How to Market Books From the Customer's Perspective
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, imagination, or even fame. 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 them as printed books, ebooks, or audiobooks. 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. 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, 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.
Focus on value 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 obsolesce 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, and more. 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. Explain how the reader will benefit.
- 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. 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? 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. If you can do that you will see your sales, revenue, and profits increase.
Brian Jud is an author, book-marketing consultant, seminar leader, television host and president of Premium Book Company, which sells books to non-bookstore buyers on a non-returnable, commission-only basis and conducts on-site training for publishers' sales forces.
Brian is the author of "How to Make Real Money Selling Books (Without Worrying About Returns)," a do-it-yourself guide to selling books to non-bookstore buyers in large quantities, with no returns. He has written many articles about book publishing and marketing, is the author of the eight e-booklets with "Proven Tips for Publishing Success," and creator of the series of "Book Marketing Wizards." He is also the editor of the bi-weekly newsletter, "Book Marketing Matters."
Brian is the host of the television series "The Book Authority" and has aired over 650 shows. In addition, he is the author, narrator and producer of the media-training video program "You're On The Air."