Nonstandard Tipping: Tips for Other Professions (Without Paying $$$)

We all know to leave a tip at a restaurant indicative of how much we appreciated the table service.

But if you really enjoy a product or service of other kinds, you can reward the provider with another kind of tip.

No, it’s not another way to spend your hard-earned cash. These other kinds of tips just cost you a moment of your time.

And might have a small impact on your prospects of being able to enjoy similar products or services in the future.

Suppose a new small business opens in your community. You try it out, and you’re highly impressed.

What should you do?

No, you don’t find the owner and leave him a little cash. That’s not appropriate.

Instead, you could spread the word to friends and family, you could return to that business the next time you need a similar product or service, and you could even write a nice review for it (there are places for this online, or you may have a blog with a relevant audience).

Many of us already do this to some extent. Definitely, if we have a good experience with a business, we’ll consider coming back. That’s automatic.

Some of us tell friends and family.

Most of us probably don’t think to rate the business online or leave a review.

Except for certain kinds of products. It’s becoming more and more common to review books and movies, for example.

Spreading the word and leaving reviews helps reward a business for providing useful products and services at reasonable prices.

Such marketing may actually play a role in whether or not the business thrives.

If you discover a new product that you love, but never tell anyone about it, and suddenly the product is no longer available. Well, if you had helped spread the word, maybe the product would still be available.

What if you try out a product or service, and it turns out to be bad?

It’s interesting to draw an analogy with restaurant tipping.

If you receive lousy service at a restaurant, what do you do? Leave a smaller tip. Maybe even no tip at all.

I bet you wouldn’t ask the waiter or waitress to pay you a tip instead!

Normally, poor service results in a lesser tip, great service in a better tip.

So if you receive lousy service, perhaps the right thing to do is simply not to use the same product or service again. Spread the word about other products or services that you like better.

Saying bad things about the product or service is kind of like asking the waiter or waitress to leave you a tip.

But sometimes it’s necessary. When table service is really awful, you might talk to the manager. Similarly, if a product or service is really awful, you don’t want your friends and family to use it either, so you want to warn them.

Although, saying good things about a product or service that you like better has much the same effect as saying bad things about the product or service that you don’t like. You can choose to focus on positive thoughts about a good product or service instead of negative thoughts about a bad one. You’ll probably feel better this way, too.

For example, if I love a book or movie, I will leave a good review for it. If I don’t like it, I just won’t leave any review at all. It would have to seem particularly deceitful for me to consider leaving a bad review – like advertising a novel when it’s really a short story. Even then, someone else will be all too happy to leave the bad review, so I may as well stay positive and not bother with those unhappy thoughts.

Recently, a new restaurant came into town. We love it: Great food, great service, great prices (usually, you only get two out of the three, at best). We go there frequently, spread the word, and I even went on Google to leave a review. That was my tip. 🙂

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

The Secret to Success: Marketing

Secrets

Whether we like it or not, almost everything comes down to marketing:

  • Resumes and cover letters, interviews, and references distinguish qualified candidates through marketing. Very rarely does a business actually give an interviewee a challenging test to assess mastery of desired skills. Who you know, how you look on paper, what others say about you, and how you handle yourself in person are highly important (provided that you meet the qualifications).
  • What you know doesn’t matter unless you succeed in marketing yourself as knowledgeable. You must have the knowledge to establish this as a long-term perception, but just having the knowledge by itself isn’t enough. The same is true for your skills set and your ability.
  • If you have a degree, experience, or training, you’re just one of many other candidates with a similar background. People like to work with someone they know personally or who has good recommendations, and they like to hire applicants who market themselves the right way.
  • Even diligence, motivation, and passion are marketable. Some people, for example, manage to seem busier than they really are.
  • People brand you by the style of clothing you choose to wear, the cut of your hair, the way you speak, how you smell, and how you accessorize. Everything you say, do, and wear can and will be used to establish your brand.
  • Those who excel at marketing a positive image about their talents, character, diligence, motivation, passion, and performance have a distinct advantage in life, whether they are selling products, offering services, applying for a job, going out on a date, looking for friends, bonding with family, and anything else in life.

