What’s the Big Idea?

As I mentioned previously, I’ve listening to an audiobook version of Jerry Weintraub‘s biography, When I Stop Talking You’ll Know I’m Dead. I’m finding it particularly interesting in light of my recent look at selling a product or service. I’m only about half-way through the book, but Jerry has already shared innumerable stories that will affect how I work going forward. I figured I’d share a few of them here.

It’s all about the packaging. For Weintraub, everything is a limited edition (after all, legally, what’s it limited to? Isn’t everything limited to the period during which it’s produced?). It’s all about the pitch – how does this event/service/idea benefit them? How is it going to make them money?

For a writers, who are constantly pitching ideas, this is an important concept. You need to picture yourself in the readers shoes: how do they benefit from what you’re trying to “sell” them? What opportunity are you offering them? If you can’t see it as offering them an opportunity, they sure as heck aren’t going to see it that way.

Have a Big Idea. Jerry is always working toward his next big idea. The story that got me to buy the book was the tale of how Jerry decided he wanted to take Elvis on tour, but at the time he didn’t know Elvis or anyone who knew Elvis. He had nothing but his idea. This is a theme over and over in his life, whether the time he got past a bouncer with a gun to knock on a star’s door (by pretending to give the bouncer a job review) to pitch a show idea, when he was 14 and tried to run away to Fla., or while he was in the service and began selling Hawaii vacation packages at the local retail store where he worked in Alaska.

Freelance writers, like any small business owners, need to have end goals; they need to have things they are working toward. Whether it’s a big magazine you want to land an article with some point in the future or a monetary goal you want to hit, come up with your next big idea, believe in it, and do what it takes to make it happen.

Persistance Pays Off. That tale about taking Elvis on tour? Before he finally got the deal, Jerry called Elvis’ manager everyday for about a year; every time the guy thought about taking Elvis on tour, Jerry’s name came to mind–simply because Jerry was so persistent. He was respectful and smart about it, but he didn’t give up. He really thought he had a good idea (another tip: believe in your ideas) and wanted a chance to prove it.

I mentioned in my piece about Parker’s chapter on sales that on average a consumer needs to be exposed to a brand 7+ times before they consider buying from it. For Jerry, it was everyday for a year. Don’t give up. The goal is to accomplish what Jerry did – every time a prospect thinks about writing, you want them to think about you.

Think outside the box. When Jerry got his chance and took Elvis on tour, the King only had two requests: that real fans be in the front row (he didn’t want to be playing to see the big shots up front when he played) and that there never be an empty seat in the house. Well, Jerry messed up; he booked a matinee in Flordia in the summer. They only managed to sell half the tickets. What did Jerry do? He went to the local prison and convince the warden to have his prisoners come remove 5,000 chairs from the arena before the matinee, then put them back afterward, before the evening performance which was completely sold out. There wasn’t an empty chair in the house.

Sometimes, taking away is as important as putting in. There are where two ways to make sure there weren’t any empty chairs in the house. X number of tickets had been sold – either more tickets needed to sell (or be given away) or fewer seats needed to be present. Most people wouldn’t have thought of removing seats. Jerry did. Ideas like that are the difference between being good and being great. Don’t eliminate ideas just because they aren’t what someone else would do–think about the advantages and disadvantages of the options available and consider even the most unlikely way of doing something. That’s how new ideas are born.

What’s your big idea? Have you found success through persistence? Was there a time when you thought completely outside the box? Tell me about it in the comments.

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