It’s okay to blog about your company–sometimes

Tuesday, Sep. 2nd 2014

Born to BlogWhile a business blog should focus on its clients, it’s okay to write about your company sometimes. After all, your clients and prospects want to know that they can trust you. I was reminded of this when reading the “identity content” section of Born to Blog: Building Your Blog for Personal and Business Success One Post at a Time.

“Identity content should explain your company’s values and standards,” write authors Mark W. Schaefer and Stanford A. Smith. Getting concrete, they suggest that you “Use identity content to explain policies that guide your decision-making process. Identify the policies that your customers may encounter and explain the reasoning behind them.” For example, an investment manager might explain her preference for active over passive management. Or, an advisor could go into how he builds a financial plan.

The authors made me wonder if I have enough identity content on my blog. The only post that explicitly addresses my process is “How I ghostwrite your financial white paper.”

On the other hand, my many posts about writing give readers a good sense of the values that drive my writing. You, too, may find that sharing your values in your posts lessens the need to blog specifically about your corporate values.

Is this book for you?

I wanted to love this book, but I couldn’t. I had a hard time finding content that made me say, “Yes, I must do that.”

Perhaps this book is best for the person who’s thinking about starting a blog. It will help you decide whether blogging can work for you. It’ll also give you some ideas about where to start. Established bloggers will have a harder time finding value in this book.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from McGraw-Hill in return for agreeing to write about it. If you click on an Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I only link to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.

If you click on an Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I only link to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers. – See more at: http://investmentwriting.com/index.php?s=amazon#sthash.D1YjcRwr.dpuf

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Copyright 2014 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

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Ssh, don’t tell my husband: A writing tip

Tuesday, Aug. 26th 2014

I love Floyd Norris, the “Off the Charts” columnist for The New York Times. That’s what you shouldn’t tell my husband. However, if you’re an investment professional or financial advisor who writes, you should love him, too. Why? Because he writes clearly and in an engaging manner about markets and the economy.

You can find ideas in how Norris

  • Writes his ledes, those first sentences or paragraphs of your articles, blog posts, or investment commentary—I discuss this in “Snare more readers with this technique from Floyd Norris
  • Uses charts and graphs, a key component of white papers, investment commentary, and many other financial communications
  • Uses words skillfully—I discuss this in “Plain English can bring your financial topic to life
    Vary your paragraph length like NYT columnist Floyd Norris – See more at: http://investmentwriting.com/2008/08/vary-your-paragraph-length-like-nyt-columnist-floyd-norris/#sthash.bQXhEren.dpuf

For more examples of lessons I’ve learned from Norris, read:

Financial writers clinic: Lessons from Floyd Norris of The New York Times – See more at: http://investmentwriting.com/2010/03/financial-writers-clinic-lessons-from-floyd-norris-of-the-new-york-times/#sthash.OuCURNky.dpuf
Financial writers clinic: Lessons from Floyd Norris of The New York Times – See more at: http://investmentwriting.com/2010/03/financial-writers-clinic-lessons-from-floyd-norris-of-the-new-york-times/#sthash.OuCURNky.dpuf

 

 

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Copyright 2014 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

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Email subject lines: How to handle boring disclosures

Tuesday, Aug. 19th 2014

What subject line should you use when you send clients a disclosure via email? This question came up came up when I spoke to the Financial email tipsPlanning Association of Massachusetts in 2013.

The problem: Losing your clients’ attention

You send some emails because you need to move clients to action. Others, such as disclosures required by regulators, are less compelling.Choose your subject lines carefully, if you don’t want these emails to discourage your clients from reading your emails.

Here’s a list of disclosures that advisors told me might be sent via email:

  • Client agreement
  • Fee disclosure
  • Form ADV, Part 2
  • ERISA-related disclosure, such as a Rule 408(b)(2) disclosure
  • Privacy policy

Sure, it’s important for clients to understand the legal nature of your relationship. However, most of them won’t read boilerplate disclosures. Even worse, when they receive one boring email from you, they become less likely to open your future emails.

