SSA #042: 10 Lessons From Our Direct Sales JourneyOct 21, 2023
Read Time: 7 Minutes
One of the things I love most about our foray into direct sales is just how humbling it is to be a beginner again.
I've learned a huge amount, granted, and now Lori's books are out of Kindle Unlimited, we are selling the eBooks and print books directly, which means we're:
– Collecting a lot more data
– Generating more orders
– Building our email list quicker
– Comfortably able to spend more on Facebook Ads
Over the previous few months, I've also been, and still am, working with a coach, because, although it was a reasonably big investment, the learning cycle is massively accelerated when you work with someone who has been where you are before.
There's also been a lot of knowledge I've learned "in theory", but it's not until I've been implementing it that things have really started to click and take off.
So, today, I'd like to share with you 10 of the biggest, potentially most important lessons I've learned from not only my coach but also from my own experience, lessons and mistakes I've made over the past few months.
Without further ado then, here are the 10 lessons...
Lesson #1: You Are Not Amazon
Yes, I believe it's important to become like Amazon, from a technical, back-end perspective, such as, but by no means limited to:
– Sending emails to new and existing customers to drive more revenue
– Offering upsells to increase how much each customer spends
– Keeping customers notified of their order
– Delivering their order as fast as possible
But we are not Amazon. We need to differentiate ourselves from Amazon.
Amazon has built up a massive, trusted (in many people's eyes) brand that has cost them billions of dollars to create.
So, the worst thing you can do is try to create a knock-off version of your Amazon book product page on your own store, with the same pricing, same blurb, same image, etc.
Be unique, be different.
You have an opportunity with direct sales to create an experience for your readers that is very different to Amazon, and can be much more personalized.
My advice... take that opportunity with both hands and run with it.
Lesson #2: Handle Objections
When readers buy books from Amazon, they know by now how the whole process works.
But when a reader comes to your store to buy a book, there are a lot of trust issues that come up, including:
– Is my payment info safe?
– Will I get the book(s) that I order?
– How long will it take for my book(s) to be delivered?
– Can I read a sample of this book before I commit and make a purchase?
– Is it possible to get a refund?
Handling all these objections on your website is going to go a long way to getting people off the fence and making a purchase.
Lesson #3: Make It Personal
Connected to Lesson #1 in a way, with direct sales, unlike Amazon, you have the opportunity to connect with every single reader on a much deeper level, primarily through email – because every person who makes a purchase needs to enter their email address.
There are of course some issues around GDPR and people opting in to receive emails from you, but in the main, you can contact your customers after their purchase and nurture a relationship with them.
Another option, if you have the time and resources, is offering a Live Chat facility on your website, in which readers can chat with you directly about your books, how the ordering process works, etc. This ties in nicely with Lesson #2, handling objections.
And many readers love to support authors directly; so can you use wording on your website and in your emails that speaks to that? Wording that thanks readers for supporting you as an author directly?
Lesson #4: The Importance of Average Order Value
When you've shopped on Amazon for books or other products, you will see that Amazon offer you a bunch of other products after you've added something to your basket (and on the product pages – how can we miss them).
This is their way of increasing how much you spend in one transaction; in other words, they are trying to increase their Average Order Value.
And you can do the same with direct sales; you could:
– Show readers which books are Frequently Bought Together
– Offer them Book 2, with a discount, if they add Book 1 to their basket
– Provide them with Free Shipping if they spend over $X (only applies to Print Books)
– Gift them a Free mug, bookmark, journal, etc, if they spend over $X
So many different ways to increase Average Order Value. Your limit is your imagination – the technology is there to support it.
Lesson #5: Deciding What To Sell
Clearly, you want to sell your books. But which books? And which formats?
And what about other products, such as mugs, bookmarks, journals, wall art, etc?
Offering too little is going to greatly limit the maximum Average Order Value you can achieve.
But offering too much is going to be overwhelming to readers.
Of course, you can, over time, let customers know about all your books (and other products), but in the beginning of a new customer discovering your store, keep things simple.
Focus on your bestselling book or series, in the most popular format, even a bundle of an entire series.
And then, over the coming weeks and months, use email to make customers aware of your other books, series' and other products, based on what they have previously bought and/or shown interest in.
Lesson #6: Your Product Page is Your Sales Page
Much of the time, just as with Amazon, with Lori's books, we are sending people from Facebook Ads to the book product page on our store.
