To Market We Go. . .But Why?

I admit, I’m a bit of a marketing geek. I find trends and patterns fascinating. Behind every great or dastardly marketing campaign lies a motivation—a why. And I want to know it, understand it, and pick it apart.

Why did it work? Why didn’t it work?

Some campaigns are obvious from the get go. Take Netflix’s recent adventure of separating streaming video from disc. We witnessed their invention (or misguided intention) of Qwikster. The name didn’t work, nor did there seem to be any reasonable point for separation. Their “why” just didn’t make sense. Thankfully they abandoned the idea before they got neck deep. In fact, I give them kudos for having the courage to admit to their customers that it would have made things more difficult.

Here’s an example of my latest fascination. Honestly, I stood in the mall laughing at this one.

I freely confess that I’m an Apple geek as well. Microsoft’s obvious attempt to copy Apple could be taken as a compliment, but I could only wonder, is it effective? How effective does our marketing become when we’re simply copying what the other guy is doing?

Yes, we’re talking about similar products and thus overlapping markets. Not identical markets though. And then I’m curious as to how the everyday consumer perceives such a clear attempt to piggyback on another company’s successful model?

Of course, there’s the other side of the argument. Why reinvent the wheel? It worked for them, why not do the same? That’s fine to a point—to use a successful model as a launching point. But don’t we still have to come back to the beginning? Back to the “why?”

I find this especially amusing because of this:

The Apple store is directly opposite this soon-to-be Microsoft store and has been there for years. Their Genius Bar and staff have been serving people for many a season with their gadgets in hand and uniformed colored shirts and badges. (Uh hem. . .)

It’s all about service and Apple makes an art of it. Never been in one? Take a field trip one day and check it out. We can learn a lot from Apple’s successful model of creative marketing. To them, it’s not just about the product. It’s about the costumer and how they’ll use it, right down to the feel and experience. It’s all about the “why.”

I wonder if Microsoft thought through their campaign beyond the “well it works for them” to their customers and who they’re trying to connect to. Or are their customers just potential collateral gain or damage in the race to be number one?

So this brings me to my point (yes, I do have one other than finding this Microsoft imitation so very amusing). Do we think about why we are marketing our books or do we just do what everyone else is doing?

And finally, does it work? Now there’s the real question. What do you think?

29 Replies to “To Market We Go. . .But Why?”

  1. Prior to reading this post, I would have blindly marketed my book by doing what every other author was doing — even if it didn’t actually work. Now, I will look at each potential promotional initiative with a more critical and less accepting attitude.

    Thank you, Dineen, for sharing your insight most effectively.

    1. Glad it was helpful, Peter. I’m on that same path, trying to discern what will work and what won’t. There’s a lot to choose from. Like you, I want to make good choices. 🙂

  2. I remember some years back learning about author Colleen Coble’s intensive marketing efforts. Whenever she happened to be on the road, she’d plan her trip around stopping at local bookstores. She would hand-deliver a copy of her latest release to the manager, along with CHOCOLATE. She made excellent use of her outgoing personality to meet buyers and sellers at each store she entered. Then she’d drive on to the next town and repeat. Colleen stood out in my mind because she marketed her books in a way that made perfect sense for who she is. She did not have to stretch so far out of her comfort zone that she wouldn’t follow through–she loved what she did! And I didn’t know of anyone else who chose her method. She stood out from the crowd. I have to think this strategy contributed greatly to her success. GREAT post, Dineen. Thank you!!

