I recently completed a free online class, Small Business Marketing On A Shoestring Budget, and I thought some of the tips would be useful for indie authors who want help with marketing on the cheap. After all, indie authors are a type of small business, right? And most of us can’t really afford to pay a lot for marketing, and many of us have to do it ourselves. So I thought I’d share a few of the tips from the class for any indie authors who might be interested. There was a lot of information, but I’ll try to focus on what can be of use to indie authors most, especially about getting noticed.
Now then, let’s get started.
The Purchase Decision Cycle
One of the key things to keep in mind when you try to develop a marketing approach is the Purchase Decision Cycle. This is the decision-making steps of a potential buyer. To be effective, your marketing approach should deal with each step of the Cycle:
- Notice: this is when a potential customer becomes aware of a product or service that might fill a need or desire
- Consider: this when the customer weighs their options and considers things such as if your product might be better than a competitor’s, if the company is trustworthy, if you can offer a better deal, etc.
- Purchase: this is when they finally buy an item or service. Keep in mind this is only halfway through the cycle.
- Experience: this is when the customer uses the item or service and determines how good it is.
- Repeat purchase: if the customer had a good experience, they will come back again and again, leading to:
- Refer: this is when the happy customer refers you to their friends and acquaintances, and the cycle starts over.
The key to getting noticed is selling yourself. This can be one of the harder things for indie authors to do, but also the most important. Some of the key things you can do to get noticed include:
- Create a brand identity: this isn’t just making a brand logo and tag line. You want to put them everywhere you can for instant recognition: website, business cards, packaging, letterhead, newsletters, etc. Also, create an automatic email signature with your logo and contact info.
- Contact everyone in your personal contacts – friends, family, acquaintances, etc. – and promote to them. They’ll spread the word to people they know.
- Position yourself as an expert: this can be done in a variety of ways. Blogging, of course, is one way. You can run your own blog and share informational articles. You can also guest blog on other blogs. Other ideas include teaching a free class and talking about what you know (for example, as an adult education class at a community college), or offering a free class at a local library, club, school, etc. Be sure to bring marketing material to the classes you teach. You can also consider writing a column for a local paper or magazine, writing an e-book, or being a guest speaker.
- Send out press releases. This can establish credibility because the message comes from the news media. It will also reach a large number of people. If you send out the press release yourself, it’s free.
This is about working with marketing partners to find new customer leads. This can be done in a couple of ways. One way involves two businesses agreeing to promote each others’ businesses, in a sort of “barter exchange”. The other way is forming a network of businesses to work together on marketing campaigns. Ideas of partnership promotions that indie authors could do include promoting each other on websites, email newsletters, social networking pages, sharing samples, marketing material, etc.
Place-based marketing is just what it sounds like: billboards, signs on buses and park benches, etc. But that can cost a bit, and this is about being budget-friendly. So think about more cost-effective means, such as displaying posters in a store, signs in windows, slipping a card inside a book, putting a sticker on your car, etc. It’s all about getting noticed, right?
Word Of Mouth
Word of mouth is probably the most effective marketing method. This is because it creates a message that is highly targeted and also that is heard and believed because it comes from a known and reliable source. If a friend recommended a book to you, you’d be inclined to read it, right? To effectively use word of mouth as a marketing tool, you need to give people a reason to speak highly of you. Your customers need to be incredibly satisfied with you, enough that they will want to share their experience with others. So your book should be worthy of recommendation.
Networking is another great marketing tool. It allows you to meet other people in your field and introduce yourself to them and share contact information. It’s all about introducing yourself to others instead of selling to them. You can find leads and partners this way.
Encourage Others To Spread The Word
Build up a list of advocates for your business, or in this case, your books. This can be satisfied customers, friends, family, acquaintances, people you’re networked with, social media followers, etc. Encourage them to spread the word. For example, send them an email that’s ready to forward and ask them to share it (or on social media, create a post and ask them to share it). If you want, you can include a special offer for those who spread the word. You could even encourage them to add their own personal experience to make the message more effective.
Create something that is so entertaining or so interesting and informative that people feel compelled to share it with others. This can be anything from an entertaining photo to an interesting article or story to a funny or captivating video. For videos, be sure to encourage sharing at the end and optimize it for SEO. Post the video on YouTube and/or your own website and promote the video.
A website is almost a necessity nowadays, even for authors. And websites can be created rather inexpensively with some online services that offer low prices (or even free), such as Weebly, Wix, Homestead, and Yola. Make sure you pick one that will let you optimize for SEO, though. SEO is quite important for being found during online searches. You can even use your website to host a blog, which will also help greatly in your marketing and also with SEO. If you want, you can even design your website to be able to sell your books yourself.
When you host a blog, you want people to read it, so you need people to be able to find it. One way of doing that is to post comments on other blogs. You can also guest post on other people’s blogs. Be sure to include a link back to your blog on your guest posts, and make sure that your comments can link back to you. You also want to include social media sharing buttons on the posts on your blog so people can share them with others. Consider also submitting your blog to different blog search engines or even syndicating your blog.
There’s no denying the power of social media in today’s world, and that makes it a great tool for authors. It can be used as a networking tool and a marketing tool. You can create a page for your author brand and use it for marketing purposes to the general public. Also, many social networks have groups for a variety of things, including groups for authors. Some groups are just for discussion, but some will also allow some marketing. Some of the more popular social networking sites to consider using are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, and YouTube. You don’t need to join them all at once, since using them can be time-consuming. Start with just 1 to 3 at first and see how it goes and if you might want to join later. Also, be sure to take into consideration who your target audience is and which social media sites they will likely be using the most.
There was a lot more in the class that I could have included, but in the interest of keeping this relatively short, I just tried to highlight some of the main points. I hope this information has been useful and that it will help you in your marketing endeavors. Good luck!