Learn to Self-Publish an eBook
Tim Lewis: I had the pleasure to be interviewed on Roger Edwards’ podcast, talking about using social media as a networking device, which is a topic of my new book, which I’m currently working on by basically recording audio interviews with people, and then actually I’m going to get them all transcribed and jiggle them around a bit, add a bit of my own commentary and my own lessons from it, and actually get the book available. Hopefully that should be done by some time in the middle of the year. I was hoping to have it all done a lot earlier, but you know how things come up.
Anyway, Roger is a very capable and experienced marketer. He’s been working in marketing for years, and now he runs the Marketing and Finance podcast, and he also helps a lot of people learn marketing in simple terms, and that’s kind of what I like about the guy. He’s very down to earth and he tells you things in a very straight way.
I listened to a podcast episode that he did, and he was talking about how marketing is not just communications. While I’ve always kind of known that that’s the case, it’s very easy to get into this mindset where you just think marketing is about communication and that’s it. You don’t have to worry about who you’re trying to communicate to or what your product’s about or anything along those lines. I thought I’d get him on this show to talk about those forgotten bits of marketing that a lot of us certainly on the self-publishing side could tend to forget about, so now on to the interview.
Hello, Roger. Welcome to the show.
Roger Edwards: Hi, Tim. I’m delighted to be here.
Tim Lewis: Okay. As I talked to you in the pre-chat, I was very impressed by a podcast episode that you recorded, where you were talking about marketing is not just about communication.
Roger Edwards: Yeah.
What else is there to marketing apart from communication?
Tim Lewis: How would you define the features of marketing that aren’t communication?
Roger Edwards: That’s a really good question, and I guess before I answer it, I’ll probably just have to address the communication issue and why I feel that marketing isn’t just about communication, and why maybe the perception these days is that it is. If you go out into the street with a clipboard and ask somebody, “Tell me what marketing is,” I reckon the majority of people would say to you it’s advertising or it’s promotion, or worse, it’s intrusive email or it’s pop-up adverts on the internet, or it’s chatbots or it’s people phoning you up and trying to flog you a PPI cover or something like that.
People have this inbuilt feeling that marketing is about communication, advertising, promotion, that sort of thing, and I guess that’s because of the world we live in at the moment. When people talk about marketing, invariably it’s the communication bit they’re talking about, so conferences, marketing conferences are always talking about you’ve got to do video, you’ve got to be doing live video, you’ve got to be doing Twitter, you’ve got to be doing social media marketing, et cetera, et cetera. You very rarely hear people talking about the product or the customer or the price and that sort of thing, and it worries me that we seem to have forgotten that marketing isn’t just about communication.
To answer your question, if we put communication to one side for a moment, we’ve got to have a look at the other components of what I guess academics call and you would call the marketing mix, and really it all starts with the customer. Who is your customer, and obviously there are billions and billions of people in the world, and the first thing you’ve got do is to create a segment of people that you want to target.
It’s not just a question of saying, “I have a shop in Basingstoke and my customer is everybody in Basingstoke,” because that’s too broad. You’ve got to narrow it down and create a segment of people who are your customer, so I don’t know. For example, if you’re a flower shop, you might go after a certain sort of segment of people, perhaps people who are getting married or something like that. If you’re a car mechanic, you may go after a certain sort of brand of car. You might specialise in servicing BMWs, et cetera, but you’ve got to create a segment of people that are going to be your customers.
Once you’ve got that segment, you’ve got to start finding out what it is that those people’s problems are that you can fix as a business. Again it depends on what business you’re in, but you’ve got to talk to those people. You’ve got to get to know them. You’ve got to find out what makes them tick.
Now, in the old days, if you had the money, you might do research. You might get them in one of those rooms with those one-way mirrors, and you’d have a facilitator in there asking them questions and you’d be hidden away behind the one-way mirror making notes. These days, of course, you don’t have to go to those lengths. You can just listen to what people are saying on Twitter, or you can create an online poll or something like that, but get to know that customer. Get to know what their problems are.
Once you know what their problems are, then you start creating your solution, and your solution to their problem could be a product, it could be a service, it could be a combination of a product or a service, or a course or something like that. That product or service or whatever it is becomes your offer, and all this is part of marketing. You know, the research that we’ve talked about, getting to know the customer, getting to know the customer’s problems, creating a solution to the customer’s problems. That’s all part of marketing. Your solution to their problem has to be better than anybody else’s solution if you’re going to have a competitive advantage, and competitive advantage is a part of marketing as well.