    1. That is a great example, Katy! I love how Colleen did that. Great point about it suiting her personality. That’s part of what I want so much to figure out, what will work for my books and what is it that I can do consistently. It takes a good 3 to 4 months sometimes to see if what we’re doing is working. That’s a hard time to stay patient. LOL! I know there are no guaranteed results. So I’m praying for lots of wisdom, discernment and patience instead of just jumping on the bandwagon. 🙂

  3. Hey Dineen, come now, we all know the real point of this post is actually to point out how extremely superior in every way Apple is to Microsoft. Those guys really should give it up and go home, but I suppose we have to give them credit for trying.
    Ah, marketing. This reminds me of my Dad. He’s a fixer. If something got broken, you don’t throw it out, no. You spend hours, weeks or however long it takes, until you fix it. He is of the belief that to every problem there is a solution. And honestly, if he can’t find one, he’ll probably make one up. And it’ll work. Stubborn, tenacious or just a smart businessman, or maybe a combination of the three. He certainly succeeded in life. I have inherited a bit of his style, I suppose. If something isn’t working, I want to know why. I want it fixed. Yesterday. My father is a very patient man. I definitely did not inherit that trait. I think it’s great to follow the examples of others, if they’re working, but don’t copy them. Find your own space, brand, niche, whatever you like to call it. Once you’re comfortable doing what you’re doing, you can try more new things. I have been blogging for years. I have a decent number of followers, but I’ve somehow never managed to engage them in conversation. It’s not working. So it’s time to figure out why and switch up the way I blog. I won’t just stop blogging. I’ll create something new. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll try another idea. Sometimes it’s more about just not giving up, don’t you think?

    1. I’m exposed!!! LOL! I agree, Cathy, we have to hang in there and give these things time. Part of the challenge is seeing those things that worked initially and don’t anymore. When blog tours first started, I think they were very effective. Now I’m not so sure. The market gets glutted with trends and their effectiveness wears off. Sometimes it’s just a matter of figuring out what you can do to give it a new twist. Other times it’s realizing it just won’t work and put our books an dollars to a better use. I would love to have clear choices and guarantees, wouldn’t you? LOL! We both know that’s not going to happen. 🙂

  4. Dineen, I like you. You think outside of the box. I appreciate this post so much because some of the marketing ideas I have seen others do don’t seem to work, and yet, everyone seems to repeat.

    I hope others will share their unique ideas, and how and why it worked for them.

    1. Lucille, you just paid me one of the highest compliments I’ve ever gotten. Thank you! I’m on this questioning journey because I feel like I’ve always just stayed inside my safe little box. I’m pushing myself to go beyond my walls and really think things through. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew!

      I’m determined to find the path that works for me, and I’m looking forward to sharing what I learn along the way. The most promising trend I’m seeing is authors working together. That is proving to be quite effective in unique ways. I think this blog and the WordServe authors are a great example of that.

      Thanks for making my day, Lucille! Hugs!

  5. Great post, Dineen! I think it’s definitely worth an examination to track effective marketing, but as Katy said (comment above) whatever we do shouldn’t just be a copycat but fit our own personalities. It’s easy to want to re-do what’s been proven ahead of us – why reinvent the wheel is a cliche for a reason – but we shouldn’t do anything blindly just because it’s been effective for someone else. It might not work for us! Your post reminds me that we need to tailor our marketing plan to our gifts, budgets, personalities and energy.

    1. That’s what I was hoping for, Maureen! As I told Lucille, I’ve tended to think inside my little box. Now I’m trying to push outside that. It’s quite a challenge but I’m learning a lot. 🙂

  6. I can get kind of weird about wanting to do my own thing and about not having copycats. (This is surely a writer trait, eh?) Though I love to learn from those who are walking the path ahead of me, I also like to adapt and adjust my ideas to my paricular audience. I love doing my own thang. And I’m not afraid if it doesn’t work, to start over and try something else new. It’s part of the fun of this industry–using our creativity.
    Great thought-provoking post!
    ~ Wendy

    1. Thanks, Wendy! I’m that way too. To a fault sometimes. I’m realizing working with others can be pretty effective and that I can let go a little and not try to be in control of it all, which only winds up isolating me. I don’t know if you struggle with that or not. The other side of that is over joining or over committing. It’s a balance, for sure!

