I wanted to give you an instance of how to use the same principles that work in story telling to acquire some success in marketing. To do this, I’m going to use a very personal and small scale example.
I wrote a book over two years, (How Stories Really Work) based on 40 years of study of fiction and its patterns, and promoted this on the net as much as I could, to almost zero response. The few people who did read it raved about it and wrote five star testimonials. So something didn’t make sense: the contents of the book were better than good, but it wasn’t taking off.
To increase the affinity between the book and its potential public, I started a group on Facebook and added as many friends as I could whom I thought might be remotely interested in writing.
I pumped the group full of interesting material about writing and interacted with members intensively, creating a real community.
Initially, I offered the e-book version of my book as a reward for anyone who added the most writing-friendly people to the group, and this succeeded in adding a few dozen more members.
Then I offered the e-book for free to ALL members for a limited time if the group could reach a certain number of members by the end of that month. Suddenly, things took off, and dozens more members were added at a rapid rate. The group met its target. I posted a link to the e-book and many members took advantage of it and downloaded the book for free.
This added those hot names to my email database.
These people then became beta-readers - they were complete strangers who would read the book and give me feedback. Those who wrote back raved about the book.
What did I gain?
Several hundred extra members in the group (which has steadily grown every day since then), more than doubling it in size and attracting some experienced writers
Dozens of extra names for my database
Dozens of beta-readers and some new testimonies
The crossover between the email database and the group members who have downloaded the book gave me my ‘tribe’, the people from both who were interested enough to get the book.
Now it’s probably true that this whole process could be magnified into a much larger operation. What I did was very small, right at the beginning of setting something up, but it’s possible to see that, given a few more resources and a little more time, it might have been feasible to boost the group into tens of thousands of members, acquire hundreds if not thousands of names for a database, and bring on board hundreds of beta readers. It all depends what the end goal is and what resources you have access to. The principles are the same, though.
And that’s what interests me: the theory behind why this worked.
Stripped of specifics, it goes something like this:
An author, or a business, develops a product after careful research and much work, which doesn’t immediately take off in the open market, despite tests proving that it was more than adequate in itself. This is because, though the thing may be highly effective in itself, it is still invisible to the wider world, despite any attempt to advertise or promote it.
To solve this, to make the product visible, an author or business needs to find a sub-group within that open market - a niche or sector of the marketplace which is broadly interested in the wide category of whatever the product is and for whom similar products are already visible. It’s like finding the public who are on enough of a wavelength to have some hope of picking up your signal.
A free-ranging and lively conversation or series of conversations need to occur within this niche public, not with the aim of ‘selling’ them anything, or even with the idea of introducing or mentioning the initial product at this stage. In the course of this ongoing communication, the author or business becomes more ‘real’ to the members of that sub-group. In effect, the members begin to see at least part of themselves in that author or business. Visibility increases; affinity grows; the beginnings of trust are established.
The aim at this point is to create a community of interactive people, not a set of prospects or a collection of statistics. The more real the communication is, the better; the more responsive and human the author or business appears, the closer is the approach to the objective of this stage.
Once the community is established, the initial product can be introduced as an incentive within that community without necessarily giving it too much attention. Just as I made acquiring my book a prize for adding people to my community, so any product should be aligned with the goals of that group. Any attempt to make the product the central aim of the group will be counterproductive. But make it a side-aim and it should start to draw attention. But it needs to be offered without cost.
Why is this?
Because introducing any element of cost demands a higher element of trust.
Following this model, the author or business hasn’t yet reached the ‘trust-quotient’ or ‘affinity level’ required in order for a member of the public to part with money comfortably. That may or may not come later. This first step is about establishing strong foundations for the trust to grow.
And it will grow, if this is done right. The community will grow, the product will be acquired, the word will spread. The author’s or business’s ‘tribe’ - the loyal followers, the ones who are prepared to go that bit further to get what the author or business of offering - begins to emerge.
This is how to build a foundation for future prosperity.