Editor’s note: This post was originally published January 2016 on Digital Book World.
Today’s readers and book buyers are savvy. Ads are not enough to get a potential customer’s attention, and being bombarded daily with emails, texts, posts, tweets, shares, images and videos makes it incredibly easy, and more likely, for people to ignore ads.
In fact, people are going out of their way to avoid ads, installing plugins known as ad blockers to outright remove them. And despite what season 19 of “South Park” depicts—a world in which ads become sentient and quietly take over our lives—ad campaigns do not work as well as they used to when it comes to marketing products.
Enter content marketing, and the idea of gaining a community’s trust in order to sell products. In addition to sharing content that customers find worthwhile, and would potentially want to share with others, this method allows companies to forge connections with people by regularly communicating with them in a more pleasant manner.
Social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are important tools in establishing that trust, but they should be considered just that—tools—and not strategies themselves.
While there are many components to a successful marketing plan, here are six aspects to consider.
1. Figure out the audience. What is it about a book or a book series that makes it stand out? Can it help to solve a problem, and if so, how? Who would be interested in reading the book, and where can you find them? When are they active and when would they be open to listening to you? One tool that may be helpful in answering these questions is Find My Audience, a website, currently in beta, that finds potential readers on Twitter. Users provide information about a book, and then the tool gives information on the target audience for that book. The site is free to use for now, but eventually users will have the option to pay a monthly fee in exchange for information on Facebook and Goodreads.
2. Have specific goals. Are you trying to build an email list? Do you want to increase sales? Would you rather current fans or followers be more engaged with the content you post? Focus on what you are trying to accomplish, and then work from there to achieve it.
3. Create a system similar to Chris Syme’s SMART method so you can actually build a fanbase and sell books. One tip to keep in mind is to deliver different messages, in different ways, to different audience segments. What to post and the number of times to post per day varies among Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Also, younger readers tend to use Instagram and Tumblr more, and older readers tend to stick with Facebook. Keep your goals and audience in mind when coming up with a system.
4. Build trust. If you don’t have a customer’s trust, then how can you expect them to buy from you? Seth Godin goes into detail on his blog about permission marketing, which involves earning the privilege to send “anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.” You earn this privilege by delivering on promises, creating and sharing valuable content, and eventually having enough credibility that people believe in you and your products.
5. Engage with your community. Engagement can help build trust, and there are many ways to connect with your audience and make them feel special. A few ideas include:
• polling cover images or character names
• hosting weekly Twitter chats with a hashtag that promotes an author, book or fan group,
• shouting out to readers who email or share messages on social media
• giving away copies of books with personalized thank you notes
• posting videos that give behind-the-scenes information about a book
• sharing chapter reveals
• mailing swag, like stickers or illustrations
• sending email updates about upcoming novels
• setting up forums or groups on Facebook or Google+ to encourage discussion
6. Work agilely. Now that I work in tech, I get to see the agile method firsthand. Breaking down your marketing strategy and focusing on making it incrementally better, two weeks at a time, can make a big difference. You can take a loose interpretation of the agile methodology and apply it to marketing. The idea is to work on a two-week schedule, called “sprints,” and meet a goal or set of goals by the end of the sprint. To determine what to work on in each sprint, take some time to assess feedback and figure out what’s engaging people and what content they want to see. Then adjust your plan accordingly.
What components do you take into consideration for your marketing plan? What works best for you? Please let me know in the comments.