by Scott Flora
One of the most valuable lessons of business is “The most important thing your customers care about is benefits to themselves.” In promoting your book, highlighting the benefits to your customer will make all the difference.
What is a benefit? The dictionary says a benefit is “something that enhances or promotes well-being.”
This simple concept prompts three questions:
- What benefits do my customers want?
- What benefits does my book provide to my customers?
- How do I use the benefits in my marketing message?
It is critical to separate features from benefits. Features are your book or product’s actions or its characteristics. The color of your cover or the number of chapters are features. How your book will help your reader are benefits.
The feature of a new car may be its soft seats or low interior noise level. The benefit is increased comfort. People buy the comfort not the seats.
Publishers have to be specific about the benefits of their books. “Buy this nonfiction book and be happier, thinner, more successful, a better gardener.” “Read this novel and be entertained, moved, educated.”
Let’s do a practice exercise on this concept. Find a magazine around the house or office. Locate several ads for products you might buy. Examine the ads for the three message steps I just mentioned: List important benefits, communicate benefits, and deliver benefits. Do they talk about benefits important to you? Do they communicate them well? Does the ad copy keep your interest and make you want to have the product?
When I looked at a couple of magazines, I realize many ads are subtler than my simple three-step plan. Sony shows a stylized computer with a good-looking young person, and Ford shows the newest model driving fast down the open road. These exceptions prove the rule, especially for small businesses. Corporations are spending millions to reinforce their brands. The benefits are implied. We don’t have the deep pockets necessary to play this game. We have to communicate the benefits of our books clearly and concisely.
The second part of your exercise is to write out answers to the questions above. Spend some time researching your customers. What do they need and want? How does your book satisfy that desire? What message will motivate the customer to action?
Your readers want benefits from your book. Your job is to figure out what benefits your readers want, determine what benefits your book provides to them, and describe those benefits in your marketing message. With a benefits-oriented marketing message, you will have created the best way possible to promote and sell your books.
by Scott Flora
Learn to sell! Easy to say and hard to do. “Salesman” has a bit of an onerous ring to it in some circles. On top of its “gender incorrectness,” the idea of “the salesman” or even “salesperson” brings images of used car mistrust, door-to-door intrusions, telephone sales calls, and pushy tactics.
Recently, I revisited a favorite book that wraps selling in a different context, one of love, persistence, and integrity. The Greatest Salesman in the World, written in 1968 by the late Og Mandino, creates a fictional account of Hafid, a merchant in the eastern Mediterranean at the time of Jesus. At the end of his life, Hafid is seeking a person to whom he can pass along the ten secret scrolls. A certain traveler visits Hafid and the secrets of the scrolls are revealed.
Here are several of the scroll affirmations that may help take sales from tacky persuasion to an activity that provides service and connects people in a deeper manner:
- I will greet this day with love in my heart.
- I will persist until I succeed.
- Today, I will be master of my emotions.
- I will laugh at the world.
- I will act now.
Reviews by readers on Amazon.com include praise like “the greatest spiritual experience of my life,” “I will continue to read all 10 Scrolls every morning for the rest of my life,” and “This book changed my life.”
Most authors are interested in communicating something they believe in. Og Mandino’s simple words of wisdom are especially valuable for publishers who have a great message and a desire to have the world know about it. The Greatest Salesman in the World may not change your life, but it will change the way you think about yourself as a salesperson.
Og Mandino’s work continues at www.ogmandino.com.
“The path is easy to follow, but people love to get sidetracked,” said the guru.
Boy, do I love to get sidetracked. Interesting ideas, interesting people, interesting software come into my field of vision and grab my time and energy. These can spark creativity, but on the whole I know I have to stick with the fundamentals.
In soccer, the fundamentals are running and kicking. In baseball, they are throwing and hitting. In relationships they translate to listening and having patience.
What are the fundamentals in publishing? How about those basics passed down from one-room schoolteachers everywhere: Readin’, Ritin’, and Rithmetic?
