In marketing, there is a saying that pretty much every person in the industry hears at some point: Half of advertising doesn’t work, we just don’t know what half. It’s a flip comment that’s usually good for a quick guffaw, but I hate this saying. It implies that there is no strategy to marketing outreach, and that trying to strategize what you do is pointless, because even if it works, we won’t know.
And that’s total nonsense.
In fact we can know more about what marketing and advertising is doing for us than ever before, thanks to all sorts of technology. In addition to metrics reporting tools, we also have sophisticated strategies we can implement that are known to get results over and over again. So there is no excuse for not knowing what your advertising is doing. But the spirit of this quip feels familiar, doesn’t it? I hear authors say things like this all the time:
- “I blog every week, but people aren’t clicking through to my Amazon page.”
- “I know I ‘have’ to be on social media … but it doesn’t sell books.”
- “Awards are nice, but they won’t pay off in sales.”
I imagine you’ve heard statements like these about as many times as I have. Luckily, no matter how witty the popular advertising saying above seems at first glance, the mentality behind it isn’t at all true. In fact, I’ve got something much better for you. Not only is it a smarter approach toward marketing, but it will help you understand how things like awards and social media fit into a plan to grow your readership and get books into hands, even if they don’t directly correlate to sales.
It’s called the Seven Points of Contact.
Seven Points of Contact
The seven Points of Contact is a marketing and sales theory that has been tried and tested quite a lot. It applies to everything from online plat-forming to business-to-business sales. In short, this theory states that a person needs to be exposed to a brand or product (or author) seven times before they are motivated to make a purchase.
Some may wonder: Why would a person need to be exposed to something seven separate times before buying it? If a book is good, won’t people just buy it when they see it? Why would their opinion change just by seeing it multiple times? The truth is, our brains just aren’t wired that way. The Seven Points of Contact theory accounts for two important truths about people and how they relate to new brand:
- Repetition breeds familiarity
- Familiarity breeds likeability
What Seven Points of Contact Looks Like
Theories are great, but they only matter if they can be put into practice. What do seven points of contact look like for an author? Let’s take a look at how I came to love one of my favorite authors.
I first heard about Rainbow Rowell because I just happened to be living in Omaha at the time. She also lives in Omaha, and writes a column for the Omaha World-Herald, so there was a lot of buzz locally from the start. I paid attention to the announcement about her upcoming book launch immediately, because here was a writer, right here in my own town, on the “other side” of the success I dreamed of getting some day—she had a publisher.
After I discovered Rainbow Rowell, and because it was easy to learn more about her by reading her Omaha World-Herald column archives, I did. Later, I caught more announcements about her here and there as her launch date neared. Then, I got curious and checked out her website. I could relate to her author identity, and her novel’s promotional copy intrigued me. So to stay up-to-date on her launch, I followed her on Twitter.
We had some shared interests like comic books, and that led to some interactions between us on Twitter. Which led to some major geekouts on my part—a published author was talking to me! So by the time I arrived at her book reading event, I was already sold on purchasing her book. Then, when she signed my book, she (amazingly) recognized me from Twitter. She signed my book “To Emily, whom I enjoy very much on Twitter.”
With those nine words she won a lifelong megafan. I don’t even usually read romance, the genre of her debut novel.
Creating Your Seven Points
How did you come to love your favorite authors? Many of your stories are likely very similar to mine. Sure, we all have the serendipitous moments where we discover something awesome randomly off the shelf … but most of the time, it’s a more gradual process. A few things to notice about my Rainbow Rowell story:
- At no point did I feel marketed to—when I wanted more, I sought it out
- What I was seeking was always available for me and easy to find
- It took a while for me to go from basic interest to active engagement
- What won my loyalty was not her book, but her engagement with me as a reader
If the idea of creating seven points of contact for your readers sounds exhausting, I get it. But don’t hyperventilate just yet—it’s not as hard or as complicated as it sounds.The bottom line to taking advantage of this theory is simply to reach out to readers multiple ways. It does not even have to be seven different ways—just a few. These outreach methods could include:
- A website
- Blog posts
- Guest posts for other websites
- Account on a social media site
- Local media interviews
- Book reading/signing events
- Facebook ads
- Book on a store’s shelf or an online list of genre titles
- An announcement for an award you won
- Participating in a panel at a reader convention
- Emailing your subscriber list
- Goodreads book giveaway
That’s twelve different options right there, and that is hardly a complete list. Get creative! You don’t even need to be using seven different methods of outreach; you just need to be consistent in those efforts. Over time, those points of contact will add up.
If you take nothing else away from this post, remember this: Even when your social media posts or blogs or other outreach efforts don’t seem to correlate to sales, they are helping you engage readers and rack up those points of contact. Every engagement matters.
Focus on Being Persistent
Don’t stress yourself out weighing your time on Twitter against direct clicks from your account to your Amazon page. That’s not how readers are earned.
The lifelong fan is worth so much more than the impulse buy that gets thrown in a never-ending stack of TBRs—so focus on earning those relationships by reaching out persistently and in a variety of ways. Help readers get to know you and your work, and pay attention to them when they reach out to you.
As hard as it is, when you shift your focus from sales stats to reader relationships, it’s a game changer—maybe not right after your next Twitter post, maybe not tomorrow or next week, but over the long tail of your career as an author.
By day, Emily Wenstrom, is the editor of short story website wordhaus, author social media coach, and freelance content marketing specialist. By early-early morning, she is E. J. Wenstrom, an award-winning sci-fi and fantasy author whose debut novel Mud was named 2016 Book of the Year by the Florida Writers Association.