You can argue that it shouldn’t be this way. But if you’re not going to change the way things are, then you’re just a philosopher.

You can pretend it isn’t this way. Surely, there are some exceptions to the rule, but you can’t completely avoid it.

Or you can accept what is and make the best of it. You don’t have to sell out to thrive, but you should understand the rules of the game and decide where you want to fit.

And you can understand why marketing is so important. For example, if you’re truly passionate about a job, wouldn’t you market yourself with the best possible resume and cover letter? Wouldn’t you take the time to research what employers expect? Wouldn’t you learn some tips for good interview techniques? Wouldn’t you have put the time and effort into mastering your trade and impressing people on the way?

Whether you’re applying to school, applying for a job, selling a product, selling a service, and most other things in life – personal or business – having the passion and motivation to learn how to market yourself and diligently work to do this effectively helps you stand out.

What you’re trying to market needs to be good in order to achieve long-term success, but how you go about marketing it can make a huge difference in perception and results.

Self-promotion doesn’t tend to be effective (but self-demotion may be). If you just walk around saying, “I’m the best there is,” it’s not going to work. Discovery is a better method. Let people find out, in natural ways (including conversations), things that distinguish you. Showing them (naturally) is better than telling them, and interacting in person is more effective than not.

Help to market others whom you know personally to be worthy of it (but don’t market people in ways that they don’t deserve – as this can harm your own reputation).

What people think about you, who you know, how you handle yourself, appearance, possessions, who you choose to interact with, what you do, how you react to adversity, and even the way you prepare things play important roles in branding your image (personal and business). Ideally, you want to emphasize your strengths and show improvement in your weaknesses (which also takes work on your part, not just marketing).

How would you like to be known (or not known)? Think about the things you do (not just your actions, and not just at work) and how they may affect this perception.

  • Jean is such a passionate artist. You should see the expression on his face when he’s painting.
  • Anne is incredibly well organized. She knows where everything is.
  • If it’s broken, send it to Bob.
  • Jennifer has been working on this presentation day and night for the past month.
  • Ted has an amazing way with words. He can articulate anything very precisely.

Beware of possible marketing mistakes than can have long-lasting effects. You don’t want to be branded in negative ways. You don’t want to be known for complaining, cheating, arrogance, being a jerk, whining, being too dependent, arguing, self-promotion, etc. One lousy action or statement can undo months of positive marketing.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers (Volume 2 on book marketing is now available)

$$ The Effect of Attitude on Sales $$

AttitudeAttitude plays a profound role in all aspects of sales, including:

  • The salesman in the store or on the phone. Attitude is most significant for the salesman, who often interacts thoroughly with the customer at the point-of-sale and may also deal with the customer again as a follow-up or regarding complaints.
  • Managers who most often interact with customers who have a complaint. It’s important to resolve the problem efficiently. An irate customer in the store can influence other buyers. An upset customer even has influence online. It can also be the difference between word-of-mouth sales and word-of-mouth negative advertising.
  • The cashier who writes up the sale or checks something on the register. Even when a different salesman has already convinced a customer to make a purchase, the deal isn’t sealed until the cashier completes the paperwork.
  • People like inventors and authors who have a product to sell, but who may not be selling the product directly. They personally interact with many of their potential customers through marketing techniques. These people must also deal with complaints through product reviews much like managers must deal with customer complaints.
  • Even an employee greeting people at the door, for example, can influence sales through attitude.