Of course, it’s a schoolyard jingle, but as a model it can be powerful for covering the fundamentals of a publishing business. Reading is information in, writing is information out from your business, and arithmetic is the accounting and decision making to be financially successful.
Reading is research, trend watching, and learning about all the ways to run your business. Where can you find things to read? Writers are by nature readers so you probably have no lack of material. Here are some valuable resources.
Consider joining one of the national publishing associations like the Independent Book Publishers Association (www.IBPA-online.org) or the Association for Publishers for Special Sales (formerly SPAN at www.apss.org). Also search out local and regional writers and publishers’ groups in your area.
Publishers Weekly is the source to learn about the bigger world of publishing. You can get free subscriptions to eight different PW newsletters at this web page: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/email-subscriptions/index.html
Writing is the message you put out about your publishing company, whether in the books you publish or the e-mails you send. Everything you write is critically important in this Internet age. What people read about you is what they think about you.
The number one rule of is that the first thing your audience and customers care about is themselves. When you write about your book and publishing company, always include points about the benefits to your customers.
Writers and publishers are running businesses. We are not creating art and waiting for the world to discover us. The experienced publishers who read this will say, “Well, of course what else is new?” Many novices will say, “Not me. I will not compromise my art with commerce.”
All small business people need to be good at the financial analysis and decision making necessary to run a business. How do you do this? If you have the time, take an accounting or small business course at your local junior college or other organization that supports small business. If you don’t have the time for a class, go to the Small Business Administration website (http://www.sba.gov) and read their many articles on accounting and financial analysis.
Remember the fundamentals! Do your homework and stick to your Readin’, Ritin’, and Rithmetic. The path is easy to follow.
Once upon a time, my car broke down in Lebanon Kansas, the exact geographical center of the U.S. A big storm was coming, the sky was dark, and the air was perfectly still. As in a fantasy story, a mechanic showed up in an old jeep, carrying a toolbox with just a hammer and a wrench.
He told me that he couldn’t fix my car. I asked why not and he said, “I don’t have the tools.”
Astonishingly, a second mechanic drove up in a big pickup truck with locking tool cabinets all over the outside. He diagnosed my problem, fixed my carburetor throttle lever and sent me out of the vortex of the continent and the storm. The right tools made the difference.
Do you have the right tools?
Do you have the right tools to sell the most books possible? I recently looked at a group of independent publishers’ web sites to survey their tools. In an admittedly small sampling, I examined 10 randomly chosen independent publishers’ website.
The surveyed Web sites used these tools:
Free excerpts/articles 80%
Provided shopping cart to purchase books 100%
E-mail signup and e-newsletter 30%
The Essential Tools Are Easy
My survey indicates publishers are very good at the basics of providing both information about their books and expertise and pointing to a way to buy them. The survey also shows a trend toward a significant lack of the use of more powerful tools such as newsletters, mailing lists, and blogs.
Creating vital community with real benefits to your prospects is critical for selling more books and services. Newsletters and blogs that encourage two way communication and user generated content are the means to produce interaction within your community.
The essential tools don’t have to be complicated. A consistent newsletter, a mailing list, and a blog are all you need to increase the vitality of your community.
One important concept is that the communication should be two way and efficient. You can communicate with your community one at a time via e-mail, but the power of a mailing list will sell more books.
A Few Resources for the Essential Toolkit
Blogging: A free and simple blog service is Blogger.com. This is great place to get started.
A more powerful and more complicated free system is WordPress.com. Many publishers use WordPress as their total website system.
Newsletter mailing list systems: Three popular newsletter and mailing list systems are ConstantContact.com, MailChimp.com, and aweber.com.
The solution to success as an independent publisher and author is so powerful and simple that it could fit on a bumper sticker. It says, “The best way for an independent publisher to succeed is to develop a community around your expertise.” The best way to develop a community around your publishing company is through using the essentials tools of a well written website, a newsletter, a mailing list, and a blog.
Don’t get caught with an empty toolbox when the competition has the essential tools.