How to Build a Successful Marketing Platform
Brian Jud will be speaking on the Publishing Business Conference & Expo’s “Retail Sales in an Evolving Market” panel. More info at publishingbusiness.com.
Actors use a physical platform to raise themselves above their audiences, focusing the attention on themselves so that they can more easily be seen and heard. The concept of building a marketing platform is not dissimilar. Publishers generally assume that if their authors’ platforms are significant enough, potential buyers will either buy their book upon its publication or spread the word about it to others. But this is often not the case. Simply because people have heard of you or have befriended you on Facebook does not necessarily mean they will buy your book or support its introduction.
While it is good to have a large number of potential buyers in your platform, it is critical to have a smaller group who will spread the word about you and your book. In other words, the quantity of people in your network is important, but not as critical as the quality of the relationships you have a specific subset of that network: those who are, or could become, your advocates. Just as you sell to your readers through bookstores—which are essentially entities with influence and large followings—you should communicate through people who have large social networks and who have a reason to support you in hopes they will communicate to those in the larger group—those who could be potential buyers.
Accomplish this by building your marketing platform on two different levels. First, create its foundation with relationships among people in small groups of influential communicators. Then build familiarity among those in the larger audience who will listen to your advocates and buy your book.
Build your platform’s foundation
A platform is a series of career-long relationships with people who find it beneficial to communicate the word about your book, introduce you to influential people who can endorse your book, or get you on major media. As third-party references, these people give you more credibility among those in the larger segment of your platform. Platform building begins with cultivating relationships with a core selection of credible sources in at least five groups.
- Good friends. They could be your classmates, fellow employees, relatives and neighbors. This is probably the weakest category in terms of their desire or ability to spread the word about your book.
- Centers of influence. Who are the well-known people that can influence the purchasing decisions of large groups of your target readers? These could be celebrities, industry icons, people in the media or bloggers with a large following.
- Professional associates. People who have a following in a specific niche can spread the word among their constituents.
- People in your affinity groups. Find and participate in groups of people with similar interests or needs and who know you personally.
- Fans. These are people in your target audience who have read your previous material or have heard you speak on your topic. They believe that you know what you are talking about and are willing to put their reputations on the line by becoming your advocate.
How to cultivate relationships
According to general theory, you are five contacts away from anyone you might want to reach. This could be a buyer at Wal-Mart, a corporate purchasing manager or the producer at a top television or radio show. A key to building a successful platform is to learn the name of the first of those five people. Find that person by networking face to face with each contact who can bring you one step closer to your ultimate objective. Conduct your personal networking activities wherever people congregate. You can target specific places where your prospects are most likely to be, such as those listed below.
- Associations. Go to a directory of associations such as the oneat weddles.com. Sort the list to find those most applicable to your topic and visit their websites. Find the staff and board members and make contact with them. If there is a local chapter, attend a meeting and ask to be a speaker at a future meeting.
- Personal presentations. Speak before groups such as Rotary Clubs, Chamber of Commerce meetings, trade shows, libraries, corporate meetings or at schools.
- Trade Shows. Hundreds or thousands of industry people — including media people, potential customers, suppliers and networking contacts — congregate at appropriate expositions looking for new products, information, contacts and ideas. Find relevant shows to attend at biztradeshows.com
- Attend seminars. Learn more about your topic and network with people there.
- Perform events at retail stores. Do not attempt to simply conduct book signings. Instead, hold events that promote you as the expert on your topic.
Your personal networking will be more productive if you use common sense and courtesy. Do not overload people with information, but conduct a friendly conversation for a mutually beneficial exchange. Your objective is to help them understand how your book can benefit them as well as the people in their reference groups.
Conduct distance networking for the quantity of contacts (network to)
Once you have your foundation in place, continue building your platform among people who could buy your book. Use mass-communication techniques to generate a large quantity of contacts. Then when you core group connects with them, your potential buyers will recognize your name and book title. Use the Internet and other media strategically to reach as many people as possible on a regular basis.
You can post on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Linkedin, Plaxo, Branchout and the other top social media platforms. Your followers and friends can keep up with your accomplishments and perhaps spread the word about them.
Broadcast and print media.
Actively pursue television and radio appearances. Seek exposure in print media, including articles, letters to the editor, case histories and reviews.
Join and participate in discussion groups, listservs and forums online. Find these on such sites as Yahoo.com, Topica.com, forumsdirectory.info or by conducting a specific search online for your topic.
Active blogging serves several purposes. It can build your platform, build your image as an expert on your topic, it gets others involved if they contribute to your blog, makes you a center of influence for others to contact and if forces you to keep current on your topic. Find blogs on which to post at several sites, including technorati.com, blogtoplist.com and stumbleupon.com.
Contribute to magazines or ezines in your area of expertise. Write letters to the editor. Make the most of your blogging by re-purposing your content into articles and tweets.
Spend time establishing relationships with those who can spread the word for you, and build a large following among people who are potential customers. Then do all that you can to help bring these two groups together. Have a platform-building strategy, and you can sell more books in the short-run and build a solid foundation for future sales.