Business Musings: A Few General Marketing Strategies (Niche Marketing Part 4)

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At the risk of overwhelming you all, I’m going to discuss strategies for niche marketing before I get specific. Please note that this is the fourth post in a series on niche marketing. Please look at the previous three posts so that you know where I’m coming from, particularly last week’s post.

And remember, that I’m talking about marketing strategies, not writing/craft strategies. A beginning writer recently contacted me, asking me if they had to follow the advice given on some of the overhyped marketing/writing Facebook groups. Advice there told writers to make sure they followed the structure of the books written by successful writers. (If there’s a kiss on page 72 for a romance, then everyone else’s needed to as well. Seriously.)

Please ignore this crap.

Part of ignoring this crap is to ignore some of the advice you’ll find on niche marketing sites as well. One that I particularly like, for example, has advice that’s good for writers and advice that’s awful. Anything that mentions “competitors” is de facto awful.

We writers don’t compete with each other. We write our books. Our books, not books are that deliberately similar to anyone else’s books. When we finish our books, we publish them. When they’re published, then we think about marketing.

I will get to how to do that for individual books in a week or two. Right now, we’re going to look generally.

So here are some generic marketing tips that we will hone in on in the coming weeks.

I’m going to use some terms that I wrote about in Discoverability and also in Rethinking The Writing Business. These are generic business terms, but they’re relevant here.

The first is Brand Awareness. In order for people to buy your product—whatever it is—they need to be aware that it exists. Most people have a sense of that. They’re always asking how to improve discoverability.

But Brand Awareness is more than that. It is, as Investopedia says,

… a marketing term for the degree to which consumers recognize a product by its name. Ideally, consumers’ awareness of the brand may include positive perceptions of the qualities that distinguish the product from its competition.

Creating brand awareness is a key step in promoting a new product or reviving an older brand.

Consumers have opinions about brands that they might never have sampled. They might know about Pepsi, for example, without ever tasting a Pepsi. Thirty years ago, readers often knew what the bestselling books were—and sometimes had an opinion about them—even if they never read them. (I would never read that new Stephen King book. I hate horror.)

As Investopedia noted above, the best kind of brand awareness is the kind that makes people feel kindly toward a brand, even if they don’t mean to buy the product. For example, I adore the M&M commercials featuring the M&M’s, even though I can’t eat M&M’s for health reasons. I smile whenever I see those commercials. I’m aware of the brand, and I like it.

Those are big brands, but you get the idea. We’re all aware of some of our favorite book series, and those will differ from the series that other people are aware of. Some brands need less brand awareness campaigning than others (Disney, anyone?), but for our smaller products, we have to assume that we’re always introducing ourselves to someone somewhere.

The other term I’m going to use in this piece is Brand Loyalty. Let’s go to Investopedia again.

Brand-loyal customers believe that a certain brand represents both higher quality and better service than any competitor—and the price does not matter. Brand-loyal customers might make fewer total purchases, but the profit margins on their purchases are larger.

I’m brand loyal to Outrun The Dark, which I mentioned last week. I’m brand aware of Nike and have some of their running gear, but I prefer the smaller, more optimistic brand. I do pay more for it.

Back in 2017, I wrote two pieces on Brand Loyalty. You can post one and then click to post two.

We’ll explore these in-depth again for the niche marketing series, but let’s look at the general strategies I mentioned. I’ll explore them in no particular order.

They are:

  1. Think small.

I know, I know. Everyone tells you to think big. Heck, when it comes to your career, I tell you to think big and to believe anything is possible. But when it comes to niche marketing, small is your friend. Your goal is to attract and keep readers, one at a time. There are other goals as well, but right now, think about what you can do on a small level, to bring in readers. Or to reward the ones you already have.

For this to work, you must stop comparing yourself to others who claim to have 50,000 readers who buy their every word. Remember what I said above: we writers are not in competition with each other, so if you compare yourself to them, you’re inviting competition in your own head.

Small campaigns, small ideas, small build—those should be unique to your niche marketing campaign. And here is where I remind you that niche means small and specialized. Heck, even a niche in a cabinet or wall is a small, shallow recess.

When you’re doing niche marketing, you’re going to go small. It would be best if you accept that, and be happy about it.

  1. Picking a platform or two.

Not every campaign belongs on every social media platform. Or even every platform. There are things other than social media. Like paper ads and, heck, flyers. You’re limited only by your imagination. But if you do, say, an Instagram promotion only, then you’re doing a niche campaign.

I listen to too much satellite radio as I drive back and forth from the gym. I’m often listening to talk programming, which includes ads. At the end of every ad offering a discount, the announcer gives a promo code. If you listen to those codes, you’ll hear the testing of the niche market. Because the code might be promo code/program you’re listening to.

That’s both a niche marketing campaign and the data gathering from the same campaign.

  1. Small campaigns

It’s okay to run a small (oh, there’s that word again!) campaign.  Say you want to promote on what WMG calls a BookBub lite website. One of those little newsletters that doesn’t have the same reach as Bookbub, but might have a more targeted audience in your book’s subgenre. You might spend $50 and get five new readers.

Oh, I hear the disappointment now. Let me repeat. Five. New. Readers. And add the phrase you need to remember. Five new readers that you didn’t have before.

Remember, it’s one reader at a time.

  1. Word-of-Mouth campaigns

Before we get to word-of-mouth campaigns, let’s talk about word of mouth. Remember those five new readers? Let’s say one of them really, really, really loves your book. What’s that reader going to do? Maybe nothing. Or maybe they buy everything you’ve ever published.

