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April 10, 2008

Insider story: how we built Groundswell to your specifications

by Josh Bernoff

As we distributed copies of Groundswell at Forrester's Marketing Forum in Los Angeles this week, several people asked an interesting question: how did you get started with the book?

This made me think back to when we did get started, in December of 2006. And I think we did this a little differently from how most books get written.

We didn't start with an outline, or even an idea. We started with a need.

Charlene and I sat in a conference room together with a PC connected to a projector and, together, composed what we thought of as the back-of-the-book copy. You know, what you expect to pick up and read to tell you what the book is good for. That copy described, in fairly vivid terms, what the Groundswell trend was, and how the book would help you to deal with it.

In fact, it was in writing that copy that the word "Groundswell" arose. It was in the middle of a sentence, but Charlene and I both started looking at it and said, "Hmm, that's a powerful word. We could make that the title." So we did.

That marketing copy appeared again in the proposal we showed to publishers including the one we picked, Harvard Business press. They liked it. And it drove the whole project.

Sleeper_2 I'm reminded of the scene in Woody Allen's "Sleeper" in which he purports to be preparing to clone a person from his nose. He puts the nose on a person-shaped table in the nose position and says something like "we're going to clone him right up under the nose here." We, essentially, built the book up right under the marketing copy.

Engineers will recognize this process as being like creating a functional spec before writing software or building hardware.

In the end, we feel the book did meet the promises we made 17 months ago. And the marketing copy on the book flap is almost identical to what we wrote back then.

On a project of this intensity it sure helped to know where we were going. Clarity of purpose not only inspires you, it inspires your coworkers and and partners. Try it yourself. Next time you are developing a new product, write the marketing copy first, not the product description. It will keep you honest.

P.S. Here is the marketing copy in its final form:

A groundswell is rising. Are you ready?

Right now, your customers are writing about your products on blogs and recutting your commercials on YouTube. They're defining you on Wikipedia and ganging up on you on social networking sites like Facebook. These are all elements of a social phenomon -- the groundswell -- that has created a permanent shift in the way the world works. Most companies see it as a threat.

You can see it as an opportunity.

In Groundswell two top analysts from Forrester Research show you how to turn the force of customers connecting to your own advantage. With twenty-five vivid cases from around the world -- from health care to retail to consumer goods to business services -- Li and Bernoff show how leading companies are gaining insights, generating revenue, saving money, and energizing their own customers. Whether you're in marketing, research, support, sales, development, or even running the whole enterprise, there's targeted advice here for you, backed up with real-world ROI to prove it works.

Groundswell is based on hard consumer data and experience with dozens of companies. You'll see how the marketers of Procter & Gamble proved that subtle marketing within a community was four times as effective as television, how Best Buy taps into the intelligence of over a thousands of its own employees with its own social network, how Dell has transformed itself by embracing customer insights in nearly every department, and how a South African winery boosted its sales tenfold by tapping into the power of bloggers, YouTube, Facebook, and every other tool of the social technology arsenal.

You can't ignore this trend. Read Groundswell and learn how to ride the wave. There's no going back.


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Neat story. Love the "Sleeper" reference - that is one of the funnitest movies and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a sore stomach from laughing too much!!

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