Identify Your Target Audience—Building a Marketing Platform (Step 1 of 5)

In 1984, Tom Brokaw flew to France for a documentary commemorating the forty-year anniversary of D-Day. He spent his trip listening to firsthand accounts from veterans of the battle. Those conversations were so moving that he decided to capture the experiences in “the permanence a book would represent.” Brokaw compiled material from interviews, phone conversations, and letters for the next fourteen years before releasing The Greatest Generation in November 1998. Even though it was his first book, it shot to #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

That’s what having an established name, reputation, and marketing platform for reaching a large audience of book buyers, can do.

Think of your marketing platform in terms of your ability to reach your audience. If you’re accessing them through the Internet, seminars and broadcast media, all of those tools are part of your marketing platform. Tom Brokaw’s main tool was television. By the time his book was released, he had spent sixteen years reporting to an audience of millions as the anchor of NBC Nightly News. They watched him night after night. They understood who he was. They knew what he stood for. And so they wanted to read his book.

I realize you’re not Tom Brokaw. But at one time, he was just an unemployed University of South Dakota graduate with a degree in political science. Nobody knew him. But he worked hard and dedicated himself, and as the years rolled by, his audience grew.

How many people know you, or at least know of you, and appreciate your work? Are there 150,000 fans out there? That’s what it takes to make a run at bestsellerdom. Can you imagine releasing your book and then trying to persuade that many people to buy it? It doesn’t work that way. You’re better off following Brokaw’s lead and building your marketing platform before you start writing, let alone publish, a book.

Discover how social media platforms can help you sell more books.

“Okay, but I’ve never done this before. How do I go about building a marketing platform?”

There are 5 main steps-

Step 1:  Identify Your Target Audience
Step 2: Make a Plan for Reaching Your Audience
Step 3: Set Up a Gravity Well
Step 4: Brand Yourself as an Expert
Step 5: Satisfy Human Temperaments

Step 1: Identify your target audience. Will you focus on people with a deep interest in your field, or will you go after any living, breathing soul, regardless of their interest level in your topic or awareness of your name? It’s a choice between quality and quantity. Here are a couple of client stories highlighting the trade-offs of each:

Ivan Misner – A Case Study in Quality

In 1985, Ivan started a networking organization called Business Network International (BNI). By early 2000, he had grown BNI to two thousand chapters encompassing 36,000 members around the world. That’s when he approached 100 of his franchisees and asked each of them to write a chapter for an upcoming book. He compiled and coordinated the material and published Masters of Networking in October 2000. The culmination of the pre-publication campaign I set up for him was to hold 56 book signings in 56 cities around the world—all on the book’s release date. BNI members spent weeks telling everyone they knew what was going on, encouraging them to attend any signing within a reasonable driving distance.

Because over 10,000 people showed up for the 56 signings combined, Masters of Networking became a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller. And because Ivan had spent 15 years building a quality marketing platform, promoting the event was primarily through word-of-mouth. That’s the thing about a quality marketing platform – what it saves you in money, it costs you in time.

10 tips for building a quality marketing platform over time.

Roy Williams – A Case Study in Quantity

In 1999, Roy owned a modest advertising and consulting agency called Williams Marketing. His fan base consisted of clients, attendees of his seminars, and readers of his Monday Morning Memo. But since Roy wanted to reach a bigger audience and give his book, Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads, a chance at bestseller, we mailed last-minute proposals to 10,000 radio station general managers across the country. If they would buy twenty of his books (to be used as training manuals for sales reps and sales tools for clients), Roy would send a free copy of his 12 Most Common Mistakes in Advertising VHS-tape series.

846 general managers accepted the proposal and the book made the New York Times and Wall Street Journal lists. But any profits were offset by promotional costs. Roy very quickly expanded the quantity of his marketing platform—but what it saved him in time it cost him in money.

Quality platform … lots of time. Quantity platform … lots of money. Which do you have more of? Be thinking about your target audience and I’ll continue next week with Step 2: Make a Plan for Reaching Your Audience.

In the meantime: how to determine your target audience.

Questions about building a marketing platform may be directed to Michael R. Drew at the Austin, Texas, headquarters of Promote A Book: 512-858-0040. You can also contact Michael via email at

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3 Responses to “Identify Your Target Audience—Building a Marketing Platform (Step 1 of 5)”

  1. Michael LaRocca April 25, 2010 at 7:54 pm #

    Thanks for the great advice!


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