‘But I’m a mentor, tutor and writer, not a marketeer. I hate sales.’

I said that a lot during and after publishing my first book and while I was moving my teaching/mentoring business online. Let’s break that down, back to front.

‘I hate sales’: hmm, something wrong there. What I meant was I hated selling; I’m a special creative snowflake, right? I tried sales work once. I really did hate it, but that was because I wasn’t selling something I believed in and I’ve got too much integrity to waste my precious time on the planet hawking stuff I don’t believe in.

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Furthermore, that statement was sending a strong message to my unconscious mind: ‘I don’t want my book to sell or for people to use my education services.’ Guess what? The book didn’t sell and I was relying on third-parties for tutoring work.

The few readers that bought my first book loved it, but they were far too few. I write because I love writing, money is a by-product (and most writers earn next to bugger all), but I lost a lot of momentum due to not connecting with a larger readership.

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The wake-up call came when I’d been blogging about living in Spain for a few months. I thought that only a few family members, friends and random Twitter followers were reading these episodic reflections on sun, sea and shenanigans, and that was fine: it was like a long weekly postcard without paying for the postage stamps.

I never checked the WordPress stats…until one day, back in the UK, I did. I couldn’t believe that my little old blog about life in a small Andalusian town had been viewed thousands of times. I hadn’t included any effective ‘calls to action’ for visitors to subscribe or buy a book. Doh.

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Eventually, I got to grips with the ‘not a marketer’ statement. Who else was going to find a quality audience and plug my books and services? I realised that I needed to ‘up-skill’ – or whatever other mangled piece of English is being used to describe the process these days. I had to learn some marketing strategies, identify the right tools for the job, and roll my sleeves up.

As it turned out, I enjoyed this learning opportunity. This was mainly because I used some micro-learning resources that didn’t bore me to death (see below).

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If you’re market savvy, this will be obvious to you but it was all new to me. Anyway, here’s what I learned in a nutshell:

  • Offer something of value (a free book or information video, for example – but it has to be genuinely entertaining or useful) in exchange for an email address.
  • These freebies are known as ‘Lead Magnets’ but targeting everyone in the world is a waste of time. There’s no point having a list of a million emails if 90% of people on it aren’t really interested in whatever your business deals in.
  • This is why opt-in lists are so effective. I don’t really want 1000 Romance fans on my list (nothing against the readers of that genre). By giving the reader an opt-in, I know that he or she is a thriller fan or a potential thriller fan who likes to read a range of fiction.
  • People love free stuff. You do, I do, everyone does.
  • People don’t like being disappointed. Deliver on your promises.
  • People are sceptical (and quite right too), so contact details, reviews, a photo, and a no-spam policy, for example, all help to establish the trust required for relationship building.

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  • There is no point in having a list if you don’t build a relationship with the people on it.
  • A subscriber-management tool (such as AWeber) is a must.
  • In the digital economy, your list is the keystone of developing your business (here’s a free guide: Growing Your Business with Email Marketing).
  • Have a decent-looking website. Believe me, I’ve had a couple dreadful sites that still make me cringe when I think about them. If you want people to subscribe and eventually buy your book, widget, novelty mugs, at least look as if you know what you’re doing. If you’re a beginner, you might want to try this.
  • Credibility is king. If you want people to trust you, be trustworthy.

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  • Keep the landing page (where people sign up) simple. There’s no need to be flashy or ‘zany’ (heaven forfend) – that can be seriously counter-productive. I use Simple Lead Capture when I’m advertising my books or education services. It’s a good bit of kit. If I can use it, anyone can. Seriously, when it comes to this kind of stuff, I’m as thick as a pile of 90s laptops.
  • Stick to the basics: you only need an email address and a name, so don’t ask for loads of personal details. That’s just creepy.
  • Make sure your no-spam policy is clear and that you stick to it (again: keep your promises).

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  • THE BIG SECRET: your list does not make you money. What creates sales over time is the relationship that you build with your subscribers. Remember that if you are ever tempted to buy a list. I can’t stand having my details sold on – especially when it leads to cold calls and an inbox full of adverts for erectile dysfunction (a classic case of adding insult to injury).

So I’ve taken the first part of my opening statement – ‘But I’m a mentor, tutor and writer’ – and chopped off the ‘But.’

I’m a mentor, tutor and writer; therefore, if I want to keep mentoring, tutoring and writing I need to engage with people; I need to understand marketing. Readers and clients subscribe to my website and follow me on various social media platforms. By posting regularly and trying to provide interesting material to those individuals, in return for their patience and support, I offer value.

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List building, for any kind of business, isn’t a dark art: it’s common sense and good practice (here’s another free guide that you might find useful). Maybe you’re on my list (and mighty glad I am if you are) and I hope you’ll continue to engage with me as a fellow human. The fact is, you have a choice and I have a responsibility to maintain your engagement rather than just clogging up your inbox.

That’s a lot easier now that I understand the central marketing element for growing an audience: value.

If you’re interested, I learned a lot of new skills like this via a course offered by the Digital Experts Academy.

Thanks for dropping by.