Revelations from a marketing guy. 

“Half my advertising spend is wasted;

the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”  

– U.S. retail magnate John Wanamaker 

I’m writing this for those who have established businesses or organizations, though many of these thoughts still hold true for new ventures as well. As a marketing man for nearly 30 years, I’ve often been challenged to figure out what really works. This has evolved over my career, and I’m happy to share what I believe will optimize your own success today based on my own recent personal experiences.

For this exercise, we’re looking at a recently established brand and the release of a new product. The brand is me, but not John Houle, marketing guy, but me as an author of two novels, The King-Makers of Providence and The Siberian Candidate. Many authors, especially emerging ones, have to market themselves; no, the publishers don’t hire publicists and PR agents to promote you unless your name is Dan Brown, James Patterson, or William Shakespeare, at least that’s been my experience and what I have heard from other authors.

As a result, I had to market my own books. And I’m proud to tell you that in the last month since the launch of The Siberian Candidate, I have sold more books than I did in the 9 months of my first book. 

So, what did I do differently, and what has worked?

1. Lead with PR. I think the best way to release a new product is through some grassroots public relations. That starts with a well written, informative, not-salesey press release. It needs to go to local, regional and industry press contacts with a personal pitch. Then you need to do good old fashion follow up with emails and even phone calls. Nothing beats earned media to establish your credibility and reach thousands of qualified buyers. Here’s the result.

2. Reach out to your contacts. You should be sending a direct message to all your personal and business contacts through email with corresponding messages on social media. Today’s email software allows you to customize and personalize email. Equally important is your contact list; I mean, when was the last time you updated it? Sending messages to old contacts, who are no longer with the company, does not accomplish anything.

3. Continue to post on social media. Content is king, so post photos of your events, links to articles about you and your product, and videos you create. Don’t post for the sake of posting, but only when you have something worth saying. And remember each social channel has its own nuances. So, post appropriate content for the channel. For example, TikTokers won’t watch hard sales videos. If you want to see some of the examples I’m talking about you can follow my author’s Facebook account.

4. Of course, do a video(s). If you haven’t noticed, politicians announce their candidacy often by video; no longer do we have the big announcement rallies any more. Your product is worthy of a video, so why aren’t you posting videos weekly or monthly? What’s stopping you? It’s certainly not technology. Today, a good smart phone, light, microphone and stand can bring anyone to people’s screens. Of course, if you want to step it up, I highly recommend turning to professionals who can help you craft your message and make both you and your product look good. Here is a recent video example for inspiration.

5. Post those videos everywhere. 10’s, 15’s, 30’s, 60’s – create them and post them everywhere. Your videos should be on your social feeds and as reels. If you create them as reels, make sure to adjust the formatting for the platforms. After leveraging all your free exposure on social media, you may want to add in a layer of increased impressions. You can place 15 second unskippable ads on YouTube and as pre-roll video on top performing websites. I’ve seen it work in action, and it’s a great method of expanding your reach. You then can retarget people viewing your ads with digital banners to reinforce your brand and stimulate some direct sales.

6. Time to advertise on traditional media. When it’s my clients hard earned money on the line I take this responsibility very seriously. And when it came to spending my own funds, I followed what I saw working the best. I went to the top two broadcast TV affiliates and spent the largest portion of my budget. I hand picked the programming, focusing on morning and evening news.

I went with 10-second spots, which allowed me to even procure a few high profile spots during NFL football and other top tier programming. I then purchased local Cable TV advertising to run full 30-second spots during cable news and even a college bowl and Bruins game.

Of course, I too wanted an immediate response, hoping to see direct sales to my website

That did not happen, but it did help me accomplish my primary goal–to continue to build John Houle, the author, brand.

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