Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog
I’ve received several emails via LinkedIn and other social media sites, over the years, from newly self-published “indie” authors who were advertising their books, trying to convince me to buy them. If you’re one of these authors, I genuinely applaud you for taking that important step toward self-promotion. Good for you! But now I’m going to tell you why I (and probably most of the other people you sent that email to) never bought your book … and my answer may surprise you.
MYTH: It’s wrong or rude to outwardly ask people to buy your book.
FACT: It’s okay to ask for the sale. The most successful sales people always do.
One of the most obvious, yet least utilized, components of every successful sales campaign is known as the “call to action.” Simply stated, a call to action is your very clear request to consumers to buy your book TODAY! Right now!
Sometimes, salespeople do an amazing job of convincing buyers that whatever they’re selling is a wonderful thing, but then they let those buyers walk away without actually asking for the sale while the opportunity is still hot. Don’t let that opportunity get cold! Come right out and ask for the sale right in the moment. It doesn’t work all the time, but it works a lot better than never asking—that much I can promise. If you get used to doing this, you’ll sell way more books over time.
Now to clarify…
There are special nuances and techniques to effectively asking for a sale that every author needs to understand. There’s more to it than simply sending someone an email that says, “I’ve just published a new book! Buy it today!” You need to communicate with your potential customers in such a way that creates both an emotional and intellectual response in their brains, and you need to speak to them in their preferred marketing language.
WIIFM: What’s In It for Me?
One of the very first acronyms I learned when I entered the world of sales was WIIFM, which stands for “What’s In It for Me?”. My sales coach told me this is what all our customers are asking themselves, whether consciously or unconsciously, whenever they consider making a purchase. As salespeople, we need to be aware of this acronym and be sure we’re answering that question for customers, in all our marketing materials, in a clear and concise manner that speaks to them in their language.
When I say “clear” I mean tell them what’s in it for them in a manner that addresses their needs directly. Will your book increase their joy? If yes, how? Will your book decrease their pain? If yes, how? (When you clearly address someone’s joy and/or pain, you are appealing to their emotional limbic brains more effectively.)
When I say “concise” I mean tell them what’s in it for them in as few words as possible. We live in an “instant soup” society, filled with customers that want quick and easy solutions to their problems. The only instance when anyone will take the time to read through paragraph after detailed paragraph of promotional material will be if they’ve picked up that material to read it by their own choice—not if they’ve been “interrupted” by it in an unsolicited email message. Fair enough? (When you are concise in your messaging, you are appealing to their logical neocortex more effectively.)
When I say speak to them in their language, I mean tell them what’s in it for them in a manner that they will understand and appreciate most. There are two different marketing “languages” you might choose from to communicate with your prospective customers in all your marketing materials (e.g. your blog, the back cover copy of your book, et cetera): price-based marketing and value-based marketing. Both have their time and their place, no matter what it is that you’re selling.
Walmart is one of the most common North American examples of a retailer that uses price-based marketing, also sometimes referred to as the “Everyday Low Price” pricing strategy, to sell its products. As soon as I use that retail name, most people understand what I mean without much further explanation. Price based marketing revolves around selling things for the cheapest price. It appeals to the audience that wants “the best deal” at the lowest possible price, regardless of its brand name or quality.
You speak to a price-based audience with phrases such as “Have what you want for less” and “The affordable solution for thrifty consumers.”
Prada, by contrast, is an example of a worldwide luxury retailer that uses value-based marketing to sell its products. As soon as I use that brand name, the concept is once again clear to most people. Value-based marketing revolves around selling things at prices commensurate with the highest quality. It appeals to the audience most concerned with workmanship, expertise, long-term durability, and image—and who can, and will, willingly pay more for it.
You speak to a value-based audience with phrases such as “Sophistication and classical style for discerning women” and “Crafted with care for the distinguished gentleman.”
These are two extreme examples, taken from one end of the spectrum to the next, to illustrate the differences between these two marketing languages. Not all price-based marketers will price things as low as Walmart does; nor will all value-based marketers price things as high as Prada does. In fact, the same concepts are used to sell many other things all along that spectrum, including coffee (Dunkin’ Donuts versus Starbucks), food (McDonalds versus Fatburger), and cars (Honda Civic versus BMW 3 Series Sedan). The main point here is that the wording you use to speak to a price-conscious audience will be very different from the wording you use when you speak to a value-conscious audience. The other point is that you can apply either price-based marketing or value-based marketing to everything and anything you’re selling—including all types and formats of books. It all depends on your customers’ wants and needs.
All Authors Should Create an “Elevator Pitch” for Their Books
What is an elevator pitch, and why should every author have one memorized and ready to recite at a moment’s notice? In short, it is a brief sales pitch that will help you to sell more books both in person and online. According to the Free Dictionary, “the name ‘elevator pitch’ reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes.”
When delivered correctly and confidently, it often results in a sale right on the spot. At the very least, it will pique the interest of your audience for future reference so they will think of your book first when they are in the market to buy one on your topic.
An Effective Elevator Pitch Includes a Call to Action
An effective elevator pitch should encapsulate everything we’ve discussed up to this point: it needs to be clear and concise; it needs to answer the question “what’s in it for me?” in a marketing language your customers will understand and appreciate most; and it should confidently call your customers to action to buy your book immediately. Your call to action should be customized to match the format and audience of your book.
Authors are entrepreneurs. If you want commercial success, then you have to be an active participant in the sales process. It’s always been that way. And an effective “call to action” is a necessary part of that sales process.
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