Thursday, October 25, 2007

What can we learn from the NFL’s savvy marketing move?

For those who may not be huge football fans, the National Football League is playing its first game ever outside of North America this weekend. The Miami Dolphins will play the New York Giants in London’s historic Wembley Stadium on Sunday. When the idea emerged from the annual NFL owner’s meeting a while back it was ridiculed as a potential embarrassment to the league:

- What if no one shows up to the game?
- They already play “football” in England...we call it soccer
- NFL Europe never quite caught on and after various re-branding efforts the league was disbanded in June. Obviously, Europeans are quite content with their version of football.

Of all the criticism I heard about the decision to start playing games overseas the one that is most perplexing is “why mess with a good thing?” In other words, since the NFL is the leading major sport in the United States (by a long shot) why would they even worry about playing games outside the country?

This move is not about making more money--though it may lead to that down the road--it is about continuing to grow the fan base for the league and not getting complacent with the success they have already had. In other words, if they want to be as popular ten years from now as they are today, they know they must stay one step ahead of other sports that are sure to start pursuing international attention soon. They’re already getting stiff competition in that department from the NBA. Just look at the list of nationalities represented by the San Antonio Spurs.

So, what does pigskin across the pond have to do with building your career as an author?

I get frustrated when I see authors that are good enough to be household names not taking steps to expand their audience with each book they write. Some authors get stuck in a rut, writing books about the same topic over and over again. It is great if you are an expert on a certain topic, but make sure each book you write provides the reader with a fresh perspective. When authors get comfortable with their current platform, they quit striving to build new relationships with readers that may be valuable to them down the road. Even if you consider yourself to be a successful author at this stage of your career, make sure that you stay fresh with each book you publish.

An example I always like to give authors is Dr. Gary Smalley. Smalley is one of the foremost expects on family relationships in the country and has written or co-written numerous best sellers through the years. He is a go-to expert for media outlets looking for a credentialed perspective on relationship issues, having appeared on Oprah, Larry King Live, Extra, The Today Show and hundreds of other high profile programs.

Though he has a track record of success with nonfiction titles, Dr. Smalley paired up with Karen Kingsbury two years ago to release the Redemption series (Tyndale). The series combined Kingsbury’s inspirational fiction with Smalley’s credentialed perspective and sold over 1 million copies in the process. This series allowed Dr. Smalley an opportunity to tap into a new market of readers and was extremely successful.

Dr. Smalley is partnering with Sally John on a new fiction series coming out through Thomas Nelson early next year called the Safe Harbor series. The first book is titled A Time To Mend and I expect this series will build on the market he developed with the Redemption line. If he had never ventured out in a different direction in his career as an author he would not be impacting the number of lives that he is today.

I encourage you to think about the market you have developed as an author. What can you do to build bridges to new book buyers? Have you gotten complacent with your career? If so, is it time to try out a new stadium?

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