Review: Oversubscribed, by Daniel Priestley
Can you escape market fluctuation by creating your own micro market? By oversubscribing interest in your offering, you can control the demand and supply chain for your own mini market. In this review I explore how Daniel Priestly suggests we do this in his 2015 book, Oversubscribed.
The main idea: your own ‘market of me’
You can create demand for your own market. Rather than releasing a product with average interest, you wait until you have “oversubscribed” interest in your product before you release it, by providing ways for people to signal their intent to purchase. Then when you do release it, you make it a limited release to an audience that is larger than your capacity to deliver. This way you stay in demand due to the limited supply to your built-up market following.
How you get there
Priestly offers 7 principles for become oversubscribed, which is his perspective on this way of doing business. He then provides a 5-step system to actually get oversubscribed. In essence, the 7 principles and 5 steps are about having a campaign driven ecosystem that builds a list of interested followers, (à la super bloggers like Michael Hyatt, although Priestly doesn’t specifically say it’s a blog and newsletter strategy).
Here is my edited version of his process, merging the principles and stages together into one:
- Decide that you will create your own ‘market of me’ by becoming famous (for want of a better word), delivered via campaign driven marketing that is centred on 4-6 pushes a year.
- Setup your ecosystem of products. Give away the information, but charge for the implementation.
- Work out your “capacity”. This is how much work you can handle at once, i.e. 1 event with 100 people a time, 5 clients a year, or 1,000 orders for your product a month.
- Now, get oversubscribed by putting out messaging that is chock-a-block full of primingpriming and social proof. Your goal is for people to be able to join a newsletter or show some other way that they are interested, without buying just yet.
- Depending on the strength of the signal you’ve asked for to demonstrate interest, you use a formula to let you know when it’s time to release your offering:
- Five times capacity for strongly signalled interest, i.e., you can do 5 consulting clients a year. You need 25 to signal to you that they are ready to work with you.
- Ten times capacity for educated or entertained customers, i.e., you want to run an event for 100 people. You need 1,000 people to have experienced your events before.
- One hundred times capacity for soft signalling, i.e., you need 500 people to have downloaded your ebook before you can release your implementation consulting to 5 of them.
- When you do release and then go on to deliver your offering, do it remarkably.
- Celebrate the success stories of your customers by putting them online, filming them, tweeting them, etc, as this will increase your oversubscribed following.
The Golden Nuggets
While I was reading the book I considered giving this a 5-star review, as some bits were revelatory to me. However, upon reading the above process, I realise that it’s nothing terribly new and is rather the typical business model of any quasi-celebrity-aspiring blogger.
Having said that, there were indeed some nuggets, that I marked with dog-eared pages:
Get oversubscribed to the power of 5, 10 or 100. This is the most practical part of the book, and I found was worth its weight in gold. I might be slow to this one, but my method has often been to put things out when I only have a handful interested. Instead, Oversubscribed is about getting a lot of interest, not even sales, so that you build up market demand. I now have a distinct number I can work to, for instance, if I want 5 consulting clients, I need to find 25 people who want my services.
Building a reputation is about a clear message that is consistently shared. Obvious, but such a helpful reminder that the winning elements in marketing are clarity and consistency. Make it simple and make it frequent, and there’s a strong chance you’ll get known for that message.
Use social proof to demonstrate intention. I’ve known about social proof’s powers for years, but Priestly has a different view. His process is about getting a clear signal that says someone is interested in what you have to offer, and thus he has the phrase “people buy what others want to buy”, emphasising that you only need to show that people intend to buy it. This is quite clever – you could get large numbers to say they are interested, without buying anything, but use that to create demand.
The ecosystem is more valuable than the sum of its parts. As he writes, “it’s all part of an ecosystem of products and services that all work together to make a lot of money and to have a big impact. It’s the ecosystem as a whole that creates the value, NOT any one product, service, system or person.”
Run seasonal campaigns. We did this loads when I ran a media department, but I don’t do it now. But actually, perhaps I should. It’s very powerful. Consider Best Year Ever, which runs every January, as an example.
Oversubscribing means you can be selective. When you’ve got plenty of demand, you can then chose who you work with. Who doesn’t like that?
Cook the steak, and let the customers be the sizzle. In a book that I fear advocates hype (see Criticisms below), this statement is the opposite. Priestly says to not worry about all the buzz – just focus on delivering a remarkable experience for your customers – and then let them be the sizzle.
The examples that the author’s case is built upon are many outliers. For instance, in setting out to prove the model of a ‘market-of-me’, Priestly cities George Clooney. He writes that there are thousands of actors, but only one George Clooney, so there is always demand for a George Clooney. I found this logic faulty and highly optimistic.
Danger of hype. With the talk about fame, being oversubscribed, getting people to show their interest so that you can show that to others, I worry about this advocating hype over substance. You could make it look like lots of people want to buy what you have to offer, but no one has spent a penny, and thus it could easily be an exaggerated claim.
It’s not practical enough. I admire Daniel for sharing his business model so openly, however it lacks real world examples from the hairdresser round the corner, the local cafe, or that online homemade soap store. I would’ve been very interested in hearing how those businesses, especially bricks and mortar businesses, can get oversubscribed.
The method isn’t made clear enough. Given that the author is sharing a method, the book doesn’t really read like that. It’s structure and argument perhaps should’ve been built so that people walk away with a clear framework.
How the model fits with engagement
It was interesting to me that this model of getting oversubscribed is similar to my scatter-gather approach to engagement.
In a scatter-gather approach, you put the message out (through campaigns), and then gather the respondents together, demonstrating their interest, and eliciting social proof.
Thus I offer my thanks to Daniel Priestly for helping expand my understanding of the process of engagement by showing me his perspective.
The big takeaway
Ask people to register their interest, which is easier than asking them to buy.
For anyone in any form of digital reputation building, I’d recommend this book. Otherwise, it’s useful, but it wouldn’t be the most useful book you’d find on marketing and building your business, and I fear, would lead you down the fad route if you followed it to exclusion