Your Marketing Platform—The Smaller the Better: 6 Traits of Highly Effective Information Brokers
Brian Jud will be speaking on the Publishing Business Conference & Expo’s “Retail Sales in an Evolving Market” panel. More info at publishingbusiness.com.
In my recent blog post here I described a two-tiered approach to creating a book-marketing platform. The gist was that instead of seeking thousands of followers or friends, build a smaller nucleus of influential people who give you credibility as they spread the word about your book.
Malcolm Gladwell discussed this concept in his book “The Tipping Point” where he described the relative effectiveness of Paul Revere as compared to William Dawes as they both rode to sound the alarm that the Revolutionary War had begun. Mr. Revere was more successful because he was well connected with patriots who continued to spread the word quickly and widely while he rode off warning others. Dawes had no such network at his command, and his place in history is forgotten.
A marketing platform does not simply happen as the result of having a large following on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. It is the planned result of cultivating information brokers (as Gladwell calls them), people who are the Paul Reveres of their networks. When they talk, people listen and are more likely to take their recommended action. You are the kingpin in your network, creating and coordinating the links between the two parts of a successful platform: the messengers and the intended recipients.
It is not what you know, but who you know
Accomplish this by building a foundation for your marketing platform. These are the messengers who can persuade a larger group of prospective buyers to take some action on your behalf. You only need a dozen or two of these people, but their influence will have more impact on your success than thousands of followers and friends who may have heard of you.
Build a relationship with the people in your nucleus. Communicate with these superconnectors regularly so they understand you as a person as well as an author. When they tell others to support your book launch or other objective, they can speak authoritatively and persuasively. Of all of the influential people with whom you could possibly associate, what characteristics should you look for in prospects to join your core network? Here are a few.
- Positive energy. Include people who see opportunities in a challenge. For example, if you seek sales opportunities in special markets, your contacts will point out potential segments, prospective buyers and help you create a plan to expand from your core markets. Avoid de-energizers: people who are generally negative, are inflexible in their thinking and who critique people rather than ideas.
- Honesty. Embrace people who will give you blunt feedback but at the same time offer an alternative strategy. They challenge you to do better as they support you with a friendly nudge in that direction. These people will tell you that your cover design may suffice for bookstore sales but may not stand out on a supermarket shelf. Then they offer constructive improvements.
- Broader experience. You cannot grow if your network is comprised of people who are just like you. Seek people with backgrounds and skills that are different from yours. Look for people who can give you personal support, stimulate your thinking with creative business assistance, and those who can describe where you need more balance. If your network is comprised only of other publishers who sell through bookstores, none may have the knowledge or experience to point out opportunities for sales to corporations, associations and schools.
- Influence. Find people who are recognized experts in their sphere of influence. These are the people others look to for advice. They have earned their position through successful experience and networking. They might be expert in selling to government agencies or the military, and willing to help you get a foothold in their niche.
- Compatibility. Cultivate people with whom you can get along. Do not try to force a relationship simply because you feel a person can help you. Your network should be comprised of pleasurable opportunities for mutually beneficial connections. Have some fun as you network and build rapport.
- Commitment. If the people in your core cluster do not feel the need to help you grow, they are no different from the hordes in your groups of followers. Affiliate with those who are committed to helping each other succeed, and be willing to do what they can to support you.
How to find people with these characteristics
The foundation for a platform do not just happen, it is designed and built. Construct a base of core connections that reach smaller, more diverse groups. Start by describing the people in your nucleus. What benefits are provided by your interactions with them? How energizing are those interactions? Then assess where you need more diversity. If you have no media moguls, professional associates or people in various affinity groups in your core, they would be your initial targets.
Next, classify your relationships by the functions they serve. Generally, benefits fall in one of six categories: information, support, influence, energy, purpose and balance. Extend your core with people who provide one or more of these benefits. Do you need expertise in different market segments? Broader geographical reach? Additional distribution channels to non-bookstore retailers? Sales or financial advice to negotiate large-quantity orders more profitably? Or must you eliminate links to people who sap your energy? Know what you need and do what is necessary to rectify the situation.
Do not seek a large quantity of people in your platform. Build a strong, balanced foundation of compatible, frank and committed people who will help you build your revenue by reaching out to their spheres of influence with a positive message in support of you and your books.