Once you’ve got all of those questions answered, you could go away and create this product or this service, and let’s just call it your offer. I’ve now talked to all these customers, I’ve worked out what their problem is, I’ve got a solution, my solution’s better than everybody else’s solution and that is my offer, and only when you’ve got all of those things done can you then start thinking about the communication. You need to tell people about what your product or your service is. You’ve got to tell them why it’s better than everybody else’s. You’ve got to tell them how it will solve their problem.
What we seem to do these days, Tim, is we dive straight into that communication bit. We’ll have some very clever communication expert stand up and say, “You need to be doing live video, you need to be doing pre-recorded video, you need to be using Twitter marketing, you need to be using LinkedIn marketing,” and what they’re really meaning is you should be doing communication on those platforms, but what they’ve never talked about is all those things that I’ve just mentioned before, and it’s creating this environment where we all dive straight into the tactics of communication without actually creating the overall marketing mix which includes the customer, the customer’s problem, and eventually the product and the solution. What I haven’t mentioned there is how much does it cost. What’s the packaging of the product, if it’s a physical product, you know? What colour is it, et cetera?
Just from what I’ve said there, you can see that if you consider the marketing mix to be all of those things, then communication all of a sudden is actually quite a small part of it. If I list them, research … who’s the customer, what’s their problem, what’s your offer, why is your offer better, what’s the product, the service, how much does it cost, how are you going to distribute it … oh, and then finally we’ve got communications. I’ve probably listed about ten things there of which the last one was communication, so even from that very simplistic point of view, communications is about a tenth of what the whole marketing mix actually is, if you’re really serious about doing it properly.
Now, a lot of people who will be listening to this say, “Shut up, you’re a dinosaur. It’s all about digital, it’s all about Twitter, it’s all about video.” Those things are very, very important. Of course we’ve got to communicate with people, but seriously. If you focus entirely on the tactics of communication, it’s very likely that it’ll fail if you haven’t built and thought about all of that other stuff.
What if you already have a product, how do you market it if you haven’t done the research?
Tim Lewis: Okay. I’m going to go and ask you a follow-up question, as I’ve threatened to do, and this is something that I’m sure a lot of listeners to the show … because it’s about self-publishing, and I’m sure there are people who have done what I’ve done, where they’ve written the book or created the product that they wanted to create without really having any idea about the market. How does one go about … is it possible to sort of retrofit, find out what the audience is for your product after you’ve created the product? Ideally you would want to identify the market before the product, but I’m sure this isn’t unique to self-publishers. I’m sure a lot of big companies have created a product and then they hand it over to marketing and say, “Market this.” How does that sort of retrofitting process work?
Roger Edwards: I think it depends upon what industry you’re in, and sometimes it can happen like that. Just as you said, some companies also have silos, so they’ll have a product development department … which is actually part of marketing, to be honest, because product development is part of the marketing mix … but then they’ll have the marketing “communications,” in inverted commas, sitting in a different silo. It is very often the case in a lot of big companies that they go away, they develop the product, they toss it across into the next silo to the marketing people and say, “Go and sell that to people,” and then the marketing people say, “Well, actually it’s not what people want,” and then you find yourself having to go back and make changes to it.
Ideally, everybody works in a linear progression so that you talk to the customer, the product development people get the product right, and then the communications side can promote it properly to the customer. Ideally it will all work together like that, but I think that unfortunately a lot of the time, companies tend to silo themselves up and you start getting disconnects.
If you want to self-publish a book, I suppose you could come up with an idea. You could write something and then you could put it out there and then think, oh, people will give you a load of feedback, and you find out that actually it’s not as popular as you thought it was, or in fact nobody really wanted to hear about that, and you could go away and do a second edition. By that time you might be quite demoralised because you didn’t sell very many of what you set out to do, so ideally you would talk to potential purchasers of your book, people who have genuinely got the problem that you’re trying to fix.
Just like I said before, a book is a product in the same way as servicing a car or creating flowers in a flower shop. A book is a product, and ideally if it’s a business book, the book should be helping somebody to solve a problem that they have. Whether if it’s a book about how to market a business, then you’re thinking, “Well, there’s a lot of people out there don’t really know much about marketing, so I’ll write them a very simple book about how to market your business.” That should, on the whole, fulfil a need, so you probably could write something and find that it pretty much fits to some segment somewhere.
It’s a little bit haphazard, so ideally you would do the research first. You’d talk to people, you’d learn a bit more about who you were targeting, who was going to buy the book, and then you would write that book with those people in mind, helping them solve that problem rather than sort of winging it, which is probably what you would be doing if you didn’t do the research first.
So why do we mostly just hear about communication?
