The Author’s Three-Step Test for Sellability

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The Author's Three-Step Test for SellabilityWhen it comes to choosing a social media channel for marketing, how often do we consider the channel’s selling potential? If our marketing goal is to build loyal fans and sell more books, a social media channel’s ability to actually sell books should be at the top of the list. And when it comes to selling, all social media channels are definitely not created equal.

To evaluate a social media channel’s ability to sell books, we can utilize the “Three-Step Test of Sellability.” The test helps clarify which channel characteristics are important in a sales cycle and which channels ultimately provide the best environment for e-commerce.

Earlier in this series, we looked at marketing mindsets that can hamper our marketing efforts, and the first two steps of the test: audience (who are your readers?) and channel culture (how do people interact there?). The third step in the test is evaluating a channel’s established sales environment.

Before we tackle the third step, though, I should state a couple side notes. I believe in innovation and experimentation. Authors who revel in trying out new tools to gauge their effectiveness to reach an audience are my people. But the reality is, we are in the minority. Most authors dread the process of marketing and are looking to make the best use of their time, money and skills to sell more books. This test therefore is aimed at helping authors make the best decisions based on those criteria.

I also believe that if you work at it, you can sell books anywhere. And again, if you have the inclination, you can explore as many opportunities as you have time for. But we are shooting for economy here. The mission is to find the best channels for selling and start from there as square one. Once you have the right information, you can make decisions about which channels to use with your eyes wide open. So let’s start the third step by putting on our marketing nerd hats and examining some data.

Marketing 101

The basic principles for selling products are the same no matter what, and the reason is because the buying process is a function of human psychology. In marketing, we define the buying process via a funnel. It is the same for buying a book or buying a refrigerator. Even though the process of moving people through that funnel has changed over the years due to how people gather information, the funnel is still a staple in marketing. A basic understanding of the buying process is the bedrock of step three.

The Buying Process

Here is a definition of each stage in the buying process:

Introduction: Also called discoverability, this is where a reader is introduced to you and your books. It may be through word of mouth, social media, a search online, a Facebook ad, a review blog, or any number of different sources. This is the entry point for potential book buyers.
Awareness: This is where the process of introduction is cemented. After introduction, a potential reader continues to hear about your books through a number of different sources of information she already seeks to learn about new books. You are now part of the large pool of authors on her horizon. Awareness is heightened with increased exposure. There is a fine line in this stage between becoming interesting and being dismissed as annoying. In this step of the process, people are propelled forward by information that piques their interest. When you try to create interest by broadcasting and begging for sales, you will fall out of awareness due to annoyance. In other words, you become white noise because you have failed to interest potential readers by being overly promotive. You are now perceived as desperate or pushy.
Research: It is important to understand that the three middle pieces of the funnel (awareness, research and word of mouth) are controlled by the consumer, who is gathering information that is important to her to make a buying decision. Are you helping by giving her valuable information, meeting a need, and making a connection? Or are you just asking for the sale?
Word of mouth: Social proof is the ability of a product to sell on the merit that others are buying it already. Recommendations, reviews and advice from friends are the most trusted accelerants for buying decisions. According to Nielsen’s annual “Global Trust in Advertising” report, more than 80 percent of people trust the recommendations of friends and family. Less trust the recommendations of experts, and even less trust advertising in the purchase process.
Purchase Point: The magic place where people actually decide to click on a button to buy your book. Some social media channels present users with an effective purchase points and others do not.
Conversion: When readers buy, read and connect with you, this is the conversion point. Do they begin to follow your blog, like your Facebook page, look online for other books, sign up for your email list, or buy another book? This is where follow-up is crucial. How do you keep readers interested after they buy that first book? Is your social media presence giving fans value on a regular basis to keep them interested?

The speed at which people move through the funnel is influenced by a number of factors that include, most importantly, pain point or desire to buy. It is possible that a reader can be introduced to your book and move through the entire funnel in a matter of minutes, or it may take a matter of weeks or months. It just depends on what their buying criteria are. Some readers require social proof, such as reviews and recommendations, and others just need a magic nod from that special blog they follow.

Funnel Influence by Social Media Channel

The ability for a social media channel to deliver a reader to a purchase point depends on a number of criteria: ability to present social proof effectively, ease of buying process, number of call-to-actions present, ability to provide a direct link to a purchase, history of customer buying on that channel, and ability to move a potential buyer from the middle of the funnel to the purchase point.

The capacity for social media to sell is explored in a research report from AOL Platforms and Converto. In the following graphic, the different social media channels are evaluated for their ability to perform in the various stages of the funnel we discussed above. In addition to the various stages, each channel was also evaluated for its ability to sell a product on a one-time visit. Be sure and match the color key to the stage of the funnel it represents. In the graphic, each channel’s ability to sell is based on a 100-percent ability, with each of the funnel positions represented by a percentage of that whole.