Solutions: Label clearly or bundle

The worst thing you can do is to send the disclosure with a vague or misleading subject line—something like “update from XYZ Advisors.”

Instead, label the email clearly, making it easy for your clients to decide whether to open it. You could write something like “annual disclosure of _____,” dropping the key topic in my blank.

Another possibility is to avoid sending the disclosure as a standalone email, assuming that’s okay with your compliance experts. For example, you could include the disclosure with your quarterly client email or monthly client e-newsletter.

YOUR solution?

I’m curious to learn how you handle this challenge. Please comment.

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Posted by Susan Weiner, CFA | in email | 2 Comments »

Blogging question: Can my researcher do interviews?

Tuesday, Aug. 12th 2014

My blog readers sometimes ask questions that could help you. For example,  a reader asked me about having an assistant help her with research for blog tipsa blog post.

Can my assistant interview people for my blog posts?

Here’s what my reader asked. I’ve removed information that might identify the questioner.

I’d love your opinion on something. I have a gal helping me with my blog. She will be giving me an outline of points for an article about what they are looking for in a specific service. Then I will complete the writing. My question: Will I be shooting myself in the foot if I ask her to do one or two phone interviews with these folks? Any idea what the etiquette is here? Will they be wanting to hear from me directly if I don’t know them?

My answer: It depends.

Here’s what I said:

It depends how you position her interviews. If you position her as a good researcher who’ll ensure their thoughts are conveyed accurately, that could work.

Actually, I think they may be more concerned about the following issues:

  • How will your blog post benefit them? What are your monthly unique visit statistics or other metrics that reflect your influence? Will you provide links to their websites so they get a little link love? Will your post help them because they can use it to educate people who contact them?
  • Will you give them the opportunity to check that their thoughts are communicated accurately? While journalists don’t do this, it’s not unusual for bloggers to do this.

 Your opinion?

Have you ever had an assistant interview a source for your blog? How did you handle it? Did it work for you?

 

 

 

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Tech tips for your educational webinar–Learn from my experience

Tuesday, Aug. 5th 2014

Webinars can be a great way to educate clients and prospects. However, managing the technology can be a big hassle. I experienced that stress when I hosted a webinar, “How to Write Investment Commentary People Will Read,” in June 2014. I’m sharing what I learned so you don’t have to struggle as much as I did.

Step 1. Pick your technology

Providers vary in terms of costs and offerings. My virtual assistant researched a bunch of companies for me, but I found the list overwhelming. I started with a provider where I was grandfathered into a free plan. I later switched to another provider, GoToWebinar, for reasons I’ll describe below. Along the way, I decided that the following characteristics were important.

General characteristics

  • Good reviews/fan base
  • Reasonable price
  • Stability of the webinar so that participants would have a good experience

For webinar presenters and participants

  • Ability to dial in or use computer headset
  • Easy to use
  • Good technical support in addition to good documentation
  • Usable on a mobile device (participants only)

For host (the organizer of the webinar)

  • The ability to host at least 50 people with ability to upgrade at the last minute if necessary
  • No long-term commitment
  • Registration to collect the names and emails of participants

For presenters, the ability to:

  • Have two or three people with full access to speak and see all of the following that Q&A and/or chat boxes in addition to the slides, although, only one person would control the slides, even when the other is speaking
  • Share just a portion of the computer screen
  • Reduce echo on the call
  • Record and share as an .mp4 file without the need for conversion

Nice to have

  • Polling
  • Ability to mute phone lines of individual participants

You can customize my list of specific requirements to your needs. My list grew out of my frustration with my original provider. I’d taken a five-week class with a teacher who used the original provider successfully. The experience was painless from my perspective as a student. That experience, plus the fact that I didn’t need to pay for the product, was appealing.

Step 2. Practice to uncover problems

I started practicing on my original provider almost two months before the date of my webinar. I gave up after about four weeks. The product had many attractive features. Ultimately what drove me away was limited documentation and the lack of timely customer support. The firm offered support via email. Customer support was good about replying within 24 hours or less. However, I realized I couldn’t provide a professional experience to my participants without better support for myself and for any participants who might experience problems logging in. I shifted to GoToWebinar in early June. I also felt good about GoToWebinar because it’s a product of Citrix, which would be reassuring to my viewers working for conservative financial firms.