Tim Lewis: Okay. Why do you think it’s so neglected in terms of discussion in the online business world, anything apart from communication in marketing?
Roger Edwards: I think on the one hand, because the communication side of things is actually kind of exciting, isn’t it, and especially … you know, when I started doing marketing 20-odd years ago, we didn’t have the internet. Marketing in those days, the communication part of it, was TV ads, ads in magazines, ads on billboards, leaflet drops in magazines, that sort of thing. You know, maybe the odd direct mail package that you would send physically to somebody’s home address. That was marketing communications, and it was quite expensive.
These days we’ve got all of this great technology at our fingertips. Digital marketing’s what we call it. What it really means is digital communications, so every one of us in our pocket has got a TV studio, an audio studio, a dictating machine. We can create blogs, videos, e-books, all on our phone if we wanted to. All of a sudden, communication for everybody is a lot more accessible, a lot more exciting than it used to be, and a lot of marketing people like me are seduced by cool things, you know?
If you’ve got a creative bone in your body, you’re going to be excited by a new app that lets you go live. You’re going to be excited by a new app that lets you send out lots of communications to lots of different people, and the tendency is that that’s the exciting bit. “Give it to me. I want to get into that and I want to start communicating with people,” and all that stuff like talking to customers and putting together a strategy, that’s dull. You know, a lot of people who’ve worked in big companies will associate that with endless meetings with post-it notes on walls and things like that, and we veer towards what excites us. I just think today, it’s become very easy to become immersed within the communications and actually forget that that’s only part of the marketing mix.
You know, there are a lot of people out there who have made some phenomenally successful careers becoming experts in how to use Instagram, experts in how to use Periscope, experts in how to do live video, and I’m not taking anything away from that. They’ve worked hard and they are experts in those methods of communication, but then they will be hailed as marketing experts or marketing gurus because of that, but actually they’re not. They’re communications experts. They might be a Instagram communication guru, but they haven’t got that whole marketing background. Therefore, people are aspiring to be like that, and it’s creating this environment I think where we forget about doing the groundwork before we start getting excited about how we’re going to communicate it.
What marketing research should we be doing?
Tim Lewis: Okay. You mentioned research. What kind of research should anybody serious about marketing be doing for their business?
Roger Edwards: I think if you’ve identified the people that you are wanting to go after in terms of targeting, you want to try to start listening to what those people are saying, and Twitter, to be perfectly honest, is a great way of finding out what people are saying about certain things. Even if you go into Twitter search and put a question mark after a statement … so I mentioned flowers. I don’t know how I got the idea of flower shops into my head, but anyway, you could put “bouquet flowers,” question mark, and it will come back on Twitter with all sorts of questions that people are asking about bouquets of flowers.
Then you can be a little bit more specific. You could add in an extension to that so that it only comes back with the questions that people are asking about bouquets of flowers in Basingstoke or in Edinburgh or in Manchester, and you can start to listen to what people are saying in that particular area. Then you could start maybe interacting with those people and digging a little bit deeper and finding out a little bit more about what they’re saying and what they’re thinking. Twitter is a great research tool, and of course we never had that ten years ago.
Research was a lot harder. Now it is more accessible. You can set up a research group on using a Skype call or a Zoom call. You could send out a questionnaire if you have an email list, and ask people questions through that. You’re just looking for the insights that will give you an idea as to how you can create an offer … a solution, a product, a service … which will actually appeal to those people that you’re targeting. Then once you’ve got that, you can start to build it, write it, whatever it is, and then ultimately start communicating it.
Tim Lewis: Okay. You mentioned the dreaded word of “marketing strategy,” or two words. How would you go about forming a marketing strategy?
Roger Edwards: I think that it’s what I’ve described so far, is really a marketing strategy. On the whole, the communications element is tactical mainly. Some elements of communication could be deemed to be strategic, but that’s probably a different conversation for a different day. A marketing strategy will have a goal, and the goal will be I want to sell so many books or I want to make X amount of profit by selling so many books, or I want to become the world’s leading expert in the subject that I’m writing a book about. A lot of people don’t have goals. They don’t decide what the target is, so you have a goal.
The second part is that offer, and in order to get that offer, you need to have worked out the people you’re targeting, the segment of people you’re targeting. You need to know what their issue is, what your solution to their issue is, and why that solution is better than anybody else’s. Then if you add on top of that the tactical elements … product, how much are you going to charge for it, the promotion, the communication content, the social media, whatever you want to call it, and if you’ve got salespeople as well, you can add that into the argument … all of those things together constitute the marketing strategy.
