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Why Gift Shops Work (and What That Has To Do With Selling Your Books)

If you’re a member of the Inner Circle Writers’ Group on Facebook, you will have observed that on most Mondays I have a slot called ‘Marketing Monday’ in which I encourage members to post links directly to their websites and books and so on. At the same time, I discourage members from doing this in the main group feed - there, any attempt to ‘sell’ to members is discouraged and usually not allowed.

Why is this?

I have commented on this in the group itself, but here’s a slightly expanded version of what I said there which goes over some larger principles that may be of use to you.

Firstly, anyone who has tried to promote themselves or their own books by sending out mass 'promotional' material wholesale to group pages on Facebook may have noticed something: it doesn't work. Feedback is tremendously minimal - have you observed that? You send out post after post, perhaps even use Facebook Ads, and, compared to the amount of people who potentially view what you’ve posted, you perhaps get one or two clicks or likes, and very rarely anything more than that.

Have you wondered why? Or have you just assumed ‘that was the way that marketing works’ or concluded that there was something wrong with your ads?

There are fuller answers in my Marketing Handbook, but the short answer is that only a tiny, tiny number of people are in a state or condition of 'interest' in any given moment with regard to receiving your direct promotional material. Let’s assume for a moment that you’re not trying to sell a book but instead are a pizza restaurant. You send out millions of pizza ads on social media, and get maybe a few dozen people ordering a pizza as a direct result of an ad that you have placed. Why is that? Because, of the millions who saw your ad, only a few were hungry at that moment; and of that few, an even smaller number wanted pizza; and of that smaller number, an even tinier number wanted your pizza.

What happens to all the other millions of views your ad received? People scrolled past. In most cases, they didn’t even register that your ad existed.

How can I be sure? Because I behave the same way: I see ads here and there all the time and simply scroll past. I’m just not ‘in the mood’ for whatever that ad was about at that time. A tiny percentage of people are in the mood and so you get a click now and again, if you’re lucky.

If this is the way I behave, and probably the way you behave, why expect others to behave differently?

It's called 'shouting from the rooftops' marketing, and a more complete explanation of what it is and why people do it even though it is not very effective is in my book.

Secondly, if I were to allow every 'selling' type post through to the main page of my group, it would quickly be swamped with such material. At this writing, there are over 170 such posts waiting for me to approve them. Most will not get approved. Am I being mean? Quite the reverse: apart from not wanting to swamp members with such stuff, I am actually doing you a favour if you've tried to post something like that. It doesn't work that way - it's a waste of your time and energy, and will only lead to exhaustion and disappointment.

What should you do then?

Have you ever visited one of those grand National Trust properties in England and seen the fascinating rooms, the old furniture, the interesting exhibits, the posh history or the beautiful scenery? And then, usually positioned in a corner near the exit, there's a gift shop, isn't there?

Why do you think that works?

Think about it…

You wander around the vast rooms, the wonderful gardens, the grand scenes, picking up here and there a fascinating piece of information, an inspiring story or a glimpse of something mysterious and romantic, and then, on your way out, you are presented with an array of tastefully presented merchandise. Of course, in a state of heightened interest, you are inclined to justify buying something. And people do - they spend far more money at those gift shops than they probably planned to spend before they came in.

What do you think would happen if those gifts were placed in every room, along every corridor, throughout the gardens, each with a vocal salesperson advocating as loudly as possible that you make a purchase? After a short while, you would probably ‘tune out’ their voices; after a little longer, you would grow weary at trying to see beyond them to the things you came to look at in the first place; and soon, tired and frustrated, you would most likely turn around and go elsewhere - probably without having bought anything.

Marketing Monday is as close as I can come on Facebook to having a 'gift shop'. The rest of the group is about fascinating ideas, jokes or insightful quotes, interesting articles, snippets of history or art or beautiful concepts. Then, once you are fired up and perhaps want to see what the members have to sell, there's Marketing Monday.

Put your gifts in the gift shop. Not strewn along the pathway.

You get the idea?

Marketing is all about affinity.

For more, see my book.

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