Funnel Influence

Sellability Breakdown:

In order to effectively gauge the sales potential of a channel, remember to consider steps one and two in the test. This step is designed to show you which channels have the highest potential for sales. Let’s start with overall observations and the move to particular takeaways.

Even though YouTube ranks the highest in sales effectiveness, its ability to sell books is not equal across the board for all authors. Because the channel’s commerce potential relies on developing a robust business channel to release the tools that make selling easier, few authors are going to fit its paradigm. Selling books via video is not as easy as selling a blender that one can demonstrate. Viewers are also annoyed by unprofessional sales videos, so authors need to be mindful of the quality of the book trailers they post there.

Key data point: YouTube has the highest influence in two keys areas: introduction and purchase point.

Overall, Facebook has the best potential for selling books. If you’re looking for one place to develop a vibrant sales platform on social media, this would be the place. Young adult and children’s authors are going to be challenged on any social media platform (Facebook included), but it is still the best platform for reaching the highest percentage of your readers. Remember that 71 percent of the online adult population uses Facebook regularly.

Furthermore, Facebook offers the best commerce tools. Pages can be optimized for sales using a variety of call-to-action buttons, live links in your About section, and the option to use your cover photo as a place to announce a new book launch or an important event. Advertising options are there to accommodate any budget that can target a specific audience of your choosing. Apps such as the Author Marketing App present an opportunity to set up a bookstore that is one link away from a sale directly from Facebook.

The ability to incorporate email list building on a Facebook page is also a plus. All these options take place within Facebook’s platform without people having to leave your page.

Key data point: Facebook has a high ability to introduce readers to your books and also close the sale. These are the two more important positions in the funnel.

The rest of the social media channels in the middle of this graphic are a toss-up. I would expect Pinterest’s position on this chart to change over the next couple years as it works feverishly to incorporate the ability for users to buy directly within the platform, something the channel is already testing with large brands like Nordstrom, Land’s End and others.

And then there was Twitter. Even though Twitter shines in the middle stages of the funnel for helping people make decisions about purchases, there is no denying that it is not a channel set up to sell directly. It has a weak two-percent ability to introduce new readers to your books and a low four-percent ability to lead readers to a purchase. Only LinkedIn is worse at the end of the funnel. Even though it is possible to sell books on Twitter, it is not the best place at this point in time.

The Three-Step Test of Sellability is designed to give your books the best platform for sales. When you incorporate all three steps thoroughly, you can be confident that the time you spend on social media marketing is giving you the most bang for your buck.

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4 thoughts on “The Author’s Three-Step Test for Sellability

  1. Laurence OBryan

    Interesting post, Chris.

    I suggest Twitter can play a greater role in reaching NEW readers however, than illustrated above. The problem with both Facebook and YouTube, if an author were to rely on them, is that you will be pretty quickly forced to pay to reach beyond the tribe of people who know you personally.

    To expand your reach to new readers, at zero cost, Twitter provides the most effective service for authors on a tight budget.

    I am not sure if the data source you used relates to books or general sales and if AOL is a reliable source either, for author self promotion checking, not general promotions.

    Twitter may be less efficient in completing sales, but if you can’t reach even your own followers on Facebook, because Facebook only shows page posts to less than 5% of our own followers, it won’t matter that it’s an effective tool, your book won’t be seen widely on Facebook.

    You may be interested in this post explaining how effective Twitter is, specifically for writers: Twitter For Writers – More Proof That It Works – Updated

    1. Chris Syme

      Thanks for weighing in Laurence. I know there are a lot of very strong opinions about Twitter out there but the AOL data is pretty consistent with what my clients have found across the board and the results I’ve seen in the years I’ve been working in social media marketing. I am sure Twitter can sell some books, but the truth is, it’s not a channel wired for sales…yet. Not for small brands, anyway. I think they will be there eventually. At this point, all their commerce tools and options favor large brands with huge budgets.

      I’m very familiar with your info on Twitter for writers as I have used your service for a client and read many of your client testimonies. Honestly, I make all my recommendations based strictly on data and I am very careful about my data sources–always have been. Many people in the marketing business use the AOL annual data as one of the benchmarks for the performance of social to sales. But the main problem with Twitter: only 28% of people online use it and it has no built-in commerce tools for small brands like authors. Couple that with the fact that Twitter is transitioning to an algorithm similar to Facebook’s and you have a real conundrum there at this point in time. I personally like Twitter for research, conversations, and think that nonfiction authors need to be there to establish thought leadership. I just don’t think it’s a high value sales channel. I always appreciate the input Laurence–thanks.

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    I also believe that if you work at it, you can sell books anywhere. And again, if you have the inclination, you can explore as many opportunities as you have time for. But we are shooting for economy here. The mission is to find the best channels for selling and start from there as square one. Once you have the right information



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