As I have dived deeper into the world of publishing a children’s book… for anyone who doesn’t know, I am conducting a mini-experiment into the world of publishing a children’s book called M is for Money (please follow on Facebook or Instagram)... I have been learning more and more about the true key to make a book successful. It’s actually not about the content or quality of the book. It’s not about the pretty illustrations or eye-catching cover either. It all comes down to how you promote your book and help it to take advantage of the search engine algorithms that are built into sites such as Google and Amazon.
The more often your book is seen by your target market, and the more of the market that sees it, the higher your sales. Now you do have to have a decent level product of course, but it does not have to be the best thing on the market to be the best seller, and as we know from previous posts, success breeds success because people will start to buy based on the “consensus” principle. A.k.a people are always looking for shortcuts to help their decision making and seeing a lot of sales or reviews of a product makes us assume that “it must be good because all these other people bought it”.
What is “the algorithm”?
The hard part of course is reaching that tipping point at which your existing sales and customers start driving new customers to you all on their own. This is the part I’ve been devoting some time to recently. When it comes to free ways to promote your business, many of us default to social media, because it is a great free tool, with many of our target market using it daily. However, the biggest problem with social media is “the algorithm”. The algorithm is the programming used in people’s newsfeeds to show them content that will keep them on the platform. Social media companies are advertising businesses. That’s how they primarily make money. To make the most from advertising, they need to serve you up content that you want to see and that will keep you scrolling for more.
On the advertiser side, social media channels want to promote their paying advertisers as opposed to those of us trying to use it for free, which of course makes sense even if it does suck a little. What we notice is that a post we put up may get seen by 35% of our followers (Stanford Research Study), many times it can be less unless our post gets a lot of engagement in the form of likes, comments, saves, or shares. In terms of people outside of your friend group seeing it, the number is waaaaayyy less. Social media channels will often flash up pages and posts of people you don’t know just to see if they can identify people of interest to you, but your newsfeed gives priority to friends posting things relevant to your interests, and paid advertising that focuses on you as a potential customer.
So if you want to reach an online market, you can certainly put out your free promotional posts. You will need to use all the tools and tricks you can to try and get the algorithm to pick up your posts and put them into your market’s newsfeed. Each platform has its own strategies and a plethora of people who claim to have insights on how to do it. Check them out and see what you can add in to your current strategy. You can also go down the route of paying for advertising, but as you know, at the Simple StartUp, we try to do things as cheaply as possible first!
This brings me to another strategy. It may seem outdated to you, but to this day it remains one of the most effective ways to reach your target market and has one of the highest conversion rates when it comes to getting viewers to buy! I’m talking about email marketing.
Some of you reading this have had email available your entire lives, and some of us saw it develop as a force in the communications world, and then seem to be replaced by other technologies such as social media and workplace communications apps such as Microsoft Teams or Google Workspace.
To this day though, email remains one of the best ways for businesses to communicate with their audience and get sales. Let me tell you why:
- Direct Contact - when you send an email to your list you are communicating directly with your market as opposed to putting out a post and hoping they see it.
- No algorithm - there are SPAM filters built into recipients' emails, and you may lose some of your contact that way, but the percentage making it through is close to 78% in most cases.
- Must be acknowledged - the recipient of your email has to see it as an unread message and they have to engage with it through opening it or deleting it. The key is they see it! With social media, some people just won’t see it and others may scroll past it without taking the time to acknowledge it.
- Control - when you have a list of friends or followers, the platform controls your audience, not you. I have seen several cases of social media influencers being locked out of their accounts or even having the account deleted. The audience they spent their time building, sometimes over years, is lost and you can’t get it back. When you have an email list of people’s names and email addresses, that is a huge asset for your business. You own that and you should keep it in multiple places. I keep mine in my various email management platforms as well as saved on my computer and external hard drive.
- Relationship - when we communicate with our market, we seek to educate, entertain, and inspire with our messages. We build a relationship of trust with our customers and fans. Email provides a more intimate and direct communication line to our customers than a social media post does.
- Visibility and lifespan - An email will wait in a person’s inbox for them to open it. A social media post will very quickly get pushed down the newsfeed and may never be seen by the market, simply because they weren’t online at the right time.
- Analytics - many email management apps offer you insights into how many people are opening your emails, clicking on different links, or making purchases from an email. We can pay for these analytics with our social media ads or use external tools, but email can be super simple and clear.
How do I get started?
