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Monday, June 14, 2010

Readers by Referral: Word of Mouth Marketing

. Monday, June 14, 2010

If you've been published for more than a minute, you know the best way for any author to get readers is by referral. But starting and maintaining the buzz on your books can feel overwhelming if not impossible.

Yes, you can count on referrals from friends, acquaintances, and current readers, but, if you are a non-celebrity new author that’s a very limited number of people. So how can a new author step up their game to win more referrals?

First things first. In order to refer your books, readers not only need to like your writing, they need to like and trust you as an author. For this to happen, they need to know about you. As an author, you need to look at yourself as a small business owner. With this, the following strategy planning must be considered:

A clearly defined brand is essential. Figure out who you are as an author and how you want your audience to perceive you. This includes your color scheme, logo, banners, slogans, font.

• Ask yourself, what makes your writing unique? This includes genre, sub genre, as well as the similarities and differences between yourself and other authors in the same and different genres.

• Research:

   o Other authors whom you admire for their work and their success.

   o Large, successful publishing houses.

   o Celebrities who are household names.

   o Well-branded, well-known companies.

      - Look at their logos, ads, banners, websites, blogs.

      - Decide what you like/dislike about their brand to help you plan what yours will look like.

Once your brand is established, it’s essential that your readers’ experience reflects the values that your brand conveys. Look at it this way, your brand is a promise and your work is the fulfillment of that promise.

Now, imagine that you knew 100 compatible people who are willing to refer readers to you. Sounds great, right? Creating a circle like this is not only possible, it’s essential.

Identify 100 people who have the potential of becoming fantastic referral sources and start making friends. Within a few months, you can have a steady stream of new readers. Better yet, since all these potential readers are referrals, they have already been sold your book. All you have to do is deliver on the promise your referral partner and your brand has made.

Let’s get started. Create a most-wanted list of ten or more categories whose members are frequently in touch with the type of readers who will enjoy your writing. For example, I write fantasy romance so I look for:

1. reader blogs/sites of compatible genres (CG)

2. author blogs/sites of CG

3. writer groups of CG

4. reader groups of CG

5. artists (specifically cover artists, graphic designers) of CG

6. reviewers of CG

7. women’s small business groups

8. writer associations

9. networking sites/groups

10. reader/writer/editor/publisher podcasts of CG

Next, make nice with ten people in each area. Seek them out and familiarize them with your work. Find out more about their writing and the type of readers they have so you know if you will be comfortable sending readers to them as well.

When you connect with someone who is open to sending you readers, you have found a referral partner. Add their name to your list. Now, I’m not great with math, but I was able to figure out that 10 people x 10 categories = your circle of 100. How cool is that?

When you have a specific goal like this in mind, your word of mouth promotion is much more focused. As you meet new people, you can decide with very little digging whether you should follow up with them. Whenever you meet someone whose occupation matches one on your list, ask them, "I think we might be able to refer each other clients. Are you interested in becoming a referral partner?"

If you fail to make 100 connections through standard networking and your current friends/acquaintances, don't be afraid to do some cold searching. You can find people in any category listed on search engines (Bing, Google, Yahoo) and social sites (like LilnkIn and FaceBook). If you approach them as a colleague and express your desire for the two of you to help each other be more successful, you'll find many people willing to move forward and become your referral partner.

No matter how you make first contact, some people you approach will not be receptive to becoming your referral partner (or they say yes, but turn out to be user friendly, asking you to help them, then bail when you ask for the same). And, hey, their loss. Besides, you only need 10 names for each category, and there are plenty of others to choose from. Keep moving forward to the next opportunity.

Want to go a step further? Expand your circle from 100 to 1,000?

Ask your top 10 most-wanted for intros to people they know. For example, if pocasters are on your list, ask your 10 podcast referral partners who their favorite writers, artists, bloggers, publishers, editors, etc are.

Create your own marketing plan, using this free tool: http://www.cim.co.uk/marketingplanningtool/

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