Book your biz

Despite all of the hype about electronic readers like the Kindle and Nook, digital downloads still represent only a few percent of book sales. It’s not likely that we’ll see books and bookstores disappear any time soon. The importance and value of books are still being instilled into our children even today. While some parents may be reading bedtime stories from their Nook, what toddler doesn’t have a 10-page cardboard book teaching them about planets and colors.

In the business world, the credibility associated with a published book is driving growth in the book market — not so much in book sales but in self-publishing. Dozens of consultants and small publishing companies have popped up to appeal to the vanity involved with being an author. Of course, these publishers and consultants neglect to explain the real challenges of book marketing or distribution. They extol the success of very few outliers who have launched their self-published book to fame and fortune. Nearly all of these books sell less than 1,000 copies.

Still the battle cry is “You need to have a book!” — as if just having your name on the cover will automatically make people hear of you and make your message compelling enough to drive business to your door.

A book is a marketing and efficiency tool, plain and simple. Created with forethought and intention, it can do many things. But it’s the intention behind the content and distribution that leads to efficiency in business and enhancement for the customer. Even if you’re not going for the New York Times best-seller list, you can get value from a book in your own business without attracting a single client. One company in New York City invests $5,000 annually to self-publish a book that saves them more than $150,000 in operational costs every year. And they simply give them away.

Tekserve is an independent, certified Apple reseller and servicer located in the heart of Manhattan. Sixty percent of its customers are small businesses, but the company services a large number of consumers, as well. With more than 200 employees, Tekserve caters to a wide variety of needs and problems associated with computers and media equipment. It also provides classes and on-site service to support the needs of its clientele.

Tekserve management has streamlined the customer experience by separating service and sales for its divisions into various areas of the store. Upon entrance, you are immediately stopped by a polite customer service person or gatekeeper and are asked your need before given a numbered ticket for the particular department that can best serve you. And, of course, there are plenty of gadgets to play with while you are waiting.

Tekserve keeps its wait times low through the use of a small book. It is a perfect-bound, 60-page, 4-by-9- inch paperback version of Tekserve’s frequently asked questions. The company prints approximately 10,000 of these each year at a cost of roughly 50 cents each. The contents are what you would expect in a typical FAQ. The book tells you what to do when your Mac freezes, when the hard drive crashes, when you spill Coke on the keyboard, etc. Now being that this is a computer company, you would think they would just put this information online, and they do. But, of course, when your computer crashes or you spill wine on it, chances are you can’t get online, and so, like most New Yorkers, you’ll just pick up your computer and head to Tekserve.

The gatekeeper distributes thousands of these books to people with minor problems, which saves Tekserve personnel from answering the same questions over and over again. Customers can identify their own minor issues, and if there are major problems, they can easily communicate their needs accurately and get the service required efficiently. Over the years, Tekserve’s management has estimated a time-savings equivalent of more than three full-time employees. At an employee cost of roughly $50,000 annually per employee, Tekserve’s $5,000 publishing investment results in a hard savings of more than $150,000 annually.

Of course, there are the added marketing benefits to having the book. Tekserve provides them to all of its customers who retain them as reference manuals, keeping Tekserve at the top of customers’ minds. Additionally, Tekserve fans may pass the book along to friends introducing new customers to the store.

Consider these questions to figure how you might gain ROI from a cost-effective book.

1. What redundant information takes time from staff to provide to your customers?

2. What procedures would be more efficient by notifying the customer before he or she calls you?

3. What aspect of your business needs added credibility?

4. What inside information can you give away to wow your customers?

KEVIN DAUM is the principal of TAE International and the best selling author the Amazon #1 Bestsellers “ROAR! Get Heard in the Sales and Marketing Jungle” and “Green$ense For the Home: Rating the Real Payoff on 50 Green Home Projects” both on bookstore shelves this month. He is a speaker and marketing consultant. Reach him at [email protected]. Check out Kevin’s Quest for the Jewish Super Bowl Ring at