Midyear Marketing Measurement
by Brian Jud
When a helicopter is at rest,
the dials on its dashboard are all askew, with arrows pointing in different
directions. But when that helicopter is flying straight and level, with no
problems, all the arrows point straight up. The pilot can glance at the
instrument panel and quickly see if any problem exists. When something is
wrong, it’s immediately clear so there’s no need to waste time evaluating
things that are working correctly.
You can apply this same concept to
your publishing efforts by setting up a system that quickly highlights
marketing problems. I recommend using the system six months into your fiscal
year and then again at the end of the period, or more often. Once it reveals a
problem, you can determine the problem’s cause and move toward a solution.
Look at your key result areas,
rather than at all marketing moves, and measure the difference between what
results are and what you expected them to be at this point. Are your unit sales
as forecast? Is your revenue what you projected? Are profits up to par?
For now, ignore titles that are on
target and attend to those below forecast.
Step 1. Conduct a
A quantitative audit compares
numbers that were forecast with numbers that were achieved. I recommend that
you use a spreadsheet like the one shown below, in which 1H = first half and ?<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> = difference.
class=95StoneSerifSB>Actual Results vs. Forecast
Sales Forecast Actual
? units ?% Forecast Actual ?$
Online bookstore A
Online bookstore B
[etc. if necessary]
Step 2. Determine the
Cause of Each Shortfall
Let’s say your quantitative audit
shows that sales are below forecast in bookstores, libraries, and associations.
In each segment, look to the product itself, its distribution (i.e., the places
it’s made available), its price, and its promotion to find possible causes.
If a problem arises with
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Product quality may be the problem if you cut too
many corners trying to save money in the production stage. Your book must have
an ISBN, bar code, title on the spine, price on the rear cover, and high
production quality. If it falls short in terms of production, perhaps you are
trying to breathe life into a title that should be abandoned.
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Don’t be too quick to blame your distributor if
bookstore sales are below expectations, but it is possible that you are working
with the wrong distribution partner. Each distributor has its own strengths and
weaknesses. Seeking distribution with a firm more suited to your titles and
promotional mix might make sense.
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Is your title competitively priced? The prices of
adjacent books on bookstore shelves are easily comparable. If your book is
priced significantly higher than neighboring titles—and a compelling
reason for that discrepancy isn’t immediately apparent—buyers will
naturally choose the lower-priced book.
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Is author promotion proper and sufficient?
Appearances on television or radio shows does not guarantee sales. Authors may
perform poorly; a show’s audience may not be part of your target market.
Similarly, you may be sending hundreds of press releases every week without
spurring sales because the releases are poorly written, or they’re reaching the
wrong people, or they’re not getting to the right people frequently enough.
If library sales are slow:
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Acquisition librarians may choose not to buy your
book for any number of reasons, including bindings that are not durable,
missing CIP data, subject matter that does not fit their core or patron-driven
collections, and the absence of an index. Often, they reject fill-in-the-blank
books, which lose much of their value to other borrowers when one borrower
writes in them.
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Did you properly segment the library market? Public,
prison, academic, law, religious, and corporate libraries purchase different
kinds of books for different reasons.
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Is your book priced properly for this segment? Is it
priced competitively with similar titles?
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Did you get reviews in the periodicals librarians
trust? Is your author available to conduct library programs? Is your
promotional material in accord with librarians’ goals? Librarians want to help
their patrons, and an appeal to profitability or increased inventory turns will
not persuade them to buy.
If associations aren’t
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> In general, the characteristics that are important to
booksellers are essential for sales to associations.
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Did you reach the appropriate people for selling your
book in the association bookstore, recommending it in mailings to members and
using it as a premium to build conference attendance or reward members who
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Is the price attractive in the context of the
associations’ budgets and spending patterns? While groups may not care much
about cover stock per se, they may prefer a paperback because it costs less.
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Have you explored various ways to work with
associations—for example, by co-promoting, by selling rights, by
arranging for a title to be a fund-raising item, and by donating a percentage
or a fixed amount of each sale to a charitable, nonprofit group? Can you tie in
with industry events, deliver a relevant talk at an association conference,
and/or get your book featured there?
Step 3. Make and Assess
After you have thoroughly analyzed
possible causes or problems, plan changes in your strategy and/or
When what you’ve been doing hasn’t
worked well, your sales may fly higher if you measure your progress, address
problems, set new goals, and then implement your fresh marketing programs. At
the end of 2007, repeat the process outlined here to see if your changes worked
and to prepare yourself for 2008.
Brian Jud is a
book-marketing consultant and the author of <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Beyond the Bookstore (a Publishers
Weekly book) and The
Marketing Planning CD-ROM describing new ways to sell more books
to special-sales buyers. To contact him: P.O. Box 715, Avon, CT 06001;
800/562-4357; email@example.com; blog.bookmarketing.com;