  7. Do we think about why we are marketing our books or do we just do what everyone else is doing? And finally, does it work?

    Both. 🙂 On one hand, there are the tried-and-true methods. The things that make it easier on readers – and a lot of readers will expect them. Things like giveaways and Of course, there’s always a “wrong” less effectives and “right” more effective way of doing these things, but in principal they’re tried-and-true.

    On the other hand, there’s falling into the crowd. You do need something to set your book apart. This blog has a good post on the subject – from only two days ago. Karen Witemeyer wrote Creative Marketing – Try Something New.

  8. I’m admittedly not a marketing guru, but I gotta say, I tend to copy great marketing schemes because I don’t have a marketing brain so I want to use/do things that work. Of course, I’m not microsoft and I don’t have a team of marketing experts on my staff, so maybe that’s the difference.

    1. This is where I’m at, too. I want to hear from others what worked or didn’t work for them, then tweak it a little to suit my project.

      One thing I’ve noticed a lot lately is the BIG PRIZE GIVEAWAY that authors are doing. Everything from gift cards and getting a character named after you in the author’s next book, to trips and limo rides.

      Not sure how I feel about those kinds of things.

      1. Erica, I’m right there with you. I’m wondering about it too. So many are doing it now. Kind of like the blog tours. I think they were great in the beginning but now it’s perpetuated this mentality of getting free books. And expectations from some to get free books from authors even outside of the tours. I’m wondering if this (big prize giveaways) will become a larger scale situation of that same pitfall.

    2. Erin, I think you are amazing at marketing! You inspire me, girl. One of my goals is to take some of the techniques nonfiction authors are using and seeing how they can be tweaking and applied to marketing fiction. I really think there’s something there. My hope also is to share what I find out to help other authors. As you know, Kathi Lipp is amazing in how she shares her knowledge and wisdom. She inspires me!

  9. Hi Dineen – I can get caught up in the next BIG THING in marketing and run with the crowd. I want to be willing to try new things after all. But this is where I’m grateful when someone reminds me to let go and let God, that I’m not in charge and I realize I can be more discerning and ask more questions. And on occasion, back up and start over again – and again. Thanks for the great reminder!

    1. Oh, me too, Martha! I think marketing starts on our knees. LOL! We can spin our wheels in great directions but if God’s not part of the process, it’s like building our house on the sand. I love how He protects us from ourselves sometimes. 🙂

  10. Thanks for a thought-provoking post, Dineen. As I gear up for the promotion efforts of my debut novel releasing in July, I’m mulling over the many possibilities to find out which will work for me and my personality. I’m not against using methods that have proven effective for others, but I want to be different enough to stand out. I’m still in the idea-gathering stage and am grateful for posts like yours.

    1. I’m right there with you, Keli! Same place and goal. I’m so glad to be a part of this group because I think we’ll be able to share some great ideas and help one another. 🙂

  11. I love how you’ve urged us to really *think* about our marketing plan, Dineen. Thanks for shaking things up!

    1. LOL! You’re welcome, Megan. Hope I didn’t stir things up TOO much. Just trying to be thoughtful and intentional, and hopefully help others along the way. 🙂

  12. Wow, Dineen, this is awesome stuff!! I haven’t cross over that book marketing bridge yet, but I’ll be keeping this post handy to remind me to challenge the trends to find what works. Thanks so much!!

    1. You are most welcome, Donna! I’m on that journey right now and hope to find the answers I need. I’m looking forward to sharing more down the road. 🙂

  13. I’ve mulled your post over for 24 hours, Dineen, ever since I tweeted it. How do we — how do I? — avoid the “why bother re-inventing the wheel” trap? I saw the same marketing campaign and thought, “How lazy.” (And I’m a PC user, not a Mac user!)
    So … how do I look at what the competition is doing, see what’s working, and then make it my own?
    This marketing stuff … tough, tough, tough! And we don’t know what works until after we’ve done it.

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