Tracy (T.L.) Higley here, posting another marketing lesson I’ve learned from my years in online retail sales. As I mentioned last month, I’m currently in the midst of an experimental year, applying principles from my retail business to the marketing of my fiction. If you’ve missed earlier posts, and would like a better explanation of my background and what these posts are about, please see Principles #1 and #2 here.
So, on to Principle #3… Repeated contact drives sales.
In building our online retail business (you can see our product lines here if you’re interested), I have found over the years that our most valuable asset has been our email list of customers. Last month we talked about the importance of building a list of readers, and ideas for doing that. But once you’ve got a list, now what?
Repeated contact, with benefits and value always offered.
For our retail craft sites, we send out weekly emails with coupons, sales, and discounts. Is a weekly email too much for an author to send to his/her list? Probably. But I’ll bet your readers would enjoy email from you more often than you’re sending it. We started out sending monthly emails to our retail customers, then increased to twice per month, and finally weekly. As we did this, we saw no increase in the amount of opt-outs (unsubscribes), and only an increase in sales. How often are you contacting your list? When they get an email from you, do they say “Who?”
You’re probably thinking, “it’s hard enough to keep writing my books. Now I have to write emails, too?” But you might be surprised at how little time it can take to reach out to readers. Sign up for a service that sends out bulk emails (like Constant Contact), and take the time to modify one of their templates for your own use. You can use it again and again, simply plugging in a new message and graphics. Use it to announce contests and new releases, to give snippets of reviews, to let readers in on the writing process. Depending on your “brand” you may want to get more personal – offering news and information about your life. I use my newsletter to talk about the travel I do while researching my historical novels. Brainstorm for a few minutes about what you might offer, then spread it out over the course of a year. The key is repeated contact!
Now, I’ve said that Principle #3 is that “Repeated contact drives sales.” So how does a newsletter result in sales? Here again, I’ll refer to my personal retail experience. Besides the craft supply sites I run, I also have another site, Signed by the Author.com, where readers can order autographed copies of their favorite author’s books. The traffic to this site comes primarily from the participating authors’ own sites. They have links on their sites that say “buy a signed copy here” and refer their readers to us. But I can tell you this – I always know when an author has put out a newsletter. We see a surge in the sale of that author’s books that week. And those are only the sales we see. It’s likely that readers are ordering elsewhere, too. Will you sell a thousand books every time you put out a newsletter? No. But if there is a spike in sales, there is a spike in interest, right? Repeated contact works, slow and steady, over time. You become a familiar name in that readers’ life, and when you have a new release to promote, they are much more likely to purchase it and spread the word.
If you’re already sending out newsletters, I’d encourage you to think about increasing the frequency. This is what I’m planning for this year, and I’ll let you know how it goes. One interesting statistic I can report on right now: our retail craft site emails average an open rate (the number of people who open the email from us) of 16%, which isn’t bad. But my newsletter to readers averages an open rate of 53%! Readers like to get email from authors.
If you’re not already sending out emails to readers, search out some of your favorite authors and get on their mailing lists. Their newsletters may inspire you with creative ideas of your own.
I’d love for us to share ideas about items to include in our contact with readers!
Coming up next month… using Social Marketing for repeated contact