What does a marketing campaign need in order to accomplish its goals?
Well, the first thing it needs is goals. These have to be defined and realistic. Many writers, setting out to market their books, have only the vaguest notion of how they would define ‘success’ in marketing. Do they want overnight stardom? Or a slowly building fanbase? Or notoriety? Or prize-winning recognition? But sitting down and working out what goals one wants to achieve brings to the fore several factors that are in play in any marketing campaign, whether they have been thought about consciously or not. More often than not, these are not consciously considered, which is why so many writers feel so desperate and confused when it comes to marketing.
Here are the four factors which need to be taken into account when putting together a marketing campaign for anything, not just books:
This is very fundamental, but is the thing most often missed. Marketing takes time. I have written elsewhere about the similarities between marketing and farming - a farmer would not expect to wake up one morning and harvest the seeds that he planted only yesterday. It’s the same with marketing anything: things take time.
To achieve success, a marketing campaign needs to be planned out over time, with distinct sections and sub-goals. This might seem like a chore, but actually Time is one of the things that can be utilised in a campaign to strengthen it. When you see people offfering opportunities to ‘pre-order’ their books, they are making use of Time and the anticipation about something happening in the future. It’s the same when you see the words ‘Coming Soon’, or when a movie trailer gives you the date of a film’s release. Using Time properly in marketing can help bring about the thing that it is best at: momentum.
Momentum is created by the future. It is the gap or vacuum between ‘Now’ and the future which pulls attention forward.
We’ve all seen ads of a superficial kind, either billboards or newspaper ads or television commercials or items in social media newsfeeds or the like, which are nothing more than they appear to be. ‘Buy One, Get One Free’ with a packet of frozen peas pictured, or ‘£200 off our latest sofas’ with a picture of the latest sofa - that kind of thing. These are ads which only work if you happen to fancy frozen peas or a new sofa and are very conscious of trying to save money. On a subliminal level, an enticing enough picture of a packet of frozen peas or a sofa can in some cases trigger a desire for either, which is primarily how these kinds of promotion work.
But they are highly unsophisticated. A more effective form of promotion is that which intrigues, which suggests hidden depths, which entices with a narrative which hints at more than is shown. Any commercial which tries to tell a story uses this factor to some extent - encouraging the viewer to be involved with and engaged with something beneath the superficial. Advertising has become more and more sophisticated in this way over the last fifty years especially, until now we have elaborate ads which sometimes take this a little too far and leave us mystified as to what the product being advertised actually is.
Using depth means that you can engage a public whose attention was not initially tracking with you at all. In book marketing, this is both easy and vital: easy in that a book usually has elements of mystery and depth about it which can be brought to the fore; vital, because without this factor used effectively, a book gets lost in the crowd.
I don’t mean ‘advertising space’, though that concept comes into it. I mean ‘space’ in the sense of an area into which the reader or viewer is drawn, a shared reality between the marketer and the public. Effective marketing has to include the prospect; it has to embrace his or her reality; it has to result in the prospect feeling that the subject of the marketing is himself or herself, individually. It does this by developing as profound an understanding as possible of the target audience.
How does one obtain such an understanding? Through communication. One can guess what is going on in a prospect’s mind or world, or one can actually take the trouble to find out. Taking the trouble means adding time into the equation and it also means that one cannot avoid actually engaging with live people rather than figures on an SEO chart or someone else’s graph.
Only live communication of some kind results in a sufficient understanding of the prospect needed to produce what all marketing is attempting to produce, which is a reduction of the gap between the prospect and the product.
4. Time plus Depth plus Space equals Results
It might sound like a tautology to suggest that an effective marketing campaign requires results. But it’s important to include this fourth embracive factor so that a marketer can understand how the elements work together.
If a marketing campaign has enough Time, but lacks Depth and Space, it will struggle; if a campaign has Depth but lacks Time and Space, it will founder; if it has Space, but lacks Time and Depth, it will lean towards ineffectiveness. It is the aesthetic blending of all the factors which produces an effective marketing campaign.
Take any campaign that you see around you and analyse it using these factors: is it extended through enough Time to get a result? Does it hook your attention with enough Depth? Do you feel part of a shared Space with it?
One of the world’s most successful marketers, the Apple computer company, has campaigns which are transparent in the light of the four factors listed above: it uses Time to signal to a widening public that new products are coming; it uses Depth to entice and enchant attention with aesthetic layers; it uses Space to identify and relate to its demographic. Result? Apple is the richest private company in the world.
As an individual author striving to market perhaps only one or two small scale books, this might seem like ridiculous talk of giant ideas which cannot be brought down to the budget, resources and operating level of a single person on laptop computer with a wifi connection. But these are principles, concepts, maxims: they can be applied at any level. Take a look at what you are trying to do with your book or books, and over what period of time; examine how you are presenting your product in terms of layers and depth; inspect to what degree are your pronouncements about your work attempting to share the reality of your prospective readers. And how is all this working together?
Tampering just a little with any of these four factors boosts your marketing in the right direction.
For more about marketing see my book, designed especially with writers in mind.