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Advertising & Repetition

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One of the many benefits of belonging to PMA is to be able to take part in their cooperative mailings and catalogs. The price of participating is a fraction of what it would cost if we were to purchase lists and do the direct mailing ourselves.

The Power of Repetition

In Psychology 101, we learned about input to the brain. Humans learn a number of ways, but one of the most important is through repetition. (Think about how you learned your multiplication tables.) Advertisers are well aware of this. Seldom, if ever, do you see or hear a single ad. We see and hear them over and over and over again.

Some of us who promote books seem to think that direct mail advertising is different from other forms, such as TV, radio, and periodical print display. It isn’t. Repetition is important in direct mail. Every day my mail box is stuffed with appeals from markets, tire shops, electronic stores, etc. The same companies mail over and over. Often I just chuck it all out. But sometimes I go through the offers carefully.

How Repetition Works with Direct Mail

During a previous career, I was involved in advertising products via direct mail. Through lots of experimentation, we discovered that we could mail the same piece to the same prospective customer list three times and get almost as strong a response the second and third time. We learned to pace these mailings at least one month apart.

When you mail to reviewers or book buyers, you would think that one mailing should be enough. After all, the recipients are professionals; they are in the business of reviewing and/or buying books. Even with these professionals, however, repeated mailings work as they do with the retail customer.

One time we wanted to find out why this happens so we called a number of prospective clients. We discovered some interesting factors. First, when you mail with a PMA sponsored program, you are really mailing to a position within a company, rather than to an individual. Workers retire, quit, or are fired; they get promoted or sometimes die! So your second or third mailing may not be received by the same person. Second, sometimes recipients are looking for a specific genre of book. Others are passed over on one particular day whereas they may be selected a month later due to an almost unlimited number of editorial or management factors. Third, mail is subject to chance. Very occasionally, the post office loses a specific piece. Sometimes a mail room distributes it to an incorrect recipient. Coffee may be spilled on it and then it may be discarded. (I could go on and on with the alternatives.)

But put aside all of the factors listed above which may cause a nonresponse. More often than you think, a recipient who didn’t respond the first time will respond to the second or third mailing.

Using PMA Co-Op Mailings Effectively

We now try to be included in three of the same PMA mailers. For instance, this year we published a new book, Travel Bargains, with a publication date of March 1997. Starting with the Books for Review Cooperative Catalog, we bought an insertion in the March, May, and October editions. In addition, we bought insertions in three consecutive Bookstore Cooperative Catalogs, plus single insertions in the following Target Cooperative Catalogs: How-to, Travel, and Gift Books for the Holidays.

When we bought these multiple insertions, we understood that we would be exposing the same book to the same recipients a number of times, which was intentional. While we understand that everyone’s title is unique, so far, Travel Bargains has been selling in much larger quantities than most of our previous books. We realize that a comparison is not entirely accurate, particularly because our previous books are in a different genre, but still, we are convinced that the present level of sales is due, in part, to our multiple insertions in PMA cooperative mailings.

Next time you work on a new title marketing plan, think about the effectiveness of repetition.

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