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Intriguing the Prospect

This is how conventional marketing is supposed to work:

1. You have a group of ‘warm prospects’.

2. You place before this group a well-positioned ad, or a forum comment, or a free gift in a news feed to grab some attention.

3. Those prospects with a strong enough need for your kind of work will click on them. In a group of fantasy readers, for example, someone sees your latest novel about the inner life of dragons. The topic might be quite similar to some others around, but perhaps your unique take on dragons, or a particularly interesting cover, or a spicy blurb, has prompted enough motion for their fingers to twitch and click your link.

The reason that this works, when it does, is because there is a small group of people within your ‘warm’ group who are ready to be ‘triggered’ in this way by your ad, comment or free gift. You will get some ‘clicks’.

But the truth is that things have become more sophisticated than when advertising began, back in the twentieth century. Then, companies could survive on those individual members of the public who could be persuaded by the ‘new media techniques’ of billboards, ads in newspapers, commercials on television and so on. Even as the internet evolved, some businesses could get by using the standard advertising techniques developed by Google, Facebook and the like, as there are always some prospects who will be ready to buy.

Nowadays, though, people are flooded with streams of information which they stare at hourly through screens and phones. It’s not that the public has changed all that much - there will still be people who will click and buy when they see something that they need - it’s that the number of people trying to sell them things has grown exponentially.

Writers and other individual artists feel this acutely. People used to buy books that appeared in a few bookshops in their hometown, selected by traditional publishers and made available through carefully controlled and rather slow channels. A book cost a certain amount and required that someone physically go somewhere to buy it. Now, millions of wannabe authors bombard the internet with ready-made and pre-packaged ads and blurbs and images and free gifts, competing for the same number of prospects’ attention.

The prospects are more or less the same; the amount of attention that they can give is more or less the same. But the amount of things demanding that attention has sky-rocketed.

This means that a well-placed ad, a forum comment or even a free gift simply don’t get the attention that they used to, even when there’s nothing particularly wrong with them.

There just isn’t enough attention to go round.

Too many items/not enough attention creates a kind of ‘trade imbalance’: the apparency is that there is too much supply and not enough demand. Your smartphone and desktop are overloaded with sales pitches in one form or another, and you can’t pay adequate heed to them all.

But the battle for attention is the same in marketing as it is in writing.

When your story flagged, it could be lifted up by magnifying the unknowns - readers could be pulled along by the four key questions: ‘What will happen next?’, ‘What’s really going on?’, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ and ‘What is this really all about?’

A marketing campaign is exactly the same.

To grab your share in an overloaded marketplace, you have to develop campaigns which pull the prospect along by making him or her ask ‘What will happen next?’; you have to glue their attention to your communication by compelling them to wonder ‘What’s really going on?’; you have to engage them on a deeper level by forcing them to contemplate ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ and finally they have to be assured every step of the way that what you have to say is really all about something that they really need.

The purpose of fiction is to create motion towards fulfilment.

The purpose of marketing is to create motion towards acquisition.

But at this end of your marketing channel it is still shallow. What you need to do quickly is deepen that channel.

When a person clicks on something, he or she needs to see something immediately which will make them want to read on. What is that something?

You can best answer that question by again referring back to the fundamentals of story-telling.

What was it in your story - or in any successful story - which, within the first few pages, deepened the reader’s commitment so that they were prepared to keep turning the pages and get involved in the plot?


Master authors quickly reveal a character who is so attractive that a reader feels a need to read on to find out what happens to that ‘person’.

It’s exactly the same in marketing.


Stay tuned for the next exciting episode...


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