A reader emailed me with a question. His name is John Paul Asava. John said:
Hi, Bett. Thank you for the informative articles. Kudos! Something that has captured my mind is your idea of writing and selling books on Instagram. I would really appreciate a few pointers on how to go about it. I am not a writer but would like to start. Probably write in topics I like: classical music, history and religion, psychology and relationships.
If there is something I have learned in this life, John, is that you must get comfortable with being a jack of all trades.
You must reinvent yourself. You must adapt as the situation calls for it. You must unlearn what you think you knew and then learn new things about what you don’t know. I had to learn how to market products.
I have never had to market anything in my life. I have sold things to people but I have almost never had to market.
Selling is different from marketing: marketing is telling a particular group of people that this particular product will solve a particular problem of theirs, selling is what happens when your marketing is effective – it’s when people put their money into your pocket so that your product can solve their problem.
Am I making sense, John?
You cannot sell anything without marketing it first, no matter how good that product is. You cannot keep selling if what you had marketed is far different from what your demographic is experiencing: problems must be solved, John, and people must be bettered after experiencing your product.
If people’s problems are solved and they are content, they will shout about your product from the rooftops. A happy customer is the best marketer.
I was forced to learn how to market when I became a self-published author in late 2021. I had invested a lot of time and money into writing my books.
I had put hundreds of thousands into printing them and now here they were sitting in a corner of our dining room staring at me – they were taunting me from their brown carton boxes and their strong whiff of industrial ink.
It was unsettling, John. Every day I would think to myself, ‘These books should be out there being read by Kenyans, they shouldn’t be in our home gathering dust and taunting me.’
So the question I asked myself is, ‘How do I sell these books?’ More broadly, ‘How does anyone sell anything? What should I do to make people put their money into my pocket?’
I haven’t cracked the marketing yet but here are two things I know for sure, John, this is what you need to sell anything to anyone. One: You need to tell a great story. Two: You need to understand where trust and familiarity is placed.
Tell a great story
One of the cocksure ways to connect with another human – to connect to their heart, on an emotional and personal level – is to tell a great story.
Everybody loves stories, John. Everybody!
The secret to effective marketing is not to tell a great story about what you’re selling. No. Tell a story about something else then cleverly sneak the product you’re selling into the story. Make it a character in the story. Incorporate it into the plot.
What happens is that someone will leave that story with a good feeling and they’ll associate that good feeling with the product being sold. Can you tell a great story, John?
The place of trust and familiarity
People buy things from people they already know and trust, John. This is important. Let me illustrate what I mean: If you see my name here in the newspaper then you walk into a bookshop and see a book on their shelves with my name on it, there’s a high chance you’ll buy it.
What’s more, people would rather buy my books from a bookshop they trust, than buy them directly from me.
Why? Because they are familiar with this bookshop and they have bought countless books there before, they trust the bookshop and its owner more than they trust me. In the same breath, people would also rather buy my books from the word of social media influencers than from my own word. It’s nuts!
I used to be offended by this at the beginning until I understood how marketing works – where the place of trust and familiarity is and how it translates into social currency, and ultimately, money in my pocket.
Ms Bett is the author of two best-selling books about money. Engage with her on the socials @craftit; [email protected]