Loyalty Rules

(excerpt from Your A Game by Damon Suede & Heidi Cullinan)

You’re offering an amazing free prize with every purchase. Your extraordinary, “uniquely familiar” projects colonize your audience’s imagination and extend the reach of your voice. You keep delivering memorable genre rides, and they’re going to spread the word for you.

Over time, your goal is to cultivate your market around the core group of readers who think of you as theirs. Once your audience has identified you as a voice that resonates and an auto-buy author, each new project develops and expands that relationship. By being loyal to them, you encourage them to return the favor.

These are the people willing to pay you money to dream for them. They pay attention to you, so do them the same courtesy. That doesn’t mean you should allow them to make demands on your work or dictate your appearances, but you should keep a clear view of their interests and activities.

With customers, retention always beats acquisition by an order of magnitude.

The statistics bear this out and then some. For US businesses, new customers cost them seven times what it does to maintain a loyal regular.[i] In a recent survey, 82% of US customers said that they stopped patronizing a business because of poor customer experience.[ii] And existing customers are four times as likely to give repeat business.[iii] In other words, keeping people on board is way more efficient than trying to reinvent the wheel every time you roll one out. All roads lead back to your brand.

Scarcity & Abundance

Once consumers had to make do with what was available and what was possible. Once each book was precious and had to be perfect. Debuts were brief, discussion time limited, winners rose by raw numbers alone. All but a few books quickly went out of print and out of our minds. No longer. Today, books are abundant, and so are opportunities. We are in competition only for the attention and time of the reader.

If we find a partnership with a publisher and end up in a bookstore, wonderful. If not, we can still be wildly successful, and never at the expense of someone else’s opportunity.

A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds. — Sir Francis Bacon

In her article “Scarcity and Abundance,” Kristine Kathryn Rusch underscores the critical distinction between scarcity and abundance mindsets.[iv] In scarcity, large audiences were important to justify selection. Projects became blockbusters or sank like a stone. In our current abundance economy, our audience can be niche because of the limitless shelf space and because production costs are staggeringly lower; the services that go into producing a book have become negotiable and accessible.

Yet many of us are reluctant to embrace this new attitude. Writers published by, or simply aware of, traditional publishing cannot stop mimicking scarcity. Publication conveyed prestige and value within the industry. Ditto bestseller lists and reviews. In the scarcity model, these are validations of public rank to make an Achiever’s heart go pitter-patter.

In an abundance model, these notches on the edge of one’s writing desk mean little or nothing at all. Readers find “shelves” everywhere now. They rarely consult lists or online charts; they go by word of mouth and a craving for a type of emotional arc. Authors can find this terrifying at first, because abundance seems like navigating an entire ocean via a leaky washtub, but only seen through scarcity goggles. Acknowledging abundance turns that model on its head.

You must do the thing you think you cannot do. — Eleanor Roosevelt

Build your readership book by book, reader by reader. You may start out in a vast ocean in a leaky washtub, but in an abundance strategy, you’ll quickly be sailing with friends who carry corks in their pocket and know how to build boats. You won’t be standing on the top of a fancy yacht, put there by people who can take you away.

You’ll build the right party boat for you and your readers. And you’ll all have a wonderful time.

[i] cf. Beyond Customer Service: Effective Programs for Retaining Your Customers by Richard Gerson and also “The Importance of Online Customer Retention.” (19 July 2013).

[ii] For more specifics see “Study: 82% Of U.S. Consumers Bail On Brands After Bad Customer Service.” by Lora Kolodny (13 October 2010).

[iii]Customer Retention vs. Acquisition.” (21 October 2013) cf. Customer Winback: How to Recapture Lost Customers—And Keep Them Loyal by Jill Griffin & Michael W. Lowenstein.

[iv] Kristine Kathryn Rusch, “The Business Rusch: Scarcity and Abundance.” (14 March 2012)

© 2016 Damon Suede & Heidi Cullinan, All Rights Reserved

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