Or maybe they’ll give the book as a gift. Or they’ll tell five friends. Or they’ll bring the book into their book club. Or they’ll do what I sometimes do: I buy the book for friends and we do a group reading and talk about the book in text.

Here’s the sad key to that. You will have no idea. But those five readers might bring you five more. It might be the same person who brought in five. Or two who brought in some friends. You won’t know. And you won’t know how those other readers found you.

Remember, too, that word of mouth takes time. So eventually Reader #5 reads your book (two months after the promotion), and say, then decides to give the book to their best friend for his birthday. That birthday is three months away. Then the friend takes another two months to read the book, and looooves it.

So when another reader jumps onto your newsletter list, you will have no idea where he came from. But he came from a natural word-of-mouth interaction with a friend.

A word-of-mouth campaign is slightly different. There you’re creating a campaign to build buzz, something you want people to react to. Let’s go back to those M&M spokescandies, shall we?

For some reason, the rightwing media in the United States decided that the M&M spokescandies were political, and instructed their viewers to boycott M&M’s.

This happens a lot these days in the highly politicized United States. Most companies blink. They pull a marketing campaign or they apologize. A few fight back hard.

M&M’s seemed to blink. The spokescandies disappeared. And then, slowly Mars, the company that makes M&M’s, kept making announcements about tweaks to the spokescandies. Mars kept M&M’s in the conversation for months, before debuting new ads with the “returning” spokescandies.

People—and the media—actually discussed the candies, over and over and over again.

That’s a large word-of-mouth campaign, but you can do small ones. Intriguing ideas about your books, attention-getting graphics, or something viral like a totally fun Tik-Tok video works.

Usually, these word-of-mouth campaigns are about brand awareness. You’re trying to attract someone who has never heard of your product before.

I achieve a small word-of-mouth campaign using my cats for Promotion Central. Not every time, and sometimes not when I expect it. But the cats are cute, people love them, and then people will read whatever copy I write.

Speaking of niche, Promotion Central only appears on my Facebook feed. And if I don’t do one for a while, people will ask why. I didn’t plan it that way. It happened because I needed some new way to write about promotion during the pandemic. The cats were handy. And now, they seem to want to take over the company…

One last point about word-of-mouth campaigns. Sometimes the campaign is much more fun and creative than the product. People will like the campaign and not the book behind it. That’s okay.

Remember, think small. You’re not trying to please all of the people all of the time. Heck, in this polarized America, I’ve probably pissed off a number of my readers by even mentioning those spokescandies.

  1. Build customer relationships

Not every campaign is for brand awareness. Sometimes the campaigns should be for the customers you already have. Do something fun for the five people on your newsletter list. (Don’t tell them they’re one of five either.) Give them all early access to a book. Or maybe give them a short story that no one else has seen yet. Or something else equally fun.

We’re doing a products workshop at WMG right now, and we’ll be testing all kinds of products for various Kickstarters. We’re going to get samples. We’re talking about ways to use those to help with the marketing of other things.

If we only had five people on newsletters, I’d be arguing to send samples to them. We have more than that. But you get the idea. Something fun for the readers, and something fun for you.

Customer relationships are more than giveaways, though. In the previous post, I mentioned the interactions I’m having with readers on my Diving newsletter list. I’m doing some back-and-forths with readers about what they think will happen next. Others want to know when this or that favorite character will return.

Some of these questions and discussions make me realize that I know the answer, but I haven’t expressed it. Others spark an idea for me. Mostly, though, it’s a fun interaction with people who enjoy my work.

Building customer relationships are about more than that, though. They’re about good service. They’re about informing the customer about a new product. They’re about so many things that entire books have been written about building customer relationships.

The best way for you to do it is to think about what you enjoy as a consumer, and do something similar.

If you focus on books, then you need to remember that what the customer/reader wants isn’t more stuff. It’s more story.

Always keep that in mind.

  1. Building brand loyalty

The best way we writers can build brand loyalty is to write good books. We’ll be talking about the different brands that writers have, and how to make small campaigns featuring those books.

But the best way to build brand loyalty is to have a great product. And here, our product is a book.

We’ll focus on building brand loyalty a lot in the next few weeks. It’s one of the most fun, and most interesting, parts of niche marketing, in my opinion.

And you know what? You won’t always know who is brand loyal. Just like you have no idea where those extra readers come from.

That’s okay. You’re not an advertising firm. You’re not a marketing company.

You’re a writer with a small amount of time, who is trying to do the best promotion you can do on a limited budget.

I get it.

That’s why I’m doing this long series on niche marketing. Weirdly enough, it’s a large topic. We’re going to have to work hard to think small.

But I’m convinced we can do it.

Next time, I’ll get specific. I promise.


A quick personal note here: My latest nonfiction book, How Writers Fail: Analysis and Solutions has just been published on all sites. If you want an ebook, I hope you head to our store. Here’s the link. You can get the paper at any of your favorite retailers. (We’ll start doing paper on our site soon.)

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“Business Musings: A Few General Marketing Strategies (Niche Marketing Part Four),” copyright © 2023 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Image at the top of the blog copyright © Can Stock Photo / igter

1 thought on “Business Musings: A Few General Marketing Strategies (Niche Marketing Part 4)

  1. Yes, yes, all of this! I’ve used these marketing approaches for my writing for dang near a quarter century. They’re a huge part of why I can make a living writing. (Well, that and reading contracts and learning to negotiate and copyright and all that stuff.)

    The best thing about thinking small and niche? The fan base you build will be rabid in their fandom.

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