What kind of practice sessions do I recommend? I presented, sent invitations and logged in as a participant from another computer who sent questions electronically to the presenter, and recorded and downloaded the recorded files. I also experimented with having two people logged in as presenters because I knew that would be part of my presentation strategy.

After I switched to GoToWebinar, I started practicing all over again. There were fewer similarities than I expected between my original provider and GoToWebinar.

Step 3. Work with customer support

GoToWebinar’s documentation is much more robust than that of my original provider. Also, its live training webinar was helpful. However, I often couldn’t find an answer to questions that I typed in plain English into the product’s “Find an Answer” page.

I developed a two-pronged approach to overcoming challenges on GoToWebinar that I couldn’t answer with an online search. This strategy may work for you with your provider.

  1. Send the question via their online contact form. I quickly learned to ask them to copy-paste my original question into their replies. Otherwise, important details were lost.
  2. Use the phone for things that flummoxed me. I tried to rely on email, but the phone calls saved my sanity, as I describe below.

Step 4. Check how long it takes your screen to display on your participants’ screens and get help if it’s too long

I had a meltdown the day I realized there was sometimes a significant delay between when the slides appeared on my screen and when they appeared on the viewers’ screens. Thirty to 40 seconds may not sound like much. However, in a slide-heavy presentation it feels like an eternity. I got on the phone with customer support at Citrix, which is the company behind GoToWebinar. They explored various reasons for the lag. Was my software outdated? Was slide animation or the load on my computer slowing things down. Eventually, they ran a special “wizard” to optimize my connection to GoToWebinar by routing me through a specific port—or something like that. They also ran diagnostics. One of these phone calls, which was combined with customer support accessing my computer remotely, ran three hours—yes, three hours—long.

GoToWebinar customer support’s research suggested that my connection problems were due to Verizon, my Internet provider. This is where the story falls into a “he said, she said” scenario. GoToWebinar said that Verizon should route me differently. They pointed me to websites on two different days showing problems with Verizon’s connections: http://internetpulse.net/ and http://downdetector.com/status/verizon-communications.

Verizon said “the Internet” was to blame.Verizon Help discusses 4th hop Once my signal —or whatever you call it—gets more than four hops away from my computer, it’s beyond Verizon’s control, according to their Twitter help folks. By the way, my actual connection speed was great when it worked. Both Verizon and GoToWebinar tested it.

The bottom line? I was on my own, aside from GoToWebinar’s fine-tuning my connection.

Caution: All customer support reps are not created equal. When you deal with customer support, be aware that there a different levels of experience and expertise. One of my first reps re-booted my computer without asking my permission first. Yikes! However, he got me promoted to dealing with Level 2 support, which means more experienced reps. However, even those Level 2 reps didn’t always agree on strategy. Sometimes they took steps that undid progress I’d made earlier. For example, one rep reinstalled software without telling me that reinstallation would undo my optimized connection and some other customizations I’d made. I’m not a technical person, so I didn’t know to ask about things like that.

On balance, however, I was happy with the technical support staff. They were patient, friendly, and helpful. On the day of my webinar, the rep who helped me with my connection problems gave me her direct email address. That proved helpful when the software booted me out—and wouldn’t let me back into—GoToWebinar after I logged in for my live presentation to the folks who were paying to attend my webinar. She called me right away and got me reconnected. Luckily, I’m a cautious person, so I was logging in more than an hour prior to the webinar.

Step 5. Don’t go it alone on your “live” webinar presentation

All of the whiz-bang technology can be a bit overwhelming when you’re presenting your webinar—especially if you or your attendees have technical problems or you don’t enjoy multi-tasking. I’ve watched webinars where presenters struggled. That’s why I enlisted two assistants.  Lorena was my “producer.” She responded to attendees’ technical questions, told participants how to use the features of GoToWebinar in a brief introduction at the beginning of my live presentation, and loaded the poll questions at the right spots in my presentation. (By the way, Lorena may be available to help you with your webinars for an hourly fee.) Jen, a skilled presenter who’s knowledgeable about my webinar topic, was my facilitator. She introduced me and facilitated questions. The flow of questions into a webinar’s question box can overwhelm presenters who lack help, as I’ve noticed many times.

