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Arches headshot CAN Hi all,

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 missed last month’s post, and would like a better explanation of my background and what these posts are about, as well as Principle #1, you can find that post here.

 

So on to Principle #2:  Build a List.

 

As promised, I’m going to continue to give you real numbers and stats from my experience…

 

I believe this second principle has been the greatest factor in building our online craft and hobby supply retail business. When we started with our first website five years ago, KoolStuff4Kids.com, we were diligent in capturing the names and email addresses of people who visited the site, both those who became customers and even those who did not. Our primary means of collecting names was through a monthly contest in which we gave away free products.  From that beginning, the mailing list for that particular website has grown to over 28,000 names.  (We currently run four different websites, with a total of over 78,000 names in our database.)  Later we began offering customers an “instant coupon” when they signed up for our mailing list – an autoresponder email set up to send them a coupon code immediately.

 

Building a list is becoming increasingly critical in the “social marketing” world in which we now live.  People want to be involved with the companies, products, and people they follow in new and creative ways. The idea of a building a following, a “tribe,” is spreading through the marketing world, and is especially conducive to writers. Why? Because tribes are about ideas. They are about people connecting to each other because of a shared interest or cause. And writers are fabulous at explaining ideas and getting people passionate about interests and causes! People are looking for information, and we’ve got it.

 

So, how am I applying my own advice this month?  I looked back at my statistics of list-building through the months of March to August of this year.  In that six-month period, on my website related to my writing, I collected 120 names for my mailing list. These are people who came to my website and gave me their email address because they wanted to be on my list.  That’s an average of about 20 names per month.  I have no idea where that number ranks in relation to the rest of you. No doubt some of you get many more, and some less. But in the month of September, I applied my own list-building principles.  The result?  95 names added to my mailing list during the month of September.

 

Here are the multiple ways I’m currently building my list through sign-ups:

1.   Running a contest

To promote my new release, Guardian of the Flame, which features the Lighthouse of Alexandria, I’m having a contest for a lighthouse wall hanging.  (To see the contest I am running, simply visit my website and an entry form will appear. Feel free to enter!) 

2.   New Release Reminders

My website includes a simple form people can fill out – First Name and Email Address – to receive a reminder when I have a new release.

3.   Mailing List Sign Up with incentive

I also have a direct sign-up for my mailing list, and have it set up with an autoresponder that contains a free short story.  This is a short story I wrote some time ago, still retain the rights to, and can offer as an incentive to join my mailing list.  It was easy to set up, and is the most effective tool I have used thus far.

4.   Enter a book drawing when you give input

I am currently writing the Seven Wonders Novels, and have a page on my site inviting readers to cast their vote about which of the Seven Wonders they’d like to read about next.  This gives me valuable input, but also helps readers to feel they are part of what I’m doing.

5.   Referencing my website everywhere I can

I spoke to a group of church librarians this month, and I was sure to give them a chance to sign up for mailing list, which would also enter them into my current contest.

I also mention my website in any interviews and blog tours I do, and in the backs of my books. I have tried to fill my website with interesting and entertaining content, which gives readers a reason to come looking.

The key is to give readers a reason to come to your website, and once they have come, give them lots of reasons to sign up for your mailing list.

A word about Facebook:

Facebook is a terrific social marketing tool, and you can use it effectively to build your tribe. But one word of caution:  There’s a good chance that Facebook will eventually go the way of MySpace and all the other sites we can’t remember.  Something cooler will come along, and people will begin jumping ship to join the next new thing. Make sure that you are getting the email addresses of the fans you are amassing on Facebook. Find a way to get permission to add them to your email mailing list. If and when Facebook becomes passé, you won’t know that you’ve lost contact with those readers. They will simply fade away, stopping checking their Facebook page.  While email addresses can change, at least you have a shot of continued contact with people, after the fad of Facebook has moved to something else.

To conclude, here’s an article I read recently on some ways to add to your mailing list. Perhaps it will jumpstart your creativity. 

Remember, come up with as many creative ways as you can to capture the visitors you receive on your website, and build that list!

I’d love to hear comments about the great ways all of you are building your tribes!

Coming up next month: I’m building a list. Now what do I with it?

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2 Thoughts on “Marketing Lessons from the World of Retail

  1. Hi Tracy,
    Thanks so much for the practical advice. I’m new to the whole world of writing and publishing and I’m trying to learn as much as I can as fast as I can.
    My first book is due out next year and I spend a lot of time researching the craft and the business of writing. I love CAN and the wisdom I gain from reading the blogs posted by the pros. I’ve been so amazed at how wonderful and helpful the Christian writing community is.
    Thanks again!

  2. I know this is months later, but great post! Can I ask a practical questions? What system to do you use to make and maintain your lists of email address? I think you mentioned Constant Contact, but do you use something outside of that? A spreadsheet? A notebook? 🙂
    Thanks!

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