Conversation Triggers – The Secret Ingredient of a Rock Star Marketing Strategy

This blog post was inspired from a case study in Emanuel Rosen’s book – Buzz.

First, a Little Story about How the Pros Do It

A few years ago Clairol Herbal Essences -the hair color brand – wanted to come up with an innovative way to get people to talk about its product. What the marketing research team learned is that customers of the products, who were mostly young girls, wanted feedback from their friends before they went in for a particular look.

The result was a book with a hole in the center into which you’d put your hair so as to find a match with the colors on the color wheel. The inside of the book showed how your hair would look when a particular dye was used. You could then ask your friends what they thought of the possible colors that you’d short listed for yourself.

The campaign was a monster hit with over 82% of participants sharing the materials with 5 or more members of their social network.

Why did this campaign succeed in creating conversations?

Primarily because it created a conversation trigger aka something interesting to talk about the product.

The Takeaway for Authors Promoting Their Books

Your book cover and the back cover is the message that goes from you, the author, to your readers. However, readers tend to have their own conversations that are triggered by the content in your book.

So after you’ve figured out where your readers hang-out, you need to create conversation triggers around your book. To do this you should:

1. Understand that the message you communicate in your book’s marketing materials (Facebook, Amazon, Book Cover, Book Trailer) may not be the same as the conversation that your readers will be having.

2. Spend time listening to what your readers are talking about. Which other books are they talking about? What television shows do they watch? What are the movies that they are catching up on? Which is their favorite drink? What about their favorite brand of ice cream? Which iPhone game are they playing at the moment? This requires time and a significant amount of research.  The idea is to figure out a current conversation topic that is relevant to your readers and to link it  to conversation topics that are related to your book.

3. Make a list of conversation triggers related to your book. What are the talking points in your book? Is there something particularly scandalous or outrageous? Perhaps you’re making a claim that is likely to be controversial? Remember, you are trying to market around your book. Not just push your book like a salesperson.

4. Link and weave these conversation triggers in to your marketing campaigns. It could be a blog post that you write, a Twitter contest that you conduct, a quiz that you create or a video that you post on your Facebook page. All of these activities should link to your conversation triggers which link to the conversation topics that your readers are participating in.

Some Examples: 

1.  Around the time that Timothy Ferris came out with the Four Hour Body book, he wrote a blog post titled “From Geek to Freak in 28 days“. The result was a maelstrom of 1,180 comments and innumerable conversations in gyms and university campuses among young men.

2. Christopher Paolini, the author of the super-hit Inheritance Cycle series, toured over 135 schools and libraries, discussing reading and writing, all the while dressed in a medieval costume of red shirt, billowy black pants, lace-up boots, and a jaunty black cap. Was this a conversation trigger among his future readers? You bet!

3. John Locke wrote a simple blog post titled – Fathers and Daughters to announce the launch of his new book . The blog post finished with, “My book and my daughter are going out into the world this week, but there’s a big difference. My book is going to make you laugh. But my daughter’s going to change the world.” Soon after reading that post, I went out and hugged my young daughter and told my wife about the post. Am I tempted to buy the book, especially when it is priced at just 99 cents? Absolutely!

Do you know of other examples where authors have used conversation starters in their marketing campaigns? Let us know in the comments below.

Vikram Narayan is the founder of BookBuzzr Book Marketing Technologies. Follow him on Twitter
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