Marketing really isn’t hard. You just need some basic information. Here are my top ten tips for those who are new to marketing.
1. Your brand is your promise to your audience.
When you brand yourself, you’re presenting yourself as an authority about something, promising to give others a solution to a problem, or promising some type of product (like a story). A common brand among the indie creative community is that of the indie author. Look at those two words, what do you think of?
Even if you don’t know what indie refers to, you likely know what an author is. And when you hear that someone is an author, what do you automatically ask them about? Most likely, you’re going to ask about their books.
Indie authors are authors who have self-published their books and taking control of most of the creative process by starting a business with them. Because doing this is still a relatively new concept, a lot of people who brand themselves in this category also give writing and publishing advice to others who wish to publish like them. That is the promise they make to the audience.
Your brand doesn’t have to be limited to a single subject, however. Let’s take Oprah, for example. She’s a talk show host, an author, actress, television producer, and philanthropist. She certainly doesn’t limit herself. But how did she do that? She chose not to brand a product or service, but to brand herself. Her promise to her audience was in the type of content she would produce. It would be emotional, encouraging, and focused on self improvement. These personal values shine through in every one of her projects.
Your brand is a way for your audience to tell who you are at a glance. It tells them what you bring to the table and how it’s going to benefit them in the future, hopefully encouraging them to follow and interact with you.
2. Your brand is also about what you do deliver. The story of your kept promises.
Now that you’ve made a promise, the most important thing you can do is follow through.
Let’s say you love traveling and someone advertises themselves as a world photographer, but when you go to their Instagram and other social media feed, their profiles are filled with pictures of candy. Chocolate, gummies, hard candy; you name it this person probably has a picture of it. The pictures are well done, but they’re not what you’re looking for. Would you continue to follow that person? Probably not.
Follow through and keeping on target with the brand you present to your audience is even more important than establishing one in first place because it keeps them coming back.
3. The look of your brand and projects (books etc) tells a story about what your audience will get.
When considering how to brand yourself, make sure that all the technical aspects, (colors, fonts, subject matter, etc.) stay consistent. This will make it easier for your followers and target audience to recognize your products and services.
Everyone knows Pepsi and Coke, thanks to the distinctive and exclusive coloring and fonts they use in all of their branding. By keeping their style choices uniform, they have made themselves instantly notable to their customers. You want to do the same thing.
Here are some things to consider when choosing your branding aesthetic:
- Consider the tone and mood of your brand. Are you going for something light and fun? Dark and mysterious? Professional and business-like? Check out your competition and try to spot some common themes among their brands to influence your own.
For example, romance writers tend to use lighter color palettes and more scripted fonts, while horror and mystery writers use darker color palettes and more bold, straight-foward fonts
- Consider your personal stylistic preferences, especially of your marketing yourself rather than a product/service. If you like a lot of geometric patterns and you’re a very technical person, those two attributes may be able to come together to create your brand. Consider favorite colors, styles (gothic, vintage, steampunk, elegant, whimsical, etc), and the overall message you want to send to your fans.
- Consider drawing from the branding of products/services you’ve already created to find the perfect combination. If you notice a lot if your products are themed to grayscale, but some use warmer colors such as reds, oranges, and yellows because they’re themed to something active, tropical, or intense, thin about pulling 1-2 bright colors from the warm color scheme and balancing them out with 3-4 more muted colors.
Here are a few websites for inspiration:
Want to know more? Read this post.
4. Marketing is about finding your soul mates. In this case, the people who will cherish what you have to say. It’s not about tricking people.
The number one way to market yourself is by engaging with other people. In order to get the most out of your marketing efforts, you need to find people who are equally as passionate about what you’re doing. Quality is way more important than quantity in this regard, as it allows you to form deeper, more meaningful connections and create a stronger foundation for your platform. Check out this post to learn how to find people with whom you can truly relate.
5. You can find your soul mates on social media, in part.
If marketing is about finding your soul mates, then where do you find these people and how? Start by answering these questions: who is your soul mate? What do they like? Where do they hang out online? If they were trying to find someone like you (the author of their next favorite story), where would they look for you? If you were them, where would you go looking?
Let’s say that you write high fantasy.
If you were on social media, you might go looking at hashtags having to do with books, reading, and fantasy. You might even take a dive into the book blogger rabbit hole, looking for fantasy book covers. You might try to find book bloggers who review fantasy.
