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Laura K. Cowan

Pictured: Laura K. Cowan. Not pictured: my fabulous shoes.

As part of my local test of various formats for giving a talk about Ecofrugal Baby and selling books, I agreed to participate in Children’s Orchard’s Mom’s Night Out last night (gosh that’s a lot of apostrophes in a row–sorry!). The event was hosted at Children’s Orchard, a used children’s clothing store in Ann Arbor that has an email subscriber list of customers who receive special offers for invite-only sales and such. They had been invited to this closed-door shopping and pampering event that involved prize drawings, snacks, and shopping. I was joined by several other entrepreneurs with products that would appeal to moms, but for some reason–I suppose because of the appeal of having an author at the event–I was given the table front and center. That’s a good start, right?

In participating in this event, I wanted to achieve the following goals:

1) Further develop my ability to talk with people at an event without overselling my book

2) See if this format for an event sold more books than my book signing

3) Gain more local publicity and word of mouth for my book.

Here is what I learned:

1) Women who shop in used clothing stores are often very interested in the topics covered in Ecofrugal Baby, but they weren’t really prepared to purchase the book at this event, either because they weren’t physically prepared to pay for the book or because they weren’t mentally prepared to buy a book when they arrived. Both these problems could have been solved with more advanced planning and marketing.

2) Some women love to talk forever and ever about saving money or green parenting or being a mom, but others clearly feel like they’re being sold something even when you’re just trying to engage them in basic conversation. I understand that defensiveness and I want to respect it. I feel like I’m getting better at identifying these women very quickly so I don’t come on too strong.

3) The first woman who visited my table said she had seen the book in the local paper. That’s exactly what I wanted to hear! There is a tipping point somewhere, after which people will start to buy my book because they’ve seen it enough places and heard it recommended enough times that they want to check it out. I’m still working toward that point, because that woman walked away.

4) I didn’t sell a single book at this event, but I did have four women say they would likely pick it up from my 29Diapers.com blog later. I know the key to sales is to close the deal before the prospect walks away, but I just don’t like to be pushy about these things and I hadn’t qualified these leads before they walked in the door, so what could I expect? Once I realized the low potential for sales for the event, I focused on meeting people, whether they were customers or employees or my fellow entrepreneurs manning tables at the event. We had a great time, I met a woman who has a similar mission as me that I may be working with for some cross-promotion of each other’s writing, and I got the store manager’s permission to leave brochures at the counter for employees to stuff in customer’s bags on an ongoing basis. Given the situation, I think this will be a much better way to get the word out to even more people, without having to spend any more time in 4-inch heels (though the shoes got as many compliments as the book, lol).

So, the conclusion is that I will likely skip any similar events I was planning at other local used clothing stores, unless those stores heavily promote the event and my attendance in particular. I could do it just for the extra publicity and heavily promote it myself, but it doesn’t seem worth the effort of making my husband watch my daughter for two hours and keeping her up past her bedtime. In a few years that won’t be a big deal at all, but she’s still nursing so I’m constantly aware of not being with her, and I think she feels the same way. Baby girl and husband come first! And you know what? I told my husband I was hoping that this event would either be a great success or a total flop sales-wise, because I need a clear winner for sales that I can then focus my efforts on and scale up nationally. As a one-woman show I definitely have to work smart and not spread myself too thin.

I hope this was interesting and helpful to any of you planning similar events. Please let me know your best tips for book sales, publicity, or any questions in comments. Blessings!

Ecofrugal Baby, the Book

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