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post # 458 — October 25, 2007 — a General post

Here’s a great piece by Jonathan Copulsky, (a consultant at Deloitte in Chicago) published in the October 22, 2007 issue of Brandweek.

Smells Like The Publishing Spirit

While any self-respecting management consultant strives to achieve stellar results for his clients, there’s one desire that often seems to permeate both body and soul more than any other: He dreams of being the author of a bestselling book.

Don’t believe me? Browse the business section (or even, at times, the center-aisle tables) of the nearest mega bookstore, and count the number of books with the grinning guy in a suit on the dust jacket.

Naturally, he wants to demonstrate his in-depth knowledge and experience, share his insights, purvey his skills—and earn your respect. Perhaps I should say “we,” however, because the siren song of publishing oft tempts me—a veteran marketing and sales consultant—too. Only the fear of being unable to make my book truly stand out from the stack has kept me from succumbing to the temptation.

Until now, perhaps. Last week, you see, I finally found my inspiration—the talisman sure to set my book apart from the rest. A newspaper story informed me that, when it comes to business books, animals are “in.” The article cited Spencer Johnson’s mice tale, Who Moved My Cheese? which has topped bestseller lists for almost a decade. More recently, John Kotter recast his 1996 organizational change bestseller as a fable about a penguin who mobilizes his colony against the threat of its melting iceberg. Our Iceberg is Melting sold more than a quarter of a million copies.

With these zoological precedents in mind, I have decided the world is now ready for Who’s Buying Our Guano?

A book about guano can’t miss. A prime ingredient for both fertilizer and gunpowder, guano is rich in history, nitrates and adorable animals. Produced by birds, bats and even baby seals, it can be found throughout the world, from tropical islands to dank caverns. Guano’s geopolitical influence also has been profound.

Peru, Bolivia and Chile waged war over guano 150 years ago. Perhaps it fueled their cannons, as well as their feud. Long before the world worried about weapons of mass destruction, Congress authorized the takeover of islands rich in guano deposits and even empowered the president to use the armed forces to protect our newfound national guano interests. Bats, seals, birds, war and American imperialism; that, friends, is an unbeatable combination.

Who’s Buying Our Guano? will be set in an impoverished but guano-rich bat colony. Mobilized by one of its wiser and more experienced members, Sollie (short for Solomon), the colony wakes up to the commercial value of its deposits. Sollie convinces his fellow bats that they need a robust marketing and sales strategy, as well as a premium product, to achieve results in the lucrative but highly competitive global guano market.

Under Sollie’s leadership, the colony quickly creates a multitiered distribution structure that includes exclusive agreements with the top-tier organic retail gardening chains. The bats’ brand of guano immediately achieves market acceptance and generates an impressive rate of return. Less than 12 months after the bats launch their branded line, however, they come under fire from the seals. Although the seals’ brand of guano is lower in quality in terms of its fertilizing value, they promote it heavily with coupons and bulk-purchase discounts.

Our bat-marketer is, of course, baffled and disheartened. Despite their clearly superior product, the bats are losing market share. The ensuing crisis of confidence prompts Sollie to proffer his resignation. Fortunately, the CEO and the board rally behind him. Re-invigorated by this show of support, Sollie leads the attack on the guano sector by identifying value-added guano services, launching a boutique series of guano varietals and creating a series of beautiful complementary products for the home, including an ergonomic guano spreader available in six colors.

All of these innovations put the bats back on top of the guano pile. Determined to stay there this time, Sollie launches an in-depth study of the bats’ target demographic. Following a thorough analysis, Sollie is shocked to discover that the bats’ guano brand is failing to make a profit on nearly 15% of its customers. He concludes that the colony is literally giving away services, ranging from expedited shipping to custom packaging. Sollie convinces the board to introduce a menu-based pricing scheme. The result? Profitability increases by more than 500 basis points.

As just these little teasers prove, Who’s Buying Our Guano? has all the ingredients of a blockbuster. Although bats may strike some as icky, just think of cute bats, like Jannell Cannon’s Stellaluna or Fu-Fu from the PBS cartoon Sagwa.

Trust me, after my title hits the shelves, the business publishing sector will never be the same. As Sollie and his talented marketers teach us, when it comes to marketing and sales books, there’s always more guano to buy.


Thanks, Jonathan, for permission to reproduce this.


Michael d. Haberman, SPHR said:

Thanks for the very hearty laugh that title gave me. I love it! I am sure it will be a big, big seller. The sad thing is there will be people who will not get the “tongue in cheek” aspect of it.

posted on October 25, 2007

Jaime @ Fitzgerald Analytics said:

Jonathan/David: thanks for a hilarious post with a dense kernel of trush as well. Cheers, JF

posted on November 25, 2007

Meg said:

Not bad

posted on March 24, 2008