Thursday + Gregory Huffstutter = The Ad Man Answers
Thursday + Gregory Huffstutter = The Ad Man Answers
Q: How does Customer Relationship Marketing (CRM) apply to authors?
A: As discussed in the last Ad Man column, Relationship Marketing is about retaining and mining your existing customers, instead of focusing all your time and money seeking new customers.
In the fast food business, there’s a name for your most frequent consumers: Super Heavy Users (or SHUs, pronounced “shoes”). SHUs are people who – brace yourself, Vegans – eat at quick-service restaurants at least 20 times a month.
Habit, time crunch, long commute, poor dietary education, low income, Morgan Spurlock – whatever the root cause – SHUs are the lifeblood of Mickey D’s, BK, KFC, Taco Bell, and other fast-food joints.
In some cases, repeat visits are encouraged by loyalty programs, like punch cards for “Buy 10 Sandwiches, Get One Free.” But because SHUs visit the same restaurant chains several times a week, it often doesn’t take more than physical proximity to cement your brand relationship. Get them in the store, let them see the signs for your daily special, up-sell them into your Extra-Large value meal, and repeat, repeat, repeat.
SHUs are not necessarily brand loyal. They will rotate their visits between the fast-food chains, depending on who’s got the best deal, or how sick of breakfast burritos they are that particular week.
In the book world, authors have their own SHUs. They’re called ‘fans.’
If the writing sparkles, some authors will have die-hard fans, despite little to no effort building one-on-one relationships with their readers. Two of my faves, Carl Hiaasen and Gregory McDonald, have non-interactive web sites. They do not send newsletters. They do not frequent writing conferences. They do not have public e-mail addresses. They do not blog.
Yet if Hiaasen or McDonald so much as fart on a page, I’ll plunk down my hard-earned cash to take a whiff.
The average author, however, must work harder to keep their fans interested. Especially because most authors release, at most, a single book a year. So unless you write as fast as Heather Graham, there are long stretches of time between readers interacting with your product, unlike the fast-food SHUs.
The internet now allows more regular and cost-effective interactions between authors and fans. But remember the central tenant of CRM – it must be a mutually-beneficial relationship.
JA Konrath provides advice, information, and encouragement to aspiring and working writers, as well as free downloads of earlier work. Robert Gregory Browne has created a social network around his readers and records podcasts with Brett Battles about writing topics. These authors give reasons for their fans and peers to continue visiting their site between their new releases.
Other authors use e-mail newsletters to stay in touch and provide updates. Marcus Sakey, Lee Child, and Robert Crais have three of the best electronic author newsletters in the business – complete with updated tour info, excerpts, and instant prizes. Sakey – a former Ad Man himself – makes a point in his newsletter of saying: “As always, I never send an email without giving something away.” Again, mutually-beneficial.
But true CRM involves personalized communication between the manufacturer and consumer. In my previous column, I discussed how auto makers keep detailed databases with current and prospective owners, which allows them to send specific, timely offers.
As an author, what steps are you taking to build your database? At your signings, do you have a sign-up sheet for e-mail addresses? When someone responds to a comment you posted on a blog, do you invite them to sign up for your newsletter? And once you capture these names and e-mail addresses, are you mining that list for more detailed information?
Here’s a suggestion… why not offer a grand prize (say a collection of signed hardbacks) for everyone on your current newsletter list who ‘opts in’ to a brief survey that asks for city of residence, date of birth, and which books of yours they’ve read?
That way, the next time you’re on tour, you could do a reminder e-mail for fans in key cities. And for reader birthdays, you could send a greeting, perhaps with a “gift” of a never-released short story, or mp3 of a song you wrote with your college garage band. This doesn’t have to take a lot of time… you can set up a program that sends e-mails greetings automatically for you. As a reader, wouldn’t you be blown away if one of your favorite authors extended themselves in that fashion – essentially thanking you for being a fan?
And as an author, if you could show your publisher that 75% of the people on your newsletter list hadn’t read all your books, perhaps they’d be willing to work with Amazon to offer a “holiday special” on your backlist titles.
Ultimately, authors should be striving for “brand loyalists.” Fans that have read all your books, eagerly anticipate the next release, and drop your name whenever they hear someone say, “Boy, I sure could use a good read.”
Engage in a little CRM, and you might capture these brand loyalists for life.
Gregory Huffstutter has been punching Ad Agency timecards for the past decade, working on accounts like McDonald's, KIA Motors, and the San Diego Padres. He recently finished his first mystery, KATZ CRADLE. The first 100 pages of his novel are linked here. For general advertising questions, leave a comment or send e-mail to katz @ gregoryhuffstutter dot com with 'Ask The Ad Man' in the subject line.