'The 4-Hour Workweek': A Case Study in DIY Marketing

Blogs Blast Book up the Charts

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Twenty-nine-year-old Timothy Ferriss is not a marketer. Still, on his own, he has landed squarely on the best-seller list with his first book, "The 4-Hour Workweek." The case is worth a deeper examination because it points to a very real do-it-yourself digital-marketing future where the landscape is essentially flat.
Steve Rubel
Photo: JC Bourcart
Steve Rubel is a marketing strategist and blogger. He is senior VP in Edelman's Me2Revolution practice.

In the book, Ferriss describes in detail how anyone can (legally) automate their income streams, reduce the need to be always connected and successfully leave the rat race for a rich life of pursuing one's passions. The book hit shelves barely a month ago. It made its debut at an astounding No. 123 on Amazon and has rapidly ascended since. As of this writing it's No. 8 on the website's best-seller list and surely will be popping up on chaise lounges around the country this summer.

Unlike other monster bestsellers, "The 4-Hour Workweek" has had almost no marketing or PR support. Ferriss has not been on Oprah, nor does he have any splashy ads running in business magazines. (He does have a catchy title and an alluring too-good-to-be-true premise that resonates with many in our caffeinated, always-on world.) But more importantly, he reached this orbit by personally getting to know online influencers and being in the right place at the right time.

Ferriss started to build buzz for the book by appearing at the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas, in late March. His presentation set the blog world on fire. In addition, by sticking around for the conference, he was able to build face-to-face relationships with lots of influencers in attendance.

A month later he gave a riveting five-minute talk at the Web 2.0 Expo. The buzz only continued to build from there. Uber-blogger Merlin Mann, who writes the widely read "43 Folders" productivity blog, picked up on the book, as did others like Darren Rowse, author of ProBlogger.net. Even before it hit Amazon, the book was off to the races with preorders.

There are three tangible lessons in Tim's story: 1) Go where bloggers are. 2) Be there with a message and a story that will appeal to their interests, not yours. 3) Nurture the relationships online and off. Agencies can replicate this success. The challenge is to do so while maintaining margins.
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