We will be creating special landing pages for unique offers, but that's a topic for another day.
Coming back to the book product pages though... these are your sales pages.
Customers should be able to find everything they need to make a decision on whether or not to buy on this page, such as:
– Reader Reviews
– Delivery Times and Costs
– Blurb and Series Synopsis
– Book Details (e.g. page count, series title, etc.)
– Instructions for reading eBooks (if applicable)
Reduce friction and reduce the number of clicks people need to make to find the information they need to know before making a decision on whether or not to make a purchase.
Lesson #7: Getting The Email is Critical
Most people who come to your store won't buy on their first visit, but that's okay – as long as you know how to resolve it.
If you don't know how to resolve it, people will click the back button and are highly unlikely to ever visit your store again.
The solution is email...
Offer something valuable for free to readers within seconds of them landing on your store, in exchange for their email address (my coach recommends a pop-up appearing within the first 3-8 seconds of arriving at your store).
For Lori's store, we are offering the first 3 chapters of Book 1 of her series, and it's currently converting at 3% - 5%. Could be better, and it will be better, as it's something I'm working on.
Clearly, not everyone is going to sign up for this valuable freebie, but the readers who do are likely going to be receptive to receiving emails from you further down the line.
And when you have their email address, that's when you can send them a pre-written email flow, that's based on their shopping behaviour, offering them a very personalised experience.
Without capturing their email address, they're more than likely gone forever, never to return.
Lesson #8: A Reason Why Sale or Promotion
There's a copywriting tactic known as Reason Why Copywriting. And it comes down to giving people a reason to do something now. Today.
A standard, run-of-the-mill, here's 10% off, just doesn't cut it – or at least, it doesn't for long-term, engaged, loyal customers.
Sure, it works for folks who are reactionary to offers like this, but for customers who stay with you for the foreseeable future, it needs to be more than this.
One great tip my coach has given me is to create a calendar of events throughout the year in which you could offer a discount or run a sale. Here are a few ideas:
– National Science Fiction Day
– Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week
– Read an Ebook Week
– World Poetry Day
– Children’s Book Day
– Drop Everything And Read Day
– National Tell A Story Day
Give a reason for people to buy now, and they're much more likely to do so.
Lesson #9: Focus on One Traffic Source
This is something I've preached for years, and after talking with my coach about this, he agrees.
One traffic source is all you need for direct sales until you're earning $1,000,000+ per year.
My coach runs a store that, next month, with Black Friday, he's expecting to pull in $400,000. A typical month though, is about $250,000 - $300,000.
And his one, single traffic source... Facebook Ads.
Spreading your time, energy, focus and money on multiple different traffic sources and trying to get them all working super efficiently is a thankless task that, quite frankly, is going to yield unimpressive results.
Instead, focus on excelling at one traffic source, and you will be amazed at what you can achieve.
With Lori's store, we are 100% all-in on Facebook Ads. Nothing else.
Lesson #10: Building A Brand vs Selling A Few Books
If you want to be in this game for the foreseeable future and build a thriving author business, you will need to adopt a 2-year mindset, not a 2-week mindset.
Sure, you could make a few sales here and there, but nothing scales faster than building a trusted brand.
During the global pandemic back in 2020, we all saw the stores that seemingly popped up out of nowhere, selling face masks (this was particularly rampant on Facebook Ads).
Many of these stores were just people looking to make a quick buck. And sure, they all made some money; some made a LOT of money.
But how many of those stores are still thriving today?
I don't know for sure, but I'm betting less than 1% of them.
And that's because they were focused on making money now versus building a brand that will stand the test of time.
I don't want that for you.
If you're going to follow in Lori and my footsteps of direct sales, building a brand is the only way to go. It might take longer, but the potential upside is huge.
I'm still learning new lessons every single day, not only from my coach but also from the actions I'm taking on a weekly basis.
And quite honestly, once the big stuff is all set up, it's the little things that have the biggest impact.
I've made mistakes – more than I care to think about – but these are all learning experiences that I can pass on to other authors venturing into the world of direct sales.
And on that note... if you're interested in learning about direct sales, and launching your own online book store, I'll be building a direct sales course over the coming months; please join the Saturday Self-Published Author (it's free) to be kept up to date.
That's all for today.
Have a wonderful weekend.
To Your Success