eCommerce Meets Publishing, Part 1

This is a multi-part series of blogs detailing our own Sandee Hart's experiences marketing her work as a writer. Part 2 takes a look at defining & building your brand, while Part 3 explores defining your target audience as an author or brand.

Books, Branding, & Building

I took a break from ParadoxLabs for a few months because I recently published a book with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Bill Bowers. Our book “Nighthawk: A Young Airman’s Tour at Clark Air Base” is the result of two years of following a mutual dream. The writing was hard, but what we have found that the marketing is even harder. To my surprise, I found that it was a good thing my real job was marketing and public relations for eCommerce.

These are the basics I use when discussing marketing campaigns with clients. I applied these tried and true steps to create what I thought would be the most amazing marketing campaign to ever hit the ground running:

  • Distinguish our work in the marketplace
  • Determine our target market
  • Understand what our target market wants
  • Assess our resources to enable us to reach more people
  • Build a thriving community of enthusiastic and supportive fans
  • Discuss our short and long-term goals for the book
  • Discover and address pain points

My fundamental flaw came in thinking I could tackle this alone. I was not a marketer anymore, I was the co-owner of a product and a brand. I felt exposed and vulnerable. I loved writing this book and I loved the final product, but I was stuck and frustrated. Then I got caught up in the idea that without a platform, no books will be sold. Which, in turn, led to feeling like a complete failure. Why could I do this for others, but not for myself?

I attempted to apply every marketing trick I had up my sleeve and all the work produced zero results. I searched for ways to connect with possible readers who would enjoy and benefit from the book, only to come out empty-handed.

I suddenly realized what our clients must go through when they are launching a new product or starting a brand. I started to connect more with them then I did with my fellow marketers. I feared that I lost my edge, that my education and training was failing me, that we would be lucky to sell 10 copies.

Then the lightbulb went off! I realized I needed to treat my product like I would any other product. I needed to stop romanticizing about the life of an author and step back into reality.

Over the next several months, I will be sharing my journey with all of you. Instead of rave reviews of what we do, I am inviting you in to share the good, the bad, and the often-ugly world of becoming a published author. What you will come to realize is that all the challenges and obstacles that got in my way are no different than those faced by eCommerce site owners. Part of this series is therapeutic and part of it is to allow our friends and followers to go behind the scenes and learn with me. In addition, it is my hope to help others feel empowered to build and evolve their platforms – not fearful or discouraged.

Let’s get started!

I have heard it said that marketing specialists are secretive.  In fact, sometimes we are. We do not want to intimidate or leave a client out of planning, we just want to take what they want and turn it into a profit. Clients have ideas about how to do this, but lack the understanding that there is no one way to produce a hit song, to make a blockbuster movie, or turn a small startup up into a thriving, seven-figure business. It is the same for building a successful writing career. As a matter of fact, there are multiple ways to achieve your goal, just as there are multiple ways to fail.

Here are some of the mistakes I have seen clients make, and sadly so did I.

  • Trying to do it all yourself. Instead, consider outsourcing some of the more basic tasks or those that require a skill set you don’t have.
  • Haphazard scattered thinking. In other words, halfheartedly trying a hundred different tactics without understanding the “why” behind any of them.
  • Seeing results with no clue of what is and isn’t working.
  • Assuming results are because of the tool, not the implementation. My baseball bat isn’t the reason I am batting .500, it is the effort and determination I put into it.
  • The ever-so-popular quick fix or shortcut. Instant profit or superstardom don’t happen without hard work. Look for long term growth strategies, and know that relationships take time to develop.
  • My biggest mistake: not taking a holistic view. You are responsible for both the creative side and the business side of your career; neither can be ignored.

So where did I go from there?

Anyone who knows me understands and accepts that I have the tendency to over-complicate things, but the most important aspect to building a marketing platform isn’t the tasks I perform, but the engagement I garner. All the planning, tools and techniques in the world won’t help you if you fail to keep this in mind.

To face my challenges, I returned to certain foundational elements that I knew, when executed well, would strengthen and reinforce the strategies and designs that came after. Although these are all related to my book, you can see how they can be applied to just about any product or brand.

  • Define and build your brand. What makes you and your writing unique, and how will you translate your value to your audience?
  • Identify your target audience. Who is your ideal customer? What are their wants, desires, values and interests? Who are their influencers, and where do they spend their time online and off?
  • Find the intersection. Identify and research what your true target audience craves, recognize the unique and meaningful aspects of what you have to offer, and align the two to benefit your ideal customer in an exceptional way.
  • Set up your website/blog. Your website is the epicenter from which you rule your empire.
  • Build a responsive email list. Your list (and the relationship you build with your subscribers) is your largest marketing asset.
  • Get social on social media. Determine where your customers hang out online, and be there. Focus on the needs and interests of your target audience, and give them what they want.
  • Avoid information overload. As you learn more about the industry you are entering, other competitors in your niche, your target market, marketing and audience building techniques, and current trends – you can add more information.

Well, that wraps up Part 1 of my series, I hope it gave you something to think about…

Want to read the second installment of this series?

Click the link to read about identity and branding

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