Why word-of-mouth marketing is priceless

word of mouth marketingI was at a friend’s book launch the other day. Over cocktails and canapés, I found myself talking to the marketing director of a publishing house. How much of a role, I asked her, does marketing play in the success a book? Can it make a book? “Putting £100k behind a bad book won’t make it a hit,” she said. “Marketing is most effective when it’s behind a good book that’s creating a buzz among readers.” And getting people talking about a book is the key to success. But sometimes, it happens in unusual ways.

From borrowers to buyers

Reading groups in libraries are a big focus for publishers these days. You might think, as I did, that this doesn’t make sense. After all, readers borrow the books, and that means no sales. Not so. People in library reading groups are big influencers: they constantly recommend books to friends. One of the UK’s biggest publishers, she told me, now has a team focusing exclusively on library reading groups. It’s a vital part of their marketing strategy. It’s easy to see why word of mouth is so powerful. We use it every day in our own lives. If my neighbour knows a good carpenter, and is happy with his work, then I’m happy to use him. Similarly, if I know a good accountant, I’m just waiting to tell somebody.

Get the talkers talking

The key thing is to market to the people who tell other people. That’s why the Richard and Judy book club is so successful, the marketing director told me.  The cuddly couple are the UK’s answer to Oprah, and are hugely influential in the UK publishing market. Their relaxed, conversational style makes them everybody’s friend, and what they recommend, the public reads. In fact, the ‘Richard and Judy effect’ can increase a book’s sales by 3,000%. So the message is simple: get the talkers talking, and you’ll create a buzz you can’t get any other way. Meanwhile, back at the book launch, I was regaling the marketing director with the details of the one book I thought I had inside me. “I just need a refill,” she said, waggling her empty wine glass. “I’ll be right back.” And she disappeared into a sea of people, never to re-emerge. Find out more: You’ve got to read: