Entrepreneurial book publishers are regularly faced with a dilemma. They recognize the need to focus on long-term growth and they create five-year plans to achieve it. On the other hand, they understand they must generate short-term revenue to stay in business long enough to reach their ultimate goals. The dilemma? How to survive during the short-term to achieve long-term success?
The answer is not to find better books to sell, but to find better ways to sell books. That is to create and implement an array of marketing tools that allows each to fulfill its designated function over a specific time period.
Some marketing actions facilitate awareness and others are intended to generate sales. Some operate in the short term while others take more time to develop and have an impact on revenue. Others require a sequence of actions with some preparation needed for full impact. If you can balance actions as they function over time they can act like an IV drip, sustaining your product line’s life with the proper solution delivered at the right time.
A format to help you organize this approach is shown below. It forces you to plan your actions according to their ability to maximize the return on your investment of resources.
The rationale for this process is that before sales can occur, people in your target segments must be aware that your content is available and understand how it can benefit them. They are more likely to buy after they are exposed to — and understand — your message.
How to define each label
Definitions of the quadrants are open to your interpretation. You may choose to rename “Short Term” as “Next Year,” or “Sales” as “Revenue.” The important thing is that the labels help you organize and plan you marketing strategies and tactics.
Short and Long Term. The positions of items in the graph are made according to two considerations. First is the approximate time it takes to implement it. “Building your platform” is something that should be started immediately, but it is primarily a long-term function because its benefits accrue over time. Second is the impact they have on exposure and sales. For instance, planning and design and production quality can impact your short-term sales and can also have a long term effect.
Exposure. This is defined as the number of people who hear and understand your message and the frequency with which that occurs. This can be accomplished personally (media appearances, launch party) or indirectly (publicity, virtual tour). The relative success of generating awareness depends on how carefully you segment your prospects so your message is targeted to their specific needs and circumstances.
Sales. Once your exposure-generating plan is underway, sales should follow as you begin your selling activities. Many publishers measure growth in terms of units moved or revenue generated. But you cannot control sales. You can only influence them by your marketing actions. This chart focuses on what you can control (promotion, distribution, pricing), not what you can’t control (sales and revenue). Additionally, sales can be increased through one-on-one activities (personal networking, telephone sales) or indirectly (direct mail, website). There are sales actions appropriate for any personality type.
Examples of actions in each quadrant
The lists below illustrate some of the actions you can take in each of the four quadrants. This is not an exhaustive list of available actions, nor are they ranked in any particular order. These are simply examples of things you can do balance your business growth. They may be applied to specific titles or to your business in general.
Quadrant 1: Book-marketing actions to stimulate short-term exposure
- Appearances on television and radio shows
- Print publicity
- Launch party
- Virtual tour
- Endorsements and testimonials
Quadrant 2: Book-marketing actions to achieve long-term exposure
- Social networking
- Trade shows
- Personal presentations
- Webinar series
- Contributions to associations’ newsletters
- Series of articles
- Sales promotion items (bookmarks, pens, pads)
- Sales literature
- Building your platform
- Business cards, company literature
- Participation in discussion groups and forums
Quadrant 3: Book-marketing actions to generate short-term sales
- Personal networking (if network is already in place)
- Direct marketing (snail mail or email)
- Telephone sales
- Website (if set up as a selling site with shopping cart)
- Affiliate partnerships
- Sales through bookstores
- Sales through non-bookstore retailers
- Retail-store events
- Personal selling
- Home shopping networks
- Product extensions
- Sales through display marketing companies
- Library tours
Quadrant 4: Book-marketing actions to achieve long-term sales
- Large-quantity, non-returnable corporate sales
- Recurring revenue for non-retail buyers
- Sales to government agencies
- Creating and maintaining retail-distribution partnerships
- Design and production quality
- Pricing decisions
- Sales through book clubs
- Sales through catalogs
- Positioning and branding
- Sale of rights
- Foreign translations
- Sales to associations
- Sales to the armed services
- Brand extensions
- Author extensions
There is no mandatory position on this chart for any particular action. Placement is unique to your titles, resources and authors’ involvement in the marketing process. Nor are the contents of the quadrants mutually exclusive. Some activities could be placed in all four quadrants. For instance, a website that is designed to communicate a message, reinforce a brand, sell books and describe consulting opportunities could create exposure and sales immediately and over time.
The marketing tools included in this list represent only the visible function. Most require some background activity. Before the authors conduct media appearances they must create their one sheets, find and contact producers and take media training. Before they make personal sales calls, the publishers’ representatives must learn selling techniques, find prospective buyers and plan their approach for making each large-quantity sale.
This system is applicable to other circumstances, too. It could be adapted for the introduction of a specific title where the short term could be 90 days. In addition, the entrepreneur’s dilemma may be particularly unnerving if there is a shortfall of sales and revenue at the beginning of the fourth quarter. As the pressure builds to reach annual goals they revert back to their short-term-sales actions.
The point is that instead of doing everything you can to grow your business, take some time to plot the impact of each action to generate sales and revenue over time. This strategic combination can contribute significantly to your long-term success.
Brian Jud is the Executive Director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales and author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books.