Charlie’s job entails many things. Feeding tigers not excluded.
Charlie Hoehn first reached out to me through Ramit Sethi in 2008. Almost three years later, he is still working with me.
Here is his initial e-mail routed to Ramit, which I think is instructional for those looking for mentorship of some type:
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Charlie Hoehn
Date: Wed, Jul 30, 2008 at 11:25 PM
Subject: Re: Response requested
To: Ramit Sethi
Below is the email I wrote up for Tim Ferriss. Thanks again so much for your insight on how to approach this, and for your willingness to pass it along. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them. Also, I’d be willing to help you out in any of the ways I outlined below.
After visiting your site countless times since May ’07, I’ve come up with a few suggestions that could improve your readers’ experience. Here are two of the things I think you need…
1) A network for your followers: Right now, you have a lot of passionate and devoted readers who comment on your blog. These are people who are likely to spread your ideas. You need a place where your loyal readers can interact with each other more freely, and share their stories about how your book has inspired them.
What it would take: A micro-network. You could frame it as “a crusade against the 9-5 workday.”
How I could help: While I was interning for Seth Godin, I learned how to create micro-social networks for very specific niches. I could easily set this up for you, making it a more exclusive “invite-only,” if you wish.
What the benefits are to you: Allowing your most devoted readers to share their lifestyle design stories will provide you with even more case studies for blog posts (or for a follow-up book). It will also serve as a spot for your readers to get to know one another, and they’ll appreciate that you’ve given them that opportunity.
2) A more dynamic “About” page: Currently, this page starts off with a quote about you from Albert Pope, followed by three thumbnail pictures of your face and a great deal of text outlining your achievements. While your credentials are impressive, this page doesn’t really capture your personality or the lifestyle you’ve designed for yourself.
What it would take: You need a video, between 2 and 5 minutes, that captures the excitement that comes with lifestyle design. The video would showcase exciting things you’ve done (skydiving, tango, motorcycling, etc.), and would be a great way to show your readers that you are the real deal.
How I could help: I can make this video for you for free. I’ve been editing video for more than four years, and started a business in creating movies for special events. All I would need to make your video are great pictures and videos of you. The more they show the human side of you, the better.
What the benefits are to you: Reading something is fine, but an image is far more powerful. This video will establish an even deeper credibility with your new (and old) readers. Even if you end up deciding that it’s not right for your site, you’ll still be getting a great video about you that would normally cost several hundred dollars. If you like my work, we can discuss other ways to implement videos into your site (including higher quality and more exciting videos for your blog).
In exchange for these things, I hope that you’d consider taking me on as an intern (real-world or virtual). I would love to help you out on future projects. Let me know what you think, and I look forward to hearing from you.
“Charlie! Thanks very much for the suggestions. I currently have the forum and other Ning sites, so I’d be eager to hear how what you propose is different, as I’m always interested in fostering connections between my readers. Last but not least, can you please elaborate on what you mean by “intern”? Would you expect this to paid or unpaid? How many hours per week, etc.? What do you hope the pay-off to be for you during or after the experience? Thanks for letting me know, and for writing. -Tim”
Tim- Thanks so much for your response. Here are my answers to your questions:
What I suggest that’s different – I’ve looked at your message boards and Ning sites (I don’t know if you started any of the Ning ones or moderate them). They’re pretty good but they are just places where your readers connect and idly discuss your ideas. The boards and Ning don’t have any call-to-action, really. They aren’t places for your troops to rally for an assignment, so to speak – that’s mostly what you’ve used your blog for. I think you need an exclusive network that has some hurdle to get in (e.g. invite-only).
This could be a group reserved for the people who have actually used and implemented your ideas to create unconventional and extreme lifestyles.
With these people, you compile their stories together and sell it as an ebook (all money going to “Room to Read” or some other good cause). Or you could create a video of the top 3-5 unique lifestyles, following them around and filming them to get a feel for their daily life. This is much more ambitious but something that could turn out really cool. I’d definitely be willing to help you execute these ideas, if you’re interested.
What I mean by “intern” – Non-paid virtual internship for two months, then possibly discussing a real-world internship at the end of the year. For a virtual internship, you could delegate tasks to me, or I could help you with executing ideas you have.
