to happen and he didn’t wait much more than a page or two to make that decision.
With today’s short attention span it is even more important today to begin with action that catches the attention of the reader and makes them want more.
How many of you live lives where it seems like one thing after another goes wrong, when you can’t seem to catch a break? In this economy I’ll bet there are a lot of you. Money is tight, jobs are scarce, clients are hard to come by, dollars go out faster than they come in, that great client just quit, you didn’t get as much money for that last job as you wanted, and on and on and on.
Most people are programmed to remember the past that way. We are usually complainers, whining about all the problems we have. If this is you, stand up and admit it. Then stop it.
I too have had many things go wrong in my life. I could name a few of them: companies I worked for going broke, companies getting sold out, failing job interviews, a divorce, losing money, and there must be a bunch of others. You see, when I sat down to write this post, I had to think hard about what they were and when they happened. The reason is that I remember the things that went right in my life, even if they seemed to go wrong.
Here are a few examples:
When I went to college I got accepted to Pomona College, an expensive private school, but could not afford to attend. Bad news. Then I got into the University of California, Riverside and got a full ride Regents Scholarship, one of only 36 that year. Good news. Which do I remember? The good news.
I searched a lot for my first job and got turned down in a lot of places, including selling insurance. Maybe not such bad news. Then I applied to the Fullerton News Tribune and got hired to report on night meetings. Good News.
I had a part time job with Newberry’s Department Store and got fired because I didn’t want to be on the management track. Bad news. A month later the Fullerton Tribune offered me a full-time job as a newspaper reporter, my passion. Good news. Getting fired from Newberry’s? No big deal.
Because of problems at the newspaper in Placentia years later, I quit with no new job to go to and no idea what I would do next. Really bad news! A week later I got a phone call offering me the job of editor at the Newport Ensign in Newport Beach, a peachy job. Good news. VERY good news! Quitting that job? The best thing I ever did.
I could go on and on with seemingly bad things that had great endings. It’s the great endings I remember and talk about because they are what count. The bad parts? Well, they happen to us all. I just choose to not dwell on them.
Next time you are tempted to cry about all the bad things that have happened in your life, clamp your mouth shut and try to remember the good part. It will be hard at first but eventually you will find something. Hang on to that good part, make it part of your life and eventually that bad thing will fade into hidden memory and your whole life will change from that person with a disaster of a life to that person with a charmed life.
193 isn’t a particularly meaningful number. It’s one more than 192 and one less than 194 but it’s just a plain ordinary number. So what does it mean to write 193 stories in a row, every day?
We know a lot of people who can do a task for one or two days in a row, maybe even three or four, and think they’ve done pretty well. Get to ten and that’s really an accomplishment. Those people are fooling themselves. Doing a task ten times in a row isn’t much and it isn’t hard to do. I don’t care what that task is.
The plain truth is if you can’t do your basic tasks every day, day in and day out, you are setting yourself up for failure. Successful salespeople make a certain number of calls every day. If they don’t, they aren’t salespeople, they are order takers and they fail when the orders don’t come in.
For a writer, writing is a basic task. Writers write. Every day. Or they aren’t writers.
Yes, I write a story every day. However, I’m also writing and editing two other books, not to mention several ongoing clients. My Profitable Social Media book is scheduled to be completed this summer. I work on it every day. Adapt or Perish is scheduled for completion this spring. I work on it every day. Success for a writer means writing every day.
Success for a business means doing the basic tasks of your business every day. If you get around to them once in a while, you aren’t in business. Just like writing, there are certain things you must accomplish every day. You know what these are.
This is why 193 stories in a row, one every day, means something. If you can build the habit of doing what you need to do every day, in a row, day after day, you will find massive success in your business.
Writers, if you write every day, not just one story, but a story, a chapter, an article, every day, you too will succeed. You will find yourself growing as a writer exponentially, you will find that your ideas come more readily, writing seems easier, and every so often one of those pieces you write will get published.
This is the secret to success. Tools are important but commitment is critical. Without it all the tools in the world won’t make you a dime.
My wife and I spent New Year’s Day at the San Diego Zoo today and, although the weather was horribly cold, had a wonderful time.
We learned a couple of good lessons from the animal kingdom that we can all apply in the upcoming year. These are all from odd critters that you would never expect to have ideas any of us could use.
First there was the tortoise from the Galapagos Islands. These creatures are huge, weighing in at 400 to 600 pounds and when they look at you that face is UGLY. But, this fellow was over 150 years old and had lived at the zoo for somewhere approaching 80 years. The keeper said that these animals were smart for reptiles, lived in herds, and learned lessons well. They had lived at the zoo so long that everything they did was by habit. If anything new happened, they wouldn’t have a clue as to what to do.
The lesson is that it may be okay to be comfortable and it may help you live longer but the life you lead will be incredibly boring. Success in life is all about taking risks in order to grow and prosper. If you find yourself caged and bored, living the same basic pattern every day, take a few risks and start living an interesting life.
Second, there was a beehive and we were lucky enough to see the queen bee in the hive. A little background: the hive depends on the queen bee. If she were to die or be harmed in any way, the hive would break up. The queen looked ordinary except that she had a few different markings from the other bees. The extraordinary thing was that she was surrounded by eight or ten bees that protected her from everyone else. It was the only bit of organized activity among thousands of bees working in the hive.
