Authors continually fail to understand what drives the consumer to purchase—a concept that is fundamental to building a successful author brand. Authors also fail to treat their writing as a business. They write a ‘book’, put it on Amazon and then hope beyond hope they will make the next bestseller list. They then do a smattering of marketing, such as social media, or setting up a blog, but then they complain about their minimal success. The failure is not what they have done, it’s what they have NOT done—understanding the mindset of the consumer (or, aka, their target audience.)
The Sales Window
Many moons ago, when I began my graphic design career I learned you only have 8 seconds to grab people’s attention with a Billboard Design. That fact stuck in my mind. In a recent article by Randall Beard “Make the most of your Brand’s 20-second Window” he states online or off, consumers make buying decisions in 20 seconds or less.
20 SECONDS! That isn’t a lot of time to grab attention let alone entice a purchase. It also takes numerous exposures to a message before people decide purchase. So that means you have to create a concept that not only turns people’s heads in just a few seconds, but it has to be delivered numerous times before it elicits a response.
According to an Ehrenber-Bass study, most consumers “spend little time thinking about purchase decisions.”
- The average consumer spends 13 seconds purchasing a brand in-store. This is based on multiple studies of consumer product purchase behavior.
- Online is not much better, with the average consumer spending 19 seconds to purchase, and the majority spent less than 10 seconds.
What Drives Consumers to Buy?
First let’s look at this from the standpoint of your target audience or the consumer. Every human being on the planet is a consumer. The purchasing power of these shoppers stem either from habit or instinct (with a smattering of impulse buying thrown in.) Many purchases center on familiarity—either they’ve purchased the brand before (habit) or they recognize and feel comfortable with a brand (instinct). GEICO is one such brand that builds mental images of its product whether you have their insurance or not:
- green gecko lizard
- tag line “15 minutes could save you 15% or more”
- pig in a blanket, etc.
“The idea that consumers “engage” with brands is no doubt true for a small set of consumers … but for the vast majority of brands, consumers are not engaged to …brands. They’re just buying them.” Neilsen.com
The Buyers Mindset
There are two types of equally effective modes of decision making according to Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow.
Thinking Fast: Did you ever wonder why there are so many small items at the grocery check out: gum, candy, pop, chips? Name brand or not, these are enticements for a quick, non-thinking impulse buy. We’ve all done it. Every day in the grocery stores, people are purchasing products they have used for years. We trust them, and without even thinking about the decision we are making, the item is placed in our cart. Many of these inherent decisions came from childhood — our mothers may have used that brand. She trusted it, so we trust it. This mode of decision-making is inherent, habit.
Thinking Slow: How often do you purchase new products and unfamiliar brands? The drive to try something new is stronger in some than others. Some are swayed by sticker price, others by recommendations from trusted sources. While these variables may influence the decision, it is agreed that some purchases require a lot more evaluation and mental attention.
So how do authors turn Slow Thinkers into Fast Thinkers?
Multiple exposures to 20-second or less messages eventually stick in the recesses of a consumers mind making your brand “subconsciously” familiar. This recognition bridges the gap between slow (unfamiliar) to fast (I’ll try it)
Bridging the Gap
If your dream is to achieve recognition and ultimately receive a hefty royalty paycheck then stop treating your business like a hobby. Get to know the consumer and what it takes to bridge the gap to more sales. The sooner you hone your advertising skills, the sooner your dreams can be recognized.
I’ve reworked Beard’s original 4-point list to fit the Self-Publishing Author:
- Develop a compelling idea that will differentiate you from the competition. It isn’t just unique ideas in novels that turn into bestsellers—it is the craft: polish, edit, rework until it shines inside and out. Consider alternate titles (tag lines), variations on the cover (image, brand).
- Build memory structures—the more the better. Be creative. Think out of the box. And above all— Be consistent.
- Maximize your reach. You’ve heard this before: “If your target audience isn’t exposed to your advertising, then you can’t build memory structures.” Social media, library, banks, fairs, book clubs, car signage. Anything that gets your name brand out there — do it. And the more the better. Don’t worry if a strategy doesn’t promote sales, the key is to develop recognition.
- Be vigilant. Memories fade with time. Staying in the forefront continuously helps “solidify and deepen the memory structures associated with your brand. And, don’t forget, someone is buying your [genre] every day.”
Unfortunately, most consumers can do without your book, or your brand. That’s why authors “need to focus on building brand specific mental availability. Because when it comes down to the 20 seconds or less that count, you want your brand to be more available for purchase than the next guy.”