64) The 4-Hour Workweek – smoke test in the physical world

wēi  danger

Timothy Ferriss, an American writer, educational activist, and entrepreneur wrote a semi-autobiographical self-help book in 2007 that was well received by friends and family.  Ferriss’ working title, ‘Drug Dealing for Fun and Profit’, wasn’t as well received.  He decided to proceed with the name anyway, liking it because it polarized opinion.  However, once he had secured distribution, Wal-Mart vetoed the title’s use so Ferriss was back to the drawing board.  He found it relatively easy to whittle the list down to 12 but found it tough to select a final name: everyone had an opinion on the best, including his agent and distributor but none agreed.  Surely he would be best going with his gut feel and upsetting either his distributor or agent?

jī opportunity

Instead, Ferriss decided to look for some data. He took 6 prospective titles that everyone could live with:  including ‘Broadband and White Sand’, ‘Millionaire Chameleon’ and ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ and developed an Google Adwords campaign for each.  He bid on keywords related to the book’s content including ‘401k’ and ‘language learning’: when those keywords formed part of someone’s search on Google the prospective title popped up as a headline and the advertisement text would be the subtitle.  Ferriss was interested to see which of the sponsored links would be clicked on most, knowing that he needed his title to compete with over 200,000 books published in the US each year.  At the end of the week, for less than $200 he knew that “The 4-Hour Workweek” had the best click-through rate by far and he went with that title.

His experimentation didn’t stop there, he decided to test various covers by printing them on high quality paper and placing them on existing similar sized books in the new non-fiction rack at Borders, Palo Alto.  He sat with a coffee and observed, learning which cover really was most appealing.

My colleague in New York, Joe Gerber has been using this approach recently with real success, it’s a reminder to me that every part of a business (including the virtual) can be prototyped.

How About…


  • Prototyping every part of your business before launch?
  • Placing advertisements into existing online networks before launch for feedback?  e.g. as Joe says how about using Foursquare to figure out “if this is worth stopping for?”

source video: http://vimeo.com/3934635