Thank you, L. Penelope! Of course. I'm in the midst of setting mine up and going through 2,000+ of my subscribers (a combined number of subscribers to my blog, newsletter, Patreon, an excel spreadsheet of beta readers, and PayPal customers; this number doesn't include over 60K combined followers on all my social media channels whom I intend to also add, one by one, as I have time).
As you can imagine, doing this by hand every day takes up a lot of time and is a very slow process, but it's the only way to build a loyal fan base that will buy not only buy your books but also your grocery lists scribbled on bits of toilet paper (read Permission Marketing by Seth Godin to learn more).
I've been at CRM (Customer Relationship Management) only for the last several months when I should've been at it for the last five years that I've been writing. Instead, I was focused on learning the craft. Now that I got the basics of it, I'm focused on the business, and CRM is my priority number one, and should be yours too.
Because every person you talk to—online, on the phone, on the street, at a store, ANYWHERE—is a potential reader. A potential customer.
So every interaction you have with anyone you must treat as a marketing opportunity, if you're serious about selling your books and not just writing as a hobby (this applies not only to indie authors but also to traditionally published authors who don't have the luxury of huge marketing budgets anymore and must aid their publishing houses as much as they can). That's why CRM is critical.
Can you remember every person you ever talked to? No. CRM can.
CRM is a system that will allow you to capture every interaction and to make strangers into friends, friends into readers, readers into loyal fans, and loyal fans into promoters. At the promoter level your fans will start marketing for you, and the effect will be that of a snow avalanche. The more you do it, the more they do it, the more sales you make. This is how best sellers are born. The number of people talking about your book tips (read The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell for more) and explodes. Suddenly everyone starts talking about it.
How do you get there?
By religiously recording EVERY SINGLE PERSON you ever talk to in a CRM system. (Yes, CRM is your new religion. Discard the rest.)
There are lots of them out there. I use Batchbook, and when I can afford it, will switch to the higher-end ActiveCampaign (it costs way more, but it lets you automate your marketing suite of messages instead of doing it by hand). Here is how I use it:
1. Anyone I talk to, anywhere, I engage in a conversation about books.
"Do you read books?" Of course everyone reads books. Or at least in school they did. With every step of the conversation, I deepen the permission to market by sharing my experience of writing books and qualifying the person as my ideal reader (or not). I know it sounds dry, even scary, but it isn't. I'm simply being myself, talking about harvesting my neighbors' livers to supplement my diet and so on. If it freaks out the person, good, I have eliminated someone who'd never read my books anyway. But if the person laughs, we connect, and I go to the next step.
2. I ask for their name and email in exchange for free ebooks and my own email.
I carry my bookmarks with me everywhere—they have my email printed on the back. By sharing it, I eliminate the person's fear of sharing theirs with me in turn. (I'm only now figuring out how to do this on my website as all my ebooks are free, so I can't use it as a bait in a pop-up, so at the moment I'm using the winning of a signed & kissed paperback). There is nothing sleazy about this as long as you're straightforward and honest. You offer the person something they can't refuse. Who can turn down free ebooks? The person feels good giving you something for it. Everyone is used to giving up their names and emails for perks online, so it's an honest deal. Once I get that, I go to the next step.
3. I enter their information into my CRM system.
Depending on where this conversation happened (online or in person), I either immediately type in their information into Batchbook or wait until I get home. It includes their name, their picture (if I can find one online, so I remember what they looked like), their email address, and their social media profiles (again, if I can find them online). Once I got all that set up (takes up to 30 minutes per person), I go to the next step.
4. I give myself a to-do.
To-dos have due dates, so every day, after I'm done with my writing (I write from about 8 AM till about 2 PM) and updating my social media status (takes about one hour on all channels), I go through my emails and login into Batchbook. It gives me a list of to-dos, and those that are overdue scream at me in red. So what are those to-dos? They are a suite of marketing messages that I follow through with each person, with a CTA (Call To Action) at the end of each suite to measure the suite's performance (I constantly change and tweak them, depending on data). A suite is a series of messages with certain actions attached to them, based on the person's response. For example:
- Send email with the promised free ebook.
- In two weeks email to see if they read the book and what they thought.
- Upon response ask for book reviews, include links so it's easy.
- Upon response ask to stay in touch (subscribe to my newsletter) and ask what book they'd like to read next (this is where it's good to have a portfolio of books so you have something to offer).
For each of these I have canned emails already written (it'd be impossible for me to communicate with 2,000+ people by typing every single email from scratch), but I customize each based on: our previous conversations, news I gather from their social media profiles, their responses, their mood, my mood, etc.
5. I get in touch with every person at least once a month.
After I've exhausted all of my email suites and after the person has read all I can offer, even if they're subscribed to my monthly newsletter, I get in touch at least once a month. People forget about you after a month, so if you won't do it (that's why newsletters MUST be at least monthly, otherwise they'll irritate some of your subscribers who have long forgotten about the reason they subscribed to your news in the first place). I get in touch via mail or by snail mail, writing personalized cards—something not many people do and something that cuts through other marketing clutter. A lot of you have been receiving cards from me lately. This is me going down the list of ALL MY CUSTOMERS alphabetically (if you're at the very bottom of the alphabet and are dying for a card, scream at me, and I'll push you up the list). In the future I'll be sending out birthday cards (my own variety—like birthdays of my books with deals), holiday cards (again, my own variety, since I hate the commercialization of Christian holidays that in turn were stolen from pagans, and as I abhor any religion except the CRM one, I'll make up a Vodka Day, and a Kill-Your-Neighbor-For-Free-Meat Day, and so on).
And that is it, my loves. Next item on the list is:
6. WRITE MORE BLOODY BOOKS.
You have to constantly create new stories, to feed your readers' brains. Without new books in the pipeline, by marketing the only one you ever wrote you'll shoot yourself and all your marketing efforts to death (and waste lots of time and money).
If you can't produce new books fast, then re-publish older books with new covers or as bundles with a heavy discount, or partner with other writers and publish anthologies. Anything it takes to create and sell a new product, do it. You're a business, and your books are your products, so make new ones to keep the sales going.
UP NEXT (the next week's blog post): Branding for authors: A gazillion secrets.
So yes, stay subscribed. Or if you're not subscribed, to avoid me chasing you around your house with an axe, SUBSCRIBE HERE. Give me your email in exchange for your piece and quiet (a guarantee that no mad Russian writer will wake you up in the middle of the night to chop off your head.) And while you wait, read this great blog post on branding by Ash Ambirge, my new online love. Talk next week!