Summer Reading – Is It Time for a Book Club?

“Books break through. They enter directly into our heads, occasionally our hearts.”  That emotional connection is a fantastic marketing opportunity. That kind of marketing can help you sell your brand in a nuanced way that may connect you with more potential clients.

Prior to the pandemic, the concept of a book group had become slightly cliché. Comics and TV shows often made fun of them. But months of extra time on our hands has turned Americans and Europeans alike back into book-lovers, eager to connect with each other over the next great read. And, with the increasingly easy to access audible books, many folks who disdained visually reading books now simmer in the sounds of a book. Book recommendations are increasingly coming from social media, including Instagram accounts as well as podcasts about the best new reads. In fact, many book clubs exist only on social media, using hashtags for finding a read-along with your favorite author. Book clubs popped up all over during the pandemic including yoga studios as well as Instagram-influencers. Could a book club be an avenue to find new leads for your business? Here are a few thoughts about book clubs and marketing.

What’s the Intent? Many folks may be eager to jump into networking and social events as fast as possible, but for a lot of individuals there may be a hesitancy to head out the door. Book clubs, whether online through social media or virtually through software like Zoom can be a welcome warm up to getting back into the social stream.

The real intent behind hosting the book club is what it can do for your marketing. As literary critic Maureen Corrigan said “Books break through. They enter directly into our heads, occasionally our hearts.”  That emotional connection is a fantastic marketing opportunity. Other marketing pros suggest ensuring that the book club is a full part of your social media marketing plan. That kind of marketing can help you sell your brand in a nuanced way that may connect you with more potential clients.

Who’s Invited? If starting a book club as part of your marketing plan feels like too much of a stretch, consider starting the first few rounds of your book club solely among your employees. These practice groups can help make perfect how and where you source the ideas for book topics and which online platform works the best for your group. You might also find that one of our employees is the resident in-house bibliophile (book lover) who can generate recommendations galore. Once your employees have the hang of hanging out in the book club, you can expand the invitation to clients and would-be clients.

What’s the Plan? Book marketers often suggest book clubs to their authors as a way to increase book sales. They offer many tips for how to conduct a book club group, but the most important of these tips is to know what you want to discuss and have a specific plan for it. This includes having a set of discussion topics ready to go.

What’s the Subject? While most readers initially ditched nonfiction, especially in the areas of business and leadership at the start of the pandemic, sales of nonfiction began to rise sharply after the summer of 2020. As Americans have become interested in reading about race and human rights, many are turning to finance.

But a book club doesn’t have to read about a specific subject to talk about the subject. How so? Reading a biography of Sallie Krawcheck will definitely hit every financial feminist topic your financial book club might be wanting to discuss without reading a book actually about financial feminism (perhaps more so since Krawcheck coined the term). The same may hold for reading a biography of fragrance genius Jo Malone or IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad as to finance and neuro-diversity issues (Malone and Kamprad are both dyslexic). The book you choose doesn’t necessarily have to be non-fiction or a book entirely about the subject at hand. For example, the Association of Fundraising Professionals chose A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens for their December book club meeting, with instructions to read the novel through the lens of giving.

Focused or Broad? Professional Groups also like to delve into matters related to their practice. For example, the Medicine and Literature book club sponsored by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, open to doctors and nurses, focuses on topics related to death and medicine, incorporating Frankenstein into their list of books. Other groups, like those who recruit and train employees, focus on books that aid in professional development generally. If you have several distinct niche marketing opportunities – such as serving all of a particular professional group or industry – you might consider hosting a book club just for those clients. As Paula Williams said about the book club her association, Aviation Business Consultants, Inc., hosts “We don’t get a whole lot of opportunity to interact socially. Of course, there are conventions and other things but, on a weekly or monthly basis. We all work a whole lot and we don’t have a lot of opportunity to kind of socialize with other people who are like us, the type a aviation, and sales, and marketing professionals. So, this gives us a chance to get together and talk on a regular basis and that really is something that’s worth doing and brings a little bit of balance into the lives of some very driven and focused people, right?”

These articles are prepared for general purposes and are not intended to provide advice or encourage specific behavior. Before taking any action, Advisors and Plan Sponsors should consult with their compliance, finance and legal teams.

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