PUBLISHED OCTOBER 1996
by Robert C. Brenner, President, Brenner Microcomputing, Inc.
Claire sat back with a determined smile. This month is the anniversary of her business and time to update her business plan. She will evaluate both her strategic plan and tactical plan. Marketing will be a major part of her focus.
She has already been collecting information on the major trends in publishing. She also regularly reads organization newsletters to get first-hand opinions from those she respects. And she attends professional meetings to get a sense for what is real in publishing today. She has also been gathering market intelligence on her competition and on her current and potential customers. It will take time to organize and analyze the information. But it needs to be done. As a small publisher, Claire needs to be street smart to remain profitable.
She has observed that the business of publishing is changing rapidly. Hardcover and paperback books are being offered electronically-on discs, tapes, by fax, or as download files. Traditional storefronts are being represented electronically. Online web sites are exploding into a new business universe. Virtually every major publisher boasts an online presence. None brag about the profits that they’re making from their electronic stores, although the hype and promotion is intense.
She discovers that few electronic stores are actually making a profit on the Internet today. For most of these storefronts, a presence on the Internet is good enough. Nevertheless, books do seem to be a good product for online stores.
She learns from Amazon.com that “tens of thousands” visit its “one million plus” Internet bookstore each day. Amazon.com lists small publishers for free, and allows authors and publishers to attach comments to the electronic”blurbs” on their books. It appears that book buyers are increasingly going to alternative media to find products.
To operate in a “market-driven” environment and expand into global selling, she must characterize her current and planned customer base. She needs to know what customers want, why they buy from one source over another, and what they are willing to pay for good information. Then she must make her company and her products unique and different from her competitors.
She makes a list of the strengths and weaknesses of her products. Then she compares her list with the intelligence that she has gathered on competitor products. She will promote her products’ strengths and seek to correct their weaknesses.
Claire then partitions book buyers into actual customers, possible customers, and those who would not likely be interested in her marketing efforts. Her first priority is to protect her present customer base. Previous buyers make great next product buyers. She will contact each existing customer on a periodic basis to keep her products “current” in their thinking (and planning). She also wants to know what other products she could produce for them.
She divides the “possible” customers into leads and prospects. Leads are those buyers that she thinks will be interested in her products. Prospects are those buyers that have actually shown interest but have not yet become customers.
Claire must also monitor her competition and maintain price flexibility in order to keep her existing customer base. This means that she must give increased attention to soft issues such as needs analysis, planning, listening, and direct customer interaction.
Since her books were among many in the same category, she senses that much of her new sales will come from her direct actions in being their first with good information. She needs to be the publisher with the products that get noticed. This will be tough, but publishing good information and expanding the visibility of her products in the marketplace will enable Claire to hold or possibly gain market share.
Claire conducts an Internet search to see what other publishers are doing on the World Wide Web. This gives her ideas for her own marketing strategy.
She opts for a three-prong marketing strategy. First, she will position her business to meet new market opportunities. This means that she will invest in hardware and software to improve productivity and provide the information content that prospects require. Second, she will adopt a mixed-media approach to advertising her products. Finally, Claire will become aggressive in”beating the bushes” for new business opportunities.
For each potential product, she will conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine break-even using several price points. She will also identify those products that should be dropped because they are no longer profitable or relevant. Claire will use trends and information on competitor products in pricing her products. Using her intelligence database, she will decide which books to produce and target those that should be priced more competitively.
She will investigate promotional opportunities (and costs) using a variety of advertising means-direct mail, newspaper and magazine display ads, classified ads, radio sound bites, TV spots, and online promotions. Claire will include online selling as an extension of her direct mail and distributor channels. Initially she will sell through other companies’ websites. If this proves profitable, she will consider establishing her own website.
Her strategy for getting potential customers to her web site will be to provide information that they seek-facts about subjects detailed in her
books. She’ll also develop an online newsletter that she’ll distribute through e-mail.
Claire will request media kits from targeted newspaper and magazine publishers. She will also request media kits from targeted radio and TV stations. She will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each advertising media relative to her marketing strategy. She’ll consider inexpensive radio ads in carefully selected time slots. She will use the station’s own announcer to read her ad. Claire feels that classified ads are good for selling books, so she plans to place an every-issue ad in one or more newspapers. She also plans a small, yet highly visible display ad in selected magazine publications. And she’ll investigate the special interest magazines with limited circulation as an advertising media for coupon offers.
Claire will work hard to keep her products in front of customers. She’ll advertise in the publications that they read (or web sites that they access). She’ll send press releases to trade newspapers and magazines. She’ll mail the same press releases to her own customer base. Whenever one of her products is mentioned in print, she’ll get reprints of the write-ups and mail these to customers and prospects.
Claire’s proactive approach to finding business opportunities will be time-consuming and dynamic. Every time she reads or hears about something related to subjects in her books, she’ll contact the affected company and recommend her products. She will follow up all solicitation letters with personal telephone calls.
She will relentlessly forge links between her business and her customers. She will be a fanatic about understanding their information needs. She’ll consistently seek places where she can deliver value to her customers in a way that supports the goals and objectives of both her business and that of her customer. She’ll foster an awareness of herself and her business and seek to become the information provider of choice. Claire will search out subjects where a competitor could offer unique competing products. By identifying and providing these products first, she will keep her competition at bay and strengthen the ties that bind Claire to her customers.
She also decides to zero in on “golden goose” prospects by focusing her marketing to the niche areas with the most potential for sales success. This will reduce her selling expenses. She decides to “fire” customers who act like “deadwood” to her promotional efforts. She will also weed out bookstores and distributors who are consistently late in paying. She will stop wasting time serving these costly accounts. By jettisoning the deadwood in her customer base, she can recover needed resources and improve her overall profitability.
When she receives a written request for information, she will create a fact sheet on the prospect. It will include the name, address, telephone number, and subject of the request. She’ll learn all she can about the prospect and then note questions that she wants to ask them when she calls. Claire will then personally contact the prospect. She wants them to feel that she is there to help, to listen, and to be open to ideas and opportunities to serve them. During her call, Claire will try to understand the prospect and determine what products will help them and which new products she could produce and sell. She will attempt to close a sale on this call.
By becoming a marketing guerrilla, Claire’s efforts should triple sales in the next 12 months regardless of the economic and political climate that evolves.
Robert Brenner is the president of Brenner Microcomputing, Inc., and publisher of Brenner Information Group. He is the author of 19 books and over 300 articles. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.