Paid or unpaid – For virtual, unpaid. For the real-world, I’d work for cheap.
How many hours per week – Varies, depending on how busy you are. Five (5) or more for a virtual internship.
What’s the pay-off for me – I would learn firsthand about your methods for extreme productivity and efficiency. Reading has given me a solid level of understanding, but actually seeing it would help me comprehend it more fully. Second, you’ve already done what I want to become: an entrepreneur who travels a lot. Working with you would allow me to really mentally shift gears and help move me towards my goals faster.
That being said, I have a great deal of respect for you and the things you’ve done. I think it’d be brilliant to work with you in some way, but if it doesn’t work out, no hard feelings. Thanks for your time, Tim, and I hope to talk with you again soon.
Not bad, right? So I decided to give Charlie a shot. He promptly proceeded to f*ck it all up.
My first assignment was: find three possible movie theaters to rent out for the James Bond premiere of “Quantum of Solace.” At the time, Charlie had a horrible cell phone and missed every third word of the task, which I found out later. Rather than ask for clarification, he assumed he had the gist and missed a few critical details.
The reason that wasn’t the end of Project Charlie: He immediately took the blame, hustled overtime, got it fixed, and the event (a thank-you to readers) went off without a hitch.
We both learned a few lessons. I learned to always ask my assistants to briefly summarize what I’ve asked them to do. Charlie learned how to organize a small event, and that erring on the side of too much detail is better than guessing with too little.
Since then, we’ve both learned hundreds of lessons, and Charlie has been able to travel (hence the tiger).
Now, in 2011, Charlie works for me full-time as my “Director of Other.” This is something like a Director of Operations, but Charlie is also responsible for a diverse range of often unpredictable tasks. These motley odd jobs range from identifying revenue opportunities (apps to hard goods), to photoshopping explicit vajajays pics for 10 hours straight to try and make them look like illustrations (See “15-minute orgasm” chapter in 4HB). Publisher’s orders. For those gents who think the latter sounds awesome, I assure you: it is possible to have too much of a good thing.
This post is Charlie’s first guest post on this blog. In it, he describes 12 lessons learned while marketing The 4-Hour Body, as he was involved from the earliest editorial stages straight through to #1 on The New York Times.
For the last two years, my main project has been working with Tim on The 4-Hour Body. While the making of this book brought me countless memories (many great, some hilarious, and a few cringe-worthy), it was a tremendous learning experience that has undoubtedly changed how I will approach any product launch from this point forward.
The most fun period during this whole ordeal was planning the marketing for the book, and witnessing a world-class marketer’s thought process. And now that 4HB has hit the two biggest milestones we were aiming for (#1 New York Times, #1 Amazon overall), it’s time for me to share a few of the things I learned while marketing a bestselling book.
In this post, you’ll find a list of the key elements that made the 4HB launch such a huge success, ranked in order of “moderately impactful” to “extremely impactful.” You’ll notice that this list is missing a lot of the common marketing advice new authors receive. For instance, Tim set these rules for himself early on:
– No book tours
– No paying for access to email lists
– No intense focus on building Facebook and Twitter accounts
– No paying for consultants who buy your way onto the bestseller list
– No email drip campaigns
– No multi-month pushes for pre-orders
Without further ado, here are 12 lessons I learned while marketing “The 4-Hour Body.”
12. Amazon Review Overload
The sheer volume of 5-star Amazon reviews for 4HB caused confusion and outrage. A lot of people just couldn’t imagine how we were able to get more than 140 reviews (over one hundred 5-stars) in the first 24 hours without paying for them. The reality is not as sexy as you’d think.
Tim had sent out more than 1,000 advance copies of the book. He gave copies to friends, companies where he’d been a guest speaker, and people who’d helped or had volunteered to help with the book. At 5:00am Eastern on December 14th (the day of the launch), we emailed all of those people with the word “Urgent” in the subject line, and asked them if they could spare 30 seconds to write an Amazon review within the next 24 hours, whether they enjoyed the book or not (we never asked anyone to leave a 5-star review). Plain, simple, and it got the job done.