The lesson? This hive and other beehives depend on just one individual for its existence. If you have just one or a few clients, or have one critical employee who your business depends on, you are setting yourself up for disaster. Diversify, get more clients, have more than one person who knows your business intimately.
Third, we saw a show that featured a couple of well-trained seals who did all kinds of tricks for the trainers. The seal was obviously having a great time but it also had a major incentive to perform. Every time it did the trick correctly, the trainer gave it a treat, a reward. Without the reward would the seal have performed? No.
The lesson: Reward your best customers with great products and services and they will keep coming back for more. The better you treat those around you, the better they will work for you.
Fourth, we went to see the polar bear exhibit just after dark to see the bears frolic in the water. It’s a fun exhibit and the bears are wonderful hams, bouncing balls around, jumping into the water and making a great splash. We looked forward to seeing them. When we arrived, we searched a while and finally found one bear in a corner, sleeping. All he did was move one paw a few inches. Needless to say, we were disappointed.
The lesson? Make good on your promises. Real people are making real efforts when they use your program. Make sure that your program delivers what you say it will. There is so much hype out there today that it’s hard to believe it all any more. Those who do what they say they will do and more are the ones who will win.
Fifth and last, we ended the visit with dinner at Albert’s Restaurant at the zoo. It’s a fancy eatery with high prices and quality to match. Now the zoo has a lot of people who come for one visit and they want you to come back. On the table we found a small note in one of those plastic displays that made an almost irresistible offer: Pay an additional $49 before you left that day and you could get a year-long membership in the zoo, unlimited visits to this and a companion zoo, and free tickets for friends.
Lesson? Always upsell. The real value of that one time customer to the zoo wasn’t that they attended that day. It is that they will come back and spend more money over the next year and that as a member they will receive the magazine, learn more about the animals and maybe donate money to the conservation programs. I’m not selling zoo memberships but consider how smart it is to urge your existing customers to buy more from you. The true lifetime value of a customer is not that they bought once from you but that they will buy many times from you.
I’m sure there are a lot more lessons I could come up with but this will do for today. Just remember that everything we do as business owners, sellers, and providers of goods and services is aimed at building better customer relationships and more future sales.
These few tips from a few animals at a wonderful zoo can give your business a powerful sendoff for 2011.
It’s New Year’s Eve and rather than write a completely fictional story or something from the past, I thought I’d reflect on the new year and what it might mean to all of us.
First, on a personal level, here in Southern California, we are not going anywhere. Today was cold but beautiful with snow-covered mountains as a backdrop. Tomorrow morning, as I predicted a few days ago, will dawn clear and cold for the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl football game, which by the way I attended in person last year with good friend and writing partner Ed Philipp. (Not this year though.)
It’s not that we aren’t social. We are. In fact we are hosting what is becoming a traditional New Year’s Eve party at our home for a few close friends. No booze, just lots of fun. As I write, my wife Sheri Long is getting ready for it and I will join her in a few minutes.
One milestone tonight: I finished editing the Adapt or Perish book. We will have review copies out the first of next year. It’s exciting. We expect it will help a lot of people cope with the new economy.
What’s coming up next year? First of all, the Go For the Gold seminar with my business partner in the seminar business, Arvee Robinson. Then who knows what else. Some launches, lots of list building, and maybe speaking at and showing up at a few events.
Looks like the economy’s improving so the horrors of the last few years are almost behind us. I look for an incredible year next year.
If you see a great year coming up, leave a comment on this blog.
Tomorrow (or today, depending on when you are reading this), is Christmas Eve. It’s a time when families all over the world gather to observe the birthday of Jesus over 2000 years ago. It’s also around the time when many other religious traditions observe their winter holidays.
No matter which tradition you observe, this is a time to take stock of the past year and to look at what you anticipate for the New Year. Will you business grow, your personal life glow, your headlong rush slow, or your customers crow?
How many people have you helped accomplish one of their life’s dreams? How many will you help next year? How many people helped you accomplish your life’s dreams? How many will help you next year? How many have you given thanks to?
When we open our hearts and give our best to others, we will find that the best everyone else has will flow to us.
Many of you had a difficult time over the last year. Many had wonderful business success. Whatever your situation, whatever the future holds for you, just know that all is right in your universe and that every reverse is a lesson that will lead to future success, every success is a giant step to the results of your dreams, and every gift you receive and every gift you give is a sign of thanks for all that you have.
Take the success you have and build on it. Act is if your dream were already here. Take the actions the person you want to be would take. Take them with deliberation, planning, lack of fear, and with a focus on the person you are working with. If your clients are successful, so will you be successful.
That is my Christmas wish for you. Give to those who nurture you. Thank those who give you business. Honor those who thank you. Above all, honor your commitment to your source of inspiration, motivation, and love, whatever or whoever that source may be.
May you have a wonderful Merry Christmas and the Happiest of New Years!
In this video Lee Pound shows you how to become an influential writer and marketer by learning the writing skills that great writers, marketers, religious leaders and politicians use to influence people and that successful businesses us to attract customers and clients.
Check back here tomorrow for information on how you can learn these influential writing skills.