When selling books, it’s important to remember that readers do not buy the tangible elements of a book, they buy the intangible benefits they receive from reading. They buy what your book will do for them.
Most products, including books, are comprised of a combination of tangible and intangible elements. Readers do not buy the tangible elements of a book — the paper and ink that make it up — they buy the intangible benefits they receive from reading. With fiction, it might be a vicarious feeling of fantasy, romance, adventure, or mystery. With nonfiction, they are buying information, motivation, and help.
As an independent author, you will become more successful at marketing when you stop selling your books and begin selling what your books do for the people who read them. That is the difference between marketing a feature, an advantage, and a benefit.
A feature is an attribute of your book. It could be its size, binding, title, or number of pages. An advantage describes the purpose or function of a feature, and a benefit is the value the reader receives in exchange for purchasing your book. People buy value, not generic books.
One way of distinguishing among these three definitions is to use the “So what?” test. When thinking of a reason why someone would purchase your book, put yourself in the place of the prospective buyer and ask yourself, “So what?” Keep doing that until your imaginary customer says, “Oh. Now I understand.” Then communicate that concept in your promotional literature.
Feature: A four-color cookbook with a spiral binding. So what?
Advantage: It lays flat while you are preparing the meal, making it easy to read. So what?
Benefit: It contains recipes that are healthy, easy to prepare, and guaranteed to please your guests. You’ll have more time to socialize and enjoy yourself at your parties. Oh. Now I understand.
Impact on marketing strategy
Just as individuals have a variety of reasons for purchasing your books, businesses also have diverse reasons for buying them. For instance, think about the companies in your channels of distribution.
People at each level of the distribution network have a unique reason for buying your books, and marketing an irrelevant benefit will not motivate them. The key to persuading each to carry your books is to show them why it is in their best interest to work with you.
For example, when selling to the buyer at a retail operation, you would demonstrate that your superior promotional plan will bring more people into their stores, increasing their inventory turns and profitability. However, an appeal to profitability would not entice a librarian to purchase your book, nor would it persuade a college instructor to buy it as a textbook. The key is to match the appropriate benefit to each prospective customer’s reason for wanting to own it.
To demonstrate this concept, assume you are selling a job-search book containing tips on writing resumes and cover letters and information on how to interview effectively. Choose the benefit in the right column that corresponds to the customer in the left column.
|1. Retail-store buyer||A. Help Patrons|
|2. Distributor||B. Increase inventory turns|
|3. College student||C. Help students learn|
|4. Librarian||D. Make sales people more productive|
|5. School teacher||E. Help me find a job|
Answers: 1B, 2D, 3E, 4A, 5C
You can organize this information by condensing it into a guide that will remind you of your book’s benefits. To create this useful plan, align a page horizontally and divide it into four columns. In the left-hand column, list the different market segments that are potential targets for your title. In the next column, define the decision maker for this segment. Use column three to describe the benefits your title provides this group, the potential you need to communicate. Column four lists the general marketing strategies you will implement to describe the respective benefits to each decision maker. The example below demonstrates this technique as it applies to the book, It’s Showtime. This describes to authors tips for performing more successfully on TV and radio interviews.
|Publishers||Director of Publicity||An author who is media-trained will perform more effectively on the air, selling more books, making the publishing firm more profitable||Communicate via direct mail and meet with them at BookExpo|
|Writers Groups & Associations||President||Use It’s Showtime as a fundraiser, a way to entice new members, or as a gift for those who renew membership; this will increase membership and renewals, making the group more profitable||Use direct mail followed by personal telephone calls, with personal visits to those nearby|
|Authors||Author||You will relax on the air, be a better guest, and sell more books||Reach members of APSS and other publishing groups|
People do not buy features, they buy benefits. They buy what your book will do for them. Each decision maker has a unique reason for buying. Know what that is and communicate that benefit to them. Keep this in mind when you are creating your book or convincing people to buy it and you will sell more books, have fewer returns, and become more profitable.
Oh. Now I understand.
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