I rehearsed with Jen and Lorena prior to the live presentation. That helped us uncover some potential sticking points.

Having two helpers was great for my peace of mind. It also helped the flow of the webinar.

Step 6. Advise your attendees to make the most of their technology

Your best efforts at delivering a great webinar experience can fail if your attendees’ technology fails to cooperate. A viewer on an overloaded computer or a sluggish Internet experience will suffer. Ask them to test their technology in advance. Although they’re unlikely to take the time to run tests, you’ll benefit if they do. I like that GoToWebinar provides a link for attendees to test their technology in advance. Also, suggest to your viewers that they use a hardwired Internet connection and close open applications on their computers that they’re not using.

Step 7. Have a strategy for dealing with problems

My biggest concern was that the Internet would cause my slides to update very slowly on my viewers’ screens. That’s why I added Step 6 to my process.

I also

  • Provided a handout viewers could download to follow along. I sent this link ahead of time. I also asked my producer to urge them to print the handout while they’re waiting for the call to start. A clickable link to the handout appeared at the start of the webinar.
  • Gave my producer something to say to people who experienced lag time: “We’re so sorry. It’s an Internet connection problem that’s beyond our control. Can you follow along using the handout at…?”
  • Planned to advance my slides sooner rather than later.

I thought about asking my producer to say at the beginning, “Slides may sometimes be slow to appear on your computer screen for reasons beyond Susan’s control. She appreciates your understanding.” However, Lorena talked me out of that, saying that I should make people expect a bad experience. I got lucky. There were no major technical mishaps.

Step 8. Accept that your presentation will not be perfect

If you don’t use webinar technology regularly, things may go wrong. I had some small glitches in my live presentation. I hope my attendees were able to overlook them. Meanwhile, I’m sharing the lessons of my webinar experience so you and I may make fewer mistakes in future presentations.

Will I run another webinar?

“Never again” is what I said as I closed down my webinar session. However, I might reconsider. I think a presentation with fewer slides, making slide lag time less important, would be less stressful.

Would I use GoToWebinar again? Probably not. Their customer support was helpful. But two things bothered me.

First, there’s no easy way to convert the GoToWebinar’s video recordings to the popular mp4 format. I wanted the mp4 format to make viewing easy for Mac users as well as PC users.I tried a bunch of free conversion programs, but all of them had problems. It seemed as if long recordings were particularly difficult to convert with successful syncing of slides and sound.

Second, I was disturbed by my GoToWebinar control panel appearing momentarily onscreen in the recording of my live webinar. When I asked what went wrong, they eventually gave me a disappointing response: “The development team has determined what caused the control panel to appear during the presentation/recording and this will be resolved in GoToMeeting 6.4. The estimated release of GoToMeeting 6.4 is around the end of Q3.” Yikes!

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Copyright 2014 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

This content may not be reposted without the author’s written permission.

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Ask your reader’s questions, says Donald Murray

Tuesday, Jul. 29th 2014

When you write, ask the questions your readers want answered, as journalist Donald M. Murray suggests in Writing to Deadline: The Journalist at Work.Writing to Deadline by Donald Murray

Murray found that the most important questions

…were not the questions I wanted to ask or even the questions my editor told me to ask. They were the questions that the reader would ask and if I did not answer them the reader would be unsatisfied.

For example, let’s assume you’re writing about education savings accounts. As a financial professional, you may be fascinated by the gritty details of each account time, the exceptions to the account rules, or how the accounts can help you with a specific client in an unusual situation.

Your questions will differ from those of your readers. They may ask the following questions:

  • What are the “big picture” differences between account types?
  • Which account is right for me and my family?
  • Are there any pitfalls I should understand?
  • How do I start an account?

