In a recent blog, Neil Patel shared an article titled: “Modern Online Marketing Education: 18 Courses and Resources”. There are only a few blogs I follow closely, and Neil’s is one of them. I know of no one who provides so much value so clearly. In his most recent post, his intent is clear given the title. Too many writers don’t understand that their success has as much to do about marketing as it does about writing well. That is why most books published on Amazon never sell more than 20 copies. Writing blogs can help you write better, but you have to know who you are targeting to sell.
Neil’s blog caught my eye because last week I saw a discussion in an online writing workshop where someone said that marketing your book was about broadcasting broadly. This is a mistake.
I’m very much of the opinion that you want to do the exact opposite. Don’t go to silly extremes, of course, but having been in hi-tech marketing for 20 years, and having launched my first book almost a year ago, I can assure you that you want to be precise.
In fact, going back to Neil’s blog, take note of what he said at the start:
The courses in this section should be taken by every marketer. If you haven’t taken any of these or similar courses in the past, I recommend adding them to your list of courses to take.
1. Introduction to Marketing (University of British Columbia): Everyone needs to start somewhere, and this is the best place for marketers.
This is a very introductory course that will give you a general overview of marketing. It’s not very difficult, but it will make the gaps in your marketing knowledge obvious.
If you have a tough time clearly defining concepts such as market research and brand strategy, you should start here.
When I went to this site, I saw this description about the course content (I put portions in red for emphasis)
What you’ll learn
- Develop a basic customer segmentation system
- Effectively target customer segments and position your product or service in the marketplace
- Begin to understand the psychology of consumer decision making
- Develop pricing strategies that maximize profitability
- Define appropriate channel systems and go-to-market efforts
- Understand how marketing metrics can benefit your business,
- Build effective communication efforts with customers.
So the very first learning objective from the #1 course Neil listed is about customer segmentation. The second is about effectively targeting. Hint, hint!
Narrowly focusing is critical to success
When I published my novella through Amazon 11 months ago, I thought the title was clever and the keywords all encompassing. And I sold about 1 book a day. A couple weeks in, I began wondering why I could not sell more, and I became increasingly self-critical. I also did a lot of research (to include search engine behavior) and studied other books in my Amazon ‘category’.
As a result, though I could not change the title, the subtitle (and therefore, the cover) have gone through three iterations and have become ever more descriptive and precise, as did my keywords. Shortly after the most recent iteration, and after raising the price, the book climbed into several of Amazon’s top 10 lists.
My book was #1 out of ~5,000 books in its category for several weeks (four months later, it is still in the top 15 for that search).
I want to be clear — and to my point — these are not Amazon’s big bestseller lists, so there is no doubt that making it to the top 10 of these lists is a trivial feat compared to making it on to the New York Times bestseller list. But I would not have even made it to the top 1000 of any list until and unless I got precise and made clear to potential customers — and the Amazon search engine — exactly what my book is about.
Think about it as a consumer
When you go to Amazon, do you search for “romance”? I suspect you’re specific. For instance, “19th-century British romance” or perhaps, “American west cowboy romance”. Or if you prefer something futuristic, do you search for “sci-fi” or something such as “Sci-fi space marines” or “sci-fi first contact”. So in your marketing — which is you telling potential buyers about your product — be precise.
Target influential reviewers
Similarly, to find and engage influential reviewers that were credible to my narrowly defined target audience, I spent time carefully combing Amazon’s top 100 reviewers for people who I thought would be interested in my book and who had written reviews of very similar books. Then I wrote each of them personal, short letters politely asking them if they would review mine. A surprising percentage said yes, including Amazon’s #2 reviewer. Again, I was very narrowly focused and spoke to each of them personally. I’ve also written about exactly how I did this.
One of the hardest parts of marketing is understanding that the vast majority of people (consumers) will never have any interest in what you are selling. So get precise and talk to the minority that will be interested if you communicate clearly to them about what you are offering. That is your target market and if you win over even 10% of them you’ll have a bestseller.
Any other experiences? What examples of precise targeting have you used?
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