Getting started with an email list or building a social media audience can be a daunting task. I’m currently working on both for my book. Let’s focus on the email list in today’s post!
The first thing you are going to need is a method for collecting emails from people who are interested in hearing more from you.
There is a children’s musician that my son really likes and who is local to us. He had a live outdoor concert this weekend that we would’ve loved to attend, but we didn’t see the social media post about the event until AFTER the event had happened! Thanks Facebook… What would have really helped would be if he had an email list and he sent out updates about upcoming concerts. We would happily sign up for that list to make sure we got notifications beforehand.
So people may be very interested in giving you their email just because they want to keep up to date on what you are doing. For my children’s book, I offer people the chance to follow the journey by signing up to my email list at www.misformoneybook.com via a pop-up and invitation to sign up. You can do the same thing!
Your link to sign up to an email list can be something like a Google Form or embedded in a website. In my Simple StartUp Newsletter last week I shared a favorite app of mine, MailChimp, which I have used to create a free basic website and to also collect email addresses for my mailing list. This is free to use up to 2000 subscribers which is more than enough for the average business to get started with! Some other sites offer you the chance to add paid plugins and here is a list of other free email marketing sites but I have not tested these yet.
You can use google forms and then send out mass emails in Gmail, but please use the BCC function so you are not sharing everyone’s email with everyone else and you run into some data privacy issues. It also removes the user error of people responding to everyone and really annoying people! On a side note, Gmail doesn’t like it when you email more that 500 people at once and may shut down your account for 24 hours if you try. It can be a good way to start, but I recommend getting into something like MailChimp pretty early to avoid that.
I’ve got a form… now what?
You also can use other methods for getting people’s email addresses such as signup forms at your store or shop front, or as part of a survey you give during your market research.
Once you have a way of collecting email addresses online, you then need to get people to that point. Here are a couple of things you can try:
- Create a landing page or single page website that has some information about your business, what you will send them in the newsletter, and an invitation to sign up.
- For every post you do on social media, include an invitation to sign up for your email list where you have extra information or a guarantee to hear about things like events on time.
- Create a free giveaway. I’ve discussed the idea of a lead magnet before and it works perfectly for getting email addresses. The item you giveaway should be digital and free. Think of things like:
- Compilations of your favorite resources (top books, songs, blogs). See my 102 Business Ideas for Young Entrepreneurs list as an example.
- How to guide for a problem that your customers might be facing.
- Small pieces of your content, product, or service that you giveaway.
- A free event such as you giving a demonstration or interview. Have you signed up for my upcoming webinar to help you get your business started this summer running on May 22nd? If you’re reading this after 5/22 you can sign up to have the replay emailed directly to you.
- A free trial.
- Make it a pop-up on your website and have an option to sign up to your newsletter on every page of your site.
- Write a blog and invite readers to get more of your content sent directly to them via the newsletter. Maybe even have an extra post or some other exclusive content that only newsletter readers get! You can see my newsletter signup at the bottom of my homepage.
If you are going to give away something for free in your business, a very easy exchange of value for most people is to give their email address in return. You do need to offer some form of value though. People don’t want to give up their email for something they are not interested in, so consider your target market and what they are going to be interested in getting. You may need to do different types of giveaways to attract different people. You can see that from my 102 Business Ideas list, and the How to Start Your Business this summer webinar. One is a list of ideas that a parent could share with their child, and the webinar is directed at people who are ready to start their business and they could be under 18 or over. It doesn’t matter. Each freebie might attract a different person which gives my email list opportunity to grow more.
What do I do once I have a list?
This is the part many people forget about. A list on it’s own is great but it’s not going to help you with your sales. Like any other form of promotion, you are using your email list as a way to communicate with your fans. You need to use this as a space to connect and build a relationship with your audience. You should pick a consistent time frame for reaching out (once a week, twice a month, or monthly are good starting places) and the content of the email needs to offer value. Otherwise they will unsubscribe. You need to be entertaining, inspiring, or educating in at least some part of your message. You can let them know what you are working on and invite them to purchase, but there needs to be more substance in your messages too.
If you want to see an example (not promising it’s a perfect one), please consider joining my newsletter for the Simple StartUp where you will get updates about what is going on in terms of new projects and ideas, you’ll see my recommended online tools and resources, stories from the entrepreneurs in our community, and news about my latest Simple StartUp Challenges.
You can sign up at www.thesimplestartup.com and scroll to the bottom of the page.