The ways that a poor attitude can spoil a sale are pretty obvious. Here are a few ways that attitudes can help facilitate sales:

  • Charm. The reality is that people don’t just look at price, value, and the quality of the product. Even though customers may only interact with a representative for a few minutes, while using the product for months or more, people prefer good service. When the customer receives good service at the point-of-sale, that bodes well for good service if the product has problems. When inventors or authors, for example, charms potential customers during personal interactions, the fact that they care about the customer suggests that the same care may have been put into the product. Buyers also tend to be impulsive, for which charm can make the difference.
  • Confidence. Representatives who show confidence sound knowledgeable. A customers is more apt to trust a confident salesperson. Lack of confidence leads to hesitation; doubt causes mistakes. Confidence helps to visualize and attain a positive outcome. The confidence of a representative can carry over to the customer, who wishes to be confident in the purchase decision. Bragging, on the other hand, tends to deter sales. It’s important to show confidence without seeming boastful.
  • Courtesy. People generally respond well to courtesy, and poorly to the lack thereof. Even small things, like holding a door open, can make a significant difference. Put the customer in a good frame of mind. All representatives need to show customers that they want their business. Without the customers, there would be no business.
  • Care. Customers like to feel special. Does it sound like a sales pitch? Was this rehearsed? Was the greeting or compliment mechanical, or did the representative really mean it? Going the extra mile shows the customer that the representative truly cares about the person, not just the sale. Inventors and authors, for example, are more likely to be successful in their interpersonal marketing endeavors when prospective buyers see their passion for the product and gauge that they care about their customers. Look the customer in the eye, address the customer by first name, and smile. Listen to what the customer says.
  • Calm. Stay calm, cool, and collected. Customer service and public relations frequently present new and difficult situations that challenge representatives to remain calm and in control of their emotions. Customers expect representatives to behave professionally. It just takes one individual, even in a minor capacity before or after a sale, with one unprofessional outburst to blow a deal.

Smile!

Be charming, confident, courteous, caring, and calm. Have a winning attitude. It’s almost like trying to get a date. 🙂

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers (Volumes 1 and 2)

Self-Publishing Success?

A few self-published authors have been highly successful, which shows that indie success is possible. But the odds are very long, as the vast majority of self-published books don’t even sell a copy per day on average.

What have the top indie authors done differently? Is it just dumb luck?

No!

Self-publishing isn’t like buying a lottery ticket where the odds are incredible. With the lottery, every ticket has the same odds. But all self-published books are not all equal.

Not every book has a chance of winning the self-publishing lottery.

The top selling indie authors have some things in common:

(1) They followed good business models. Some authors, like Amanda Hocking, actually researched business strategies in their traditional publishing pursuits.

Most self-published authors do one or both of the following:

  • They get an idea, carry it out, and publish it. Business-minded authors won’t write and publish any idea; they will develop the idea as an integral part of the business strategy.
  • They want to do something significantly different than what is traditional. This is great for authors who want to write as artists and aren’t concerned about lack of success. The problem from a business perspective is that the existing readership has well-defined expectations in each genre and the vast majority of books that they purchase meet those expectations. More of these readers will explore something significantly different if the author first publishes a couple of traditional books and then attempts something new after building an audience.

Some authors genuinely prefer to write as artists, knowing full well that sales might be considerably less than what they may be if they approach writing from a business perspective. There is much to be said for the writing artist. It’s just very challenging to get noticed this way and to establish a large readership.

I’m not saying that you should write for money and not write as an artist. Rather, since highly successful self-published authors follow good business models, let’s follow the logic behind business-minded book development and see where it leads. In the end, I will explain how an author might write as an artist – not for money – and yet benefit from some of the same logic.

A business-minded writer doesn’t just write a book, but develops the book idea as part of a business strategy:

