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Board Member’s Memo: Build Your Publishing Company with Inbound Marketing

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by Mark Wesley, Founder, me+mi publishing & IBPA Board Member —

Mark Wesley

You are about to release some of your titles. Wow, what an accomplishment! You should be aware that if your goal is to earn a profit from your work and the work of your authors, you’ve only just begun. Hopefully, you have taken the time to understand your vision and your ideal customer and have created books that appeal to your target market. The books are not only well written but also visually designed to catch your target market’s attention. Now you need to build a continuous relationship with your target market.

It is critical to get your content in front of your target audience. If you do not do this, your chances of experiencing actual earnings from your work will be extremely unlikely. The question is, how do you do this?

While there are numerous answers to that question, inbound marketing is one that should not be ignored. Inbound marketing is the art of entering into your target reader’s world by becoming a part of the conversation rather than forcing ad copy into their face.

People today are far too busy to pay attention to marketing efforts in which they are not already proactively interested. This means that you need to be a trusted and loyal friend who delivers constant value into the sphere of your reader rather than someone attempting to peddle their wares to earn another dollar. That’s what inbound marketing is all about: building relationships.

Using the power of the internet, you build a relationship of value with your target audience, and, as a result, they begin and continue to buy from you. For more on this, see my previous article, “Know Your Customer”.

As you come to understand who you are as a publisher—see “Envision the Future of Your Company”—as well as who your target market is, you will be moved into a position to talk to the heart of your reader, and that is exactly the place where inbound marketing can help your books get the attention they need to succeed.

On the internet, your bookstore/website must be built around who your ideal customer is, and it must provide them with what they want. They should not have to guess if your bookstore/website is right for them; it should be abundantly clear that it is.

Trying to sell books in a generic way that targets everyone will always be an uphill battle. You must be specific and focused. As you strengthen your relationship with your readers, they will be far more inclined to purchase new books you release into the marketplace. The quickest way to lose them is to show them everything you have without regard to who they are and what they want and need. That is a waste of their time and your resources.

Yes, selling your books on Amazon or Barnes & Noble delivers a certain level of satisfaction. It does not, however, deliver long-lasting results, like taking your merchandise directly to buyers at every level in the purchasing chain. This includes the actual reader of your books. People do business with people they know, love, and trust whenever possible. The only way to become one of those publishing companies in the eyes of your buyers is to build high-quality relationships with them.

From the article “Know Your Customer,” you should have a firm handle on the power of creating a persona; it’s now time to uncover the secret to getting your target audience to seek you out. That’s where the inbound marketing system comes in. But what can cut through all the noise and clutter in your targeted customer’s world? Something that focuses on who they are and what they want. Who you are and what you want is secondary to your customer’s desires. If you lead with who you are and what you want, you will lose.

Creating Your Targeted Client Capturing System

With the understanding of exactly who you want to reach in place, it is time to delve into the four aspects of inbound marketing and come to an understanding of exactly how they work together for your success.

1. Attract

Without gaining the eyes of your target audience, you reach painfully few potential buyers. On the web, this can be done with an engaging video, an intriguing status update on social media, a provocative infographic or meme, along with a host of other strategies that are freely available for you to use. You want to get their attention so they will come into your bookstore/website.

2. Convert

Now that you have attracted your target client to your site, you need to make your offering so appealing that each viewer will be more than pleased to provide their name, email, and whatever other details your capture form requires.

Hot Tip: Only ask for those details that you need. The more you ask for, the less you will get.

One of the best ways to ensure that your viewers will be more than pleased to release their details to you would be in what you offer in return. Potential ideas to consider may include a free chapter of your book, a discount on your books, an e-book, or a tip sheet. This “payment” or ethical bribe needs to be something that will help your target client.

Understand that you are only trying to get them to freely give you their contact information. You are not trying to sell them on your titles. If that happens, great; but at this stage, we are focused on giving them something so they freely give you their information. This information will be the key to building your long-term relationship with them.

3. Close

You’ve secured basic information from your client, and now it is time to make the offer. Make this process as smooth as possible to ensure full compliance. This includes everything from the actual buying process to making sure that you have the right books lined up for them to purchase. Once they have made their purchase, consider adding something special like a gift or a bonus so the perceived value of what they receive is through the roof. This can be a discount on another book that matches what their persona desires.

4. Delight

You’ve made the sale, and you might think your job is done. If you are only trying to sell one book, then it is. However, if you are trying to build a publishing company, your connection with your target customer must continue. You must continue to give them information that will help them. You must become a reliable source of information for them.

So, there you have it. The four stages of the Inbound Marketing buying process—minus one. What’s missing?

5. Analyze

Unfortunately, this piece doesn’t fit neatly into any one area. Instead, it is an all-encompassing piece of the puzzle that must be continually assessed in order to achieve your ultimate objectives. You need to analyze what is working and what is not. Then you need to make the proper adjustments. It is never going to be a one-and-done solution. The publishing market and your customers are always changing, and you must be able to make adjustments so you can stay in the game. Miss this step and your abilities to succeed in inbound marketing can become compromised.

Concluding Thoughts

Trying to get people to buy your books without building a relationship with them is always going to be difficult. As a publisher, my objective was to be in every major retail outlet that I could possibly be in. We were blessed and met every one of our objectives. But, if I had to do it again, my objective would be creating a relationship with not only the wholesalers and retail buyers but also with the end users of our books. Just think about it: When someone buys your book at Barnes & Noble or Target, you have no idea who they are or how you can let them know about your new books. In most cases, it is a one-and-done sell. This is not a great model for building your publishing company.

There is a multiplicity of ways to generate sales online by marketing your books into the digital info stream. Some publishers focus just on closing the deal, while inbound marketing focuses on building a relationship of value with your audience. We recommend this approach both for the short- and long-term results of the sales process and for building a strong and profitable publishing company.

Mark Wesley is The Business Gardener and Marketing Strategist. He owns me+mi publishing and has spent the last 25 years developing products for major US publishers. As an EMyth-certified business coach and Duct Tape marketing consultant, Wesley helps clients improve their leadership, branding, marketing, and customer engagement skills. He can be reached at wesley@metamorphicx.com.

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