Although this generated a fair amount of backlash from skeptics, it was an immense boon for us to have a solid foundation of 200 positive reviews in the first week.* Having a solid Amazon rating gives the book an enormous amount of social proof that can last for years, and (although immeasurable from our end) boosts the conversion rate on the sales page substantially.
[* To put into perspective how ridiculous it is to have this many reviews: The 4-Hour Workweek has been out for almost four years, sold over one million copies, and has just over 1,100 Amazon reviews (Cumulative: 5-stars). The 4-Hour Body has been out for just shy of THREE MONTHS, and now has more than 1,200 Amazon reviews (4.5-stars).]
11. “I’ll let you figure it out”
There are very few phrases that can simultaneously empower and give you an anxiety attack. “I’ll let you figure it out” is one of them. For the last two years, it’s been repeated to me over and over…
Party for 200 Silicon Valley VIPs on a warship in 24 hours?
“I’ll let you put it together.”
Assemble a draft of a magazine article, based on scattered content?
“Please take care of it.”
Edit and rewrite another bestselling author’s work?
“Go for it.”
Act as the sole point of contact for more than 10,000 customers?
“Get it done!”
At first, these kinds of tasks would elicit Tourette’s-like verbal outbursts and generally stress me the hell out. But after successfully getting through each of them alive, I felt confident enough to take on almost anything that was thrown my way.
“I’ll let you figure it out” was not just Tim’s method of dismissing me or passing along work he didn’t care about; he’s always had a very active role in overseeing my daily output. During the book launch, we’d talk constantly about the progress we were making, and usually had a daily analysis over wine/whiskey where we discussed our marketing efforts. Because he had given me free reign to “figure things out,” I was making most business decisions on my own. This would occasionally get me into trouble during our post-game wrap-up (“I would appreciate it if you’d ask me next time”) but more often than not, it helped that I didn’t need his permission so much during the launch. Because there was no decision-making bottleneck, we were both 10X more productive than an entire team of people would have been.
The next time you feel compelled to micromanage someone you’re working with, say the magic words: “I’ll let you figure it out.” You’d be surprised at how capable most people are. Sure, mistakes are bound to happen, but it will ultimately result in more confident, self-reliant workers.
10. “Perfectionism,” redefined.
Throughout the writing process, Tim was ruthless when it came to cutting away the inessential. He’d frequently ask me which five chapters I would take out. I’d answer, he’d remove a few of those chapters, and then he’d ask me again. Finally, we reached a point where he’d cut more than 100 pages of material. Everything that remained was necessary for the book to be great. After three years of writing, he finally sent it in to Random House.
After submitting a book, an author will typically get two revision rounds before it goes to print. Tim somehow managed to squeeze out SIX rounds of edits for a 600-page book. By the sixth round, he was still suggesting several hundred minor edits, fine-tuning each page. Even though his publisher probably (definitely) hated him for this, he ended up with the groundbreaking book he envisioned.
9. ”He who cares less, wins”
Tim’s negotiations have been among the most memorable conversations I’ve heard over the last several months. He makes enormous requests, and almost always gets what he asks for. I’ve watched him get more than $250,000 worth of inventory for free with a 10-minute phone call. When I asked for his best bit of negotiating advice, he said, “He who cares less, wins.”
All of Tim’s negotiating experience came in handy when it was time to promote the book. He was able to accumulate more than $4,000,000 worth of bonus prizes to give out during the launch, a lot of which came from personal phone calls he made.
Most people don’t have the ability to negotiate effectively, simply because they’re not put in enough situations that call for it. I’m a pretty terrible negotiator, but I’ve improved with Tim’s help. He spotted tics of mine early on (I fill pauses with forced coughs, and say “you know?” to finish thoughts), and gave me a bunch of other helpful advice. For instance, replacing the word “um” or “uh” with silence is the fastest way to sound more intelligent, calculated, and crisp while negotiating (or speaking, in general). You can fix this behavior over time by filming yourself on Skype calls and reviewing the footage.
Another bit of wisdom is to place a time constraint at the beginning of each call (“I can only talk for ten minutes”). The longer you stay on the phone, the less likely your desired outcome will be reached. If phone calls are your weakness, you should stick to email for negotiations so you don’t have to respond in real-time.
