Selling to Followers


JUL 2021

“Social Closer”

“Get the Toy in the Kid’s Hands.”

As entrepreneurs, we do a lot of marketing. But sometimes we forget to sell. And as I’ve learned and written about in “MARKETING ≠ SALES.” Selling requires meeting with someone who wants to buy what you’re selling—getting that thing in their hands, agreeing on the price, and delivering it.

Becoming Santa

In the 2015 film “Becoming Santa,” hearing the lead character, a toymaker, say he knows he could sell a wooden dog pull-toy if he could get the toy in the kids’ hands was an ah-ha moment.

It’s rare to see a creative entrepreneur so passionate about selling.

Yet, the toymaker met with children who wouldn’t put down their tablet PCs long enough to pick up anything else.

These focus group children had the final say on whether the manufacturer would greenlight this very low-tech toy.

The toymaker was undeterred even though the thing in his way was a “yes.

Followers ≠ Customers

“Like the toymaker’s old toy, marketing was an afterthought. In the past, salespeople knocked on doors. Advertisers paid to broadcast their products to the masses. Today, we send an email and cold call for leads. With all the social media marketing tools available in the digital age, creative entrepreneurs behave as if social media followers are customers. 

They could be, but followers are leads. They may enjoy your content but may not see the value in your offering. If they do, they will inquire about your product. Then leads become prospects, i.e., potential customers.

Three Steps to convert a Follower to a customer.

  1. Determine if the prospect can make the purchase. There’s a difference between wanting and buying.
  2. Do they want to buy now or later? If later, share with them the value of buying now.
  3. To close the deal, remind them of the product’s benefits that are uniquely suited to them.

Note: Marketing allows entrepreneurs to know their prospects’ wants and needs.

The toymaker knew his prospects so well; he knew if he’d get the toy in their hands, imagination could turn the pull toy into anything they could think it could be. 

 He was right and made the sale. 

 Spoiler Alert: He became the next Santa Claus too.

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July 2021

Make Good or Bad Publicity Work for You

Question: “Hey I just read the article written on you about your business and marketing strategy. How does being featured in Black Enterprise help you and you company?.” ~Q. An entrepreneur, Atlanta, GA

Thank you, that’s a great question – one that most entrepreneurs don’t ask before paying a publicist thousands of dollars to get noticed.

In short, publicity provides you an opportunity to increase your warm market. People who may have never heard of you will contact you instead of spending precious marketing dollars on cold calls.

Further, it would cost you thousands of dollars to purchase the same ad space – with you talking about the merits of you. Instead, a feature article, such as “Make Money the E-Marketing Way,” which featured my online marketing activities, is a full-page article that’s free. There is someone, i.e., a journalist talking about you and/your product. A journalist is writing about it almost makes your business activity credible in a consumer’s mind.

In my case, since I appeared in a business enterprise magazine, I was contacted mostly by other entrepreneurs looking for free advice. At first, that pissed me off because I thought, “dang, at least you could buy my book before sticking your hand out…”

Then I realized that it was up to me to determine how to utilize the exposure to my advantage.

In this tight economy and even tighter job market – a feature article in a prestigious publication such as Black Enterprise gives me an advantage over candidates applying for the same marketing job.

Note: -The only advantage/disadvantage in this situation is the recruiter will get an idea of my ethnicity even before I’m interviewed. The same inadvertent disclosure holds true when seeking financing from an outside source if you promote that you appeared in Black Enterprise or any minority-targeted publication.

My advice- decide how you will use the publicity to your advantage to maximize your exposure. Once you come up with several scenarios, include them in your marketing/communication plan.

By the way, Bad Publicity can boost business too! You just have to know how to work it. I do and have used the bad press to increase market share for a non-profit I worked with in the past.

Photo Credit: Black Enterprise March 2007 “ Techwatch -Make Money the EMarketing Way” by Sandra Beckwith

I’ll Buy Yours, If You Buy Mine?

“Hey girl, when are you gonna pick up your copy of my book?” wrote the author-turned publisher. I looked at the note in my inbox like a dog looks at his master when he wants praise for chewing up a new shoe.

She was kidding me, right? Why the heck would I buy her book when I had my own book for sale and at the same price? Plus, I’m an avid reader of Sci-Fi/Supernatural/Thrillers, not urban fiction romance. She would have known that if she would have bothered to read my Myspace profile page.

I wrote back, “Sure, when you pick up my book.” She wrote, “I’m sorry, I thought you were my friend Mel from North Carolina. Good luck with your book.” “Thanks, you too,” I offered.

She knew good, and well, I wasn’t “Mel from North Carolina.” But I knew she was a writer who suffered from the same affliction most author-publishers suffer from:  “I don’t know my readers.”

Market Segmentation

Possibly this lack of business planning is reaching epidemic proportions in the Literati because an author is an artist, a creative type who may or may not have a proclivity for business. Therefore, the last thing on the creative entrepreneur’s mind is pinpointing a group of people with similar wants and needs that may want your product.

In fact, most entrepreneurs suffer from the same syndrome and fail to acquire enough customers to keep them in business. Does that mean there aren’t enough prospects? Heck no! There are 300 million people here in the United States alone, and that’s plenty of prospects.

What? Did someone say all those people can’t be considered prospects? By Jove, you got it. No one’s market consists of 300 million people in the US unless she sells the air we breathe. Therefore, why do most entrepreneurs think that they can sell to anyone in-ear or eye-shot of their pitch? They can’t. They can only sell to people who are receptive to their product.

Target Market

There are two ways to find out which prospects will buy your product; knock on many doors and ask to make a sale or figuratively prepare a buffet, set the table, and see who shows up hungry.  You may not know what your dinner guests need to eat, but you know what they want.  In this case, they want to satisfy their hunger.    Now that you have the home-field advantage, you can find out your guests’ wants and needs through observation and communication.

In determining who will most likely buy your product (in this scenario, your book), you must first determine:

  • What problem does my book solve? (My heroine shows the reader how to mend a broken heart)
  • Why does my book solve that problem? (Although my book’s heroine problem is universal, her solution is unique.)
  • Who has this problem?  (The jilted lover)
  • How does my book help the prospects? (My heroine gives the book-buying jilted lover an adventure and how to heal)
  • Where can prospects go to get this help? (My books’ platform should be the ideal destination)
  • When can prospects expect relief from their problem?  (Once the prospect buys and reads the book.)

If you’re not interested in making a full-blown strategic marketing proposal, at least answer those questions.

You’ll quickly learn:

  • Who are your likely customers?
  • Where your customers “live” metaphorically speaking.
  • How to develop a relationship with your prospects so you can get your product in front of them.
  • If your book can satisfy your prospects’ needs.
  • If your customers will buy again and refer your books to friends.

When you determine who your book helps, it will reveal other businesses already helping the group.  This information will allow you to form a partnership and go through the back door to sell to their ready-made market. Also, your research will reveal your competition and under the right conditions. Those competitors could become allies.

Social Selling

Finally, once you know who is in your audience, you’ll know how to communicate with them. You’ll know what they want and need and how you can be of assistance in helping them get it.

The latter is the foundation to developing a solid relationship with your customers and potential stakeholders, those who will eventually form a sustainable network for your book business.

(c) 2009 MH

Update 2016: As for the author-turned-publisher I mentioned initially, I heard she now has a thriving publishing business. I didn't say knocking on many doors doesn't work - it just may take longer.