Launch: How to Quickly Propel Your Business beyond the Competition by Michael A. Stelzner (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2011. 255 pp)

Michael Stelzner is CEO and founder of Social Media Examiner, an influential business blog boasting a monthly readership of over 450,000 people. Michael earned a master’s degree in communications from San Diego State University. In addition to Launch, Stelzner has authored Writing White Papers, a best seller. Michael lives in Southern California.

The Emerging Might of Social Media

Not yet a decade old, social media has transformed the way we live our lives. From the way we interact with our friends and family to the way information disseminates, social media now operates integrally in our lives.

For businesses, social media creates both unique problems and unique opportunities. Where a business could previously rely on dissatisfied customers sharing their vitriol to a handful of people, social media expands the platform for customers to proliferate discontentment. Likewise, the free flowing nature of information on social networks provides opportunities for businesses to create viral campaigns, a promotion more influential and lasting than classical marketing techniques.

With Launch, Michael Stelzner outlines a compelling case for social media content to replace classical marketing messaging.

Great Content Fuels Business in the Internet Age

Photo by Trey Ratcliff

Stelzner believes social media to be the fuel by which a business launches itself into the stratosphere. With a straightforward metaphor illustrating a rocket ship, Stelzner sketches the ways in which a business can leverage great content. In simple terms, Stelzner introduces the core principle upon which the entire book stands:

“The elevation principle is the process of meeting the core desires of prospects and customers by helping them solve their basic problems at no cost” (7).

For a business seeking to utilize social media, content is king. To gain traction, followers, and eventually customers, businesses must freely share valuable information.

In consideration of the target market, companies must provide valuable and applicable content to its potential customer base. For example, if one owns a juice shop, he or she should consider blogging about the health benefits of juices. Similarly, if one runs a photography business, video blogs detailing the process of photo shoots could provide valuable insights into the photography world.

Social Media as Service 

No matter the market, the elevation principle seeks to reorient marketing principles toward the notion of service. While classic marketing schemes view potential customers as fish in need of stentorian bait stimuli, Stelzner suggests a different strategy.

By freely providing valuable content, a business positions itself as an expert in the field; blogging and tweeting foster relationships with a potential customer base. By freely giving, devoid of apparent marketing messaging, the customer becomes more willing to learn about the company.

How Does Free Work in a Competitive Environment?

Many, however, might question the strategy of giving away valuable content for free. If a business bestows its valuable trade secrets, how can it make money in a competitive environment?

Stelzner suggests,

“If your marketing strategy centers on helping people with their smaller problems, many will seek your help to solve their bigger issues” (7-8).

Much like the gift principle where a freely given gift offers the recipient a chance to return the favor, free and valuable content inspires an audience and causes them to consider the business for deeper needs.

Beware of the Simple Fix

Photo by Thos Ballantyne

With inspiring examples of businesses successfully implementing these principles, Stelzner writes in a motivating manner.

But, I urge caution.

Business is never as simple as a singular motivational statement. While I agree wholeheartedly on the principle of service, I do not assume adhering to this principle consistently results in a successful business.

Ultimately, Launch depicts Stelzner’s success story. In following his principles, Stelzner gained massive success. Perhaps Launch functions as a blueprint worth following. But, I would suggest not relying on it and assuming success will necessarily follow.

In a plugged-in world, businesses must master social media. With loads of free, valuable content one click away, a business must offer value through blogs and social media in order to serve its customers. Stelzner’s elevation principle provides the foundation of service upon which a business can soar through the heavens.

Will it always work? I’m not convinced. Nevertheless, anyone interested in integrating social media into a business needs to read Launch.

Verdict: 4.5 out of 5

Do you use social media in your business? Why or why not? Do you find social media to be a valuable tool? Does it scare you to give away valuable content for free? Share your thoughts below.

Posted by: Donovan Richards
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