8. Timing the Release to Maximize Sales
Most health authors time the release of their books with New Years’ resolutions. Tim was able to dominate his impending competition by launching 4HB two weeks ahead of them. When all the other health books came out in the weeks that followed, Tim’s book was already leading in the weight loss category. His competitors’ promotional efforts were drowned out by the conversations surrounding 4HB.
Having the right timing is just as important as the quality of your promotional efforts. Know what you’re going up against and when. You don’t want to be in the process of creating your position when buyers are most receptive; you want to already be established as the category leader.
Tim elaborated on this on Huffington Post:
After reviewing the top bestsellers in health over the last two years, it was clear that a full third of those books had been published in the traditional “New Year, New You” window, with big promotions rolling out on Janurary 1st. In the below chart, produced when I wrote the proposal, you’ll notice that a full half of the December releases fell at the end of the month for planned Jan 1st promotions.
The first order of business was to somehow avoid the category noise and competition for consumers and media outlets of that window.
Great content is absolutely necessary for long-term sales, but you must also take charge of your “windowing” and finding the best combination of low-noise (relatively lower category competition), high-signal (the best call to action to your base with the highest response rates), along with optimal store traffic is the way to go. So, the strategy in a nutshell is NST: low-Noise, high-Signal, growing-Traffic. I didn’t want to come in at peak traffic and then track to diminishing foot traffic.
What did we do? I pitched hard for a December 14 release date. This required flying from San Francisco to NYC to present my case in person to my publisher, Crown.
I felt it would allow me to mobilize my base for multi-copy purchases for the holidays, starting with pre-orders late November, which would increase initial retailer orders, improve placement (even if unplanned), and then perfectly set up strong in-store promotion starting January 1. Books in the same category would be getting started from a standstill in January, whereas I would, i hoped, be steering an absolute avalanche that started as a snowball more than a month earlier.
The publisher, however, had some legitimate concerns.
Moving the book right into the busiest holiday shopping window would mean a few things: little or no available promotions, and, in some cases, little time for retailers to get books out onto shelves.
Making this move, risky from an in-store promotion standpoint, required taking a Hollywood holiday blockbuster approach to the launch. The unusual video trailer/teaser launched last week was intended as a viral focal point of other base-mobilizing efforts.
The video worked beyond all expectations. [more on this later]
7. Offering Irresistible Incentives
Offering incentives is Online Marketing 101. Offering $4,000,000 in bonus gifts for a book launch is online marketing on steroids.
The Land Rush post Tim put up a week before the book came out had a huge impact on sales. It took a few weeks to plan out, but ultimately resulted in more than 15,000 pre-orders over the span of three days.
The basic premise was to offer 2-10X more value in bonus gifts than the number of books being purchased. For instance, if you bought $16 worth (1 book), you’d get $140 in bonus gifts (8.8X value). If you bought $480 worth (30 books), you’d get $1,623 in bonus gifts (3.4X value). This pushed prospective buyers off the fence to impulsively buy multiple copies of the book.* It was a win-win for everyone.
However, Tim and I think we could have sold a lot more copies. The problem with The Land Rush post was that there were WAY too many choices. Tim had gathered so many bonus gifts to give away that we ended up with 16 different book packages. If we were to do it again, we would have had five different price tiers at most. Everything worked out great, of course, but we could have been smarter about it.
In any case, the takeaway here is that if you want to get people to buy copies of your book, give them something of high value in exchange. Make their purchase a no-brainer by over-delivering.
[* We received a fair amount of flak for encouraging bulk orders. There are two things that need to be taken into consideration: One, almost every author you know already does this, but in a less organized fashion; Two, if you think bulk orders were the sole reason we hit #1, you’re dreaming. Our bulk order campaign was to drive pre-orders for 72 hours (Dec 9-12), and we ended up moving about 15,000 copies. By the end of The 4-Hour Body’s debut week (Dec 14-20), more than 70,000 hardcovers had been sold in the US, an additional 25,500+ in Kindle, and another 32,000 overseas. In the seventh week after pub date, 4HB sold about 30,000 hardcover and 8,000 e-books. The 4-Hour Body also hasn’t dropped off the NY Times list since it came out: three weeks at #3, two weeks at #2, and six weeks at #1. There are very, very few books in the world that can reach and sustain those numbers.]
