RAIN Group is an award-winning sales-training company with offices around the world, and when the pandemic hit, they seized the opportunity to help businesses adjust to the new normal of virtual selling.
In this eight-question interview, David Wogahn asks one of the three authors, Dave Shaby, about their goals and marketing tactics for Virtual Selling: How to Build Relationships, Differentiate, and Win Sales Remotely. You’ll learn:
- The benefits of targeting niche publications and media outlets
- How they used price to help encourage early sales
- How they used Amazon Advertising
- How one social media post led to a bulk order
Be sure to scroll down for a summary of the sixteen tactics RAIN Group used to market Virtual Selling.
David Wogahn: As an international company publishing its fourth book in the midst of a pandemic, what were your goals for this book?
Dave Shaby: Our primary goal was to help as many sellers and sales leaders during this time as possible.
We were out there working with our clients in the trenches when the pandemic hit, and it became clear, very quickly, that we needed to help them, because the sales environment changed dramatically.
The RAIN Group Center for Sales Research launched a global study of 528 buyers and sellers to better understand experiences with virtual selling on both sides of the proverbial table. We learned that sellers were struggling, and buyers’ expectations weren’t being met. Buyers revealed what influences their purchase decisions and how sellers were stacking up. There were huge gaps.
We took what we learned and shared exactly what sellers need to do to overcome the challenges.
We weren’t focused on selling a lot of books or on it becoming a bestseller. Luckily, that all just happened in the process.
What were some of the marketing resources you were able to utilize?
We leveraged numerous resources to get this book off the ground and into the hands of sellers around the world. Here are some of the things we did:
Email: Because we have a list of subscribers that’s in the tens of thousands, we sent emails to promote pre-orders, launch day, bulk-order discounts, and an exclusive webinar with the authors, and we highlighted testimonials. Open rates were as high as 47%, and we saw hundreds of purchases on the days emails were sent.
Website: The book is featured on our website, which gets hundreds of thousands of visits each year. We also promoted the book on our blog and published related content with a call to action to buy the book.
Paid ads (Amazon and Facebook): We hadn’t used Amazon ads before, so we started by testing a few different strategies (automatic, manual, keywords, categories, etc.). We began with the recommended daily budget, but after witnessing consistent results, we raised our daily budget by 757%. We were running ads strictly in the US marketplace, but then we expanded into other marketplaces. We’re also running Facebook ads, but unfortunately, we’re only able to track clicks to the product page and can’t see conversions.
Partner email swaps: We aligned with other companies to promote different pieces of content throughout the year. One company in the professional-services arena promoted the book in an email that resulted in hundreds of purchases.
Social media: Authors and members of our global team were provided with cover photos to display on their profiles. We also distributed social media messages and graphics to our team to promote pre-orders and on launch day. Amazon reviews have been converted into graphics and shared on the company’s social media platforms. One Fortune 100 company saw our Instagram post and sent a DM to place a bulk order for its global sales team.
Speaking: Due to the book’s popularity, we were invited to present the closing keynote at AA-ISP’s Virtual Sales Summit. We’ve also been invited to speak on popular podcasts and co-present webinars with well-known sales enablement and technology companies. We’ve seen a nice spike in sales following speaking engagements.
Awards: We submitted Virtual Selling in the 2020 Top Sales World Awards and won Silver for Top Sales Book. The research that the book is based on won a 2021 Gold Stevie Award for Sales & Customer Service.
Media: In addition to distributing a press release, we wrote numerous articles, which have been featured on sites including Entrepreneur, LinkedIn Sales Blog, and others, with links to the Amazon page.
Note from David Wogahn: Another smart thing they did was to reference Virtual Selling in a media release about their 2021 Gold Stevie Award for Research Report of the Year. They also targeted awards programs relevant to the book’s subject matter.
Did you have a launch team? How did you solicit early readers?
Normally, we would have had a launch team, but since we were working on a tight timeline, we didn’t have the luxury of getting the book out to a group of people to review months in advance. We did reach out to a group of twenty or so prominent sales leaders and experts when the book first launched, who provided great endorsements that they shared on Amazon and LinkedIn.
One well-known sales trainer and speaker did a live book-off on social media featuring Virtual Selling and other books on the topic. In the end, our book was named the best for enterprise sales.
How did you learn to use Amazon Advertising. Can you recommend any resources?
Our marketing team hadn’t used Amazon ads before, so it was a learning experience, with a lot of testing to determine what worked best.
For keywords, make a list of words related to your book. If a new book is released in your same category, add it to your keywords. We’re always updating our list. Some of our best results have come from people searching similar book titles. Don’t forget to add them into your keywords strategy.
If you’re getting good results, don’t be afraid to increase your daily budget.
It’s also important to know that your strategy on one marketplace might not work on another. For instance, we’ve seen greater success using the category-targeting option rather than keyword targeting on the Australian marketplace.
There are a lot of FREE resources available. Joanna Penn’s How to Market a Book provides some basic background on Amazon ads. Joanna also hosted a free webinar with Mark Dawson and a former Amazon ads exec where they shared advice. Finally, Amazon offers resources to teach you about targeting, bidding, and keyword strategy.
How have the Amazon ads performed?
Amazon ads have performed very well for us. We’ve had over 1,500 orders placed on all the marketplaces combined in less than seven months. While the bulk of our orders have come through the US marketplace, we do see success on the other marketplaces.
Our advertising cost of sales (ACOS) is 31%, which is in the average range.
You had a low price for pre-order and the early release period. Was this helpful? How did you decide on a final price?
Absolutely! But money wasn't the goal. Helping people was. We wanted to do what we could to help our clients and the sales community during these challenging times, so we offered a discounted price for about a month before we raised it. We looked at a lot of similar books before deciding on a final price.
Have you utilized any price promotions?
Shortly after our launch (while our eBook was still priced low), we secured an online promotion with Bargain Booksy. Although the cost was more than reasonable ($25 for an email blast to its nonfiction list of 86K subscribers), our book was the last title featured in the email. We recommend reaching out to their team and requesting that your book is the first one featured.
We haven’t utilized any other price promotions since.
Postscript: A summary of tactics
RAIN Group utilized so many marketing tactics that we thought it would be helpful if they were recapped here.
- Email marketing
- Promoted pre-orders
- Sent on launch day
- Announced bulk-order discounts
- Announced exclusive webinar with authors
- Website marketing
- Blog posts about different topics in the book
- Amazon Advertising (pay-per-click): US, and international where available
- Partner email swaps
- Social media
- Authors’ accounts
- Employees’ accounts
- Promoted pre-orders and launch day
- Closing keynote at online conference
- Guesting on podcasts
- Webinars in partnership with other companies
- Entries in awards programs popular with their book’s audience
- Press releases
- Announcing the book
- Announcing an award related to the book
- Articles for websites that their readers read
- Endorsements: no time to pursue prior to release so simply did this after the release. (Note: Don’t give up! This is still something worth pursuing and it was highly effective.)
- Launched the book at a low price to encourage sales.
- Promoted the book to people seeking low-price books (Bargain Booksy in this case; there are many)
- Took screen shots when book achieved “bestseller” status to use on social media
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