Let’s assume that you have set up a Facebook group, an author’s page, or a dedicated website which has attracted some followers. You have, to some extent, developed your own group of people. These people have separated off from the wider 'herd' in some small way and decided that they like you or your books to some degree. It might not mean much - a ‘like’ is cheap in the fast-moving world of social media - but it’s something. All those identities who have indicated even a small liking for you differ in a positive way from the general mass of public which you have perhaps been attempting to establish some contact with through ads or what have you.
What do you do next?
Your purpose, the thing burning in both the front and the back of your mind as regards your work, is probably to sell your books to as many people as you can. You’ve created this ‘author platform’ as a shell around your work, but the whole drive of the thing has been to attract as many people as possible to the book or books at its core. If you were to draw an arrow between your book and any group of readers, you would probably draw it pointing from the readers to the book - you want them to move towards it, you want their attention. Anything that points the other way, from you to the reader - an ad, a Facebook post, a message, an email - has as its underlying intention the purpose of making the reader look towards, move towards and finally purchase and read your book.
The entire purpose of marketing is to reduce the distance between the book (or any kind of product) and its prospective readers (or customers).
Conventional marketing does this through a kind of attempted ‘mass hypnosis’, pumping out message after message after message on all available channels with the aim of 'mesmerising' an audience and drawing it in. The main problem with this is that it is immensely inefficient - wasteful in the extreme, in fact. For the amount of hypnotic messages sent out, only a tiny percentage achieve their effect. And it’s by looking at exactly what happens with that tiny percentage that we can spot the clues to doing this better.
The tiny number of people who respond to any ad fall into two basic categories:
1. The kind of person who responds to advertising messages of any kind, usually subliminally and without much conscious processing.
This kind of person will make a phone call after seeing a TV ad asking for phone calls; they will reply to newspaper ads which say magic words like ‘Free’ or ‘Sale’; they will be drawn hither and thither by the thousands of different messages which they are receiving throughout their day, with less than conscious awareness.
2. The kind of person who was looking for exactly what the ad was advertising at that exact moment.
In other words, a small number of people are actually looking for any particular product, including books, at any given moment, and more or less through luck an ad struck them and they consciously and with full awareness decided to act upon it based in their needs at that moment.
Conventional marketing survives on both these kinds of people. The semi-conscious first type form the fuel of the words of modern fashion, for example: all a marketer has to do is put out a message of any kind, and a certain minority of people will automatically respond as though they were robots, based on mental ‘buttons’ of which they are largely unaware. Meanwhile, the second, much more conscious and self-determined type make more thoughtful purchases. Together, the funds from both these groups convince modern marketers that their bulk approach works, even though marketing of this kind seldom achieves more than a 2 or 3% return.
Even then, it could be argued that the only reason any marketing message succeeds is because it addressed the person rather than the product.
What does that mean?
It means that the arrow was pointing the other way and didn’t have as its primary purpose the pulling in of the customer but the empowerment or recognition of the customer and his or her needs.
To make this clearer, here is an outline of how a truly effective marketing communication should proceed. I should point out that the sequence that follows is pure magic and not to be dismissed lightly:
1. The marketer looks at the prospect and calculates whether or not that prospect a) is appropriate for the product in question (in other words, is actually a prospect) and b) is in a state of readiness to receive the communication.
This isn’t necessarily a quick or easy step. A professional marketer who understands marketing will spend time isolating those people in the general marketplace who form an appropriate public for his or her message. This is where the Facebook group, the page, the site, the blog and all the rest of it come in: their purpose is to separate out the appropriate from the inappropriate. That takes time and patience.
Having gathered these people together as a group in some way, the marketer can’t just blast them at any time of the day or night with messages. There is a right time and place for every message, and unless that is adhered to as well, it also will be wasted.
2. The marketer sends the message precisely to the prospect. It must be an empowering message tailored to match exactly what the marketer has discovered to be that prospect’s particular need, or it will be a waste of time.
Note that it is the marketer’s task to establish the needs of the prospect. Forming a Facebook group, a page, a website, gathering together an email list and so forth all have as their primary function the accumulation of people with similar needs. But the message shouldn't do what much modern marketing tries to do - stimulate the recipient into instant, unthinking action, as though with an electric prod. Real marketing engages with the prospect on equal terms.
3. The marketer waits while the prospect realises that what is being communicated matches what is needed.
This is the precise point where the vast bulk of most marketing, even when it has proceeded correctly so far, goes badly wrong.
How long does it take for a prospect, or group of prospects, to realise that any communication has anything to do with a surface or an underlying need that they might have?
Some recognise it quickly as respond immediately; some take a little while and respond much more hesitantly; some take ages and hardly respond at all. The message has to stay out there in some form, or be repeatedly communicated in various ways and shapes, until even the slowest prospect begins to see it for what it is. That can take weeks, months, years.
When you hear that one of the key ingredients of success is ‘persistence’, this is why: it takes time for messages to reach their destinations and to be properly understood. Part of this, of course, is pre-selecting an appropriate audience in the first place, hence the earlier steps.
How do you know when a message has finally gotten through?
Because Step 4 will occur.
4. The prospect communicates back to the marketer.
This might not - and probably will not - be a purchase. This will be some form of returning communication - a ‘like’, a positive comment, a ‘follow’, a ‘share’ and all the rest of those kinds of things. It might be an enquiry or a sale, which is great. But it’s most likely to be something of less intensity that that. It’s still a good thing - a returning ‘echo’ of some kind from the outward flowing messages the marketer has been sending.
It means that the marketer has begin reducing the gap between him or her and the prospect.
5. The marketer recognises the returning communication and thanks the prospect.
Again, this is often a missing step in much marketing. ‘Likes’, ‘follows’, comments, ‘shares’ and all the rest come in, and the marketer isn’t there to hear them. Tests have shown that the most effective marketers respond in return to any kind of message coming their way: they turn up in comment threads on social media, or express gratitude more generally for the response that they have received.
Prospects, seeing this, feel put at ease to some degree - the person who they are dealing with is shown to be real, alive, much like themselves, and not some kind of faceless machine or algorithm.
What does all of this boost?
And what happens when affinity is boosted?
The distance between the prospect and the marketer is reduced. In other words, the purpose of marketing is further achieved, to one degree or another.
6. The marketer sees that the prospect received the thanks.
Marketers might answer comments, ‘likes’, ‘follows’, etc but feel that they are doing so into a void the other way. So a marketer can do no harm by loading up this point of acknowledging the prospect.
Rewards, rewards, rewards. Make sure that the prospect is rewarded for each tiny motion made towards the product, as much as possible. Give free gifts, special offers, extra bonuses and so on every time a prospect reaches in the right direction. It will encourage them to do so further and more often.
7. Back to 1.
This isn’t just an automatic ‘Repeat the above’.
Step 1 has to be done just as carefully again as it was the first time. If the prospect has bought the book, is he or she now a prospect for the next book? Or does that mean that, having made their initial purchase, the person moves into a new category?
Next time, we'll run these steps through a practical example and you will perhaps better see what I am talking about.