Marketing, marketing for authors

Paradigm Marketing Shift: Make a Connection


My thoughts on marketing were kicked off this week not by the social media data engineering post I shared yesterday, but Dave Freer’s thoughts on the publishing industry and the impact the pandemic is having on it.

Once upon a time there were no book chains, and publishers had to sell to directly to small booksellers. Pretty soon they had distributors selling to the various little booksellers – from bookshops proper to racks in little corner shops. They knew their area, knew their customers – and who their customer’s customers were, and boy did they care, because if they didn’t the customer would not get any sales and would not buy next time.

He also talked about farming, and food production, which is a market we’re going to be feeling hard in the next few months. I shared his post with a comment that we were seeing a paradigm marketing shift happening. It’s not so much that our mental framework has been bent all out of shape by the pandemic, it’s that the markets were given a good hard yank from one frame, into another. Things get broken when you yank on them. Coming up to March 2020, I still knew people who refused to shop online. I could schedule a grocery pick-up and have my choice of time slots. Now? I’m having trouble getting orders in from Amazon for a birthday present at the end of the month, and grocery pick-up and delivery times are impossible to secure unless you get up very early to poach a time as they open up. 
So we are seeing a shift. And the first rule, to make buying your product as easy as possible, still stands. Back when I ran an entertainment business, I learned, and later taught, the simple concept: the first one to answer the phone gets the gig. I lived by the phone, back then. Now? It’s a lot easier to shop around. So making that connection to pull in the sale is even more important. 
So how do you get that sale? And more important, how do you keep the customer coming back again and again? It’s simple. You build a relationship with them. You gain their trust – and I say this not in a ‘lure them in’ way, but by being authentic and delivering as much if not more than you promise. By being an expert, if that is needed. For myself and author friends, giving them what they want in a book to read. And Dave’s point about the small booksellers? Those people know what the readers wanted. We don’t have their expertise any longer. On the other hand, we can and do interact with our readers – our customers – who might live a half a world away from us. We make global connections, not just local ones. This is the power of the new market. We can find our niche, no matter where it is. 
So how do you make a strong connection? I was already blogging when I met Peter Grant for the first time at LibertyCon. But he said something that stuck with me – be consistent. His blog, Bayou Renaissance Man, is updated at minimum daily, sometimes multiple times. I can’t possibly do that sort of volume, but I could, and did, blog every day for years. Now I strive for 5 days a week. Even a weekly blog, if it is full of interesting content, is fine. But make it more than ‘this is what I’m writing’ I have learned. Get active in the comments, and learn what your readers want, then do your best to give them that. Mary Ann Mohanraj’s gorgeous food blog, for instance, delivers with recipes, thoughts on food, and a place to order her cookbook. James Nettles’ blog is very niche, marketing articles geared toward writers (and one of those newsletter popups, oh dear) but that kind of tight targeting isn’t a bad idea at all. My blog is sometimes distressingly eclectic for my readers, I’m afraid. 
I have a lot of author friends who contributed their websites for this marketing post. Like Amie Gibbons’ site, where you can learn more about her spunky self, what she’s written, and find what’s coming out next. Or Cannon Publishing, which is more direct, as the splash page gets you right to the books, letting their covers speak for them with no descriptions until you click through. Websites are not so much to make that connection as they are a place to go once the connection has begun, to explain more than is socially acceptable in a brief conversation (be that in person or online!). Here’s the thing: very few people like a sale to be made by hovering. Most folks I know like to take a look at the wares and make up their own mind, but be able to ask questions if necessary. Yesterday’s post I mentioned Ray Rayburn’s site as not being the most slick -it’s not, it’s utilitarian, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But he has something Amazon can never offer. He is an expert. You can email him and ask him very specific questions, or pick up the phone and have a conversation about what will best fill your specific and unique needs. Amazon can’t offer that, and would be silly to try. 
One of the problems we face, running a small business in a global market, is making those connections happen at all. How do you break through the sound and fury that is the internet? Same old way as ever: word of mouth. Happy clients talk about good experiences. They talk about bad ones, too. Happy clients suggest companies to their family and friends, or they warn them of ones that made them unhappy. You can’t make every customer happy. There are people out there who live to be angry. But you can leverage the happy ones. It’s a slow process. But it’s worth taking the time to build yourself up in a niche as the place to go. I was getting calls for years after I retired the entertainment biz from people who wanted me, just me. Not that it was what I did, it was my skillset and personality. I’m proud of that. It took decades to get there.