In a recent podcast with Seth Godin, one of the ideas mentioned was looking at the minimal audience needed. When people are thinking of what they can sell to make money, they are thinking that the more people that views their product the better. Therefore, they look to see advertising as an infinite source of views. This becomes a race of converting views into “funnel” travelers. At the end of the funnel is a customer who buys everything you put out.
Personal connection vs. Funnel travelers
The flip side that Seth Godin talks about is that true marketing is about personal connection. To me, that makes logical sense. In the small town I used to live in, my boss was like a celebrity. When he walked down the street, people waved, and he chatted with nearly everyone. In fact, he had to send people out to get items from the store sometimes because it would take too long for him to do. He had a personal connection with so many people, which is the foundation of his business. He knows exactly who needs what and helps them out.
Seth Godin talked about creating raving fans that then create more fans. The idea is to focus just on the most fanatic and leave the rest to work itself out. I want to take this concept one more step forward. Instead of just creating raving fans, what is the least number of fans you need? If you want to sell two books a day, and you have 60 fantastic fans, then you are set for the first month of book sales. Great! But what about the next month’s book sales? What about some natural attrition from the list?
What is your aim as an author?
Perhaps here is a different way to look at it: What are you trying to go for as a writer? If you want people to read your book, and are not as concerned about the money, why not just go strictly for reviewers? Why do any advertising at all?
Talking one on one with reviewers and building that comradely is a unique idea. Most times authors look at reviews as a means to an end. If we get enough reviews, others will buy the book. What if we flip this and stop looking for end customers completely? What if we only looked for reviewers?
To me, this makes a lot more sense. Not only does it allow for more personal connections, but it helps build a platform. In the end, I think that this practice does something powerful. If you have a list of people you know and know you, that can lead to something Amazon can’t take away.
Better than Amazon
As an author, we know that there is a trade off between “going wide” and “going exclusive”. Going exclusive allows the author to get Amazon’s promotions and have potentially more easy revenue. However, going wide can provide an author with a revenue stream outside of Amazon. This can be important because it allows the author to adapt to the future. However, these are the two main choices, right? Well, there is a third one that few people think about “going narrow”. That is, having those close relationships with people. Amazon can’t duplicate this relationship and even if they change against you, you can pivot quickly. Furthermore, going wide can work even better because you can move people to the right fit for them. Perhaps they want to have a specific format or don’t want to jump through a lot of hoops. By building that personal relationship with them, you can figure out exactly what they need and fill it. Maybe Amazon is the best step for them? Maybe someplace else is the best place for them? Ultimately, the struggle no longer becomes what you want as an author, but rather what your audience wants individually. There is no way Amazon or anyone else can take that away.
The Money is in the List
This old saying relates to mailing lists. The idea is that a sales funnel slowly develops contacts and then you can section those most likely to buy. I would look at this from an alternative perspective. I would almost look at it from a Salesforce point of view. Instead of looking at a specific funnel, think of this as a mountain of value. You are being paid to be a Sherpa on this mountain. You don’t know where your people want to go, or how they want to go there, you are just there to provide value. In that regard, a CRM (customer relationship manager) may be a better fit than AMS (Amazon Marketing Service) ads. Think about the conversation from an AMS standpoint. You try out a sales copy, and the response is a simple: yes, no, or kinda. Is this what they are looking for? No? Let’s try that? All the while you are wasting a ton of money trying to get a clear picture. Why not skip all that and just send out an email (or call) and get an immediately answer? In addition, you can ask more detailed questions and have a wonderful conversation.
So the money is still in the list, but the truth is that the money is in the relationship building techniques. How do you provide value as an author? How can you tailor what value you build to fit their need, not your own? If you are able to hit that every time you become something other than “another marketer”. You become a resource for your readers. Your writing becomes that water in a desert that they know they can go to and get exactly what they are looking for. If it turns out that they aren’t happy, well guess what? They know the author! They can get it fixed. That gives them the power, which is ultimately, where it’s always been. No platform, no advertising, no gimmicks hold the same power that interested customers hold. Let them decide and they will reward you with more than money. They will reward you with loyalty.