Self-Promotion And Marketing: What’s The Difference?


Say you’re having a nice family dinner. The spaghetti and meatballs are the perfect temperature as you fork them them into your mouth—delicious. Everyone at the table is smiling and joking around. And the conversations are flowing.

Then, your phone rings and interrupts the positive vibes.

You don’t recognize the number, so you’re skeptical, but you decide to leave the table and answer anyway. And what did you get on the other line?

Nothing other than a sleazy sales call that explains if you take this one hour survey then you could win a free trip to the Bahamas.

Immediately you’re pissed off about the dinner interruption and hang up the phone.  You come back to the table relaying what just happened and how you wished they wouldn’t call at this time, or ever. Your family voices similar opinions.

Then your brother says, “That reminds me, I’m doing market research for my company. Can you take a quick survey for me? It would really help my team test out our business idea.”

You respond, “Of course, I’d love to help. I can do it right after dinner.”

Why did you not give the telemarketer the time of day for their survey but say yes to your brother’s survey? Because the telemarketer was only looking out for their own good by calling you. They didn’t establish a relationship or provide value to you, so they didn’t get any results.

On the other hand, you’ve known your brother your entire life and you trust him as much as anyone. So when he asks you to do something, you’re already inclined to say yes because you respect him and what he’s done for you over the years.

In this example, the telemarketer is the self-promoter who only cares about himself. Your brother is the marketer who provides value and establishes a relationship before asking for something.

Authors who are marketers get results and sell books, while self-promoters are stuck trying to sell a 90s flip phone to an iPhone owner.

Self-Promotion’s Goal

Pushing a book (or any product) to customers for the sole reason of hoping that they buy it so you make money is a terrible business plan, and the goal of self-promotion.

What customers are going to buy when they don’t want your product and don’t know who you are?

Before a sale is made, trust needs to be established. You wouldn’t pay for an unknown object then ask what it is you’re getting in return. You would ask questions, ask about the author, think of how it will benefit you, and ask about other people’s experience with it.  

Since self-promotion ignores the whole idea of trust and relationship building, very few times it works, but most of the time self-promotion alienates people and makes them never want to do business with you in the future.

They can see through your pitch and recognize that you’re looking out for yourself, not them.

Self-promotion is like the person who thinks that the world revolves around them and whoever doesn’t act that way is worthless. It’s all about the immediate gratification, which results in total disregard for building a mutually beneficial relationship.

When you look for it, you’ll notice the difference between someone who takes, takes, takes, and someone who gives, gives, gives is night and day. It’s obvious once you spend a little amount of time around them.

Success doesn’t go to those who don’t contribute value to other people. So an author who only self-promotes isn’t going to feel good about themselves when they don’t have an audience and can’t sell any books.

Don’t be a self-promoter, be a marketer.

Marketing’s Goal

Where self-promotion sells out for the short-term gain, marketing is patient.

What’s successful marketing? Marketing is all about creating value for customers (readers) that you establish a long-term relationship where they want to come back for more.

When marketing is executed perfectly, customers want to hand you their money to reciprocate how much you do for them.

And this value you give as an author may take many shapes or forms. Usually it looks like super helpful blog posts, weekly emails, a free product, or a book that changes their life.

Whatever it is, it communicates the message that you’re working for your audience—not the other way around. When you put other people’s interest first, ironically it comes back to help you out more than putting your own interest first.

Since it’s in a human’s DNA to reciprocate to those who improve your life, authors will want to take notice of this reality.

So your focus as an author should be to constantly deliver value in terms of entertainment or information to your audience.

Focus on piling up value week after week. Because when the day comes and your book comes out, you’ll have a crowd that is happy to buy it.

Final Words

Remember the difference: Self-promotion is shoving your book down your customer’s throat. Marketing is providing so much value up front that when you do go to sell your book, your readers stretch their hands to grab it because they’ve been waiting to buy it.

When you understand this difference, you’ll create lasting relationships with your audience and sell more books. If there’s any secret sauce method, taking care of your audience first is it.

As a send off, I came up with a play on words about marketing off of The Golden Rule. It goes like this:

Market to those as you would want to be marketed.

Keep The Golden Rule of Marketing in your head going forward and your books will be successful.

Do you find yourself spending more time self-promoting or marketing?

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