July 07, 2018

Marketing as a Ministry by Kimberly Dawn Rempel

As authors, we kind of curl our noses at marketing, don’t we? It’s a bit… cringe-inducing. Really, we just want to flourish words onto a page, plumbing the depths of mind and soul, and let that be our life’s work. Selling it though? Blech. 

Despite having loved marketing and sales since my teen years, I’ve felt this same way about my writing. I’d sold furniture in store, hocked coupons door to door, and sold carpet cleaning services over the phone with great success. I enjoyed the challenge and didn’t feel at all sleazy. When it came to selling my own writing though, it was a completely different story. Somehow it felt pushy to tell people about the new book I’d written, so I kept quiet about it and then became frustrated when people didn’t buy it. It was much easier, I found out, to promote someone else’s things than my own. (Can you relate?)

When I first learned about sales and marketing some 25 years ago, we were taught to talk about product features and trained to handle objections. To me, it felt like talking someone into submission – like with enough of a silver tongue and manipulation, we could get anyone to buy anything. This silver tongue approach served me well in all those sales jobs, but times have changed. People are desensitized to sales messages. They’re sick of being ‘sold’. We all are. Even being on the salesperson side, I was sick of that style of selling, too.

Thankfully, things are different now.

Marketing isn’t about the marketer and their slick pitch anymore. (not as much, anyway.) It’s about human connection and providing real value. As Tim Grahl, best-selling author says, “Marketing is the act of building long term connections and then being relentlessly helpful.” Not relentlessly saying, ‘buy my book’, but being relentlessly helpful. Relentlessly adding value to other people’s lives. THAT’S what brings sales.

This more authentic, human approach aligns more with who I am and how I want to live. Thank goodness it’s also the effective approach!
I’d take it one step further though, and add that marketing can actually be an act of ministry – of worship, of obedience, and of ministering to others.

My story:

I remember when I launched my first book, a poetry collection, which ended up being a poetic summary of my testimony. As I packed up supplies for my first-ever craft show and prepared to stand behind the table spread with my books, insecurity ravaged me. Who was I to think I had anything to offer? Who did I think I was, standing there, offering my book for sale? Why would anyone want a book of poems anyway?

Then I remembered something. God was the one who had given me that book to write. Whether it sold or not might not actually be the point. Maybe God had asked me to write, publish, and sell that book as an act of obedience – as a way to train me and give me practice for some future thing.
In that moment I realized God was the one who opened and closed doors, and any amount of fretting or “selling” I was going to do wasn’t the point. Trusting Him was. I decided I would approach the day, not as a time to sell books, but as a time to connect with people – to use this book (my poetic testimony) as a way to talk to people – to meet them in their hurt, to talk with them about faith and God’s faithfulness in their own journey.

As I stood in front of that table, divorced from my need to sell product, I was shocked at how openly some people were as they stopped and talked with me. They shared some of their faith journey, how God was faithful… even the pain they’d recently walked through! I listened, smiled, and said nothing about my books unless they asked. This wasn’t about books. This was about ministering to those I met.

The interesting thing was that many of the people I spoke with DID end up buying. They initiated it too.  At the end of the day, my soul was fully content, and it had nothing to do with how many book sold. It had to do with following through on the ministry of words – this ministry of writing, of which marketing is a part.


How Marketing Can Be Ministry

These days, I don’t stand behind craft tables to sell books. I connect with people online. Mostly, those connections happen in Facebook groups where my readers congregate. When I’m in there, I never talk about my books or services (unless the group host specifically invites people to do so). Remember, the goal is connection with humans – relationship. And being helpful. So I help. I’ll scan the feed to see if there’s a problem or question I can help with, and then comment with a solution. I’ll read people’s posts about struggles or victories, and chime in with empathy. Basically, I’m making friends.

Here’s the thing: As I’ve been doing that, my email list has been growing. I haven’t been marketing it or advertising it, or even talking about it. They just FIND it. It’s nearly the size of one of my other email lists that I had to work HARD to build. This one is effortless. That’s because Tim Grahl is right. It’s about human connection and being relentlessly helpful. (It’s also partly because I’ve set up my profile and page in a way that directs them to sign up when they stop by my page or profile, but that’s the more technical, preparatory stuff to save for another time and place.) 

The results have been wonderful. I’ve met lovely people who encourage and teach me through their own groups and writing. I’ve been invited to speak at a conference, offered guest posts, and have had multiple collaborative opportunities because of these connections. Likewise, others have also been encouraged and helped by me and have become friends. The natural progression is toward deeper relationship – they join in my free offers, and I keep making content and products that continue to help them. Some are free, some are paid.  

Sure, I want sales. We all do. But sales and marketing isn’t about hocking goods and making a buck. It’s about helping real humans with real problems.

And isn’t that why we write a book in the first place? To encourage? To help? To connect our heart to another’s?  

If you’re like I was, cringing at the thought of hocking my books, I want to encourage you – it is much more meaningful than that.  

Your story was a gift from God, and the writing of it an assignment from Him and for His glory.
But who will hear if there’s no one to tell them?  People need to know your powerful story. Talking with others about it  – sharing it with them and meeting them in their own story – this is the connection we make for Him. This is the ministry of our life, our story, and our words.

Anything is possible with God – even learning how to market your books in a way that impacts lives both by connection with you and the actual reading of your book.


Kimberly Dawn Rempel helps authors and entrepreneurs build their business and their faith through 1:1 coaching, editing, and book marketing.  Click here to Download her free guide, 14 Ways to Leverage Your Book  or join her Facebook Group, Marketing-Savvy Authorpreneurs HERE to learn more about audience building and effective book marketing.

8 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this. Tim Grahl is one of my main 'go-tos' when it comes to marketing and I love the quote of his about being 'relentlessly helpful'. So true!

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    1. Hi Kim! I've never been a salesman and never wanted to be. I do, however, see the wisdom in what you say about marketing. That gives me a different perspective on marketing as a writer. You said, "Remember, the goal is connection with humans – relationship. And being helpful." I resonate with that explanation of marketing. Building relationships and helping people are part of who I am as a person. Your post gives me hope and I appreciate that so much. Thank you Kim! Let's connect soon. :)

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    2. Tracy, Tim Grahl is one of my faves too!

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    3. Alan - Im excited that this will help you move forward with marketing .All it is is getting your important message and story into more hands and hearts.

      Sounds like you may have had a breakthrough there. Yay!!!

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  2. Beautifully written.

    A favourite line: "As I stood in front of that table, divorced from my need to sell product, I was shocked at how openly some people were as they stopped and talked with me." Our 'need' to sell only repels hearts -- it's the love that draws them in. Thanks for sharing this beautiful example of your own experience.

    Brenda

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  3. Thank you, Kimberly, for reminding us that writing is about making relationships and about being "relentlessly helpful." This is why I write--to clarify, teach, explain, give example. share my story and my faith. If God has called me to write, I guess he has also called me to get my story into a format and publication where others can read it. I appreciate the grace and love with which you do this.

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    1. Yes! That's a big part if why I wrote too. πŸ’œπŸ’™❤️

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