Marketing Symposium


The Online Marketing Symposium, hosted by Arlee Bird, Yolanda Renee, Jeremy Hawkins, and Alex J. Cavanaughseeks to address the following issues:

Do you ever wonder why some books become bestsellers while others can barely be given away? Why some businesses succeed and others fail? How does a blog post or a YouTube video manage to go viral? Is it a matter of luck or is there some magic formula for success?

Participants will share strategies they’ve used to promote books, businesses, blogs, music, events, all sorts of things, and talk about what worked and what didn’t. It’s meant to serve as a resource for others’ future endeavours, so we know what to avoid and what might work.

Back in the days of aohell, when I was 18, I started a message board on the political boards of the ACLU section. I try to avoid discussing politics here, to avoid alienating readers who might swing differently, but let’s just say that this board was to discuss a very left-wing political party. In my late teens and very early twenties, I was a lot further Left than I am now, and made the mistake of joining this party as soon as I was legal. I regretted it very quickly and registered Democrat instead when I actually registered to vote in September 1998.

So, full of youthful idealism and naïveté, I searched aohell profiles for keywords, and sent out several friendly mass mailings asking, politely, for these people to come over and check out the board. Some of them were very interested and became regular contributing members of the board, but others took it personally, and kept hitting “reply all” while telling me they didn’t share those political views and wanted off what they thought was a mailing list. I wasn’t the one who hit “reply all” and thus prolonged these messages! One guy kept whining about why was this happening to him when he had back pain and was finishing a book, and how dare I defend myself and reply back to him, like I were doing this on purpose to annoy him.

Lesson learnt:  Whatever you’re promoting, unsolicited mass mailings rarely ever work.  Even if you think a person has common interests, you can’t assume they’ll like your book, group, or business when you don’t know that person beyond seeing a keyword in a profile or an isolated blog post. At least my excuse was that I was only 18 and didn’t understand netiquette very well.

I actually made a really good contact from that mess, David McReynolds, who was very friendly and understanding. David ran for president with the SPUSA several times, including in 2000. (The group I naïvely joined is further Left than the SPUSA.) I met him when he came to my campus, though I was too nervous to tell him, when I asked a question, that we’d interacted online many times. He told me about an active mailing list called RedYouth, and I really enjoyed and benefitted from that group. David even came to my defence when some people, one guy in particular, later attacked me for identifying as a Zionist and defending Israel’s right to exist and defend itself against terrorists.

Lesson learnt:  You may be surprised at the unlikely friends and contacts you find from a failed marketing experience, or while in process of promoting something.

One of my proudest achievements is being one of the charter members of the Student Alliance for Israel at UMass-Amherst in 2002, now the Five College Alliance. I helped to write our constitution, secured local sponsorships for events, brought six well-known speakers to campus, promoted events through flyering, lots of awesome stuff. That group was our gift to the younger students, since most of us were graduating.

That time around, I didn’t just blindly staple up flyers every single place I went, or walk into every local business to ask for sponsorship and to display flyers for our big events, like a community-wide rally against the anti-Semitic, Israel-bashing graffiti appearing on at least three of the area campuses. I still have one of the posters I made for that rally, and got it framed.

Lesson learnt:  Don’t be in-your-face when asking for sponsorships, blog promotion, book signings, cover reveals, etc. Focus on the people you know will probably agree to help, don’t make it all about yourself, and don’t make the other person feel forced into doing this.

(And yes, contrary to what you might think, being a Leftist does not automatically mean someone is anti-Israel!)


17 comments on “Marketing Symposium

  1. jamieayres says:

    Good example! I always pay it forward to whoever helps me out, and when I do ask people for help, I always phrase it with, “If you’re comfortable doing so, and no worries if you’re not!” Most people are excited to help if you’ve been a kind person to them 🙂


  2. If I send an email out to a lot of people, it’s always to me and the rest are BCC. (And I don’t think I’ve ever done it outside of reminders for blogfests and to those who asked to get an email.)
    You’re right that you might get a supporter from a surprise source though!
    Thanks for participating in the symposium.


  3. Our best lessons are the ones we’ve learned ourselves (the hard way, usually). Thanks for the advice, Carrie-Anne!


  4. So true. Mass mailings get looked over like mass mailings. Personal invitations tend to be treated like personal invitations, but no effort is wasted. Whether you learn something or make connections, every interaction is meaningful.


  5. Great points. I have only tried mass mailing once and then never did it again. That was a long time ago and lesson learned.


  6. Nicki Elson says:

    Good lessons learned. I rarely even post anything marketty to my personal Facebook page anymore because the response was always crickets chirping. So I too the hint that my “people” don’t like to be marketted at from a personal contact. I invited them all to my author page & those who are into that came over, those who aren’t didn’t.


  7. Sarah Allen says:

    Very good lessons. It’s good to keep in mind that we’re talking to actual people, and all the good and bad that can come from that.

    Sarah Allen
    (From Sarah, with Joy)


  8. Chrys Fey says:

    Great lessons! Thank you for sharing your experiences with us!


  9. Sherry Ellis says:

    I’ve never sent out mass mailings. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us!


  10. Great lessons! And I’ve met some wonderful folks from my messes as well.


  11. It can be a fine line between getting in you face and asking for a favor. I was on Twitter when they only had 8000 participants and started following folks. I sent out tweets about my blog talk radio show regularly to attract listeners. One day I received an email from one of them asking. “Who the Hell are you and why are you sending me this shit!” I replied – politely – and now we are great friends – but it was sort of funny and odd at the same time. But like you said, lesson learned – spam does not work!

    Thanks for participating in the first ever online marketing symposium – well at least one that I’m involved with. LOL


  12. SittieCates says:

    Good advice. I’ve asked help from others, but I didn’t push it when they said NO. Some people I’ve met on Twitter asked me for a favor and I politely declined because I had a busy schedule. But they still pushed it and told me that it was something really spectacular and that I needed it so much. LOL! I guess they were just too excited. 🙂 It’s either that or they’re really that pushy. 🙂


  13. love your learnt lessons!
    the line between obnoxious and piquing interest is very fine! ha!
    i love making new connections – we just have to keep trying!
    great post!


  14. Mass mailings remind me of junk mail – you’re holding it in your hand, sorting it over the round file, and only keeping what is or might be important. Email wars are the worst! Run, don’t walk, the other way! Nice post.


  15. Helpful advice! I don’t mind when people I know ask me for help, but I don’t usually reply when it’s a stranger. Which shows why it’s important to build a network with blog hops like this. Even if I’ve HEARD someone’s name, I’m much more likely to help them even if I don’t really know them at all.


  16. Great lesson. Mass mailings and reply all have gotten on my nerves. I’ve left associations and ignored people because of them. No one likes in-your-face soliciting. If it’s someone I know and they’re not aggressive, I don’t mind.


  17. Mass mailings don’t work because for that one person you interest, you piss off another one.


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