Jim Rubart

Since 1994, Jim Rubart has worked with clients such as AT&T/Cingular, RE/MAX, ABC and Clear Channel radio though his company Barefoot Marketing, but his passion is writing fiction. His debut novel ROOMS will be published by B&H Fiction in April. He's also a photographer, guitarist, professional speaker, golfer, and semi-pro magician. He lives in the Northwest with the world's most perfect wife and his two almost-perfect sons. No, he doesn't sleep much. You can reach him at jlrudini[at]comcast.net

What? You Don’t Conduct Customer Surveys?

Will you humor me for a moment and pretend you run a retail store? Because you do. Like it or not, you’re a business. Your product is books. Your readers are your customers. Your storefront is Amazon or LifeWay or Barnes & Noble. I know, I’ve stated the obvious. But if we know this, why aren’t we doing customer surveys to find out what people think of our products?

(Reading your reviews on Amazon is not customer feedback.)

Don’t worry if you’ve never done a customer (reader) survey, or even thought about conducting one. Small businesses rarely if ever do them, even though customer surveys are one of the best ways to find out what the pubic likes about a product or business.

Ready? Below are six questions that can tell you a ton about why you’re succeeding—or why you’re not.

1. What made you decide to read my book(s) the first time?

Donald Mass says 80 percent of book sales comes from word of mouth. Is it true for you? How else do people discover you? Blogs? Web sites? Reviews? Browsing in a brick-and-mortar store? Browsing online? After a while you’ll start to see a pattern. Also, the answer to this question will tell you where to focus your marketing efforts. If 60 percent of your readers found you through a comment you made on someone else’s blog, yes, you'll want to become a posting machine.

2. What’s one thing I do that you like—that other authors don’t do, or don’t do as well as I do it?

You might find out it’s your rollicking newsletter, or your insightful blog, or simply the type of issues you tackle in your fiction. Here you want to try for specific answers; generalities like “Oh, I enjoy the way you write . . .” won’t be very helpful. For this type of question I suggest providing a number of options to choose from as well as a line that says Other ______________ so responders can fill in their own answers. Powerful information could come out of this. If you keep hearing your newsletter or Facebook posts are something your readers love, you need to ramp up that part of your marketing.

3. What’s one thing I could do to connect better with you? What else could I do that you’d really like?

The most popular ad in the Super Bowl this year was a Doritos spot made by amateurs. As one article said, “The public knows what the public wants.” If you ask this question you’ll get a lot of answers you can’t use, but you might get an idea that makes a lightbulb explode over your head. Who better to ask what your readers want than your readers themselves?

4. Have you recommended my book(s) to others, and if yes, why?

The answers to this question will be gold. Out of this will come taglines, slogans, and deep insight into your brand. Answers here will tell you what it is about your books that make readers grab their friends and say, “You gotta read this!”

(If you’re really gutsy, you can ask why they wouldn’t or haven’t recommended your book(s) to a friend.)

5. What would you Google to find books like mine? And if you Googled me, what did you type in?

If you want to be found online, you have to know how people are searching for you. The flaw in this question is people won’t remember exactly what they typed in. But their answer will be close. And over time you’ll learn what types of phrases you’ll want to put into your Web site, blog, tweets, and Facebook page. Also, visit the blogs and Web sites that come up on that first page of results. They will tell you where a truckload of your potential readers are hanging out.

6. What other authors do you read?

This summer the brilliant Julie Gwinn (Director of Marketing at B&H Fiction) is sending Tosca Lee, Robin Carroll, a to-be announced bestselling author, and myself on a book signing tour. Our books have enough in common that a reader who likes Robin’s book will probably like Tosca’s and mine. The idea is all boats rise with the tide. There is a ton more energy and momentum with four authors than there ever could be with one. If you can find other authors with whom you share readership, you can form an association with them to help promote one another’s work. (I know, shocking that someone would read anyone else’s books but yours, but it’s true.)

Where to pose your questions

You can send out your survey to your e-mail list informally, or develop questionnaires on sites like http://www.surveymonkey.com/. A Facebook fan page is the perfect arena to ask your questions.

Is there a subject you’d like to see me write about? Do you have a marketing question you’d like answered in an upcoming issue of CFOM? Fire it my way: jim@barefootmarketing.com.

Fair warning: If you e-mail me, I might ask you what you think of my column.