'Oh no! Not Marketing again! Do I have to?' Part Seventeen: Farming Your Public
You’re probably going to think that I have wandered off the subject of organic marketing here, but it’s in order to make real an analogy which, once you understand it, could quite possibly change the way you view marketing forever — and therefore your path to viability as a writer.
Organic marketing, properly understood, has a parallel in the development of agriculture 12,000 years ago. Settled agriculture fundamentally changed human societies in ways that you may not have considered.
For example: you expect, when you go shopping, to be able to get food — even if there’s a temporary shortage of one item, other items will be plentiful available, right? You have come to expect that a food supply will be readily accessible. You expect that, through certain agricultural practices, there will always be enough to sustain you and your family and the surrounding society. You don't expect that, in order to eat today or tomorrow, you will have to go out hunting for wild game — and yet, for the vast majority of human history, people lived from day to day based on the food they could hunt down at that time. People were nomadic for that reason —they did not have permanently settled societies, but moved around to chase the food.
Around 12,000 years ago, something fundamental changed. People in various parts of the world discovered that they could control the growth of wild plants, thus ensuring that they had enough food without having to hunt for it daily or move around to find it or chase it.
Do you see the parallel yet?
Right now, producers of products, including writers of books, live a ‘nomadic’ existence, hunting every day for the next sale. If they can’t or don’t want to do this for themselves, they hire marketing firms to do it for them — but the principle is still the primitive one of seeking out potential customers, and then using every possible marketing ‘trick’ to get those people to buy.
The marketers of today equate to the nomadic hunters of yesteryear.
The development of agriculture led to vast changes in human society; the development of organic marketing can do the same.
Human societies changed hugely during Neolithic times — one big adjustment was the shift from a nomadic to a sedentary life. A sedentary society is one that no longer moves around; it settles in one place. When early humans began farming, they were able to produce enough food so that they no longer had to follow the food source all over the place. That led to permanent structures, villages, towns, and eventually cities.
As a writer, using the principles of organic marketing, you will no longer have to chase your next sale, shifting attention from your writing to try to master ‘search engine optimisation’ and all the rest of that stuff to pin down your customers and then bombard them with ads until they buy. All of that will be gone: you’ll be able to focus on your writing and related topics that you love; you’ll be able to build worlds, set up places for your readers to meet, and gradually build networks of fans all across the globe — all from your desk or armchair.
Remember, conventional marketing came into existence to solve the problem of an absence of customers. Like the nomadic hunters, conventional marketing develops better and better traps to try to grab customers and hang onto them. It lives from day to day, campaign to campaign, testing and split-testing, spending time and energy in the ceaseless ‘war’ to feed the client.
Organic marketing solves that problem in a much better way.
The rise of settled, agricultural societies led to an increase in population. A greater ability to control the amount of food produced led to a surplus of food. Along with a lower death rate due to less fatal hunting injuries, this meant that population boomed. For the first time in history, there was enough food to sustain larger settlements of people. Some of them became the world’s first cities.
Hard though it may be to imagine, organic marketing works in the same way: a greater ability to control the number of potential and actual customers leads to a surplus of interest in a writer’s work.
Along with a lower failure rate due to less time and money wasted on advertising campaigns, this also means a much greater efficiency and focus in a writer’s life. For the first time in marketing history, there might be enough audience to sustain viability. Complex arrangements of groups and sub-groups could result in self-sustaining ‘cities’ of fans and super-fans.
If it’s hard to imagine, that’s OK: it was probably hard for the nomadic hunters to understand the benefits of a settled society at first. It’s a different world.
Farming Your Public
How many people does it take to operate a farm? A few, maybe — but generally, a productive farm will produce more food than the people working it can eat by themselves. Leftover food means that some can be sold for profit.
How many people does it take to operate a social media group? Usually only one, but if the group grows larger it might take a handful. But a well-run group will produce more sales than the number of people running it could have obtained by any other means. In terms of energy efficiency, organic marketing creates more than it burns.
Imagine running three or four social media groups, each one focused on particular topics that are utterly fascinating to you and which are a joy to engage with. Each group is a ‘farm’: careful cultivation and patience will produce the ‘crop’ of sales of your own work.
If these sales get to point where you gain a viable income from them, that will give you even more time and energy to focus on your writing. You might even get to the point where you could afford to pay someone to run the groups for you. That means all you have to do is write…
Settled agriculture gave society the leisure to do other things than search constantly for food, like design new tools, construct buildings, invent writing, create art, develop philosophy, come up with mathematics, and so forth.
Imagine what you could come up with, if you didn’t have to worry about where your income was coming from.
What would that be like?