Using 'the Best Direct-Marketing Medium Ever Invented' to Sell Books
Many digital marketers like to think of themselves as reinventing the wheel—when it comes to selling directly to consumers, old-school marketers couldn't possibly have anything to teach them. That was the impression he recently got from one 20-something-year-old marketer, said Neal Goff, president of New York City-based consulting firm Egremont Associates, on Tuesday afternoon during his session at the 2011 Publishing Business Conference & Expo in New York City.
What the young marketer might not have realized was that long before e-books graced a Kindle, Goff and his book publishing industry brethren were doing exactly what the title of his session implied—selling direct to consumer.
"Direct-mail bookselling was a really healthy business until about the mid-90s," he said.
And guess what? Those book-of-the-month clubs survived on 1-percent to 2-percent response rates, he said. That sounded similar to Goff's example of the 130 million e-mails it took one children's book publisher to gain 2 million customers. And while direct-mail book clubs of old offered free trials, including books, this particular children's book publisher offered free downloads, such as puzzles and coloring pages, on its website.
Then and now, direct marketing requires tracking and testing to succeed, he added.
But at the same time, Goff said, the Internet "is the best direct-marketing medium ever invented." Paraphrasing author Seth Godin, he said the Web introduced the "maybe" into the the direct-marketing process. Where direct-mail recipients would decide "yes" or "no" about a purchase, Web visitors can opt-in to start a relationship with a company and "maybe" buy later, Goff said.
So in order to succeed in selling books directly to consumers, Goff said publishers are going to have to step back and nurture gatherings of consumers in the consumers' interest areas before creating content that those gatherings want. This is the antithesis of what publishers were once able to do, which was publish content and then create audience interest, he said.
"The question is not whether you can [sell directly to consumers], but whether you can survive if you don't," he said.
Editor's Note: Check out the May/June issue of Book Business for additional coverage of the 2011 Publishing Business Conference & Expo.