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Three Steps for Creating a Special-Sales Plan

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There are many ways to make a publishing firm succeed, but one sure way to make it fail: conduct business without a marketing plan. Your marketing plan should set forth your general strategies and specific tactics for product development, distribution, pricing, and promotion. Your special-sales plan–which must be constructed after thorough, careful research–is a subset of your marketing plan that deals with sales channels beyond the world of bookstores; and it, in turn, has three complementary and interdependent sections. The first defines direction, which includes both goals and mission; the second describes overall strategy; and the third lists the actions you will take to implement your strategy and reach your objectives.

Step One: Direction

Begin your special-sales marketing plan with a sentence or two stating your overall mission in terms of non—bookstore marketing. This statement should offer a concise answer to the question, “Whom are we trying to serve, and what do they want?”

Then create a yardstick for measuring progress as you work to penetrate and sell through special-sales channels. You will need written, measurable, and time-oriented specifics to allocate your resources of money, effort, and time intelligently.

Step Two: Strategy

The strategic section of your special-sales marketing plan should paint a broad picture of how you intend to reach your goals and how your product development, pricing, distribution, and promotion decisions will interact.

Strategic option #1

Find new markets for existing titles. The special-sales marketplace for most titles has three sectors: the special-distribution sector, where publishers use distributors and wholesalers to reach retail outlets such as discount stores, libraries, and supermarkets; the niche-market sector, where publishers use channels such as book clubs, catalogs, the Internet, media, and specialty stores to reach people who have an identifiable need for the information in a particular book or books; and the commercial sector, where publishers market directly to entities such as corporations, associations, and schools that use books as sales-promotional devices or texts.

Michael Andrew Smith’s Business-to-Business Golf: How to Swing Your Way to Business Success from InfoPro Publishing provides a good example of sales opportunities in each of these three sectors.

Special distribution. Selected distributors and wholesalers might sell this book to sporting-goods stores such as Sports Authority and Herman’s.

Niche markets. Online stores such as GolfWarehouse.com and mail-order catalogs such as GolfSmart.com could sell this book, and so could gift stores and golf-pro shops. The author could be featured on Web forums, and his work could be featured in golf magazines, airline magazines, and other periodicals that reach sales people and executives.

Commercial sales. Managers might buy the book to give to their sales staff. Firms that manufacture golf equipment and accessories might use it as a premium. Companies that make golf software could make it a sales-promotion item. The national PGA and state PGAs could promote golf as a business sport with it. The Club Managers Association of America could use it as a fundraiser or resell it to members.

Strategic option #2

Provide content in a different physical format. The form of the product that delivers your content is flexible, simply a means to an end. To generate special sales, focus on selling what the book can accomplish instead of on the book itself.

My book Job Search 101, published by Marketing Directions and designed to help readers find employment, was initially sold to bookstores via traditional distribution channels. As the economy worsened, bookstore shelves became saturated with competitive job-search books, so it made sense to seek growth elsewhere.

After research showed that college students wanted job-search information that was easier to use, the publisher carved eight 32-page booklets from the book, each devoted to one traditional job-search tactic, such as writing a resume or interviewing. With minor changes, the booklets were also marketed to unemployment offices in all 50 states. With additional changes, they were sold to corporations to help employees who had been, or were about to be, laid off.

Strategic option #3

Adapt content for a new market. Continuing with the Job Search 101 example, additional research discovered an absence of career information available for the Hispanic market. Hence, Job Search 101 was translated into Spanish and published as Elementos basicos para buscar trabajo. This required a new distribution network, one more knowledgeable in servicing a market unfamiliar to the publisher.

Strategic option #4

Find new uses for basic information. Job Search 101 and its companion title, Help Wanted: Inquire Within, explain where to find the names of prospective employers, how to contact them, and how to handle interviews effectively, which is the same sort of information authors need for booking and performing on television and radio shows. This observation spawned a video product, You’re On the Air, which serves a new audience with its own set of special-sales opportunities.

Strategic option #5

Reach consumers directly. Who is eager to help college students find employment? Their parents. Marketing Directions obtained a list of parents of graduating seniors and mailed them information about a bundle of job-search books. Payment at list price was immediate; there were no returns, and the buyers paid shipping charges. And this strategy mapped a way to reach 1.5 million new prospective buyers annually.

Step Three: Implementation

Finally, list the steps you will take to implement your chosen strategy or strategies. What will you do to plan your product line, establish new distribution processes, calculate pricing structures, and promote your titles?

Product-line tactics

Remember that you are not selling books, you are selling content. You are selling what the information in your books can do for your prospective buyers, in the form they want, and this may differ for various market segments. For instance, although you may decide to release a title in hardcover for the library market and in paperback for bookstores, gift shops may respond best to a small, 4″ _ 6″ size, and your corporate prospects may want customized editions.

Distribution tactics

Consider both indirect distribution (using wholesalers or distributors to sell to special-sales buyers) and direct distribution (contacting corporations, associations, schools, government agencies, the military, and specialty stores yourself–in addition to consumers–and handling all aspects of selling to them).

Pricing tactics

Remember first that a corporation using your book as a premium is primarily concerned with how the book will increase sales of its other products; and second, that you have many choices when it comes to pricing tactics. To make your book attractive to special-sales buyers, you might offer a coupon, bundle several products together, or cross-merchandise your book with complementary products.

Promotion tactics

You will need to create promotional tools in four different categories: publicity, sales promotion, advertising, and personal selling. Publicity includes low-cost ways of getting attention, such as press releases, reviews, and media performances. Sales-promotion items include sales literature as well as giveaways with your name on them. Advertising is usually defined to include direct-mail campaigns. Personal selling encompasses face-to-face communication at trade shows or through sales calls, presentations, and book signings.

Consider using different tactics in different markets. For instance, you might promote a title to bookstores with an exhibit at BEA, to libraries via direct mail, and to corporate buyers through personal sales calls. And take each author’s capabilities into account. One might excel in media performances and book signings, while another may loathe them.

Special Sales Summed Up

Your special-sales plan is a written record of the answers to questions such as: In what other markets could we sell our titles? At what price should they be sold in each? How might they be distributed in these special markets? How can we use publicity, advertising, sales promotion, and personal selling techniques to promote them in each one? What will all this cost, and how much can we expect to make from it at the end of the year? How will all this position us for future growth?

As you go through the creative process of responding to such questions, you will build your plan and discover that it is not just a document; it is a controlling device. Writing the plan is like laying track for a railroad–it establishes a solid foundation, provides a path to your destination, and controls deviation. But the track will not propel you forward. Your passion and productive action must provide the fuel for your journey to success.

Brian Jud is the author of Beyond the Bookstore (a Publishers Weekly book); The Marketing Planning CD; a series of booklets, “Proven Tips for Publishing Success”; and the Marketing Wizards. You can reach him at P.O. Box 715, Avon, CT 06001; 800/562-4357; brianjud@bookmarketing.com; and www.bookmarketing.com

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