300 Seconds

300 Seconds: Can I get your number?

I walked into a meeting yesterday to find the person with whom I was meeting peering through her reading glasses at a computer screen, intermittent mouse clicks filling the silence as I waited for my presence to be acknowledged. Without looking up, she said, “I just need to make a quick phone call.”

Click. Click. … Click.

Just as I was thinking Well, make the phone call already, she said, “I hate these places that hide their phone number.”

What a good reminder. Even in this digital world, there are many who prefer a phone call to email or texting. I’m one of them. (We like to hold books in our hands, too.)

To make sure your customers have ready access to your bookstore, take 300 seconds today to make sure the phone number for your store is visible on your website. I also think it’s a good idea to include it in your email signature. That way when someone receives an email from you that they don’t quite understand, your phone number will be in front of them should they want immediate clarification.

300 Seconds: The Communication Two-Way

two-wayI’m sure the event process at your store is a well-oiled machine. Once the event is on the calendar, you probably have a publicity checklist in place, don’t you?

  • Add the event to website calendar. Check.
  • Add the event to store Facebook page. Check.
  • Media release to local and area media. Check.
  • Door poster. Check.
  • Write and include a review in the weekly email newsletter. Check.
  • Schedule social media posts and tag author and publisher. Check.
  • Share store efforts with publicist. … :-/

Understandably, this follow-up step is sometimes forgotten, because we spend the bulk of our marketing time promoting our events to customers and media who can help fill the seats. But it’s also important to include your publicist in all of your communication efforts. After all, you not only want to show that you’re doing your best for this event, you also want to be considered to host future events.

There are several ways you can communicate your efforts with your publicists.

  • Remember when you posted the event on the store website? Send a link to the publicist to confirm the event details.
  • Even though your media list is updated quarterly, remember to add the publicist and sales rep to the recipient list when you send out the event media release.
  • Did you hang a poster on the front door or create an amazing store window or tabletop display? Take a photo and send it to your publicist and rep. (And then you can share the images on social media with the author and publisher tagged.)
  • Is the publicist not on the email list that receives weekly email newsletters from your store? Go ahead and forward any that contain mentions of the event, reviews, or inclusions in bestseller lists. Mention why you’re forwarding the email–‘We reviewed The Event Book this week!’ or ‘The Event Book made our bestseller list this week!’–so they know the forward was intentional and also so they do not have to search for the information.

Each of these follow-ups shouldn’t take more than 300 seconds. And you’ll not only provide the publisher with a little peace of mind regarding your publicity efforts, you’ll also hold yourself accountable for getting them done.

300 Seconds: 3rd Quarter Media List Update

It’s been three months since we updated our media lists for publicists including local print, radio and television outlets. During those three months I was involved with moving a public radio station, so I’ve seen first-hand that in some cases unsolicited books arrive with a ‘forwarding’ postage-due. (Not a good first impression.) Since the publicists are trying to garner publicity for your bookstore events, it’s important to help them out with the most current contact information. It should take around 300 seconds to give your media list a once-over.

Give your list a quick glance to see if anyone retired or moved on to a different market. Then take just a few minutes to call those on your list to verify that the contacts you have are still appropriate. If your local newspaper is large enough to have a book page and a children/family writer, be sure to include names for these individual specialties. And news directors at radio and television stations tend to change often, so be sure to call them. For each individual listed, include the name, title, e-mail address, phone and fax numbers, and mailing address.

Once you’re finished, add an “Updated 07/14/16” footnote, then save it as a PDF. Now the list is ready to send to any publicist who might be sending an author your way. When you send it to the publicist, remind them that this is to replace the previous list. Otherwise multiple books might be sent to one media outlet.

If you have a bit more time to devote to marketing today, it’s also a good time to look at your own press release email list, which should include the names you just updated on your media list, but also weekly, daily, and specialty newspapers in your area. Errors can leave a long-lasting digital trail, so look at the reports from the latest releases you’ve sent, especially the bounce report. Some emails bounce because a mailbox might be full, or the recipient’s email service might have some other temporary glitch. But if an email address consistently shows up in the bounced field, the media person has probably moved on or you have a bad address. A quick web search or a phone call will yield the correct address for press releases.

300 Seconds: Mid-Year Check-Up

I wouldn’t necessarily call myself an eavesdropper, but sometimes I overhear conversations. And when those conversations make me smile, I just have to write them down. For example, here are three just from today:

“There’s no way that movie would be made today. Are you kidding? Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny on the same screen?! That’s insane!”

“I’m thinking about wearing my ‘Apollo Creed’ robe to the pool party this weekend, so I can look like Michael Phelps and, you know, maybe intimidate the other guys playing Marco Polo.”

And finally, “Happy New Fiscal Year!”

It’s the last one that reminded me that, for quite a few of you, your fiscal year ended yesterday. And while I do not attempt to give financial advice, I do like to use this time for a mid-year check-up. Remember those goals you established in January? It’s time to evaluate how you’re doing. If you haven’t made much progress, it’s time to develop an action plan.

  • What will it take to achieve each goal?
  • Break your goals down into manageable segments (think Bird by Bird) and then establish a timeline.
  • Determine how long it will reasonably take to finish each segment and establish a deadline.
  • You might also consider asking for help. If you do not have the skills to perform the task in a timely manner, who can help you get there?

Keep in mind that you’ll want to schedule most of the items in your action plan for 3rd quarter completion, before the holiday season begins.

And before you become discouraged, don’t look at this as ‘the year is already half over.’ Instead, say to yourself, ‘I still have half of the year ahead of me’.

300 Seconds: I’m smiling. Can you tell?

When I answer the phone, my standard greeting is either “Hello?” or “This is Beth.” I cannot recall which one I used this morning when my phone rang, but the caller immediately asked, “What’s wrong?”

Nothing was wrong, but I’m pretty sure I was irritated by a text I had just received from one of my daughters, and that tone came through in my greeting.

You’ve heard me say that it’s just as important to compose yourself with a smile before you greet a customer on the phone as it is in the store. But here’s something else…

Right after I finished the phone conversation–most of it spent convincing the caller that there was indeed nothing ‘wrong’–I wrote an email. The response I received? “What’s wrong?”

I know tone is difficult to detect in emails and texts, but now I’m convinced that if I compose myself, adjust my attitude and smile before I begin typing my message, the person reading it can tell. If I’m smiling when I compose an email, I often find myself adding more exclamation points than I traditionally use. (None.) And even though I hate myself a little when I use them, the reader is not left to wonder about my dry tone.

So today, spend a few seconds conjuring up a smile before you greet a customer–in the store, on the phone, or through correspondence. I think it will make a difference in the way you both behave.

Also, even though this headline claims that I was smiling when I wrote this, I really wasn’t. See? You could you tell, couldn’t you?