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It’s About Timing

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Three important concepts are
fundamental to successful book marketing. Two are fairly obvious, and you
probably adhere to them without even thinking about it. First, the content and
format of your promotional material should communicate the benefits your titles
offer to the recipients of your message; a one-message-fits-all promotional
piece is doomed to failure. Second, it is easier and less expensive to sell to
existing customers than it is to find new ones, since your acquisition and
marketing costs are reduced.


The third, less obvious, concept
is equally crucial. Timing can be as important as the content of and targets
for your message. This is true all the way through the publication process,
starting with prepublication promotion of various sorts, but let’s focus here
on timing dialogue with current customers to stimulate additional purchases of
existing titles.


How Transitional Marketing


The target market for any book is
made up of customers and potential buyers. Both need to know about, and be
reminded of, the benefits of your books at the time they need the information
to make a buying decision. If you contact people with the correct message in
the proper format at just the right moment, you improve the chances of a
positive reception. But even in a tightly defined market segment, different
people are at different stages of the purchasing process at any given time.
Does this mean you must promote nonstop? Not necessarily.


The concept of customer dialogue
can help you maximize sales and profits. Sometimes called transitional
marketing, customer dialogue takes the focus off individual transactions and
places it on the purchasing process. It recognizes that people make decisions
over time and buy according to their schedules, not yours.


Generally, marketers concentrate
on the transaction, when prospects buy and become customers. But communication
should not end there. Instead, you should create a dialogue with your
customers, maintaining contact over time and smoothing the way for future
purchases. Focusing on a transaction is like watching single frames of a movie.
Focusing on the purchasing process, as transitional marketing does, is like
watching the entire movie.


Putting Purchasing
Patterns to Use


Transitional marketing requires
examining purchasing patterns of existing customers. It borrows from a common
practice among retailers, which notes the recency, frequency, and monetary
(RFM) value of transactions. Retailers in many industries use RFM information
to differentiate among customers and then to time appropriate messages to
motivate them to purchase different products and/or to buy more frequently and
in larger quantities.


You can easily create a
spreadsheet to track:


·      the recency of sales of any title
to specific bookstores and special markets

·      the frequency of sales of that
title to specific bookstores and special markets

·      the monetary value of sales of the
title to specific bookstores and special markets


With this information in hand, the
next step is establishing the dialogue with your customers, tailoring
individual messages that encourage them to buy now and buy more. For example,
you might offer a time-limited, dollars-off coupon to librarians to persuade
them to buy your titles now. Similarly, you could offer a frequent-buyer
incentive to gift shops. And in pitches to associations, you might propose
greater discounts, a combination of titles, or more favorable payment terms to
stimulate them to buy in larger, nonreturnable quantities. Offers can be timed
in various ways—to take advantage of overstock, for instance, or to
coincide with an association’s annual convention or smooth out seasonal ups and
downs. Keep a calendar showing relevant dates and an Excel spreadsheet that
lets you sort by date and amount of purchase.


Communication Contents


In general, and as it applies to
dialogues with existing customers, transitional marketing includes these types
of communications:


·      Thank-you
with additional offers,
which should be sent after recent purchases.

·      Repurchase
, which may restate
benefits or offer an incentive to get orders, and which should be sent after
customers haven’t purchased in some time or have strayed from a regular
purchase pattern.

·      Promotional
that communicate offers such
as a special discount, more favorable terms, or a price reduction to increase
the size of a purchase, which should be sent when you want to reduce inventory,
presell a quantity of books before a reprint, or get more books into the
pipeline to support an author’s tour or promotional blitz.

·      Win-back
that ask why a customer
has apparently stopped doing business with you in hopes of rectifying the
situation, which should be sent when you notice that a customer’s orders have
stopped coming.


Be alert to other opportunities
for productive dialog. For instance, when a customer who has bought a certain
title in the past buys another title or titles, send information on how to
combine orders for different titles to reach a higher discount, and when a customer
buys frequently, point out the advantages of placing fewer orders for larger


By keeping accurate records that
track sales by recency, frequency, and monetary value, and by communicating at
the best times, you can move customers to buy more, and more often.


Brian Jud is author of <span
class=8StoneSans>Beyond the Bookstore
(a Publishers Weekly book) and The Marketing Planning CD-ROM, which describes ways to
sell more books profitably to special-sales buyers. He is also the author of
the new booklet series Proven
Tips for Publishing Success
published by R. R. Bowker. To learn
more, contact him at P. O. Box 715, Avon, CT 06001; 800/562-4357, or
brianjud@bookmarketing.com or visitwww.bookmarketing.com.


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