6. The Motherf***ing Book Trailer
This was not so much of a “lesson learned” as it was merely having my beliefs reaffirmed. Before 4HB, I’d witnessed video teasers boosting sales upwards of 10X. Video converts like crazy when it effectively highlights the product.
The 4HB’s trailer wasn’t just great; it was fantastic. Adam Patch put together a professional teaser that looked good enough to be shown in a movie theater:
Immediately after releasing the trailer, the book’s Amazon rank jumped from #150 to #30, and hasn’t dropped below that number since.
If you’re going to make a teaser video for your product, spend the extra cash on a professional videographer. It is absolutely worth it.
5. The Art of the Soft-Sell
Tim announced his book in September – three months before it came out. After the initial announcement, he ensured that the content on his blog stayed interesting and varied, while keeping the “Buy my book!” posts to a minimum.
Take a look at the sequencing of his posts between announcing The 4-Hour Body and launching it (bolded titles are 4HB-related):
- The New Book Unveiled: The 4-Hour Body (Sept. 29)
- Zen, Tea, and the Art of Life Management (Oct. 5)
- How to Buy a Round-the-World Plane Ticket (Oct. 8)
- Have a Good Eye for Ads? Try the 4-Hour Body Experiment (Oct. 13)
- The Experimental Life: An Introduction to Michel de Montaigne (Oct. 19)
- How Tim Ferriss Makes Money (and Other Things) (Oct. 28)
- 20 Things I’ve Learned from Traveling Around The World for Three Years (Oct. 30)
- How to Email Virtual Assistants: Proven Templates (Nov. 2)
- 8 Exotic Destinations You Can Afford (Nov. 4)
- 4-Hour Body Promo – Half-Naked Girls, Erections, and Stickers (Nov. 17)
- Clinton’s “Reality Distortion Field” Charisma (Nov. 21)
- How to Become a Model Photographer in Brazil (Nov. 25)
- Engineering a “Muse”: Case Studies of Successful Cash-Flow Businesses (Nov. 28)
- The 4-Hour Body – Official Movie Trailer (Dec. 1)
- The 4-Hour Body – Sample Chapter and Full Table of Contents (Dec. 6)
- The Land Rush: 48 Hours to Claim $4,000,000 in Prizes (Dec. 9)
- Engineering a “Muse” – Volume 2: Case Studies of Successful Cash-Flow Businesses (Dec. 11)
- The 4-Hour Body is NOW OUT – Live Q&A Today, New Trailer, Free Books, and Much More (Dec. 14)
Tons of great content, and more than half of it had nothing to do with the new book! Tim kept the promotional efforts for his readers to a minimum, as they already had a high likelihood of buying. As a result, he didn’t annoy his readers and all the promotions on his blog seemed crazy, fun, and spontaneous when they finally happened.
4. Carpet-Bombing the Internet: Brief Periods of Intense Noise-Making
A lot of marketers promote their product for several months before they release it. This is not only exhausting for them, but it’s also far less effective than a highly concentrated effort over the span of a few weeks.
Tim’s strategy for marketing on other sites was to deluge readers with quality 4HB-related content. He wanted people to open their RSS on December 14th to find five to ten posts on 4HB, all from different blogs. In order to do that, he had to make sure that all of these sites were promoting “exclusive” 4HB-content in sync with one another.
Brace yourself for the mother lode. Below is a list of promotional blog posts leading up to the launch, along with all the press pieces that followed them:
– BODYBUILDING – The 4-Hour Body Book Promo
– HUFFINGTON POST – America Needs The 4 Hour Body: A Look Inside The New Book by Timothy Ferriss
– WIRED MAGAZINE – Tim Ferriss Wants to Hack Your Body
– HUFFINGTON POST – Tim Ferriss’ New Book ‘4 Hour Body’ And Crazy Video
– BUZZFEED – Tim Ferriss’ New Book: 4 Hour Body
– APPSUMO – Healthy Holidays Bundle Part 2: Manly Man
– NEW YORK POST – The 4-Hour Body: Advice from the guy who knows everything
– NATE GREEN – Become Superhuman: Nate Green and Tim Ferriss
– LIVING SOCIAL – Tim Ferriss Book Package for $16
– BODYBUILDING – Tips from “The 4-Hour Body”: Overview
– BODYBUILDING – The Kettlebell Experiment: Bring one to life for $10
– BODYBUILDING – Activate Superhuman Glutes
– BODYBUILDING – Tracking Results
– BODYBUILDING – Kettlebell Swing
– BODYBUILDING – Top Secret Contents Of A Mad Scientist’s Gym Bag
12/14/10 – Launch Date!
