Monday, May 16, 2011

The Pickup Artist and A Captive Audience

I was never particularly good at using pickup lines as young man. I thought they were corny and transparent, so I rarely ventured much past "Hi" -- a deficiency sadly reflected in my weak social calendar .

Now, some twenty years after (successfully)(mercifully) leaving the dating scene, I find myself returning to the world of Pickup Lines, although I now call them by a more mature name: Pitches.

I recently had a book signing at our local LDS bookstore, and a few things finally clicked into place for me. I had my table set by the door, a plate of chocolate, and a stack of printed pages ready to fold into paper airplanes.

As people walked through, I would offer them chocolate. If they had kids, I would offer paper airplanes. One young family tumbled into the store, and within thirty seconds I was down four planes and ten pieces of candy--the youngest looking like a squirrel with a cheek full of nuts.

But I digress. At first, as I would offer the chocolate, half of the customers would politely refuse, and the other half would come and take a piece. A very few of those taking some candy would linger for a moment, looking at my book and handouts, and I would take a moment to tell them about my book. However, nobody was buying.

But as the signing wore on, I realized that even those who didn't take time to linger still took 5-10 seconds selecting their piece of chocolate. For those brief seconds, I had a captive audience. So I decided to try something.

As people reached for the candy plate, I said, "I'm here today letting people know about my new book." Go ahead--time yourself reading that aloud. I get 3.5 seconds. And that was it.

With that brief pitch in place, nearly every candy eater then became a lingerer, looking at my book and other materials and listening to my full-length book pitch. And a significant number those ended up buying.

All because I found a way to connect with a potential reader, and had the courage to throw a four-second pitch at a captive audience.

I've come to accept that book signings are all about connecting with customers, and actual sales are secondary. To that end, I think it's essential to come up with a strategy to rise above the noise. For me, that has been chocolate and paper airplanes.

And it seems to be working. Let me share with you a portion of an email I got a few weeks ago, showing exactly how that connection helps.

I picked up your book on Saturday...and honestly, I was a little unsure if I would like it. But, I felt I needed to be supportive of a new author putting himself out there and I wanted the paper airplane.  I didn't pick up the book again until Tuesday morning and then I struggled to put it down to work and drive. I even got up early Wednesday morning to finish it before heading off to work. What a fun read! 
All because of a folded piece of paper, and a concerted effort to connect.


Angie said...

That's awesome. I'm going to keep that in mind. By the way, I stayed up waaay past my bedtime last night reading your book. Still not done, but I had to get some sleep! I really like it.

Stephanie Black said...

This is great! I'm going to remember this for my next book signing and have a pitch prepared--I tend to really stumble when someone says, "What's your book about?" and I need to develop something punchy I can say while they're examining the chocolate. Thanks, Don!

Michael Knudsen said...

Way to go, Don. It took me several signings to figure out an approach that worked, but once I got it, I had one where I sold 12 books out of 12 who approached my table! If they come to your table, make eye contact, and exchange words, your book is 90% sold.