Successful manufacturers/retailers are continually looking for new ways to answer this question:
How can we create a perceived need in consumers’ lives for this product?
Have you ever looked at a box of baking soda? (If not, run to the kitchen and get it real quick)
The box indicates multiple other uses for baking soda, and you can even go online to see a million more ways to use this product.
I use baking soda for baking and laundry daily. So it’s a common place item for our home.
But as I looked over the different tips, I found one I didn’t know about: you can use it as a dry bath for dogs. Instead of waiting for the next bath, I’m going to try the dry bath method on my two 90-lb boys. Given their size, I’ll probably need to pick up an extra box on my way home.
WHAT JUST HAPPENED HERE?
Arm & Hammer created a new perceived need in my life. Up until today, I thought the dog smell was unavoidable, since you aren't supposed to bathe pets daily. Now I see it as a nuisance, something that can be eliminated. And even though I have multiple boxes of Arm & Hammer baking soda at home, I’m now stopping to buy a new one.
It’s All Part of the Equation
So how do we create this perceived need in prospective readers?
My authors should know this phrase by heart, I say it so much:
People buy books for one of two reasons. They either feel a connection with
1) the author
2) the book
Connection is the Siamese twin to Perceived Need. You can’t have one without the other.
These connections are not limited. Perhaps the reader went to grade school with the author; or perhaps the author has revealed a physical limitation with which the reader relates. This initiates a perceived need to hear what the author has to say.
Perhaps the reader identifies with the book's theme, or perhaps the reader sees the price and recognizes that it falls within his/her budget. This initiates a perceived need to learn from the book.
REGARDLESS, the most important thing an author can do is ESTABLISH CONNECTIONS.
How do you establish connections? Through relationships.
How do you build relationships? I'm so glad you asked.
You first have to research in order to build relationships.
This is where my years of calculus come in handy. Let me introduce you to the RRCS Equation:
(Research + Relationships) x Connections = Perceived Need = Sales
My people are researchers:
My grandfather, a CPA, was heavy in genealogy and traced our family back to the signing of the Magna Carta.
My mother, a teacher, has a well-stocked personal library and is the research queen.
So I have naturally grown up with a life approach that is rooted in research. Every decision I make is fully researched. (Another reason why I can't live without my iPhone)
Given this natural habit of mine, I am surprised when others aren't sure where to start with research.
So for anyone out there learning how to conduct research with the objective of building relationships and establishing connections, here is my Research Checklist with examples.
1) Determine WHO you are looking for. This is your NICHE audience. You can have a million niche audiences; however, you have to look for connections individually.
Example: This morning I am working on a non-fiction title dealing with grief. Possible niches are loved ones of terminal patients, senior citizens, those who have lost loved ones, people looking for info on planning a funeral, funeral homes and clients, people grappling with what to do after the funeral, etc.
The niche I’ve chosen to research today is FUNERAL HOMES & CLIENTS.
2) Where does your NICHE go for information? I googled FUNERAL resource and found Funerals Today Magazine. On this site I found a listing of the organizations the editor-in-chief is involved with. So then I started googling those organizations. Thirty minutes later, I had pulled a list of contacts to make from the below sites, each of them a place where my NICHE would go to for information and resources:
3) The next step is to FAMILIARIZE yourself with the contacts. I started contacting the different online resources about adding a title to their bookstores/resource lists. If any of these were blogs, I would instruct the author to start following the blog, reading through them and making comments over the course of a few weeks on the posts. ALSO, I would send the author to these sites to look at freelance options (that is, submitting articles on grief-related subjects in line with whatever topics/themes they are currently discussing).
Now that you've done the research, you need to build the relationships.
Stay consistent with contact until you've built a RELATIONSHIP. This might mean that you ask a blogger to write a guest post on your blog, or that you have a few articles published in the magazine, or that they review your book for their resource list. Voila---you've built a relationship within this niche audience. Since you have their trust AND their attention, you can now close the deal.
So, you've found the niche, completed the research and initiated relationships. How do you build and maintain your relationship with your niche, establishing CONNECTIONS?
Initiate DIALOGUE about the subject matter, which eventually leads to your book. This is when you direct your niche to your blog, webpage, bookstore link, etc. Ask for feedback on your book. Once one of these niche readers has read the book, as where they wish they could have found the book. That then can open you up to a NEW CONNECTION.
My father, a former politician, taught my brother and me the following when it comes to trying to get a commitment out of someone else: "It's not about what you've done for me....it's about what you've done for me lately."
I use that principle daily. We all should. An author can't make one comment on a post and three months later expect the blogger to do him/her a favor.
The world just doesn't work that way.
We have to work hard to maintain relationships and further connections, both in our personal lives and in our professional lives. We have to fill up our "favor bank" before we can expect to withdraw a favor. Otherwise, we burn that bridge, and we burn it fast.
For authors, this means with their readers and prospective readers as well.
This is the number one reason why I suggest that all my authors have a blog. It offers an avenue for continued contact. It demands that you research and connect with people in order to keep a relationship going, as well as allows you to pursue new connections.
If you DON'T work at maintaining and building these relationships, then that is your fault. No one else can do it for you. Again, this is a principle we all should apply to our personal lives just as well as to every relationship we have in our professional lives.
The Last Part of the Equation: Sales
Back to my rule of thumb:
Readers buy books because of either a connection with the author or with the book. These connections create perceived needs, which leads to sales.
Research uncovers the door. Relationships unlock the door. Connections open the door. Perceived Needs get the reader through the door. Once the reader is on the other side, you’ve sold a book.
Some prospective readers will choose to walk through and purchase the book. Some won't, but you can't take that personally. Not everyone is interested in your message. That's okay...it's part of the business.
But those who are interested in the message, if they enjoy your book and find it meets their needs (which it will if you follow the RRCS Equation), will tell other people about the door and shepherd them through it too!
So, instead of a question today, I'm assigning a little homework exercise!
HOMEWORK: You are going to perform RRCS on a fake title.
Title: "The Little Boy who Sat on the Moon"
Genre: Children's book
Synopsis: A little boy escapes the fighting between his parents, and eventual divorce, by imagining that he's sitting on the moon. His special stuffed bear, an astronaut in disguise, is what helps him to come back to earth and adjust to his new life with divorced parents.
Themes: imagination, family strife, dealing with conflict, divorce, separation, etc.
Author bio: Author Jane E. Doe is a former kindergarten teacher who currently sits on the board for an organization that provides a safe haven for therapy & police interrogation in a safe and fun environment for children who have observed crimes (such as someone killing someone), most of whom are also being separated from their parents.
Endorsements: Book has endorsements from psychiatrists employed by the organization, an assistant district attorney who handles child abuse situations, and the state superintendent of schools.
Apply the RRCS Equation:
1) R: Research: Outline the niche audiences this book could appeal to. Pick one to pursue for this example. Find the avenues to pursue that will put the book in front of that niche.
2) R: Relationship: What can the author do with those avenues to form relationships?
3) C: Connections: How should the author use the relationships to form connections with the book?
4) S: Sales: What perceived needs can you initiate? How does the author produce sales?
If you have questions and want to walk through this for this hypothetical case (or for your title), give me a call or shoot me an email!