Who is Your Customer?
Who is your customer? Are you sure?
Your first response is probably, "That is a pretty silly question." Of course, your customer is the person who buys your books. But if you interpret the question differently, your answer could have significant impact on your business future, since it determines your business model and where you will invest your resources.
In a retail setting, your customer could be the retailer who ordered your book to place on the shelf. And, it could be the distributor from which the retailer ordered your book. In non-retail segments people buy books not for resale, but to use as tools to sell more of their products, motivate their employees, generate more members for their association or educate their students. Couldn't they all be considered customers?
If you define the question a little differently your customers are not those that generate the most revenue for your publishing company but those that add the most value to your business. There are three factors that influence your definition of your customer, and subsequently the future of your business.
Mission. Do you place value on what your books are or what they do for the people who use your content to meet their needs? That will help you answer the next question, "Why are you in business as a publisher?" Is it to make a lot of money, or to help people solve problems (weight loss or money gain), raise better children, prepare better meals or find relaxation and entertainment in an interesting story? The more specifically you define the content you purvey, you will have fewer customers and a larger opportunity for growth.
Focus. At what level of the value chain do you excel? Is it acquisition? Production? Distribution? Marketing? Business development? Focus on what you do best and rely on other experts to do their part in your growth and success. Treat your partners as customers instead of suppliers.
Value. Profit is, of course, valuable to the success of your publishing business. But if your quest for continuous maximum profitability comes at the expense of product quality or relationships, then its value becomes fleeting and perhaps even lethal to long-term growth.
Build and maintain customer relationships for long-term value. If you want to sell 10,000 books in the retail sector you have to sell one book to each of 10,000 people. Your "customer" provides value for one moment in time.
But to sell the same quantity of books in the non-retail segment, you could get one person to buy 10,000 books now, and perhaps again in the future. The value is in aggregate profitable revenue, not charging a premium price. Here the test of a customer's value is not in its ability to deliver profits, but the ability to make a long-term contribution to your recurring revenue.
Give more thought to how you define your customers. Your new answer could make an important difference in the relative success of your business.
Brian Jud is the Executive Director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales (APSS - www.bookapss.org - formerly SPAN). He is also the author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books. Brian offers commission-based sales of books to buyers in non-bookstore markets. Contact Brian at P. O. Box 715, Avon, CT 06001-0715; (860) 675-1344; firstname.lastname@example.org or www.premiumbookcompany.com twitter.com/bookmarketing