Are publishers customer focused? This question was raised recently in a Scholarly Kitchen blog post, and the thought-provoking answers of nine industry insiders were far from definitive. There was broad agreement that asking the question has inherent value. However, there were differing ideas about how to determine what drives the development of new products and features.
Is your business focused on customers? How do you know you’re serving them — and thus building a solid future for your publishing organization? Here are some questions to start your internal discussion.
Why is the question important?
The past two decades have been a time of major change and upheaval for book publishers. We know our customer base is constantly in motion and increasingly distracted. To keep up, we must always be re-evaluating our business plans and objectives. If we don’t, publishers run the risk of pursuing irrelevant business goals and introducing features that don’t actually meet customer needs.
As one Scholarly Kitchen respondent warned, publishers must be wary of low-value, low-adoption features that are there simply to differentiate a publishing house from the competition without providing a true value-add to customers. But one way to authentically set apart your organization is to be customer-centric.
And of course, that point leads to more questions.
What do customers want?
To gear your business toward your customers, you must first define who your customers are, what they’re doing, and how they’re buying. Some would argue that customers don’t know what they want until you show them, but there’s a fine line between being an innovator and wasting time and energy on features that customers don’t want and can’t use. Consider the following:
- What are your customers’ interests? What are they doing with their days? What do they do after hours?
- What are your customers’ problems and pains? What are the roadblocks that are preventing them from connecting with your content?
- How do customers find your titles? Online? On mobile devices? Through associations or recommendations?
The trick when developing new products is to ensure you’re delivering what readers want now. And that’s something that’s always changing.
Where do they want it?
In this ever-changing industry, are traditional bookstores still the best way to reach customers? By looking at customer habits as well as trending developments, you might determine that out-of-bookstore marketing is a valuable method of touching your audience.
As you’re considering your options, take a look at our recent Sheridan Books blog posts How Is Trade Marketing Different from Non-Bookstore Marketing? and What’s the Big Idea: Creative Techniques for Selling in Non-Bookstore Markets. Insights from our guest blogger Brian Jud, Executive Director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales (APSS), can help shape your marketing plan. And Sheridan’s many direct-to-consumer solutions give you the flexibility to find the optimal way to reach your customer-focused goals.
How do they want it?
Are faster delivery, online ordering, or mobile access for browsing what your customers are looking for? Is social media the best way to reach them, or should you send alerts for upcoming titles through a mobile app?
These days, a book publisher is automatically pulled into the business of digital technology. Thus, it’s essential to bring technology experts into your process. Sheridan’s Technology Lab is your resource for innovative solutions that bring your books and your customers together without breaking your process or your budget.
Never stop asking
Answering these types of questions will help lead you to a customer-focused reality, which will help you determine the best place to put your effort and your budget.
It’s likely that as you ask these questions, you’ll find that you’re actually very much in-tune with your customers today. However, you can count on one thing: Their wants and needs will just keep changing.
Asking customer-focused questions is part of your ongoing process as a publisher. When you’re always looking for ways to adapt to customers’ needs, you’ll be able to make better decisions about the features and approaches to employ to build your business.