BOARD MEMBER’S CORNER
What Should an IBPA Marketing Program Look Like in 2011?
by Dave Marx
Early in my tenure on the IBPA board of directors, I was invited to head the board’s working group on Marketing Programs. Clearly, I’d shot off my mouth on the topic twice too often. But I was honored by the challenge. After all, back when IBPA was the Publishers Marketing Association, wasn’t that what it was all about?
I’m also more than a little challenged by the notion that I can help move the program forward in these rapidly changing times. To hark back to a catchword from my youth, how can we keep the marketing programs relevant?
The Internet Age has provided us with many new ways to reach people, but it’s not enough to keep up with what’s new. We also need to know what’s effective, and how to use tools and techniques effectively. IBPA’s educational programs and the Independent are at the forefront of this organization’s efforts to keep us abreast of developments, and our member benefits list is full of services each of us can use on our own (often at a discount) to take advantage of some of the new tools and techniques.
My main concern, though, is the role of IBPA’s marketing programs in today’s ever-changing environment. Are there new tools, services, and techniques that would be suitable additions to our marketing program mix?
The More, the Mightier
IBPA’s marketing programs—the mailings, catalogs, group ads, and trade show exhibits—rely on one common theme: There’s strength in numbers.
A smaller publisher may not have the resources to build or rent mailing lists and send catalog sheets to America’s librarians and booksellers, to sell rights at major overseas book fairs, or to exhibit at BEA. And larger publishers have no less need for cost savings, especially when promoting “smaller” titles. When those costs can be shared, the impractical becomes practical. This is what IBPA has been doing since the beginning, but like everything else in the book business, it requires changing with the changes.
There are still plenty of K–12 librarians, albeit with dramatically curtailed budgets; and there are still a fair number of independent booksellers. Do these decision makers still prefer to get their title information via snail mail? Would they rather receive email? The answer seems to be yes and no, to both questions.
The number of newspaper and magazine book reviewers has plummeted, but now there are countless thousands of book bloggers and amateur reviewers on the Web. How do we find them, and how do we reach them? (We certainly can’t mail ARCs to them all.)
Trade publications have actually been multiplying. What advertising opportunities can the marketing program find in this evolving environment?
Traditional trade shows like BEA seem to be on a long-term decline, although they’re far from dead. Are there other exhibit venues, such as electronic trade shows and consumer-focused shows, that might be fruitful?
What about online book catalogs? Narrowly targeted email blasts? We’re already testing the waters. Should we be committing to these tools in a big way?
We’re also looking at the overall structure of our marketing program, which is essentially an à la carte menu. It’s well understood that marketing requires persistence, that it takes many “impressions” before a decision-maker reaches the tipping point. Yet too often we hear, “We tried that once, and it didn’t seem to work.”
Should we also offer packages of services that encourage and help our members field more sustained and comprehensive marketing efforts, perhaps a “one from column A, two from column B” approach?
And finally, IBPA’s marketing programs have always focused on reaching book professionals—librarians, booksellers, and reviewers. But now we’re asking: Are there any programs we can offer to help our members reach consumers?
Yes, it’s a lot of questions, and we don’t have nearly enough of the answers. So, I’m going to ask for your help, with one more question.
Which of these or other marketing programs do you wish for, dream of?
It’s a blue-sky question, but then those who know me know I’m a blue-sky kind of guy. Please, take a minute to think about this, and drop me a line at email@example.com, or contact the IBPA office and tell ’em Dave sent you.
Dave Marx (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the publisher at PassPorter Travel Press and co-author of several of the company’s guidebooks, including PassPorter’s Walt Disney World, which has a semipermanent place on the Bookscan Travel Bestsellers list and won the IBPA’s Bill Fisher Award in 2000 for Best First Book by a New Publisher. He’s been serving on the IBPA board of directors since 2008.