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I’ve received several emails via LinkedIn over the years from newly self-published authors who want me to buy their books. If you’re one of these authors, I applaud you for taking that important step toward self-promotion. But now I’m going to tell you why I—and probably most of the people you sent that email to—never bought your book.

It’s because you never answered one simple question: What’s in it for me?

This is what customers ask themselves, whether consciously or unconsciously, whenever they consider making a purchase. As salespeople, we need to be aware of this and make sure we’re answering that question for customers, in all our marketing materials, in a clear and concise manner that speaks to them in their language.

When I say “clear,” I mean tell them what’s in it for them in a manner that addresses their needs directly. Will your product increase their joy? If yes, how? Will your product decrease their pain? If yes, how?

When I say “concise” I mean tell them what’s in it for them in as few words as possible. We live in an “instant soup” society, filled with customers that want quick and easy solutions to their problems. Make it quick and easy for them to choose your book over another.

When I refer to “language,” I’m talking about one of two dialects: price-based marketing or value-based marketing. Both have their time and place no matter what you’re selling.

  • Price-Based Marketing—Walmart is one of the most common North American examples of a retailer that uses price-based marketing—a.k.a., the “everyday low price” strategy—to sell its products. Price-based marketing revolves around selling things for the cheapest price. It appeals to the audience that wants the “best deal” at the lowest possible cost, regardless of its brand name or quality.
  • Value-Based Marketing—Prada, by contrast, is an example of a worldwide luxury retailer that uses value-based marketing. This revolves around selling things at a prices commensurate with the highest quality. It appeals to the audience most concerned with workmanship, expertise, long-term durability, and image—and who can, and will, willingly pay more for it.

When you think about which marketing strategy will work best to sell your product, you need to take a couple of things into account. Let’s consider that book, for instance: What is most important to your readers? And how much do you want to earn? Obviously, the higher you price your book, the better your profit margin. But if the higher price doesn’t match your readers’ core values, then you won’t make the sale. These two things need to be in sync.

There are many potential customers out there with different motives for buying various types of books. Some people make buying decisions based on price while others make buying decisions based on value. There is a time and a place for both types of marketing. It all depends on your book’s customer base and what will speak to them most. Trade published authors and self-publishers alike should do the necessary research to understand what their customers want, rather than blindly choosing one form of marketing over the other based on the arbitrary viewpoint of one retailer. It is your customer’s wants and needs that should determine your marketing strategy.

Do you offer the best value? Or do you offer the best price? Decide who you are early on—what the core intention of your product truly is—and then be true to that vision through and through. Be clear. Be consistent. Be concise.

About the author:

Kim Staflund is the founder and publisher of Polished Publishing Group and the bestselling author of six books including How to Publish a Bestselling Book…and Sell it Worldwide Based on Value, Not Price! In addition to her book publishing background, Staflund has a substantial sales and sales management history that includes new business development, both inside and outside account management of all types and sizes of companies, and personnel management and leadership experience within unionized and non-unionized environments.

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