A MAP for Reaching Nonretail Buyers
by Brian Jud
Book marketing is relatively simple, in a sense, because there are only two arenas in which to compete: retail and nonretail. The retail sector consists of bookstores (physical and virtual) and other outlets such as office supply stores, supermarkets, health-food stores, gift shops, and specialty stores. Selling to these establishments is primarily done through intermediaries that control the flow of goods and charge a fee for their services.
Sales through some of these channels, especially bookstores, are plagued by two practices that cut into profits: returns of unsold books and payments in 120 days or more.
Some publishers sell to libraries and directly to consumers as well as through retail outlets, and then consider their sales opportunities exhausted. But the nonretail arena can be a significant source of profitable revenue—with virtually no returns and relatively prompt payments. This arena is populated by buyers in corporations, associations, schools, the military, and government agencies. Unfortunately, few intermediaries are available to help publishers reach nonretail buyers, and for some of these buyers, no intermediaries serve publishers, so you may have to do the selling and negotiating yourself.
Perhaps the primary reason many publishers shun this arena is that they do not know how to market to its buyers. But selling directly to nonretail buyers is certainly an option. For small publishers, this may mean doing all the planning, prospecting, proposing, presenting, and negotiating. For larger publishers it may mean hiring sales staff to do that work for you.
Pros and Cons of Doing It Yourself
Selling directly makes sense under certain conditions. Your market share and projected sales volume should justify the resources you will have to invest. You must have the time, skills, and desire to perform or manage the sales effort. Ideally, your primary customers will be large and geographically concentrated, because nonretail buyers generally expect to work directly with the publishers of the books they purchase.
One of the principal advantages of this option is that your gross revenue is usually higher, assuming you have the skills to negotiate a profitable deal. Another plus is that you have control over your sales staff. Either because you are your sales staff or because you are the staff’s employer, you can make sure that your pitches are going to the most likely prospects and that you are getting the benefit of feedback.
There are disadvantages too, of course. You can leave money on the table if you negotiate without a clear understanding of the discount structures and terms of sale that are norms for a given buyer. You may find that many buyers refuse to deal with you if you have only one title or a limited product line. If your primary customers are not geographically concentrated, you may lose the advantage of face-to-face selling with some prospects. And it is time consuming to handle all the tasks involved in selling, invoicing, promotion, customer service, and arranging credit for each customer.
The Market Access Provider Alternative
As you might expect, companies have sprung up to fill the gap between publishers and the large, lucrative, and complex assortment of nonretail book buyers. Generically known as market access providers, MAPs form an intermediary network that can sell your books to nonretail buyers for less than the cost of selling them yourself. In the promotional products industry, organizations of independent sales reps serve as MAPs, representing multiple, noncompeting lines and working on commission.
A MAP as a marketing partner will sell your books on a nonreturnable, commission-only basis to buyers with which it has a business relationship. Although it will not carry any inventory of your titles, a MAP will act as your sales agent and contact you when it takes an order, which you will then fulfill by shipping directly (and blindly) to the buyer. In most cases, the buyers pay for shipping.
This option, too, has advantages and disadvantages.
On the plus side, your direct costs for prospecting, acquisition, transaction, account maintenance, and maintaining relationships are lower. Using a MAP eliminates the time and cost of hiring, training, managing, and maintaining your own sales staff. Also, MAP reps know their territories and the potential buyers, and can sell to prospects you may never have known existed and might have taken years to find. This can increase the velocity of your cash flow by shortening the time between initial contact and payment. Since MAPs work on a straight-commission basis, your costs are low or zero unless and until books are sold. And perhaps most important, you can go about your normal business of publishing while the reps generate incremental revenue for you.
Disadvantages include lack of control over relationships with buyers, since, for obvious reasons, MAP reps do not want buyers to deal directly with their suppliers. Because the reps are not your employees, you do not control their time either, and you probably cannot influence how much time they spend on selling your titles. Also, opportunities for feedback are limited; reps may have limited knowledge about your titles, and you may have to find several rep groups to cover a large territory.
Some MAPs operate nationally. For instance, the Marketing and Sales Group based in York, PA, and headed by Guy M. Achtzehn (firstname.lastname@example.org) has a nationwide network of salespeople who call on corporate buyers of promotional products.
If you have a regional title, check the sites listed below for directories of local rep groups you can choose from.
If your books would make good incentives for corporations, check out the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA), which promotes the use of incentives among decision makers (incentivemarketing.org).
If your books’ content has to do with travel, try the Incentive Travel Council (via the IMA site), a strategic industry group within the IMA that aims to educate and promote the benefits of incentive travel to the worldwide business community.
If your titles are appropriate for motivating, training, or educating employees, search the member directories at the Performance Improvement Council (PIC; peopleperformance.org) and the Recognition Council (recognitioncouncil.org). These professional organizations promote awareness of how recognition and rewards can help businesses achieve better performance.
Other sites to consider checking include usegiftcertificates.org, where you can find a directory of members of the Incentive Gift Card Council (IGCC), an industry group that educates the corporate community on the benefits of gift cards and awards; and asicentral.com, where the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI)—the largest organization serving the advertising specialty industry—works to bring suppliers and sellers together by providing catalogs, information directories, newsletters, magazines, and other marketing and selling tools.
When you investigate options for making the journey to increased sales and profits in the nonretail arena with a view toward choosing those that will work best for your titles and circumstances, you should soon begin to reap rewards. It is not as difficult as you may think if you consult a MAP before making the trip.
Brian Jud is the author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books and serves as a MAP to buyers in special markets. Contact him via Premium Book Company, P. O. Box 715, Avon, CT 06001; 860/675-1344; fax 860/270-0343; email@example.com; or premiumbookcompany.com.