  • Start out considering possible subjects and genres. Of those genres which are a best fit for your writing, which are most popular? What experience or expertise do you have? What needs are there on the market?
  • Research each of these possible book ideas. What books already on the market are most similar to each of these book ideas? Look at their sales ranks. What are the best books like these that don’t have a big-name author or publisher? The business-minded author chooses a book idea with the best potential in a genre or subject that he/she is most qualified to write.
  • Research the top books in the genre similar to the book in mind. Can you compete with the writing in these books? Read these books to learn the unspoken rules of the genre. For example, the business-minded author won’t allow the protagonist to act in a way that will upset much of the potential readership and will create an ending that will please the target audience. The business-minded author develops an idea and writes a book geared toward the largest possible target audience that he/she is likely to attract with his/her writing skills.
  • The business-minded author is thinking about marketing throughout the writing process. This author is seeking input on the cover, title, and blurb for two reasons: to help generate “buzz” about the upcoming book and to see what features please or upset the target audience. (In contrast, too many indie authors disregard important criticism that they receive and focus mostly on feedback that coincides with what they wanted to hear.) They develop a great cover – often hiring a great cover designer – knowing how important this is to marketing. They wrote their blurbs and first chapters to be captivating, knowing how strongly this affects sales.
  • Pinpoint the target audience and discover where to find them and how to reach them. The business-minded author is thinking long and hard what marketing strategies will be most effective for them. Those who have a knack for business tend to be the most diligent, motivated marketers. They also know how to use price, discounts, giveaways, and series to their advantage. Everything from the cover to writing to marketing is part of an overall business strategy.

We’ll return to writing artists at the end.

(2) Most tried diligently to get traditionally published, but didn’t succeed in this until after becoming successful as indies.

Although they didn’t get traditionally published (before they broke through), they were doing all the right things toward achieving this, which helped them develop the skills that they ultimately used to thrive on their own.

  • They tried to improve their writing to get traditionally published.
  • They spent much time studying readerships in an effort to identify their target audience, since publishers are very interested in this.
  • They researched business plans to develop book ideas and write proposals that would help them get traditionally published.
  • They learned about marketing in order to convince publishers that their books would succeed.
  • They attempted to meet people who might help them with their writing careers.

These are all valuable skills that any authors can benefit from, self-published or not. In the last point, they also developed handy contacts.

(3) They were highly motivated to become successful writers. You have to be highly motivated to learn about business strategies when your initial goal is becoming an author. All those rejection letters from traditional publishers fueled their motivation. The best place for those letters is a bedroom ceiling or bathroom wall that you’ll see every morning.

Never give up. Constantly strive to improve.

***

Back to my earlier point: You don’t necessarily have to write for money to be successful.

You can be a writing artist and succeed.

The pure businessman who develops the perfect business strategy to write and market a book is highly motivated to do the marketing, but must find the passion to put into the writing and learn to write well.

The pure writer who writes for art’s sake naturally writes well and puts the passion into the writing, but must find the passion to do the marketing in order to be successful.

There is a limitation from the pure business perspective – i.e. how well can you write, how well can you tell a story?

The limitation for the writing artist is that not all book ideas are good ideas, not all stories have a potential readership.

Almost nobody is a pure business person or pure writing artist.

Determine which side you’re on – those are your strengths. The more you’re willing to improve your weaknesses, the more balanced you’ll become as a self-publisher, which will increase your chances of success.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers (Volume 2 coming in mid-April)

Artists Who Love Marketing – an Oxymoron?

Whether you paint a picture, write a book, or invent a new product, if you did this with the creative passion of an artist, it’s only logical for you to be highly motivated to market your work. Yet most artists express a loathing for marketing.

Why? One reason is that marketing sounds like business and salesmanship. Artists enjoy creating their art, and authors love to write. But business and sales often doesn’t easily arouse their interest.

Let me take a detour and explain that marketing creative products – like paintings and books – isn’t about business and salesmanship. Then I will return to my main point – i.e. why artists should naturally be motivated to market their work.

Marketing a creative product is more about discovery and branding an image, and less about business and salesmanship. Books, for example, aren’t sold by persuasion like used cars. In fact, no salesman is even present – this is obvious for eBooks, but even in the store there is usually just a cashier. What bookstore will thrive with a pushy salesman looking over customers’ shoulders in the middle of the aisle?

Similarly, self-promotion doesn’t tend to attract much interest. “Hey, I just wrote a book and it’s the greatest thing ever so you should check it out,” isn’t the way to sell books.

Instead, when you personally interact with people – in person or online – and people “discover” that you are an artist, author, or inventor, for example, they often want to learn more. People like to buy products that were made by people they know – how often do you get such a chance? – provided that they discover it rather than having it thrust upon them.