– GIZMODO – 4-Hour Body – The Slow-Carb Diet
– LIVESTREAM – Live Chat with Timothy Ferriss
– ZEN HABITS – The 4-Hour Body: The Tim Ferriss Interview on Zen Habits
– ROBB WOLF – The Paleo Solution – Episode 58 (Tim Ferriss Edition)
– MICHAEL PORT – Tim Ferriss interviewed by Michael Port (Part 1)
– CRAIG BALLANTYNE – Tim Ferriss and the Four Hour Body
– COPYBLOGGER – Tim Ferriss on How to Reinvent Yourself with Blog Marketing
– BUSINESS INSIDER – The Guide To Dieting And Sex That Every Trader Should Read
– GIZMODO – Six Minute Abs
– I WILL TEACH YOU TO BE RICH – Sample: The 4-Hour Body: From Geek to Freak
– ABC NEWS – Brr! Can Frigid Temps Lead to Weight Loss?
– ABC NEWS – Lose 20 Lbs. in 30 Days? A 15-Min. Orgasm?
– ABC NEWS – Faceoff: Superhuman Bodies, 15-Minute Orgasms
– MIKE GEARY – How GLUT-4 shuttles calories into muscle instead of fat
– PDF PEN – Case Study: Tim Ferriss
– YANIK SILVER – How to Make Yourself Superhuman and Super Productive
– TERRY LAUGHLIN – How Tim Ferriss Learned to Swim in 10 Days
– TERRY LAUGHLIN – Could Tim Ferriss turn The Situation on to Swimming?
– GALLEYCAT – How Timothy Ferriss Hit the Amazon Bestseller List
– FOX AND FRIENDS – Become Superhuman
– SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE – Consumers Turn to Custom Diets to Achieve Their Perfect Bodies for 2011
– CNN REPORT – Five Holiday Time Savers
– FORBES – Names You Need To Know In 2011: Tim Ferriss
– BLOOMBERG – ‘4-Hour Body’ Author Ferriss on Rapid Weight Loss: Audio
– SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS – Author Timothy Ferriss says his book holds key to weight loss, great sex
– CNN REPORT – How one man’s shame sparked a 300-pound weight loss
– NEWSWEEK – Tim Ferriss’ Latest Book Wows
– DUCT TAPE MARKETING – The 4-Hour Entrepreneurial Body
– NEW YORK TIMES – New! Improved! Shape Up Your Life!
– THE VIEW – The 4-Hour Body
– DOCTOR OZ – Four Hours to Your Perfect Body
– HUFFINGTON POST – Why The 4-Hour Body Was Years in the Making
– ASK MEN – Tim Ferriss Interview
– FORBES – Success Secrets of ‘4-Hour’ Guru Tim Ferriss
– MACLEANS – Fat loss, Great Sex, and Lentils
– CBS LOS ANGELES – Author Says Taking Ice Baths Will Keep You Trim
– NEW YORK TIMES – The World According to Tim Ferriss
The following internet marketers and health/fitness specialists emailed their lists the week of December 14th.
[Warning: Several of these links direct to squeeze pages.]
[If I left anyone out, please let me know in the comments!]
If you look closely at how many bloggers helped Tim promote the book, you’ll realize it would have been impossible to do if he’d approached them in a sleazy “Pitch my book to your audience!”-kind of way. This behavior is actually very common, but Tim avoided it like the plague. In fact, I don’t recall him asking anyone to promote the book as a favor. He would just tell them about it, and they’d usually want in. Of course, Tim wrote 4HB in such a way that his buddies would want to write about it. In the early stages of creating the Table of Contents, before he’d written anything else for the book, Tim was coming up with chapter titles based on what he thought would make great guest blog posts for his friends.
