When you are in sales and marketing, you don’t want to come across like this guy, Harry Wormwood from the movie Matilda, played here by Danny DeVito. Harry is an all-out crook who turns back odometers, glues on bumpers, and puts sawdust in transmissions.
About ten years ago, a master salesperson in the luxury-goods field shared with me a tip about high-end sales. What was being sold, it turned out, didn’t matter that much.
“The trick is that luxury customers are rarely buying just an object or a service. They are buying an experience*. Especially the ‘new rich’ entrepreneurs and people who’ve inherited a new fortune. They haven’t grown up with money. They want to feel pampered and exceptional, and if you can do that without being too overt, they will eat out of your hand. You can sell them nearly anything as long as the experience is positive for them – and the product itself doesn’t disappoint them later.”
I had seen that phenomenon already, in my associate’s workplace.
“On the other hand, Old Money wants its needs met quietly, quickly, and professionally through minimal interactions with those providing the product or service. Want to see how to behave with Old Money? Watch butler-training videos from the UK and Europe, and behave that way. For Old Money, quality sells itself. You shouldn’t fall all over yourself and the client trying to prove that.”
Why bring that old conversation up now? Because great marketing can be as blunt as an outrageous or funny ad campaign, or as subtle as a change of typeface on advertising material. Even lame marketing works as long as it’s obviously aware of its failings, and invites patrons to share the joke.
Inadvertently stupid marketing is just a waste of time.
Inadvertently, many authors have been guilty of it, by following the advice of inept marketers who have told them to spam followers with endless ‘Buy My Book!’ tweets, posts, paid ads, etc. Even though – as long as six years ago – I was seeing more-balanced advice begging authors to use social media in a more organic, roundabout way.
Non-marketing online content is more valuable than ever before. That’s the content that drives readers to your social media pages. That keeps viewers humming your jingle, nodding at your observations, or laughing at your jokes long after your video has ended.
Dos Equis is a decent beer, but now we associate it with The Most Interesting Man in the World, and come running when there’s a new commercial. Car, clothing, and perfume companies try to make the oddest things into sex-objects, and often succeed. Our political system runs not on results now, but on marketing spin and talking points.
I’m horrible at marketing myself. Put me in a gallery or a retail space, with products I believe in, and I can sell like crazy. My own stuff? You’ll either like it or you won’t, and I can’t do more than introduce you to it. You’ll notice that my books and art are not splashed all over this page. They’re buried in a line of text links off to the left. You can find out more than you want to know about me – but you’re the one in charge of looking.
I like Twitter, but I don’t use as much of it as I probably should, because I don’t have time to search out huge niche communities. When I do, I hate spamming them. I also really dislike the tacit obligation to uncritically retweet other people’s posts. When I retweet something, it’s because it struck home with me.
I’m barely on Facebook. I may go months without checking my author profile. I’m not alone, as recent changes at FB may be driving away many more businesspeople and content creators.
In 2015, FB looks like it will start charging more businesses for the ability to reach large numbers of useful, engaged followers. The currency of FB is the ‘like’, a digital thumbs-up symbol of approval and engagement from viewers. Businesses adore real likes, because these tend to herald potential buyers.
Already, there’s some apparent evidence that FB has essentially been selling or condoning the distribution of ‘fake likes’ to online businesses attempting to purchase FB’s legitimate promotional services. Even when the fake likes are not directly sourced through a Third-World clickfarm, they may come from such outfits as a way to ‘screen’ other fake likes in a sea of responses. Worse, there’s no way for a FB user to remove fake likes from their page. That makes their content less interesting to the world at large. In return, that may prevent future posts from being seen by premium viewers, forcing the page owner to pay for more promotion.
For authors, that means they may need to pay to reach more genuine readers – and that it may be an ineffective scam in the end, benefiting only FB’s coffers. I’ve been watching authors’ groups go into a tizzy for a month, as their members finally begin to realize that constantly posting ‘Buy My Book’ is less of a marketing strategy than it ever was.
New social media services like Ello and Tsu have started up, threatening FB’s market share, but are subject to their own disadvantages.
What’s a writer to do?
Simply, bluntly: create valuable content in your social media that ISN’T directly related to your books. Engage with many different social media outlets on your terms. Be genuine. And for godssake, focus on the quality of your books and stories first.
* I’m especially seeing this hold true in the erotic romance markets right now. For a long time, many readers were uncritical of content flaws, as long as the book fulfilled their basic expectations of the genre. Now that erotic romance is ‘growing up’ as a genre and getting more professional, quality is becoming far more important.
I’ve seen publishers implode from unprofessional behavior. I’ve watched poorly-published authors come to the stark realization that low-end publishers are probably always going to have poor sales. Both publishers and authors are left with the choice to improve or leave the game.
Because even if we were like Harry Wormwood (and most of us aren’t), we can’t glue on bumpers forever.