“What do you do for a living?” “What have you done recently?” “How’s your new book coming along?” There are so many ways for people to learn more about you and discover your work. They could even click on your online profile.

The more people you personally interact with, the more your work may get discovered. This also helps to create “buzz” when you release a new product, which helps to earn early sales and reviews.

Marketing a single artist’s creative product involves branding. Advertising to say, “This is the best thing since sliced bread,” isn’t going to help, and demanding, “You should go buy this product now,” is a waste.

Commercials don’t work because the majority of people do as they’re told or listen to whatever the television tells them. They work because of branding. When people are standing in the grocery store, deciding which product to buy, they don’t remember what the television said was better and they’re not there because the television told them to go shopping – more often than not, they simply recognize a product that they’ve heard before. That is, they remember the brand. People tend to buy products they’ve heard of, and for which they like what the brand symbolizes.

Fortunately, a single artist doesn’t need to pay advertising fees to brand an image. Branding can be done for free. Getting your product, name, and image in front of your target audience helps to establish your brand as an artist or author. The more they see this, the more they are likely to recognize your product, then one day when they are buying a similar product, they may buy yours.

One way to get your target audience to see your brand is to post valuable content online. Posting advertisements about your product, posting content about yourself, and posting links to your other sites won’t likely attract much interest. But posting valuable content for your target audience may attract new customers. If they appreciate the content that you offer, they might click on your profile to learn more about you – and, lo and behold, “discover” your work.

Every time they visit one of your sites, they see your name, your photo, and an image of your product. Someday, when they are buying a similar product, if they recognize and buy your product, the branding was successful.

Where persuasion fails, discovery often works. Where overt (and even paid) advertising is ineffective, free branding is a great help. So don’t think of marketing as business and salesmanship. Think of it as interacting with others on a personal level so that your work can be discovered, and branding an image so that you and your work may be recognized.

Now for my main point: Artists should naturally be motivated to interact with others personally so that their work can be discovered, and should naturally be motivated to attract the attention of their target audience so that they can brand their image (for which, posting valuable content online is just one of many examples).

So why should artists naturally be motivated to market their work?

It’s simple, really: If you have passion for your artwork or book, you should also have the passion to share this work with others. And how do you share your work with others? Marketing! Use your passion for your work to motivate yourself to work diligently to share your work with others through marketing.

Furthermore, when others see the passion that you have for your work firsthand, they are more likely to get interested in your work. (But be careful to show passion and sound confident, but not to be boastful or overconfident.)

Would you rather buy a painting that was made by an artist that was passionate about his/her work, or just kind of threw something together because he/she was bored?

If you meet two artists, and one sounds kind of bored talking about his sculpture, while the other is clearly passionate about his/her work, which sculpture will interest you more?

If you’re passionate about your work and you strongly believe in it, then you should also be passionate about sharing your work with others (not just “getting it out there” – art doesn’t tend to sell itself). If you’re not passionate about marketing your own work, it suggests that you weren’t all that into it or that you feel like something may be wrong with it.

You don’t have to be a salesman to sell your artwork or book. You just have to be passionate about sharing it with others. Marketing through discovery and branding is a natural fit for the artist. It’s just a matter of perspective.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Marketing: The 4 R’s of Branding

Repetition, Recognition, Referral, Reliance

These four R’s affect most of us every week when we buy products and services. As authors, we can apply the same branding philosophy in the marketing of our books.

(1) Repetition. Every brand of soda, detergent, television, car, and so on is constantly trying to get us to notice their name, logo, slogan, and image. We see it on television, on billboards, in magazines, and even on hats and t-shirts. The more we see it, the more we’re likely to remember it. This way, we remember brand names for products that we’ve never even tried.