Most of those bloggers wanted to see Tim and his book succeed, simply because he’s developed meaningful relationships with so many of them. In my mind, this is what separates Tim from a lot of the other online marketers, who might be great at selling and making money, but never do anything truly remarkable. Tim has worked just as hard at building good karma among quality friends as he has at promoting his work, and the former has enriched his life far more.
Most online marketers have a short attention span, a weak filter, and an inability to communicate face-to-face. They salivate when they hear the word “viral” and send out 40 links a day to their friends on Facebook and Twitter. They unknowingly sabotage their own credibility and ensure people won’t pay attention to them when they need it most.
The marketers who will last are the ones who think relentlessly long-term, put out quality content, and recognize the value in building deeper, real-life relationships with their peers. Tim is one of these marketers, and I believe the root of The 4-Hour Body’s rapid success can be attributed to this underlying philosophy.
3. Offline Viral: The Power of Before/After
Before/After of Patrick Thomlinson, who did the Slow-Carb Diet
The 4HWW markets itself with a great title and a loyal fan base. Most people hear about it through friends who say it changed their life. As a result of word-of-mouth, the book has been on the bestseller list for four years.
The 4HB is far more effective at marketing itself because the content in the book can physically transform the reader in a short period of time. If you lose 20 pounds of fat or gain 30 pounds of muscle in a month, all your friends will be approaching you saying “What the hell did you do?!” I know this because both of my parents lost 25 pounds on the diet, and everyone in their social circles was asking them for advice. Their response: “Pick up a copy of The 4-Hour Body.” BAM, even more books sold!
The beauty of “offline viral” is that it can result in spill-over on Twitter and Facebook. In our case, we see tons of messages every day about 4HB. Here’s a small sample:
“First week on the slow-carb diet done. I’m 5lbs lighter with no added exercise. Now 6 people I know are working with your book.” – Frank Johnette
When you can actually see a book’s effects right before your eyes – when a person looks like the “After” in a Before/After photo – well, there’s no form of marketing that’s more powerful than that.
2. The Honeypot: Top 1,000 Blog
Tim will readily admit that his greatest asset is his blog. In terms of sheer traffic, it’s in the top 0.001% of all blogs online (top 1,000 of more than 120,000,000). With the push of a button, he has access to hundreds of thousands of people, many of which are influencers (e.g. New York Times journalists) and folks who are willing to help. But how did he build such a huge following of quality readers?
The answer is that his blog gives WAY more than it takes. A lot of bloggers are constantly trying to extract from their readers. They are in a perpetual state of pitching products and injecting ads. Tim rarely asks for anything; he just focuses on putting out quality content that his readers will like. When he does make a big ask, he’ll do it in a way that rewards the reader if they take action. For instance, “Help me promote my book” becomes “If you help me promote my book, you can win a free round-trip ticket to anywhere in the world.” Every “ask” Tim makes is a painless win-win, and after years of doing this, he now has a loyal army that’s ready to help whenever he needs it. Their assistance is called upon when he’s doing something ambitious (getting the book to hit #1 on NYTimes) or something small and random (having two people show up in a Texas airport to sell him their MacBook chargers). His readers go above and beyond what’s reasonable to help in any situation. That kind of loyalty can’t be bought.
If you don’t believe that the blog is Tim’s greatest asset, consider this: what author in their right mind wouldn’t think of using their 100,000+ subscriber email list during a book launch? Tim didn’t, because his blog is more powerful.
1. Write an amazing, definitive book.
Most of the advice aspiring authors seek out is on how to market their material, but marketing is actually the easy part. The hard part is producing worthwhile content, and holding your writing to a higher standard than everyone else on the playing field. I believe this is why 4HWW and 4HB will continue to do well for years to come. Tim held both works to the extremely high standard of “Will this be the defining book in its category, and will it be just as valuable five years from now?”
Tim will be the first to admit that he’s not the greatest writer, but he has more empathy than just about anyone I’ve ever met. He knows what people want, and he knows how to give them the least painful solution they need, all while minimizing confusion. Put simply, he knows how to make great content.
In the end, that’s what everything boils down to: great content. Without it, marketing is nothing more than flash and noise.
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with over 400 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.