Monday, December 10, 2012

MONDAY MARKETING Target Markets or Positioning? Which Helps You Sell More Books? #pubtip #indie #selfpub #wlc #ian1 #mywana

Welcome back to the regularly-scheduled Webbiegrrl Writer blogs. The diversion lately is my Ginormous 30,000th Hit Giveaway - another big thank you to all of my regular readers for making that happen (I'm at 32,400 hits already).

There are over 100 books donated by over 70 different authors and they cover nearly every genre imagineable. From Paranormal and YA Fantasy to Suspense/Thriller and Mystery/Detective stories. There are even a few children's books (Early Readers) and collections of Poetry! Be sure to peruse the prize list on my Giveaways Page then....

Enter now! Enter Often! Enter Daily!

I'll be cutting off entries on Thursday, Dec. 13th and announcing winners here on the blog throughout the weekend (Dec. 14-16). Good luck to all who enter. Okay, now back to our regularly scheduled program of Monday marketing. Today I'm looking at market research - what is it and why to do it (or not). Click through the jump-break to begin.

What is Market Research?
It's a form of data analysis designed to help a marketing professional determine which marketing strategy will work best for which target(s). If you've been following along reading my marketing series blogs or have bought my new release The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (for Indie Authors), which just came out in eBook form, you'll know that at any given time, you need to evaluate your marketing strategy for possible changes to the market situation.

You cannot just set up a program and walk away. Marketing is a process, not an event. You change your process based on feedback in the form of customer data, and the data has to come from somewhere. Usually, marketers will ask existing customers to fill out a form (e.g., registration of a product is a means of collecting market research data) or a survey and provide feedback on who they are (demographics) and why they bought this product and not that one or why now and not tomorrow.

Notice that typically, marketing researchers are analyzing the past and not predicting the future. In the Law of Unpredictability, Immutable Law of Marketing (for Indie Authors) Law 17, I stressed you cannot predict anything about the future except that it will change. No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy! That's why the historical approach has been to analyze the past behavior of customers who did buy a product and not worry about those customers who declined to buy the product or who might at some point in the future.

Demographics such as age, gender and income bracket will definitely not give you the kind of insight that explains customer behavior, but it's kind of the golden ticket to marketing professionals trying to help sell widgets. Paradoxically, it's very hard to get consumers to provide that information when the method of interrogation is to ask them a hundred and one personal questions on a form or survey before ever asking what influenced their buying decision. I'm not sure why marketers have always taken that approach but they have. The traditional rule of thumb is to expect to get a mere 1-3% of the consumers who did buy the product to talk about themselves. That hardly seems worth it but the system has been hard at work for almost 100 years now (since just after The Great Depression started in 1929).

Welcome to the 21st century where it's far more important to solicit a consumer's reasoning--and anonymously--than it is to worry about their gender, age group, income bracket or other personal and identifying information. We are now in an age where identity theft is so problematic, a marketing professional has far too many obstacles to overcome when attempting to pry open a consumer's personal life. Besides, personal data is not as relevant as purchasing rationale, not when designing a marketing strategy today. Using smartphones and tablets to purchase things online with apps and coupon codes, consumers really aren't comfortable telling you about themselves because the selling technology isn't set up for it. Plus, why do you need to interrupt their shopping experience by requiring them to fill out a survey? Just deliver the product and be quiet already!

That's the common response from consumers because providing market research data is rarely enoyable for them. In fact, it often alienates them from our brand which is the opposite of what we want! Therefore, the objective for a Digital Publishing professional should be to find a new and interesting way to extract demographic or causal data from consumers which can later be used in the refinement of marketing strategy decisions. Wow, that's a mouthful, isn't it? Let's look at what that long and complicated sentence really means.

Why do Market Research?
You want to figure out who your existing audience is so you can find more of those kinds of people and hopefully, sell them your product(s), too. In the Law of Sacrifice, Immutable Law of Marketing (for Indie Authors) Law 13, I explained to you what 3 things must be sacrificed short term in order to achieve something greater in the long term.

One of the things to sacrifice is knowing everything about your customers. You can't. You don't, not even if you think you do. Just let go of that need and accept that readers do not want to tell you about themselves. They might be willing to discuss your book(s) with you, however, so long as they are allowed to remain anonymously behind some internet username. Do you really have a "need to know" every detail about them? Does it really matter? I say no.

In a way, I'll admit, it helps to know if your readers are male or female, young or old, but what matters more is knowing what they were thinking and in what context they evaluated your product. The context and their reasoning for placing you in it is your position in their mind and that is where your market research should focus. Your mission, should you accept it, is to establish and build a position, then expand it to hold your brand and entire product line. Should you not accept this mission, your Indie Author career will self-destruct within ... well, no telling how long your "fad" popularity will last, but it won't hold out to ride the "long tail" of success.

