Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Marketing Tactics for Authors

Last week I talked about how your readers are your brand ambassadors. People commented about their own experiences with authors who were less than gracious, as well as good celebrity encounters that were humble and cool.

One type of encounter leaves you a life-long fan, and the other type turns you off forever.

Today I'm going to give some marketing ideas for dealing with readers who love you (this is targeted toward published authors). In other words, this is how to turn readers into your brand ambassadors.

Why do we want brand ambassadors, again?
Simply put, a brand ambassador sells your books for you. Also:

  • A happy reader will buy all of your books the second they are released.
  • A happy reader will go buy more copies of your books for their friends and relatives as gifts. Don't think they do? Think again. I've done this with all of my top favorite authors. Multiple sales. 
  • A happy reader will blog, tweet, or rave online about you. I did this about Liza Palmer and guess what? It resulted in at least one book sale that I know of. 
  • A happy reader will engage with you (if you're accessible) and give you adoration.
  • A happy reader may just turn into a peer -- and as a fellow published writer, that's a resource in your corner. 
Pop quiz time. 

Let's say you have a book out there. You get an email or a tweet or a blog comment from a reader saying, "I could not put this book down. I loved it. I LOVE you [author name].  New favorite author!"

Do you:
a) Enjoy the praise and grin quietly to yourself
b) Reply and thank the reader
c) Ignore the reader 
d) Thank the reader, remark about how cool that is, and invite that reader to be on your super elite inner circle list of people who get your news first including galleys and other book related merchandise, because you recognized that this reader is going to be your champion

I hope you answered D.

Too many authors, unfortunately, do C. I get it. I do. Big authors especially get this kind of praise all the time. And they're not marketers. Sheesh, that's what PR people are for, right? Writers write! This post is not for those authors. This is for people who understand that marketing takes work, and that rewarding your customer means repeat business and untold goodwill when that customer then goes and sings your praises.

So, what do you do with that gem of a reader? Here are some ideas, from least engaging to most engaging.

Make it easy to approach you. Tweet, blog, be on Facebook, put your email out there and say along with it that you love hearing from readers. Give an email address. Provide a newsletter signup. Then....

It only takes a second and a reply tells the reader you're listening and you appreciate it. Sadly, one of my most favorite authors, Marian Keyes, only replies on Twitter to her friends--possibly because she's got a fat massive readership following and commenting at her in every direction. It's not just Marian--I've tweeted to many people who are some kind of celebrity and actually never gotten an answer from them. While I don't love Marian any less (to do so would be sacrilegious), does a non-reply chip away at my adoration? Honestly? Yeah. It does. I'll still buy the book, though.

So why is it important to reply, then?

Because if you reply, the reader LOVES YOU. They're really happy. They're ecstatic! And they'll do MORE than just buy your book. They'll buy for others. They'll talk about it. They'll be your own publicist.  

Talk with your readers. Have a conversation with them. Yeah, scary, especially if you get a lot of mail that's on the inane side. No! Do not nod along with that sentence! Your readers are not inane--and if they are, it doesn't matter, because they are your customers!
  • Start a conversation with them (very easy to do on Twitter)
  • Invite them to talk with you more by email or blog
  • Offer them stuff. Offer to sign their books if they send them to you. Offer to send bookmarks. Which is part of... 
If you have someone who took the time to approach you online and who isn't overtly psycho? This one is a slam dunk.
  • Invite them to join your top-echelon mailing list that gives them first-basis access to your news and books
  • Give them a galley proof -- or add them to the list of people who receive pre-release book copies. If that seems like you're kissing a sale away, then send them the first chapter or two before a new book comes out, by email. It'll get them excited and talking. 
  • Offer to do an interview on their blog. Again we're talking about the devoted reader here. Is this really so hard to do? And the benefits go so far. If you're thinking, yes, but I don't have time to do this for everyone who asks, I'm not saying do it for everyone who asks. Do it for the readers who have reached out and adored you rather than the ones who are fishing for a big name. You know the difference. 
  • Offer a signed bookmark or book-related promo item-- this seems silly but it's something and sometimes if this is all you have to give, it's enough.
  • Take it a step further and include that reader in a public thank you on your blog or Twitter.
Here's Why You Should Do It
Understand that what you're doing here is making your reader feel rewarded, special, and part of an inner circle. I'm not suggesting that you spend oodles of time on every one--or maybe I am. Readers are your customers, after all, and offering people a reward pushes like into love. One of the reasons for that is that we are totally accustomed to seeing businesses offer first-time customers a reward, but it is very rare that existing devotees of a brand get anything at all. But giving them something transforms them from fans to brand ambassadors.

If you're still not convinced, here's another story. A few years ago, I went to buy some printer ink online. I went to and what I liked is that they were offering 20% for everyone--not just people who were first time customers. (Google "New customers only" in Google images and see the amazing amount of stuff that comes up if you want to see how many companies do this.) Rewarding first time customers is a huge marketing mistake because there's no brand loyalty for first-timers. But your repeat customers? Give them the discount code! DUH! They are the ones who will be back! It blows my mind how many companies miss the boat on this.

Anyway, I thought that was cool of 4inkjets so I blogged about it. And then tweeted that post. They were listening. (Listen) They saw it. (Reply) They thanked me, and then asked me for my address to send me a thank you token. (Engage and reward) It was a wireless mouse with their logo on it.

Pretty cool, huh? All because I was public about how cool they were. At no point did they ask me to blog about them, nor did they ask that I publicly mention that I got a gift. But am I repeat customer now? Of course! More than that, am I all about what a great company they are? Yes! When people ask me where I get ink supplies (and they do), guess where I direct them? And not just direct them, but tell them why to go there?

A final word. When your brand ambassador refers a friend to you, treat that friend like gold. That friend is primed to be another brand ambassador because they've already had good experience number 1 and it wasn't even their own-- it was the original friend. Build on that.

Comments? Questions?


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