The Power of Kontenting: A Marketing Technique for the Internet Era
by Tim O’Leary
My good friend Mario went into the book-publishing business last month. This was a bit surprising, as Mario has absolutely no relevant background or experience. He launched his publishing house from his den as a sideline with a total cash investment of less than $200. His first title began as an e-book download that sold for $19.95; utilizing Amazon’s publishing service, he has now made it available in softcover and Kindle editions.
Despite the fact that he really had no idea how publishing works, the book he chose to market (a how-to title on the art of complaining) is selling well, with extremely large per-copy profits, and Mario is preparing for an onslaught of orders when his author and book are profiled in a couple of months on a major prime-time news program—scheduled as a result of a major online PR program he initiated. Given the success of this first venture, Mario is planning to publish more how-to titles through his tiny publishing house.
Mario is a new breed of entrepreneur using the Web to sell content. In this case, the content takes the form of a book, but Mario is not really concerned with the kind of content he sells or with its form. Rather, he embraces online marketing and direct sales techniques, using an approach that I have come to call kontenting—using content to sell content.
A few months ago, I introduced the concept of kontenting to the publishing community in a speech in Los Angeles. I offer the same caveat in this article that I did to that group. I am not a publisher or an expert on the publishing industry. I look at the publishing business from two perspectives: as an advertising and marketing professional working with some of the world’s most successful brands, and as an author with one book published by Xephor Press and another in the works.
Wearing my marketing hat, I postulate that publishers which embrace kontenting may drastically increase their business while offering new and valuable services that will attract authors. With both my marketing and author hats on, I also postulate that publishing companies which don’t embrace kontenting in some form probably have limited lifespans.
In combination, digital books, on-demand publishing, author-driven marketing, and guys like Mario who understand how to market on the Web are changing publishing the same way digitization has changed the music and video industries. One need only look at authors like Stephanie Meyers, who has used the Web and social networking sites to drive sales of over 7.5 million copies of her Twilight series, and Seth Godin, who uses the Web to completely control the release of his books.
For my part, as I prepare to launch my second book next year, I am embarking on kontenting strategies months before the book is done. I appreciate any support my publisher may offer, but I learned from my first book that if I want to be successful, I need to draw on my marketing background to take control of marketing initiatives and operate outside book marketing’s traditional boundaries.
Because most authors don’t have marketing backgrounds, you may want to embrace some of my simple marketing strategies.
How This Works
Kontenting involves spreading your content across digital channels to drive buzz and ultimately sales. First you create the assets, and then you create the marketing campaign to drive to the assets.
Your basic kontenting assets should include the following:
A landing page/Web site specific to the title of the book, launched well in advance of the book’s release, with special consideration given to search-engine optimization. You will need to decide whether to drive sales to an online retailer or capture sales yourself. There are advantages to both.
An associated blog.
An e-book version (potentially even a free version) to spark interest in your topic and drive sales of the main release.
A social networking presence that may include YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn, depending on your target demographic.
A PowerPoint synopsis on Slideshare.net if appropriate for your topic.
A lens for your topic on Squidoo.com.
Depending on the topic, your book may also be appropriate for the low-cost or free small programs known as widgets and apps that you can distribute to consumers. For instance, if you were introducing a book on choosing wines, you might have a program designed for the iPhone to help consumers choose wine in a restaurant.
With the assets in place, you begin the marketing campaign. One of the advantages of online marketing is that you can use many low-cost or free guerrilla techniques.
A mass appeal to the blogging community is typically a good first move. I suggest coming up with a hit list of the most widely read blogs on your subject, courting those bloggers, and offering them review copies of your book. A few chapters from the book digested to become a free e-book or guide can also be an effective tool for generating interest and mentions (in the case of our wine example, the title could be “The Do’s and Don’ts of Choosing Wine in a Restaurant”).
Creating buzz in the appropriate forums is also highly effective. For instance, Mario marketed his book on complaining in airline and hotel forums, where there were high percentages of unhappy people.
Promotions can generate effective and interesting talking points during other PR initiatives. For my book Warriors, Workers, Whiners and Weasels, I sponsored an online promotion called Expose Your Weasel, inviting people to go to a site, complain about the weasels in their lives, and potentially win an iPod. This was also great to create buzz during radio interviews when promoting the book.
Online PR is also essential. The good news is that it is much easier to get online coverage than traditional PR. For instance, while the page space in high-profile papers like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times is limited, their online space is almost unlimited, and they welcome material for it.
Keep search optimization firmly in mind as you pursue all marketing initiatives. Press releases and all online materials should be written with optimization in mind.
Long Lasting, Fast Acting
Another huge advantage of kontenting is that it makes your product continually feel fresh. You can even apply a kontenting strategy to a book released several years ago that for some reason has current appeal.
Also, unlike traditional media coverage, online PR does not go away. Internet reviews and blog entries about your book remain online indefinitely, and they are easy for interested consumers to find. And a consumer is much more likely to buy your book if a search returns a plethora of positive peer reviews.
While kontenting is a long-term strategy, it can also have a very fast impact. Case in point, you might be wondering where the word kontenting comes from. The truth is, I made up the word approximately 24 hours before I delivered my speech in L.A. a few months ago to demonstrate the power of online marketing. If you had Googled “kontenting” the day before the speech, you would have found one entry (based on a misspelling of a word on a German Web site). I released the concept of kontenting with a simple PR campaign, and by the time I delivered my speech, a search revealed more than 500 entries. Google “kontenting” today, and you will discover almost 1,000.
Of course, I love the ambience of the local bookstore, but I recognize that book purchases will increasingly be made online, and the key to selling content online is content. I think publishers need to embrace new marketing methods to stay healthy in the shifting marketplace.
Tim O’Leary is the founder and CEO of The R2C Group (R2Cgroup.com), the nation’s largest independently owned direct-response advertising agency. He blogs at thebizzylife.com.