What is the process you follow when you go to a store to buy something? You probably go to the most convenient place (bricks or clicks) and peruse the assortment available. You may search for a particular brand if you are aware of it. If not, you look at the prices to compare the value of the items to your needs. Then depending on the strength of your need compared to the available choices you decide to buy or wait.
If publishers looked at the purchasing process form their customers’ prospective, they could sell more books. Instead, they seek manuscripts based on an author’s knowledge (non-fiction) or imagination (fiction). Then they publish them, price them to cover all costs and desired profits, and sell them through bookstores. They announce the availability of their books through social media and publicity. And when the books do not sell they publish different ones.
You can increase your revenue by changing your focus to look at the sale from your prospects’ viewpoint. Easier said than done? Not really. Instead of focusing on the 4Ps of traditional marketing (Product, Place, Price and Promotion), consider the 4Cs of customer value: Content, Convenience, Cost and Communication.
Focus on content instead of product. Publishers find manuscripts and produce products to deliver the words, either as printed books, ebooks or audio books. However, people do not buy books per se. They purchase information that helps or entertains them in some way.
There are three elements of content to be considered: relevance, quality and delivery. First, it should be relevant to a significant number of people. What problems do target buyers have for which they seek a solution? Do consumers want to lose weight, gain money, improve their health, etc? If so, they will buy information to help them do it. Will the content help a corporation increase sales? Help an association build membership? If so, they will make the purchase.
Second, the content must be produced to high quality standards. Your content (writing, editing, layout) and production must exceed a minimum level, and rarely can other elements can make up for a shortfall in quality.
Finally, the content must be delivered in the form most desired by consumers. Form follows function and it depends on how the customer wants to access the information. It could be a printed book (soft or hardcover), but it could also be an ebook, booklet, MP3, podcast or a webinar. Corporate buyers may prefer personal delivery in a workshop or seminar for employees.
Focus on convenience instead of place. Is your content readily accessible to the buyers? For example, if your target readers are business people who travel regularly, then you want your content in airport stores. Do they shop at a supermarket, camera store, gift shop, discount store or through a catalog? Make your content available where your customers can conveniently find it.
Conversely, buyers at corporations, associations, schools do not go out looking for your content. You make it convenient for them to purchase by finding and selling to them.
Focus on cost (from your customers’ perspective) instead of the price. Your production and marketing costs may or may not have anything to do with the price at which you sell your content. Buyers do not care what your costs are, but they know if the price you are asking is worth their perceived value of your content.
Of course, certain elements of cost must be evaluated when calculating the price. In addition to production costs, analyze the impact of obsolescence of the content, the complexity of the distribution channel, market share desired and profit potential. But savvy publishers will go beyond these considerations and address the value their prospective buyers place on the content.
Focus on communication instead of promotion. People need to know why your content is important to them and where they can get it. Publishers attempt to perform this function through social media, publicity, direct marketing, websites, sales promotion, personal selling, trade shows and other promotional venues. These are valid promotional tools but yield a false sense of security. Publishers assume that sending a message is synonymous with communicating the message. That is a dangerous assumption. The right message sent to the wrong audience at the wrong time will not succeed in motivating people to buy. Think of these four elements of communication to engage and inform your prospective buyers.
• Message. People need to know how they will benefit from purchasing your content. Your message must communicate the benefits to the prospective customer. Describing features of your book (size, awards, photographs) will not engage readers. Instead, describe how they can solve a problem. Begin each promotional device with a relevant, attention-getting statement or question. Build interest by describing how the reader can benefit. Increase the reader’s desire to buy your product and then close with some call to action.
• Market. A critical mistake many book-marketers make is assuming one message is right for everyone. Publishers write a press release and send it to everybody they can think of. However, people buy for different reasons, and you engage them by addressing the reasons that motivate them to buy. Retailers want store traffic and profit per square foot. Librarians want to help their patrons. Media producers and editors want informative, entertaining content for their listeners, viewers or readers. Corporate buyers want to increase sales, and associations want to build their membership. Your message must address the concerns of each segment or they will not buy.
• Medium. Go back to your definition of your target readers. Where do they look for information on your subject? An older demographic may look to printed media (newspapers or snail mail). A younger audience may prefer podcasts, email or apps on their phones. Your targeted message is more likely to engage if you reach them as they want to be reached.
• Moment. Timing of your message is also vital. Do you coordinate your promotion with a special marketing period (see www.holidayinsights.com)? Do you communicate with educators when they are buying for the next school year? Do you contact government agencies or corporate buyers before their budget money is expended? Do you give consumers sufficient notice to buy your product as holiday gift?
Effective marketing should be a planned, coordinated effort to motivate your prospective customers to buy. Your efforts will be more effective when you look at everything from their perspectives. Provide your content in the right form, show them why it could cost them more not to buy it, make it available in a place convenient for them, and communicate the benefits to people in each market segment. Then watch your sales, revenue and profits increase.
Brian Jud is the Executive Director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales (APSS – www.bookapss.org) and author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books and Beyond the Bookstore. Contact Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.premiumbookcompany.com and twitter @bookmarketing