Balloon Marketing

I found a fun strategy to use at book signings, especially stores that sell helium balloons. Here’s what you do:

1. Purchase 2-3 helium balloons (enough to get the word around, but not too many to keep track of)

2. Request that they use “hi-float.” It’s a goop they put in the balloon just before pumping it up that keeps the helium from leaking out slowly–yes this step is necessary. If you use a mylar balloon, it’s not necessary.

3. Write on the balloon with a sharpie, something like, “Book Signing, taking place right now near the candy section,” with your name and the name of your book.

4. Cut the ribbon off so that you only have about six inches left hanging from the balloon.

5. Tie your business card or bookmark (relating to the book you’re signing, of course) to the 6 inches of string.

6. Find something to add additional weight to the string, such as paperclips or aluminum foil. I used half of a chocolate kiss, still in the wrapper. The idea here is to add just enough weight to keep your balloon in stasis, so it doesn’t float up or fall down. Obviously it won’t stay put, and will drift up and down some, but you want to get it as close as possible to balanced.

7. Walk your blimp balloon to a decent traffic area of the store and let it go.

8. Go back to your table, and enjoy the signing! You can now ignore your balloon.

What will happen is the balloon will slowly drift toward any moving air. If someone walks by, it will follow them. If there’s a fan, it will do laps around the store.

If you have a quiet moment with no one around, you can check on your traveling marketers. If they’ve fallen asleep in an obscure corner of the store somewhere, bump them back out. But for the most part, you can totally forget about them and they’ll wander and advertise for you.

Don’t try to adjust the balance to make them higher flyers, unless the ceiling is within reach. Don’t weigh them down enough to get stuck on the floor. You want them to wander within an adult’s line of vision. If kids get them, let them play with them. Most parents will eventually tell them to let it go, and may even come by to see you and your book.

I had a signing for my book, Marriage is Ordained of God, but WhoCame Up with Dating? at the Stokes Market in Salem, Utah, on Saturday, and was glad to see they sold helium balloons. I’d had the idea of trying helium balloons, because we’d had “pet” balloons at home many times, and I was excited to try it.

It was a flying success (pun intended).

I sent my balloons off at the very beginning of my signing, and it worked great. I was a little worried they might annoy people, but what happened was quite the opposite. They delighted everyone who saw them, and anyone who stopped to read it looked over to see me smiling next to my table.

They did get grabbed by kids a couple times, but only one was taken home.

With my first balloon I left the full ribbon on, but it just kept snagging stuff, so I shortened it to the six inches length, and it made all the difference. Balloons are a very personable species, and will try to make friends wherever they go. As long as the weights were put on right, and don’t fall off, they stay low enough to reach.

I also brought my laptop and had my book trailer looping. I put out a couple bowls of Hershey’s Hugs and Kisses (it is a dating book, after all), which brought a lot of “free-samplers” to the table.

The signing went great! I sold some books and lined up a potential fireside and radio interview. I don’t know for sure if the balloons had anything to do with it, but they certainly had something to do with my jolly-good mood.

How I Approach Book-Signings

I had my first signing a couple weeks ago. It was at BYU Idaho Bookstore. I’ve heard lots of horror stories about signings, especially first signings.

But I liked it.

I’m sure it helped that I was warned ahead of time not to just sit behind the desk and wait for people to come, but be up and about, meeting people. I think that helped a lot.

I’m not a naturally outgoing person, and it takes a lot of worked up energy to get the guts to approach people, but I do enjoy talking with people. I enjoy social events.

I’ve mentioned before how much I hate advertising (passionately), and I know there is a certain amount of necessity about it, something of a necessary evil.

So I came up with a method that puts my mind at ease and helps me step a little out of my comfort zone. I don’t know for sure yet how effective it is, but I’m certain it’s going to prove to be a good approach for me personally. It’s simply this: whenever I have an author event, whether it be a signing, a launch party, a marketing conference, or writing conference, it is a social event. Whatever the intent of the event itself, in my mind, it’s just a social event. I try to keep other guidelines in the back of my mind to help shape who I approach, and when, but if I keep my primary objective as meeting and visiting with people, it makes a HUGE difference in my confidence and approachability.

About 15 years ago I worked at an obscure warehouse sorting obscure items from obscure grocery stores. I didn’t much enjoy the work, but I had some good friends to work with. One man was a very pleasant Arapaho guy who was kind and friendly with everyone, and because he was so kind to everyone, he was really easy to talk to. We became good friends, and one day he said, “My goal in life is to meet as many people as I can.” That was it. That was his life goal. Not, “become the most popular person,” or “become a role model,” or “become a great influence in many lives.” His goal was simply to meet as many people as he could.

What a great goal! I’ve thought about that so many times. What if your goal was to just get to know as many people as you can and try (as much as possible) to become friends with them all? That doesn’t require a certain level of prestige or success. It implies being kind and talking to people. That’s it.

Becoming an author has provided opportunities to meet so many people, and make friends I never would have otherwise met. Whether anything of so-called “success” comes out of it all, I can already say it’s been wonderful to meet so many wonderful people and get a small taste of who they are.

That’s why I try to think of every author event as simply a social event. People are really cool. Even if–and maybe especially if they have different views than me. Hearing others talk about what matters to them is so motivating and fun. It worked great at the signing, and it worked great at my launch party. Then, if they ask about me or my book, I try hard to focus on the stuff I’m passionate about, because it was passion that got me to write the book, and people want to sense that passion while reading. But that’s only if someone asks me–I don’t throw it at them. Most people I converse with end up asking sooner or later. I’m still new at this, so I can’t say it’s done wonders for me, but it has helped loosen me up in situations that might otherwise feel awkward or unnatural.

So if you are like me, and have trouble pushing your product, try simply socializing at author events, and see what happens. You may find it quite enjoyable. More likely than not, those who visit with you will want to know more about what you have once they feel your genuine interest in them. But if they don’t, it’s okay–you met someone new and had a great time talking with them.

After all, in the end it really is about people, isn’t it?