Murray suggests that writers should seek to identify five key questions from the reader’s perspective. Sometimes, he admits, you’ll end up with fewer or provide the information that your that your reader seeks. The main thing is to provide information that your reader seeks.

Murray also says that “When I come to write the story, I order the questions in the sequence I think the reader will ask them.” This is a good tip for you, too.

As I emphasize in Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients, it’s important to understand the perspective of your target audience. When you address their concerns, you’ll deepen your connection with them.

Disclosure: If you click on the Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I only link to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.

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Copyright 2014 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

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Top posts from second quarter 2014

Thursday, Jul. 24th 2014

Did you miss something? Below you’ll find a list of my most popular blog posts from last quarter, as measured by Google Analytics.

Posts with a personal story often do well, as with my #1 post about my bad experience with LinkedIn, and my #10 confessions post. I noticed that my e-newsletter with the “Ouch, LinkedIn” subject line also pulled more readers than usual. Some titles and subject lines are more powerful than others.

The #2 post surprised me. I didn’t think this post would do as well as it did. I think the practicality of the “20 topics for your financial blog” appealed to many.

Posts featuring outside experts did well. They’re highlighted with red text below.

  1. Ouch, LinkedIn, why did you do that to me?
  2. 20 topics for your financial blog
  3. Top problems in asset management firms’ blog posts
  4. Blogging Q&A with advisor Lazetta Rainey Braxton
  5. Blogging Q&A with advisor Richard Rosso
  6. How to live-tweet a financial conference
  7. Three Decisions You Need to Make Before Setting Up Your New Blog <–Guest post by Elizabeth Kricfalusi
  8. Key Steps in Writing a Research Report <–Guest post by Tom Brakke
  9. Simple language helps your readers, even when they understand technical terms
  10. Confessions of a lousy writer—and 6 tips for you

 

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Copyright 2014 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

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Tweet your quarterly investment commentary for more impact

Tuesday, Jul. 22nd 2014

“Second Quarter Market Update”—I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this boring status update in my Twitter streams or on LinkedIn, man yawningFacebook, or Google+. You can attract more views, and get more people to click your links when you strengthen the status updates you share via social media. I have some tips for you.

1. Highlight your opinions, not the date

Everybody knows what quarter has just ended, but they don’t know your opinions about what drove the period’s returns or how you view the stock and bond markets’ future. This is why you should highlight your opinions with subject lines such as “3 reasons why stocks will continue to rise [LINK TO YOUR COMMENTARY].”

By the way, use a link shortener, such as bitly or the link shorteners in HootSuite, to make the best use of the limited character count available to you in status updates, especially Twitter.

2. Pose questions

People are curious. Take advantage of that by asking questions in your status updates. For example, “Which sectors are positioned to outperform for 2014? Read our views: [LINK TO YOUR COMMENTARY].”

3. Use images

Images increasingly drive social media engagement, even on Twitter. A powerful image will boost views and clicks. This may mean including two links in your tweets—one to the image and another to your commentary.

By the way, your logo or headshot photo doesn’t count as a compelling image. A graph or photo could work.

4. Link directly to your commentary

Many investment management firms force their social media readers to click twice to reach their commentary which lives on their websites as prettily formatted PDF documents. However, every time you ask readers to click, you risk losing them.

To avoid this risk, put your commentary—or at least a big chunk of the opening text on an ordinary web page.

5. Tweet more than once

Don’t expect one tweet to reach all of your target readers. Share your quarterly commentary more than once. Mix up your status updates, perhaps highlighting a key finding in one, but asking a question in another.

Your tips?

I’m curious to learn what works for you in getting readers from your social media status updates. Please join the conversation.

Image courtesy of artur84 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Copyright 2014 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

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How to capitalize financial acronyms

Tuesday, Jul. 15th 2014

Is it “LIBOR” or “Libor”? I’m startled by seeing the acronym for the London Interbank Offered Rate spelled with only the initial letter capitalized. I LIBOR vs. Liborbelieve that every letter of an acronym should be capitalized to communicate that the word is an acronym, a form of abbreviation created from initial letters or syllables of a term such as the London Interbank Offered Rate.