You want people to remember your book and the name of the author – even if they haven’t read it yet. The more often people see your cover, read the title, hear your strapline, and see your author photo, the more likely they are to remember it. You can’t afford to invest millions of dollars in advertisements and commercials, but you can afford free. Your blog, your website, social media, articles that you write, local newspapers and television, every place your book is available for sale, every edition of your book (paperback, eBook, etc.), every book review, every person you interact with and mention your book or writing hobby – anything you do online that includes your cover, title, strapline, and/or author photo (including every little Like and Follow), improves your visibility. The more often people see and read these things, they more likely they will remember them.

Strapline – a single, short sentence used to create interest in your book (kind of like a slogan).

Your title and strapline should be short and easy to remember. Bestselling books often have three words or less for this very reason. Coke. Pepsi. Sony. Levis. The Shining. Wool. The Scarlet Letter. Short, easy to remember, easy to spell. Ideally, the author name should also be short and easy to remember and spell. Your cover and author imagery should also be easy to remember. A very busy cover, or one that doesn’t have one central image, or one that doesn’t use three main colors, or one where the title doesn’t stand out, or one that doesn’t present a unifying theme and signify the genre – such a cover isn’t as easy to remember. The title, author name, and cover are actually important marketing tools.

(2) Recognition. When we shop for a printer, golf club, or laundry detergent, we often prefer a brand that we recognize to one that we’ve never heard of – even if we’ve never used any of the products before. We may recognize the brand name, the logo, or even a catchy slogan.

The same principle applies to books. People often buy a book that they remember seeing, hearing about, or reading about, or has an author they recognize. This is why visibility of the brand of both the book and author is so important – people recognize what they remember.

Don’t change the title, cover, author name, or author image. If you use a much different cover for the paperback and eBook edition, or use a different photo for your FaceBook author page and AuthorCentral, for example, this inhibits recognition. Let all of your online activities reinforce one another with a unified approach.

Create “buzz” for your book prior to and during its release. Get people talking about your book – in person and online – and this will help them recognize it when it becomes available. In the months prior to publication, ask people for input on your cover, title, and blurb – in person and online. Spread the word about your upcoming book. Highlight positive things that will create interest in your book – like spending a year doing research or working on your third revision with an editor. Don’t be a salesman, just naturally get this into conversations. “So, what have you been up to recently?”

Interact with people personally. People recognize authors they’ve actually met. They just need to naturally discover that you’re an author, then remember your face and name plus the title and strapline for your book. Short and easy to remember and spell.

(3) Referral. If a friend or acquaintance recommends a product or service, we’re much more likely to try it. The product or service must be pretty good for it to be recommended by someone who doesn’t have a financial interest in the sales.

This applies to books, too. Word-of-mouth referrals can have a major impact on sales. For this, the book has to be very good. An amazing plot, a memorable character. Great storyline and characterization helps. It also needs to meet standards for editing and formatting; people won’t recommend a product that has obvious problems.

They’re much more apt to refer your book correctly if the title is short, easy to remember, and easy to spell; or the author if the name is easy to remember and spell; or to describe a book that has a simple, memorable cover.

(4) Reliance. People believe that Sony makes great televisions. Sony has established credibility and trust, and because of this, many people prefer to buy Sony electronics.

Readers are similarly more likely to buy products from authors who establish credibility and trust. Part of this comes from creating a highly professional cover, blurb, Look Inside, and author page. Behave professionally online; misbehaving certainly loses credibility. Your author photo, biography, and behavior should give the appearance of a knowledgeable, competent, trustworthy, and credible author. Do you look and sound like someone who would write a book in this genre?

Write content for your blog, website, newspapers, or magazines (in print or online) that demonstrates your expertise. Useful information may even attract newcomers, in addition to helping build your credibility.

======================

At the bottom of your blog (and many other online activities), you can include your name and the title of one to three books. If your titles are very short, you can squeeze three into this space. As you can see below, sadly, I broke my own rule with a very long title. If you have expertise, just imagine how it would look to have your name and title show up at the bottom of an article in a high-traffic area in a magazine, newspaper, or online. Prepare an article relevant for your book and strive to get it published. You may be able to publish it locally or at a lesser traffic site, at least. It won’t go to waste because in the worst-case scenario, you can always add it to your blog.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers