Lessons From the Graveyard

I recently attended a seminar on ethics. During the seminar, the presenter told a number of real-life scenarios and asked the class to comment on whether the person’s behavior was ethical or not. One story he told involved a counselor who specialized in grief and loss counseling. This gentleman needed more business, so he would visit cemeteries and leave his business card on the freshly dug gravesites.

Part of my brain was agreeing with the class that what this gentleman did was pushing ethical boundary by taking advantage of vulnerable people. However, the other part of my brain was screaming, “What brilliant marketing!”

While this grief and loss counselor’s methods were in poor taste, I believe we can learn three lessons from his marketing technique.

The first lesson we can learn is: know who your target audience is. This counselor knew that his target audience was people who had recently lost a loved one to death. These people would be in the throes of loss and grief. Some would be in need of counseling services to help them cope with the loss and their resulting grief.

The second thing we can learn is: know where your target audience hangs out. Our counselor knew that his target audience would be visiting the gravesites of their dearly beloved deceased. All he had to do was advertise where his audience hung out and bingo, he had business.

The third lesson we can learn is: use an advertising method that is effective. A business card is small, unobtrusive, and easily stored for later retrieval. A flyer would have been too large and looked too much like advertising. This gentleman’s business card placed strategically looked like an offer of help.

How about you? Do you know who your target audience is? If you are the author of a Christian book, the right answer is not Christians. What subset of Christians would read your book? If you have a book about blended families, then your target audience would be those Christian people who are currently in a blended family or divorcees and widows who are dating again.

What about where your target audience hangs out; especially online? If you simply say that your target audience is Christians, then you might think that they are hanging out on one of the top visited Christian sites such as www.christianpost.com. However, if you write Christian romance fiction books, I highly doubt that the women who read this genre of books spend much time on Christian news sites. You might be more likely to find them on a website for Christian moms or business women.

Like the grief and loss counselor, once you figure out who your target audience is and where they hang out, go there and use an advertising method that is effective.

Who is your target audience and how have you had success reaching them online?

Responding to Readers

I want to thank everyone who posted a comment in response to my blog post. Thanks for helping get my blog off to a great start. I would love to respond individually to each comment, but time does not permit, so I am giving a blanket response in this post. Thank you.

Without readers, a blog is just words. Without readers, a book cannot touch people’s lives. As authors, we should make it a high priority to respond to any reader who reads our books and sends us a note; whether that is via snail mail or email. Not only is it polite, it is also smart marketing. I have been writing about how social media can enlarge your circle and help you connect with more people. If you fail to respond to readers that contact you, you lose connections with those people. All the social media work you do will not make up for the lost fans that result from a lack of response on your part. Responding to fans that contact you keeps connections that already exist in your circle of influence. This is cheap marketing. The more your fans like you, as well as your books, the more they will bring you additional readers through word-of-mouth advertising.

I try to respond to anyone who contacts me about my books. I say I try, because I am human and I am sure I have failed at some point. So, if you are one of the people whom I have failed to respond to and want to post that in the comments, let me say in advance, I am sorry, forgive me.

One kind reader of my book, Linda Settles of Edict House Publishing book-flying-2(www.edicthouse.com), appreciated the information in my book, Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace, so much that she kindly called me up and offered to send me a picture of my book that she took while riding in her husband’s airplane. Of course, I said, “Yes!” and now I get to share it with you.

When I was a kid, for school assignments we had to write letters to authors of books that we had read and liked. Every author that I wrote to as a child wrote back to me. My children have collectively written to three authors over the past 18 months. Not one of these authors has responded to my children’s letters. One of the authors put in his book that he would send a straw to every child who wrote him. My son has yet to receive a straw and his letter was sent well over 6 months ago. You may say, “maybe he ran out of straws.” Well, if that is the case, he should at least send a note saying that. But come on now, how expensive are straws?

Will this lack of response cause my children to stop reading these authors’ books? Not likely. These authors write great books that are very popular with children. But can we as authors learn a lesson from this? I think so.

First of all, since we are Christian authors, let us behave in a Christian manner. Jesus tells us to “love our neighbor as ourselves” (Matt. 22:39). If you were a fan, would you want a response from an author you wrote to? Yes! So let us treat our readers with the same respect.

Second, let’s be like the straw author and offer something that continues to promote our books. However, let’s not be like him and neglect to actually send it. I loved this straw idea (his books all had straws in their story lines). Think about this: If you have a book for children, why not offer a free bookmark to any child who writes you (have them enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope so you’re not out the postage)? Then send the child a bookmark promoting the book with your autograph. Cheap marketing! The child loves you and tells other children about you, your book, and the free bookmark. Another angle might be if you have a book on purity or another virtue to offer your readers who write you a bracelet with the virtue written on it (you know that kind I am referring to – the cheap colored rubber ones).

In his Parable of the Shrewd Manager, Jesus says “For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourself, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:8-9 niv). Let us be loving Christians as well as smart marketers in dealing with our readers and use our worldly wealth and time to gain friends and influence people for the Kingdom of God.