If all you do is focus on the communications elements, which on the whole are tactical, then all you’ve got is some marketing tactics. I think that that’s the issue that we face today, is that a lot of people are diving straight into this tactical execution rather than having a goal and having an offer and articulating it, and that’s all you really need to do.
I mean, if you get an academic textbook out that tells you how to put together a marketing strategy, or if you do an MBA course in marketing or if you go to university, then you’ll start hearing things like the Four P’s of Marketing. Sometimes there’s the Seven P’s of Marketing and there’s even the Eleven P’s of Marketing now. You’ll hear about doing SWOT analysis and PEST analysis, and Boston grids and Ansoff’s matrices and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, all of these academic models that have been around for donkeys’ years. They’re actually … there’s nothing wrong with them, but it’s really complicated, and at the end of the day it all boils down to having a goal, having an offer, and then having your activity or your tactics in place.
All of those three things, in my simple mind … because I like to try and keep things simple … is a marketing strategy. Or don’t even use the “strategy” word. Just say, “I’ve got a goal, I’ve got an offer and I’ve got tactics, and that’s it. I’ve got a marketing strategy without even using the word “strategy.” If you want to get into all of that academic stuff, SWOTs and grids and P’s and T’s and all of that, fine, but have an offer, have a goal, have your tactics, and that is a marketing strategy.
Finding the right segment of your customers
Tim Lewis: Okay. What other parts of marketing do you think are most neglected in online business?
Roger Edwards: I think the insight thing often is the thing that people do neglect, or it’s that people are not specifically targeting the right number of people, the right segment of people. There’s a bit of a laugh at the moment because everybody talks about Millennials, don’t they, and it’s almost a joke within the marketing … I nearly said marketing committee, I don’t know where that came from … with the marketing community. You know, “Who’s your target market?” “Oh, Millennials.” Okay, so what you’re actually saying is your target market is an entire generation of people? That’s nonsense.
There are Millennials out there who like heavy metal, there are Millennials out there who like dubstep, there are Millennials out there who probably like country and western, probably. I don’t know, but not all Millennials are the same. Not all Generation X are the same. You’ve really got to be specific on who your customer is. If you’re a local business, it might be people between the ages of 25 and 30 who live within two miles of this post code, and that might be it, but there might be enough people within that segment to be profitable and to make you some money.
Obviously if you’re self-publishing a book, if it’s got an international tone, an international theme, then yes you could widen it out beyond the United Kingdom into other countries, but ultimately I still think you would have a target market. It might be a certain age group or it might be a certain type of business that you’re focusing on, and I think that sometimes we’re too broad within our definition of who our customer is.
An example from when I used to work in corporate, I was in so many marketing meetings where it was, “Who’s our target?” “Well, it’s anybody really, between the age of 25 and 55.” That’s just … that’s nuts. You can’t do that. I’d like to say that it’s people who live in Coronation Street. That’s our target market. You know, let’s be pinpoint accurate and pinpoint specific about who our customer is, and I think that not enough people do that.
About Roger Edwards
Tim Lewis: Okay. I think we’ve had a good discussion about this whole hidden area of marketing that many of us more amateur marketers have sort of glossed over or haven’t heard of it. How can people find out about Roger Edwards and the things that you do?
Roger Edwards: Well, I mean, as you would probably guess from all of the stuff that I’ve been spouting for the last 15, 20 minutes, I am a marketing guy from Edinburgh, and I’ve spent a lot of time helping companies put together marketing strategies, but I always veer towards the simple, Tim. That’s why I try to explain the marketing strategy in more simple terms, without getting into all of that stuff about marketing P’s and grids and Boston analysis and all that sort of thing, trying to keep it simple.
I pride myself in helping people put together marketing strategies but keeping the BS at bay, keeping the gobbledygook out, keeping the complexity out, and maybe just people who are smaller businesses who haven’t got marketing expertise but genuinely need to put a marketing strategy together for their business. That’s what I do. I help people like that.
Rogeredwards.co.uk is my website. I had the foresight … goodness knows why, I probably had a few glasses of wine … to buy rogeredwards.co.uk a long, long time ago, before I even knew what I was every going to do with it, and you can probably find me on Twitter as well. That’s probably the second-best place, @Roger_Edwards on Twitter. Either Rogeredwards.co.uk and there’s a contact form on there, or @Roger_Edwards on the Twitters.
Tim Lewis: Okay. Well, it was great to talk to you today, Roger.
Roger Edwards: Fantastic, Tim. Always a pleasure to see you, mate.
If you liked this then you might like In Marketing, Simple Is Often Better, The Secrets of Story for Business with Park Howell and They Ask, You Answer for Fiction with Marcus Sheridan