How to Find Potential Buyers in Special Markets
by Brian Jud
If you want to sell 10,000 copies of a book through a bookstore, you must get roughly 10,000 people to go there and buy it. If you want to sell 10,000 copies in nonbookstore markets, you can find one person to buy them.
As noted in “Make Large Sales to Corporate Buyers” (September), the first step in making large-quantity sales is identifying prospects—companies that may want to buy your books and people in the companies who are the right contacts.
Miners searching for gold prospect where the gold is most likely to be found. Follow their example by narrowing down your likely buyers as much as possible. Define your target readers and list the benefits your content provides to them. Divide targeted readers into groups with similar needs, and then search for the names of potential customers in each segment (for more about targeting readers, see my Independent article “Make It Personal: A Three-Step Program for Increasing Sales” at ibpa-online.org).
You can prospect in person or indirectly, since there are techniques to fit any personality. Here are some of the most widely used ways to find the names of potential customers.
Networking. Linking from people you know to people they know expands your base of prospects. Network online using linkedin.com to identify people who can connect you to target companies and key individuals.
Trade shows. You can find a list of conventions for your target markets at biztradeshows.com. You do not have to exhibit at them, but attend as many as possible to learn about the industry and to talk with the exhibitors and attendees who may be potential customers.
Advertising. Ads can generate leads, and the cost can be zero if, for example, you arrange for a relevant association to use an excerpt from your book in its newsletter in exchange for free advertising space.
When considering paid advertising, evaluate each medium on its cost-per-thousand (CPM) and its ability to reach the readers who will be most responsive to your book.
Associations. To find other prospecting opportunities that associations offer, search their Web sites and contact membership chairs (executive directors usually redirect you to the proper chairperson) about using your book as a fundraiser or a premium to increase membership.
Explore weddles.com/associations/index.cfm for associations related to your topic, and look for the bookstore manager, program director, or meeting planner who might hire you to speak to the association or become its spokesperson.
A database of more than 85,000 nonprofit organizations is accessible at guidestar.org.
“Expert pull.” Get prospects to come to you by increasing your visibility and reputation as the expert in your field. Stimulate word-of-mouth communication through personal presentations, by publishing articles, and by blogging on your subject.
The publicity you get from winning awards or getting positive reviews can stimulate attention among potential buyers too. These honors also give you credibility when you make your telephone pitches (see below).
Businesses. The many sources of leads for corporate prospects include annual reports and Web sites. You can search using the NAICS (formerly SIC) database (census.gov/epcd/www/naics.html), which classifies companies by the type of products or services they offer.
Access to the Thomas Register of American Manufacturers is free at thomasregister.com. And you can also discover information about corporations at hoovers.com.
Remember that people read both fiction and nonfiction while traveling and vacationing. And search for potential buyers at hotels; cruise ship, passenger train, and bus tour companies; as well as travel agencies, airlines, limousine services, restaurants, bed-and-breakfasts, and the like, as appropriate for your title. Suggest your book as a premium or gift to be given to people for doing business with one of these companies.
Newspapers. Explore usnpl.com, a free directory of newspapers worldwide with links to many newspapers’ Web pages. Read articles for names of companies and individuals who could be prospects.
The Web. For a free device that searches all search engines and eliminates duplicate sites, go to copernic.com. Also join forums and discussion groups to increase your visibility and extend your reputation as the expert in your field.
Postcards, letters, and email. List brokers such as USAData (usadata.com) sell lists of consumers, , businesses, new homeowners, physicians, accountants, boat owners, churches, insurance agents, new parents, voters, and many more. All these lists may be segmented in a variety of ways.
Customer referrals. Ask your customers for the names of potential buyers who could use your book as a promotional tool.
Trade magazines. Become more familiar with your target industry or industries by reading the articles in trade magazines and studying the ads for names of companies that could be prospects. Write for the magazine(s) to boost expert pull.
Links to major magazines in the United States are available at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_magazines.
Webinars and seminars. The key to a success here is an inexpensive way to offer a solution to a problem that your target market really wants to solve. Costs for in-person seminars include room rental, refreshments, audiovisual equipment, and promotion. Teleseminars are less expensive, the only costs being conference phone line rental and promotion. Your Webinars can be successful prospecting tools if you attract people who will be prospects for big special sales.
Your Web site content. Build a prospecting element into your Web site. Along with benefit-laden descriptions of your titles and a catalog that is easy to download, you need a Contact link that appears on every page. Gather names of visitors by offering something free. Add links so people can call or email you, and reply to them quickly.
At this point you have lists of names, but some people on your lists will be more interested in your content than others. And no matter how interested they are, some will not be able to purchase your books in large quantities because, for example, they are already using competitive titles, they have no budget to buy items as premiums or for similar purposes, or they recently concluded a promotional campaign and another one won’t interest them for a while.
Go through your lists to disqualify those who cannot buy, and then rate the remaining prospects according to their ability to purchase your books, ranking them in descending order.
Once you have ranked your prospects, the telephone may be your most productive prospecting tool. Write a script to guide you through your calls. The script should not be something you read word for word. It should be a list of points for you to bring up, arranged in chronological order, with questions you can ask to get and keep the prospect involved in the call and lead the conversation toward its logical conclusion.
Start by identifying yourself and explaining quickly why you are calling, and always check to make sure you have called at a convenient time. (For more information on this topic see “Smile, Dial, and Pile Up Sales,” August 2009.)
In most cases your telephone calls will be answered by voicemail. The likelihood of you getting a return call is directly proportional to the quality of the message you leave. Create a 20-second voicemail message that includes your name, a brief attention-getting statement about why you are calling, the reason it will benefit the recipient to return your call, your contact information, and the best time to call you.
Prospecting for new business is like exercising. It is good for you, and it will produce positive results if you do it routinely, preferably every day. It takes time, but a sales pipeline always filled with potential customers can mean positive revenue flow for the foreseeable future.
Of course, finding prospects is only the beginning. Now you must convert your leads into customers. The remaining articles in this series will show you how to do that.
Brian Jud is the author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books and now offers commission-only sales of nonfiction, fiction, children’s books, and remainders to buyers in special markets. For more information: P. O. Box 715, Avon, CT 06001; 860/675-1344; fax 860/270-0343; firstname.lastname@example.org; or premiumbookcompany.com.