Unless or until you understand the mental process of selection that occurs inside your prospective customer's mind--your position on their product ladder--you can never use their demographic (personal and identifying) information to influence your position anyway.

How to Research a Market Today
In the Digital Publishing industry, we have some unique challenges but we also have some unique advantages that widget-makers do not. Unlike the sellers of automobiles and coffee machines, Indie Publishers and Authors can look at "complementary purchases" or buying history data ("Customers who bought this also bought...") in real time. It's shown on the book sales page at most major eTailers even when you're not logged in. It's how the eTailers sell people things.

That is, Amazon started the "also bought" lists, but everyone else from Smashwords to Apple, Nook and Sony are also using them. Rather than asking your customers to tell you "Yeah, I bought your book and these others in the same genre," you now have the power to research that yourself.

In fact, you can go one step further. For each item on your existing customer's "also bought" list, click through to see what "also bought" items are listed there. That is, the "also bought" items on your product's page are (probably) your competition, so look to see what their customers are also buying. This gives you a larger picture of the "typical" demographic for your entire category.

Other than buying habits, do you really need to know more about the specific consumer? Not about them, personally, no. The only other thing you really need is an understanding of their motivation--what caused them to choose to (or not to) position you inside their mind. Understanding a prospective customer's positioning mindset is extremely hard to do in a vacuum. You need to have direct contact with your readers. You should be trying to make contact with them anyway. Putting yourself out there, being accessible, makes your books more discoverable--and people cannot buy what they do not know exists.

When you converse with readers on sites like Goodreads and LibraryThing, you're not just trying to sell them your books or just hoping to establish your Author Brand; but rather, you need to Seek first to understand, then to be understood, as Stephen Covey puts it in Habit 5 of his famous bestselling self-helper, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Being present on a reader-centric site (as opposed to a sales-centered eTailer site like Amazon or Apple) means you have a chance to actually talk with your readers.

Seek first to understand them. Learn how your customer's minds work before you attempt to position yourself inside of them. In fact, seek only to understand and allow them to choose to position you, themselves. A position thus won is far more stable and deeply-rooted than one you inject into them yourself.

What's Next....
Tomorrow's Tuesday Tip will discuss some feedback on the lessons I've learned running the Ginormous 30,000 Hit Giveaway I've currently got running. It's my first official giveaway on this blog and I definitely have learned a few useful lessons from it.

Hope to see you then!



Anonymous said...

This is actually a very timely post for me. I've run a couple of GoodReads giveaways and I always get a high number of people adding my book to their TBR pile, up to 50% of those who sign up for the giveaway add it to their TBR pile. In my last giveaway I had over 3,000 entrants and 1,541 adding the book to their TBR pile.

However, a year later less than 1% of those who added it seem to have moved it from the TBR pile to the read pile. That tells me that even though a book sounds interesting enough to add it to the pile, it is not interesting enough to actually buy or read when compared to other choices.

I've been thinking about doing a survey of GoodReads readers to try to find out how they choose which book in their (usually large) TBR pile will be the one to read next and thus the one they will actually purchase. I have some hypotheses, but I'll have to test them.

I'll let you know results when I run it.

Webbiegrrl Writer said...

Hi Maggie,

I see that sort of thing--shelving but never actually reading--on Goodreads all the time. I noticed it when I would tweet something like "Would you please shelve [title of book] "to-read"? Thank you!" I'd tweet and bam I'd get a dozen or more "to be read" shelvings. Getting dozens of shelvings and not seeing them convert to "currently-reading" (or worse, they go to "currently-reading" and stay there for a year!) is hard to take. It's frustrating because it feels as though you cannot do anything to follow up but you can.

The Terms of Service on Goodreads prohibit harrassing readers with a gazillion emails but you are allowed to follow up within reason. For instance, if you put your book on a promo and it's free for a short period of time, go through the Goodreads shelves to see who might've shelved it "wanna-read" or "wish-list" or "when-its-free" and message just those readers to let them know the book is free. I've even done it when I just put the book on sale for 50% off or some such. Sometimes, the reader is so appreciative of my letting them know, they make a point of writing a review--and mentioning how thoughtful the author was to let them know when they could get the book :)

I wish there were a way to "blast" all readers who have a book shelved with news about the book, series or author but that's directly opposed to the TOS Goodreads has set up. Readers come to Goodreads to talk to each other, not to us. That's why it's so important to do your branding in every word you speak and not promote so much as converse. Don't sell, discuss. It's hard. I sure do know from personal experience with the frustration!