Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Studies consistently show that word-of-mouth–one person advocating to another to try a product– is the most powerful marketing tool that exists. We employ others’ recommendations especially to select books, movies, and TV programs. But more than that, we actually ask for suggestions. “Please market to me,” we in essence are saying.
We all have go-to people in our lives, the folks who have the same reading and/or viewing tastes as we do. Being a foodie, I also have restaurant frequenters I turn to to point me in the right direction.
When I’m at a loss as to what to read next, I ask Rachelle Gardner. She’s a prolific reader, and while she and I don’t always agree on how much we liked a book, she has stimulating suggestions. I’ve also pinpointed certain film critics who can convince me via their reviews to check out a movie I didn’t know I wanted to see.
Deliver the goods. If you write a strong manuscript time after time, you develop a following. And those who discover your books want to show how smart and insightful they are by telling their friends about you. They are choosing to attach their reading reputation to your writing reputation, which is exactly what you want.
Connect rather than collect. Avoid the trap of working to collect “likes,” whatever form they may take. That’s just a statistic. Instead concentrate on how to connect with your readers. In a Forbes article on the power of word-of-mouth (which you can read here),Suzanne Fanning, President of Word of Mouth Marketing Association, advises, “Give your fans the gift of you.” That sums up how to approach each opportunity to connect with your readers, whether that’s online or in person.
I remember Dani Pettrey telling me about a book signing she had earlier this year in which only a handful of readers turned out. (It was a dark and stormy night, making it challenging for fans to get to the store.) Despite the small number, Dani describes that as the best book signing she’s ever had because she had the opportunity to connect on a deeper level with each person. I just know those fans increased their loyalty and enthusiasm multiple times because of that event.
Give them reasons to talk. Be funny, be inspirational, be open. Don’t be afraid to let readers get to know the real you. Above all, provide them with material they can “talk” about, whether online or in person. “It really depends on you understanding your consumers and what they like about you and providing whatever it is they need from you,” Fanning observes.
I appreciate that she specifies the importance of knowing: 1) what readers like about you and 2) what they need from you. Those are two different elements and can help you to decide what you share about yourself.
And it helps to direct how you write and what you write about.
I remember a few years ago walking with Debbie Macomber several blocks in San Francisco to a restaurant. A man was shoving his way through the crowds of people, and it occurred to me that, if he happened onto someone with physical challenges, the man might well ruthlessly push that person aside.
“You should put that guy in one of your novels and make him infamous,” I joked to Debbie.
She responded, “Oh, no, I’d never put someone so nasty in one of my books. My readers don’t like that sort of person.”
I was surprised at the adamant way Debbie was “taking care of” her readers. But I appreciated that she would never foist a character on them they had no interest in meeting. Debbie knows what her readers like about her (she’s seriously nice) and what they need from her (uplifting stories).
Give readers a voice. Ask them to vote for their favorite cover design, to name a character, to choose a title. Use your imagination as to ways to invite readers to invest in the creative process with you.
Fanning points out in the Forbes article: “Lay’s is an excellent example to highlight how they empowered their fans to ‘Do Us a Flavor,’ and allow consumers to create a new flavor of potato chips to hit store shelves. Over 3.8 million submissions were sent in 2013, making it one of the biggest marketing campaigns for PepsiCo-owned Frito-Lay.”
Promote others. Help others to be successful, especially those who garner the same sort of reader you do. Yes, we’re talking about your competitors. By building them up, you’re establishing yourself as an influencer, a voice to pay attention to. And when you help others, they, in turn, will want to help you. Not to mention that it’s a gracious way to behave.
Ask readers to show off how much they love your book(s). Put together a FB or Instagram photo contest with readers in various settings holding your book. You could create several categories of winners so more than one person could earn a prize.
Ask readers to share with their friends and followers a video on how your cover was made. Becky Wade created How This Cover Was Made videos for each of her recent releases. Whenever I see that she has a new book out, I trot over to her website to watch the video. I find them engaging and fun, with the chance to meet the cover models and to hear about what was the first strand of the idea for her latest book’s “spiderweb,” as Becky describes her plots. You can check out her latest video here.
As a final bit of advice, take heed of this: John Moore, marketer for Starbucks and Whole Foods says, “If people are not talking about you, they are forgetting about you.”
Recall for us a time you saw the power of word-of-mouth at work. What creative ideas have you used to get word-of-mouth going?
How to tap into the power of word-of-mouth. Click to tweet.
Writers: Give the gift of you to your fans. Click to tweet.