EO Dummies: It Takes One to Write One!

Article by:
Kevin Daum, EO New York
Kevin Daum
EO New York

Kevin Daum is CEO of Stratford Financial Services, an Inc. 500 company, and author of “Building Your Own Home For Dummies.” Kevin, an EO member since 1999, is the former Education Chair and Sponsorship Chair of EO Silicon Valley. He and his wife, Deanna, are now members of EO New York. You can contact him at kevin@stratfordfinancial.com to learn more about his writing experiences.

Every EOer is an expert in something. That’s how we became EOers. But as the CEO of Stratford Financial, a niche mortgage company playing against 800 lb. gorillas like Bank of America and Wells Fargo, I struggled for cli­ent credibility when pitting my experienced advice against the ramblings of inexperienced bank salespeople.

I was seeking creative solutions to market my busi­ness when my company was in trouble and I had no money to advertise. It was then that I stumbled onto the benefits of writing publicly. I schmoozed the edi­tor of East Bay Business Times into letting me write an article. Soon, I was writing several columns and generating business for free by simply writing things I had already said.

Since I obviously had no shortage of things to say, and because of an opportunity presented by another EOer, I decided to write and self-publish my first e-book and subsequent soft-cover book, “What the Banks Won’t Tell You: How to Get the Most From Your Mortgage.” Because I saw a market of greedy people, I decided to create my own publishing company, Grady Parsons Publishing. Aside from the money, I was pleasantly surprised at the benefits of publishing my client advice, even in a self-published primer.

Books are fantastic marketing tools.

We sell more than 200 books annually, and we give away even more than we sell. It is the best business card ever because it tells people exactly how we think. It also keeps us in their minds since they rely on it as a reference throughout the loan process.

The credibility factor is terrific.

Any book adds credibility, even when self-published. People are trained to think the printed word is gospel. They admire an author who can put thoughts on paper and even giggle when asking for an autographed copy.

Books are tremendous timesavers.

My book educates clients before we meet, saving me time from explaining basics. Customers learn at their own paces and only discuss areas they still find confusing. I figure this book saves more than 10 hours of time per client.

With the success of this book, I was anxious to write about my niche of construction financing for custom homes, since the client education process is even more time consuming and confusing. Thanks to an EO University, I was a subject for the book “Lessons from the Edge.” During the interview, I noticed that business writer Peter Economy, one of the authors, had written several “Dummies” books. Like a num­ber of EOers, I approached Peter about working together, and he asked me to write a proposal. I responded within 24 hours, and Peter, acting as my agent, pursued the construction book with Wiley, the “Dummies” publisher.

Luckily, Barnes and Noble was pushing Wiley for a custom home book, and Wiley was looking for an expert, of which there were few. It took eight months to approve the proposal and another year to write the book. At times, I was frustrated with the process, par­ticularly getting my staff to free the three days a week I needed to write, but we knew the “Dummies” brand was worth any compromise.

“Building Your Own Home For Dummies” has been a godsend for Stratford. Although the royalties are small, Wiley contributes brand, money, marketing and PR. We use the brand, with Wiley’s blessing, on all marketing materials, including our other book. The brand provides amazing credibility, and the book itself generates new business, since Stratford mate­rial served for examples. I leverage the book and the brand for speaking opportunities and business part­nerships that are tripling my business. Clients now flock to us instead of the banks because my exper­tise is nationally recognized, and I easily save more than 50 hours of client education time.

What marketing opportunities are you missing out on? Maybe it’s time to get writing.

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