In the furiously competitive, attention-span-of-a-gnat world of bookselling, The Barefoot Investor has bucked the trend in a huge way. In this post, David Burton, Editor in Chief of For Pity Sake Publishing, credits this success almost entirely to author Scott Pape’s remarkable marketing and communication efforts, particularly the unwavering adherence to his down-to-earth, accessible image over a long period time. This puts paid to the idea of the ‘overnight success’ if there ever was such a thing. Please read on…
In 2017, one book has completely dominated the bestsellers list. The Barefoot Investor by Scott Pape sold 250,000 copies in the first six months of its release. This books towering success has been enough to label it ‘The Biggest Financial Cult In Australia’ by MammaMia. Scott’s influence is now felt on the Australian Stock Exchange. His stock tips are enough to cause rises of up to 22% in just a few days. Just a few weeks ago he managed a half-hour exclusive interview with the Prime Minister.
But he’s hardly an overnight success. Scott’s occupied regular spots on The Project and even CNBC for many years. His weekly syndicated column (freely available in blog form from his site) is incredibly popular. The Barefoot Investor was originally published in 2004. Since then, it’s been re-designed, shifted publishers, and slowly worked its way up the ranks to hold the #1 best-seller spot in Aussie books for almost all of 2017.
So what’s the secret to his success? Well, to put it bluntly – he’s bloody good.
Yes, I write as a convert to the ‘Barefoot Path’ but wonderfully, the ‘financial cult’ is hardly harmful. There’s little in the Barefoot Plan that isn’t regular common sense. His principles are tried, tested to the point of being boring. Don’t spend money you don’t have. Put a regular amount of your pay into savings. Talk about your financial goals with your spouse and make sure you have a shared vision. Invest in shares that have boring, slow, steady returns.
Scott’s book differs from the dozens of other titles that share similar advice in two important ways.
The first is his extremely practical and specific steps underlying his core principles. He insists, repeatedly, that he is an independent voice, and doesn’t take any dosh or perks from the services he plugs. His support of ING Direct and Hostplus Super has seen customers rush to them in the thousands. The Australian-specific, simplified advice on the best places to put your money make the intimidating world of personal finance seem eminently doable.
The second stand-out factor of Scott’s success is his branding, backed by his writing style. The picture on the front cover of his book is a deliberate ploy. He’s the Bondi Vet of finance. How could you not trust an honest, blonde farmer with a cute dog by his side? His writing backs up the image of a ‘mate-down-the-pub’ chat.
These two elements are not to be underestimated. Business writing and corporate conversation can be frustratingly insular. Scott’s break into the mainstream Australian cultural dialogue, and his phenomenal success as a brand, is almost entirely credited to his clarity of communication. He knows who he is, he knows what he’s selling. And in the world of personal finance advice, where trust is the essential currency, that clarity is everything. His no-BS, practical advice is not trying to impress you. Rather, it encourages you. It breaks down the complex into clear, definable terms. ‘Don’t understand super or tax? Let me explain how this works in under 2,000 words and save you a lot of money.’ Who can resist that?
Scott is also casting a wide net. His principles are broad enough that they can apply to the retired couple, the cashed-up investor, or even a lowly young minimum wage earner like me. The gap he’s identified is massive – personal finance education is seriously lax, and it’s evident in the amount of average Australian household debt. People want help.
Barefoot’s website and business structure is also an act of branding genius. There are three tiers for forming a relationship to the brand. The first is the blog and column – the free stuff. Easily accessible and mightily consistent. A fun, readable, relatable blog in your inbox every week. Plus, you can download the first 50 pages of his book for free from his website. The second tier is the book itself. A twenty to thirty-dollar price tag. It’s a non-fiction work, which makes it easy to articulate and market, and it’s a book that has a cult vibe. So when you’re finished, you’re likely to want to recommend it to everyone you know. In a world where book sales are meant to be diminishing, The Barefoot Investor has bucked the trend.
The third tier is The Barefoot Blueprint – a membership program with a price tag of just under $400 a year. And yes, I’m a convert to this too. But the price is good value, I reckon, for what you get. A PDF or podcast every week. Stock tips. Step-by-step video guides to changing your bank, super, insurance and trading shares online. It’s a program with tens of thousands of subscribers. One’s mind boggles at just what Scott’s annual income must be.
His entire success is built upon the clarity and consistency of his brand, and the fact that the information he’s providing is genuinely helpful. A lesson those writing in the world of business and finance could bear to learn.