Publishing houses were quick to recognize the need for a digital marketing force, and have subsequently been lethargic in implementing impactful changes. The one thing I hear over and over again from digital marketers in publishing is a variant of the same argument, “our hands are tied.”
“We have the ideas, but we can’t get the go-ahead to execute.”
“There’s no money in our budget to invest in the web.”
And, yet, I keep hearing that everyone in publishing must be working in some digital capacity lest we cease to exist.
I am going to come out and say it: face value on the internet alone is strictly not going to sell books. I have seen no examples of social media channels moving the needle in terms of point of sale (POS) numbers for any recent titles that have been written by non-celebrity authors. Period. (I have asked, repeatedly, for any evidence of this and have been met with silence.)
Having a Twitter feed, setting up a Facebook fan page, creating small pockets of engagement on social media platforms, reaching out to bloggers (the new book reviewers) – these things are merely the cost of entry into the game of digital marketing; they are not an ultimate objective.
The ultimate objective is to sell books. And, to sell books online, we need conversion. We need people to click on buy buttons and to enter credit card numbers. We need people to receive shipments of books in corrugated boxes.
How do we go about this? Digital marketing. (Read: by investing time and energy and money into the internet.)
The publishing industry has never had to do direct to consumer marketing in the past. We let the bookstores, independent booksellers, and the newspapers do that for us. We just had to convince a book buyer to take enough copies of the rest was taken care of. This is, fortunately, no longer the case, at a time when the greatest tools for direct to consumer outreach are readily available.
A few points to consider:
- Those who are going to “win big” for simply being online have already done so; at least until the next big thing comes around, and then there will be a whole new group of big winners.
- Being on Twitter, maintaining a blog, and having a Facebook fan page are examples of face-value or passive marketing tactics that do not drive substantial sales.
- ‘Playing the game’ by being involved on a face-value level, all the while using these sites as strategic tools to push sales is one example of active marketing.
- SEO is of the utmost importance to marketing campaigns
- The power and possibilities of the RSS feed is of the utmost importance to marketing campaigns
- Building pipelines and creating the necessary drivers of traffic are of the utmost importance to marketing campaigns
- Finding a logical way to determine ROI of our online campaigns is of the utmost importance
- We *must* bring the idea of conversion (back) into the conversation. Conversion is the necessary follow up to building a vibrant community.
I truly believe that there will be a major shift in focus amongst digital marketing teams in publishing. Those still working primarily in the social media sphere will have to learn about driving traffic through custom built pipelines from all corners of the virtual world to one or multiple special destinations which are constructed for conversion to take place. This is how eCommerce functions outside of publishing, why are we so late to the game? (Sidebar: This is perhaps why we are so vulnerable to Amazon’s every whim and desire – they understand eCommerce infinitely better than we do.)
We must also discontinue our collective ignorance of analytics, numbers, sales analysis, digital P&Ls, and ROI. It’s time for the marketing team to integrate numbers into our creative campaigns. We have to watch these things like hawks and take advantage of the nimble nature of online campaigning to make the user-experience as simple and streamlined as possible at all times.
There is, however, another element to consider: the publishing house. As of yet, publishing houses, as a whole, have been awful at taking the necessary steps needed to move this industry forward.
We know that traditional marketing does not work.
We know that the answer is online.
Yet, somehow, digital marketing departments have been unable to implement much in terms of innovation. There is risk in innovation, we know; there is risk in trying something new, but we have to take that (HUGE!) plunge, lest we get nowhere. Now is the time.
Publishers, it’s time to fully embrace technology (*gasp*) and let the marketing team step up to the plate. It’s time to stop funneling money into traditional publicity and moving it toward web development. It’s time to start running a digital business. [More on this in a later post.]
A new business means new teams and new objectives.
In today’s world, no one’s role should be static. In an ideal publishing house, the digital team can and should be responsible for business development online, marketing, advertising, even, dare I say it, creating revenue streams from various web properties. Our strategy should encompass selling product, not just gathering the biggest email list, or getting the most people to sign up for a newsletter, or getting tons of hits on a blog.
So, I revert back to the concept of safeword. Currently, we are in a state of being tied up, unable to move, inert. What is it going to take so that our houses are going to let us go and move forward? As sales continue to plummet for most shelves, we need to start acting now. It is time to move from sub to dom, from passive to active, from concept to execution, from inertia to making this a great, dynamic industry both online and off.