7 Ways Book Publishers Can Establish D2C Marketing & Sales
This article is the third installment of a feature written by book marketing consultant and BISG director Brian O’Leary. Part 1 and 2 of this article appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of Book Business. View the complete feature on D2C marketing here.
Part 3: Keys to Building Your D2C & Content Marketing Skillset
Book publishers aren’t strangers to D2C sales. Many have ecommerce components to their company websites, but they fail to drive significant book sale revenue. In Parts 1 & 2 of this feature discussed why this straight ecommerce play doesn’t serve publishers well and explained how content marketing and conversion funnels can drive greater sales. Here, let’s explore the steps publishers need to take in order to get their D2C marketing and sales efforts off the ground.
1. Understand how search, social, and referral marketing works.
Understanding the nuances of digital marketing should be more than an IT or web assignment – put a senior member of the team on the hook to report back to everyone on best practices in these areas. Along the way, evaluate how ready you are to implement best practices in marketing directly to consumers.
2. Inventory your content.
See what might work in a format valued by your target audience. Start by picking a niche to focus on. Review your published and marketing content for both opportunities and challenges. It is possible that the marketing materials you have in house were written for a trade or supplier relationship. If so, that’s important to know early, especially if you decide to cultivate more direct relationships.
Ask: What could be packaged differently to better serve your audiences. Use a critical eye to address the content that needs an update to better address or serve a consumer audience.
You also have to be mindful of your list. Can you truly offer a critical mass of differentiated content? It’s a crowded universe; marketing alone probably won’t carry the day. You need to be clear in how you provide value for your target audiences.
3. Create long-form content.
People actually do read long-form content online, and search results favor relevant long-form content. When you inventory your content, ask yourself “What can we offer to attract and retain audiences?” – the backbone of D2C marketing.
Within longer-form content, test calls to action -- things that point readers to other, relevant content or purchase opportunities for books and other products.
When you post longer-form content, make sure you use meta-tags and rich snippets to accurately describe your content in ways that the audiences you want to reach will recognize and respond to. This is an area where the trade description probably won’t work. Think about ways that your target audiences will talk about the question or interest they have or the problem they are trying to solve. That language is more likely to be discovered when searching online.
4. Measure what you do.
It’s okay to start with simple measures and grow from there. Try tracking the number of followers and subscribers. Look for higher levels of engagement using services like bit.ly, which provides users with the ability to track when readers click on links to curated content. Track brand recognition -- how familiar an average person is with your imprint, as an example. Goal-setting is an area where a fair share of content marketers fall short. Start by setting both short-term and longer-term goals, then track actual results.
5. Develop a voice
Blog about something you think readers care about. Cultivating an audience starts with a voice and takes practice. Authors know this, giving most a head start on their publishing colleagues. To attract and retain an audience, think about ways to connect what you do with people who might value it.
Test multiple content forms, as well. Posting the same type of content over and over again tends to wear out online followers. The goal is to get readers to sign up, the starting point for a relationship you can later monetize.
To help make that happen, be prepared to respond to comments and reader questions. You want to build relationships, and dialogue helps you do that.
6. Think carefully about your calls to action.
Not every content passage will result in a sale. Be mindful of the value of keeping a prospect close, close enough to obtain an email. Learn about their interests and behaviors before contacting them with subsequent content and multiple offers. Mine the data you can collect for insight, not volume.
One way publishers can understand what interests readers and what calls to actions will make an impact is to create journey maps. Journey maps are visual representations of an individual’s relationship with a product or brand across platforms over time.
Journey mapping can help publishers in a number of ways, providing data that allows us to connect, collaborate, and align around reader interests.
In mapping a reader’s step-by-step journey, it is useful to look upstream to understand prior experiences, and downstream, after purchase, to see what a customer does as a result of their interactions. These journey maps can be decidedly low-tech: wall maps, post-it notes, and visual aids are the preferred tools.
7. Host a live event
Your authors are draws. Look for ways to make them stars in a person-to-person setting. Focus on an audience and its needs, not just a format or just your list.
The success of BookExpo’s BookCon in attracting an audience (and some industry notoriety) illustrates the opportunity you have in reaching out to readers. An example I particularly like comes from Harvard Common Press, which hosts food-related events at its offices and elsewhere, convening (as an example) some of Boston’s most active food bloggers for conversation and an opportunity to test recipes from the Press’s own lists.
Brian O'Leary is the founder and principal of Magellan Media Partners, a publishing consultant that helps enterprises with media and publishing components.