Did you ever think about taking a long trip? If so, you probably thought about how you would get to your destination, perhaps traveling by car, plane, train or bus. Then you planned where to stay each night, what to pack and how much it would all cost. Finally you made a checklist so you didn’t forget to do anything and spend your money wisely.
That is the same process used to plan your book-marketing activities. First you think about what you are going to do, analyzing alternatives. Once you choose those that will maximize results, you write a plan as a reminder to perform each action in the proper sequence, at the right time and within your budget.
This process begins with creating all the possible ways you might fulfill your mission, evaluating each and then choosing the best combination that will optimize your sales, revenue and profits. That in a nutshell is your marketing strategy. It lays the foundation for your trip, and if done properly the rest of your journey is more enjoyable and profitable.
Here are a few rules for creating a solid marketing strategy.
- Generate quantity vs. quality of ideas initially. Develop many possible ways in which you could sell your content to your target readers and buyers. Consider the possible forms of your product (a printed book, ebook, app, booklet or audio book). How might you distribute it (through bookstores, discount stores, online or vending machines, or to corporations, schools and libraries)? Will you penetrate your markets with a low price, skim for profits with a high price or choose a different pricing strategy for each segment? What will you do to promote your content online and offline? Think only possibilities at this point, without wondering how you will do it. Then choose the combination of actions that is most likely to increase your revenue.
- Keep you strategy statement simple. Write a sentence describing what you will sell, where, to whom, and at what price. Then explain how you will implement the various promotional actions you have chosen.
- Do not strive for perfection, but for direction. Strategy is thinking about what you could do given current and foreseeable circumstances. But things can change. Make a list of what you will do given your objectives, resources, and current market conditions.
- Create checkpoints. Your mission is cast in stone, but your strategy is dynamic. Do something, evaluate your results and then take any necessary corrective actions. Clarify your definition of results. Do not simply say you will increase sales, but by what amount? Do you want to expand into new markets? Which ones? Set a target for each title and segment. Erect quarterly milestones against which you can objectively evaluate your progress. Also define your exit strategy, the point at which you will abandon a particular title or your strategy for marketing it.
- Have a top-line orientation. An over-simplified formula calculates profitability: top line – costs = bottom line. When designing strategy to increase profitability, do not focus on reducing costs (which they control), but on increasing revenue (which is controlled by your buyers). Concentrate your strategy on creating compelling value as defined by your target buyers, and how to communicate those benefits to them.
- Allow your strategy time to unfold. Publishers with a short-term perspective may give a particular strategy six months or less to produce verifiable results. Give your strategies sufficient time to prove (or disprove) their validity. For example, large-quantity, non-returnable sales to corporate buyers can take years to consummate, but the reward can be significant.
Once your strategy is defined, write your checklist of all the actions you will take, when you will take them, the cost for each and your return on that investment. That is your marketing plan. Then implement your plan and evaluate your progress periodically and tweak it as you move forward. The foundation of this entire process is the thinking you do initially. Marketing strategy rules!
This is the first in a four part series on book marketing. The second part, Book Marketing Choreography, was posted October 28. Look for the third post, The Hidden Power of Book Marketing, the week of November 10.
Brian Jud is the Executive Director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales (formerly SPAN) and host of the APSS Book Selling University. He is also the author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books.