You can make it easy for your potential readers to find you by doing reviews within those hashtags. If you become a book blogger of fantasy, then you will not only get to know potential readers but also get to know other bloggers who review fantasy. This would get name recognition with readers and give you the ability to do shout outs and collars with other bloggers who could then in turn review your book.
Putting on the reader’s hat and if you wanted to find a book IRL, you might ask your friends. As the promoter of the book, word of mouth is what describes getting a recommendation from a friend. To get the ball rolling for sakes, you first need name recognition. Potential readers need to know that you and your book exist. You can get name recognition started by being where those who read fantasy go. Say a Renaissance Fair. A comic book store. Gaming convention. You can do a pop up book store and give out swag. If you write romance, why not a wedding expo? Romance books and related merchandise might make perfect bridesmaids gifts. What about other genres? If there’s a big music concert or festival in your area, you can hand out swag there. Wrote a cookbook? Sell it at a farmer’s market. Get you book where your potential readers will be IRL.
(I’ll be writing more about this).
6. You need a plan to efficiently develop your marketing and social media content.
“When you’re coming up with a strategy, you’ll want to think about how to create a workflow that encourages reusing (if not just straight-up reposting) your social media. For example, I use WordPress. In WordPress, there is a feature where I can connect my WordPress blog to my Facebook Page. I can set it up so that when I post, there will be an automatic post on my Facebook page of the “caption” and the link to my blog post. I actually have control of that in my post publishing settings. So not only am I working on original content for my blog, I’m also producing content for my Facebook page. There are quite a number of apps where you can cross platform post.”
Download a free content planning worksheet at the bottom of this post.
7. Part of marketing is networking. Networking is about exchanging and building social capital.
“Social capital refers to resources you have that are based on social relationships…You do things for other people. They do things for you. You help each other. It’s really not that mysterious.” Read this post to learn more.
8. Engagement is a way to show the strength of your network but may not necessarily lead to sales.
“Lots of indie creatives struggle to get engagement on social media, even though social media is touted as one of the primary ways for indies to market themselves. What most people don’t understand though is what exactly they’re looking at when they are looking at engagement, and more importantly, what it means for a content creator.”
Connection is the true goal of engagement. Though connecting with your audience can lead to sales, there is no guarantee that it will.
So, then, what’s the true benefit to engagement? Community. This post explains how to use the key principles of engagement to broaden your reach, thereby expanding your pool of consumers, even if they don’t all translate into customers.
9. The people who will lead to sales are the social media influencers. Network with them.
How do I find out about this? Do I use anecdotal evidence? My exeperience? Sometimes. But mostly, I look it up to see what the research says. Why? Individual experiences may not be applicable to others. Studies conduct research in such a way that the conclusions can be applied to more than one person who is in a unique situation at a unique time. That uniqueness is not something that can be replicated easily. So looking for tips based on studies gives you a higher chance of finding one that can and will work for you.
Social media influencers change a consumer’s attitude toward a product or service until they intend to buy it. If a consumer is thinking about adding to his or her TBR list, then the opinion of a trusted book blogger will influence whether or not a person will consider putting a particular book on that list. The TBR list is what market researchers call “intent to buy.” The book blogger says, “Hey this is a good book,” and many of his or her followers will add that book to the TBR list with the intent to buy it, which drives sales. — Michelle Raab, PhDRead this post to learn more.
10. Reviews from readers act as social proof of the quality of your project. This helps create the narrative of you brand.
One way that a narrative is created is by what everyone is saying. People look to other people’s opinions, especially people like themselves, in forming their opinions. That doesn’t mean a monkey see, monkey do situation. What it does mean is that if 10 people, who you think are like yourself, like a book, you will think … maybe I’ll like it too. So how can you use the idea of social proof in community building?
It’s the sharing that (in part) creates a sense of community. A community forms from sharing resources, but who do you choose to be in your community? You choose people who you have something in common with. Geography. Activities. Likes. Around that commonality you engage in social interaction and resource sharing. These resources can be tangible goods, like roads. They can also be intangible goods, like services. It can also be access to social networks (from reposting) and offers of social proof (likes and comments). Reposting, liking, and comments are basically the currency in social media. — Michelle Raab, PhDWant to know more? Read this post!
You can be your own marketer if you want to be. Once you learn the basics, we can foray into the best ways to stay on top of current trends.
Cowritten by Claerie Kavanaugh. Editor. Author. Indie Creative.
©2020, 2021 Michelle Raab, PhD. All rights reserved.
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