Garner’s Modern American Usage agrees that using all capitals is common in American English, but the British tend to capitalize only the first letter. Perhaps the U.K. is the origin of this practice spreading to the U.S. According to Amy Einsohn’s A Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications, many newspapers now use “Initial cap only for acronyms five letters or longer that are pronounced as words.” For example, “Nafta” or “Erisa.”

I don’t like the trend to mix the upper and lower cases in acronyms, turning LIBOR into Libor. Spelling an acronym using only upper-case letters gently reminds the reader that the term is an acronym. This is helpful, in my opinion.

To define and use parentheses or not?

Acronyms are often spelled out when first used in a document. For example, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). However, Einsohn says, “In documents addressed to scientists, technical experts, and other professional experts, acronyms that are standard in the field may usually be used without any introduction.”

In the case of LIBOR, the spelled-out term doesn’t mean much to readers. It’s useful to describe how LIBOR is used, for example, as a benchmark for short-term interest rates.

How do YOU spell and introduce LIBOR? Please join the conversation.

 

Disclosure: If you click on the Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I only link to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.

______________________________________________________________________

Learn to write better! Hire Susan to critique your writing or buy Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients.

 
Copyright 2014 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

This content may not be reposted without the author’s written permission.

Posted by Susan Weiner, CFA | in writing | 4 Comments »

How to market your self-published book: Lessons from my experience

Tuesday, Jul. 8th 2014

Your self-published book won’t sell itself. In my opinion, writing and publishing your book is only half the battle. It’s equally important to inform book cover: Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clientspeople about your book and its benefits for them. I used nine techniques to promote my book, Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients.

1. Plan ahead

I started planning my book’s marketing campaign when I thought my book’s publication was a few months in the future. In fact, due to glitches, my book was published more than a year later. The extra time helped me to prepare better, although I probably could have limped through my book launch with a shorter preparatory period.

One of the best things I did for my book marketing was signing up for my friend Sandy Beckwith’s book PR class, “Book Marketing 101 for Self Published Authors” class. Sandy also offers a class for authors who go with a traditional publisher. She also offers a self-paced, non-interactive version of her class instead of the more demanding, interactive version. I opted for the demanding version with homework assignments because I wanted the discipline of deadlines and the benefit of feedback on my assignments from Sandy and my fellow students.

Sandy’s class yielded the following written pieces:

  • Analysis of my book’s audience
  • Press release announcing my book’s publication
  • Press release in the form of a tip sheet
  • List of potential hosts and topics for a virtual book tour
  • Action plan for PR

By the end of the class, I had a roadmap for marketing my book.

By the way, if you prefer books or newsletters to classes, check out Sandy’s Build Book Buzz Publicity Forms & Templates and her free Build Book Buzz e-newsletter.

2. Solicit and highlight recommendations

Testimonials help to sell books. People are more likely to buy books recommended by people whom they trust. As soon as I had a close-to-final version of my text, I asked people for feedback on my manuscript. I also requested testimonials for use in my marketing, but only if they felt comfortable endorsing the book. I was delighted by the generosity of the responses I received.

Testimonials don’t help if no one reads them. By my publication date, I’d shared them in the following places:

  • Inside my book, where a page of testimonials follows my title page
  • On the book’s cover and back page
  • On a book testimonials page on my website
  • In promotional emails

3. Use email

I relied heavily on my e-newsletters to publicize my book. After all, the folks who volunteered to receive emails from me were likely to make up a high percentage of my book’s first buyers.

Here are some of the steps I’ve taken since starting my book:

  • Mentioning my forthcoming book in my monthly e-newsletter and Weekly Tips
  • Creating a new newsletter list for people who wanted to be notified once my book was published
  • Sending a special book publication announcement, including a limited-time discount code for $15 off the price of the PDF or paperback versions of my book.
  • Mentioning news about my book in the body of my newsletter
  • Including book testimonials and purchase links at the bottom of my newsletter

These steps built awareness and drove sales of my book.

