July 19, 2007
Case Study

How to Get Tons of Publicity on a Tiny Budget

SUMMARY: If you need to promote a product or service and you’re on a limited budget, then our latest Case Study is right up your alley. (Small publishing houses and budding authors take special note.)

Find out how a writer started a newsletter to publicize her series of financial planning books and then took a personalized approach to entice bloggers dedicated to the same topic to write reviews and link back to her site. Includes how to measure ROI from each of those mentions.
Author and financial expert Janine Bolon admits she knew nothing about Internet marketing when she started writing books in 2005. Instead, she stuck with traditional publicity tactics, such as interviews on television and radio and personal appearances.

As Bolon’s book count grew to four and she added recorded audio seminars and other products, the demands of her writing and training career began to conflict with her duties as a mother and PhD student. “I needed to build a relationship quickly with a client base.”

Her answer: Internet marketing. But because of those time constraints, even online tactics had to pull double or triple duty by promoting her financial education brand, not just a single product.

Rather than specific campaigns for each of her books and other products, Bolon developed an approach that provided publicity for different book titles, but also established links in the blogosphere that brought readers to her homepage, where they could see the range of products available. Here are the five steps she took:

-> Strategy #1. Revamp homepage

Bolon’s first homepage looked homemade (because it was) and was light on in-depth content that would help potential customers learn about her financial management techniques.

So she created a new site that offered lots of free content, including:
o A blog
o Links to relevant financial sites
o FAQs about her techniques
o Testimonials

Bolon also created two URLs, which were directed to the same page:
o SmartCentsInc.com, the name of her company
o MakingMiddleClassMillionaries.com, which is more descriptive of her services and goals

-> Strategy #2. Start email newsletter

Bolon wanted to reach out to existing customers and prospects, so she created a biweekly email newsletter, My 2 Cents. She chose to write longer articles (up to 500 words) because she knew most of her audience or prospects were potential readers.

But she aimed the content of the two articles in each issue to her two reader types:
o Those in debt who needed to get out
o Those who didn’t have debt trouble but wanted to be frugal or build wealth

She added a signup form to her homepage and invited attendees at seminars and speaking engagements to join her mailing list.

-> Step #3. Solicit reviews from financial bloggers

To promote her books and drive traffic to her new Web site, Bolon sought out bloggers dedicated to the same subjects -- personal finance, debt reduction, frugal living, etc. Her goal was to get them to review one of her books and describe her financial planning methods.

First, Bolon emailed all her newsletter subscribers and offered a free book of their choice to anyone who had a blog that had been running for at least a year and was willing to write a review.

Next, she searched the Internet and found a financial site that listed the top 100 personal finance blogs. She took a personalized approach to reach out to those bloggers:
- After spending time reading articles on a blog, she emailed the author, commenting on a few specific items she read and what she thought of them.
- The email then described similarities in her financial approach and philosophy and pointed out how her books, newsletter and other products could be of service to the blogger’s audience.
- She offered a free book in exchange for a review on the blog.

-> Step #4. Set up Google Alerts to track mentions/reviews

To keep track of the exposure her books received online, Bolon set up Google Alerts for keywords, such as her name, “debt” and “personal finance.” Each day, the system automatically packaged new mentions into an email alert.

When she saw a new blog post or Web site mentioning her name, posting a book review or link to her site, Bolon tracked sales and newsletter subscriptions for the next seven days to see what impact the mention had.

-> Step #5. Send handwritten note thanking reviewers

Bolon mailed a handwritten thank-you note to each blogger who reviewed a book. Her goal was to build a network of like-minded bloggers and Web sites that could be useful to her or her readers in the future. “I don’t see bloggers as a one-time shot. I want to build a rapport with them.”
Bolon’s personalized outreach to bloggers is building strong connections. 95% of the bloggers contacted from the top 100 list wrote a review of one of her books. “It’s been tremendously beneficial. A lot of the bloggers tell me, ‘This is the first time an author has emailed me. It’s usually an agent or a publisher.’ ”

That publicity is paying off, too. Book sales always rise during the week after a new review, with the total increase varying by the reach of each blog. For example, a review on a popular personal finance blog with a readership of 20,000 delivered five times Bolon’s typical weekly sales.

Because Bolon allows bloggers to choose which of her four books to review, she gets publicity for all her titles, not just her newest book. Surprisingly, though, sales of her 5-CD audio set are getting the biggest boost. In the six months since she began receiving blog reviews, CD sales are up 40%.

It wasn’t a result she expected, since the reviews focus on her books, not the CD set. But she thinks the trend illustrates an important characteristic of the blog audience. “Most of their reading time is done on Web sites and blogs. When they leave their computer, they don’t want to read a book, they want to listen to something on their iPod.”

Sending handwritten notes is a practice for which Bolon has long-term goals, expecting that bloggers will remember her months down the road when they’re looking for more subjects to write about or an expert to interview or to answer questions for readers about financial coaches. But she is already seeing hints of the promotional benefits of her personal approach: a few of the book reviews have already led to additional podcast interviews.

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from SmartCents Inc.:

Author Marketing Experts - a book marketing agency Bolon consulted to help develop publicity strategies:

SmartCents Inc.:

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