Another email-related tip: Include a link to your book in your email signature.Here’s what mine looks like:

Susan's signature with book link

 

4. Create your virtual book tour

Unlike a traditional book tour, where the author must trudge from one bricksandmortar bookstore to the next, a virtual book tour happens on the Internet, as the author makes guest appearance on different blogs to introduce your book to new audiences. If you make multiple appearances in a short period of time, it can create momentum for your book.

Here are the main steps for running your virtual book tour.

    1. Identify blogs read by members of your target audience. Find contact information and any guest post submission guidelines  provided by the blogger. Make notes about why you like each blog and what guest post topics might be appropriate. You’ll use this information when you contact the blogger. By the way, you should also mention on social media that you’re seeking hosts. I found a couple of good blogs that way.
    2. Write guests posts in advance. If you’re like me and can’t face spewing out a lot of blog posts at the last minute, then start stockpiling your guest posts in advance. This took pressure off me during my hectic book launch. I think my hosts appreciated that I proposed specific topics instead of burdening them with idea generation. Also, advance production allowed me to have most of my virtual book tour’s guest posts professionally proofread. I didn’t want embarrassing typos to mar my tour.
    3. Contact blogs about your virtual book tour. One to two months prior to my tour, I emailed my potential hosts. I explained the concept of a “virtual book tour” and suggested a guest post topic or blog post “reprint” for them. To entice them, I also mentioned that I’d publicize my guest appearances via my website and social media. In addition, I told them I’d  like them to include an image of my book cover, along with a bio containing a link to my book’s sales page.
    4. Give your hosts what they need. After a host says, “yes,” ask them what they need from you and by what date. I created a standard email reminding them of our target publication date–—I was trying to visit one blog/day for one month-—  along with a Microsoft Word file of my guest post with bio, book cover image, and my headshot photo, in case they could use that in addition to my book cover. I was surprised by how many of my hosts said I could send materials as little as a couple days ahead of the publication date. I tried to send the materials at least one week in advance, in case of problems.
    5. Publicize your guest posts. To maximize the reach of your book tour, share links to your guest posts via social media and other methods. If you tweet them it’s courteous to include your host’s Twitter name to improve their exposure. The same goes for other forms of social media that allow you to create clickable links to names. I also posted links to my virtual book tour on a virtual book tour page on my website, my blog, and in my e-newsletters.

5. Write and distribute press releases

I wrote two releases-—one was a standard “A new book is available” release, and the other was a tip sheet, “Top Tips for Creating Financial Blogs That Attract Clients.” I sent the first release to a select list of reporters, in addition to distributing it via PRWeb. I can’t attribute any positive results to these two releases. However, writing them helped me to clarify my thoughts about how to better discuss my book in other places. I imagine that I’d have achieved better results if I’d worked with a PR professional on distributing the releases and developing pitches for reporters. In fact, many months later, I’ve been much more successful in approaching reporters individually, with pitches tailored to them.

6. Use social media

Use all of your social media channels to inform people about your book, but don’t let your book overwhelm your social media updates. Following my book’s publication, I focused on letting people know about my limited-time $15 discount and linking to my virtual book tour posts, which demonstrated my ability to deliver content that helps financial professionals. I also continued to share other people’s content that I found interesting. I used HootSuite to schedule many of my promotional status updates. This helped me to space out my promotional content so it didn’t overwhelm.

7. Use your purchase confirmation emails

Your marketing shouldn’t end once you make your sale, especially not if you can send messages to your book buyers. While I can’t access the buyers of my paperback, the buyers of the PDF version receive an auto-generated confirmation email that I customized. I included click-to-tweet messages to share their purchases with their social media network. I’m also capturing emails for a book buyers email list that I’ll use rarely. So far, I’ve used it for one message that tells buyers about bonus content and asks them to review the book on Amazon and LinkedIn if they enjoyed it. (Alas, LinkedIn later eliminated the page where I collected book testimonials, as I described in this post about LinkedIn.)

8. Tap the power of Amazon

Don’t underestimate the power of Amazon, as I did initially. I’d thought that most of my book sales would come from people who already knew me and who’d click to buy the PDF version of my book through E-junkie or the paperback version through my CreateSpace store. In fact, people quickly discovered me via Amazon. My book received its first review in a print publication thanks to an editor who searched on “blogging” on Amazon. Once my book’s introductory discount code expired, sales started shifting to Amazon.

An Amazon listing and reviews on Amazon carry clout. Justified or not, a book seems more legitimate when it’s listed on Amazon. Buyer reviews may make the difference between an individual’s browsing or buying.

Here’s what I suggest to take advantage of Amazon’s potential.

Here are the steps you can take to exploit Amazon.

  1.  Sell your book through Amazon. Luckily for me, the paperback version of my book was automatically made available through Amazon because I published it through CreateSpace, an Amazon company. Amazon provides instructions on how to sell your printed book through its website. It also offers instructions for Kindle e-books. Unfortunately, Amazon won’t sell books published in the PDF format.
  2. Inform readers how they can post reviews. It’s tacky—and a violation of your agreement with Amazon—to solicit phony positive reviews. However, you should let your fans know that they can post reviews on Amazon, even if they didn’t buy your book there. I believe the only requirement is that the reviewer be logged into an Amazon account from which they’ve made a purchase within a certain amount of time—I believe it’s 90 days.
  3. Set up your Amazon Author Page. Amazon offers you an Author Page, where you can provide information about yourself and publications that you’ve made available through Amazon. In most cases, this is information that you can enter at the time of publication. One exception: Amazon lets you load short excerpts from other people’s reviews of your book. As your book adds reviews, it’s worthwhile to expand this section until it is maxed out. To keep your page from becoming static, take advantage of the ability to send your blog posts and tweets to your page.

If someone contacts me with a positive comment after reading my book, I’ll ask that person to leave a review from Amazon. Aside from that, I don’t ask specific people for reviews.

9. Solicit book reviewsor other coverage

Book reviews sell books. I’ve noticed little spikes in my sales around the dates of book reviews, especially when Janet Mangano reviewed my book on the CFA Institute’s Enterprising Investor blog.

Your best bet is to target publications and websites that regularly run book reviews. They’ll be the easiest to interest in your book. I’ve used a twist on offering my book for review. I’ve asked, “Would you like to review my book or write about some of the tips in my book?” This broadens the range of publications that may highlight your book. You can also offer to let the publication run an excerpt from your book.

Try something that I’ve skipped

I haven’t used every means possible to promote my book. I’ve listed some of these methods below.

  • Book launch party or book signing–—try this if you have the budget and the means to gather a good group. I’ve also seen people run paid events with two prices, one for the event only and the other for the event plus the book.
  • Paid advertisementsI’ve heard of authors who’ve had some success using targeted Facebook ads. There are many options for you to consider.
  • Affiliate sales–—with affiliate sales, you pay a prearranged percentage of your sales price to the person whose affiliate link was the source of your sale. I’ve considered using this technique because E-junkie offers the capability to track such transactions. However, I done much with it yet. A twist on this technique is to sell through online marketplaces other than Amazon. Of course, they’ll also expect to receive a percentage of your sales as compensation.
  • Giveaways or contests—I’ve stayed away from these because I think they’re more trouble than they’re worth unless you run your giveaway or contest through a website that’s heavily trafficked by members of your target audience. It’s embarrassing to see a contest or giveaway with only a few people vying for the prize.
  • Events related to your book—-podcasts, radio shows, talks, webinars and the like are all potentially powerful promotional techniques. People are more likely to buy once they’ve sampled your wares. At events unrelated to my book, I bring my book postcard to use instead of my business card. It’s a conversation starter.

Other techniques suggested by expertsthere are scads of book promotion experts who can give you ideas. I’ve already mentioned Sandy Beckwith. D’vorah Lansky of Book Marketing Made Easy is another whom I like.

Start planning now!

If you have a book in production, it’s not too soon to start planning your marketing campaign. Get started now!

Disclosure: If you click on the links to Sandy Beckwith’s products in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I only link to classes and books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.

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Posted by Susan Weiner, CFA | in marketing | 6 Comments »