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Word of mouth beats all other book marketing techniques hands down?

September 17, 2010
Books on display

Choice of books - how do YOU choose a book you want to read?


I came across an interesting bit of research today which indicated that reading of an author’s other books, followed by word of mouth was the most signficant influences in the purchase of books (scroll down on the linked page to see the results). The sample was approximately 430 individuals with a bias of 74% women against 26% men; the age average was 35-46. 

I am always uneasy about quantitative research without qualitative back up but nonetheless, the research appears to show that previous books by the same author, word of mouth, book reviews, browsing and awards are the key driver of book choices. 

A further look at this snapshot survey shows that publisher and author websites are among the least influential techniques, followed by advertisements, social networking and blogs. 

The implication of the survey would imply that marketing is ineffective. Indeed, an examination of the results highlights some interesting anomalies: 

  • If an author’s other books were a reason to buy, how did the readers hear about his/her latest tome?
  • If word of mouth is the most significant driver, how did the “early adopters” come to hear about the book?
  • If blogs are seen as one of the key drivers of word-of-mouth and trust in the social media age, why does the survey highlight these media amongst those of least effect?
  • If books on the best seller list are in some way influential, does this mean readers have all the sentient capabilities of sheep?
  • If someone buys a book by an author they know, what happens when that book turns out to be rubbish or not what they expected?

I am not sure this research presents anything of significant value except to highlight the role that human interaction plays in responding to complex marketing and branding messages. 

Effective credibility and logical touchpoints are crucial to ensuring that, however someone hears of a book (or any product), that wherever they come across it needs to replicate the original recommendation in some way. And, of course, the book needs to deliver for the reader. 

This is the role of brand strategy. A brand is not a logo, it is the embodiment of an emotional response generated by a company in the mind of its viewers. It embodies product, style, feel, delivery, price, distribution access and many other components. 

For brands, for books, to be successful they need to deliver on a promise. This promise is called “value”. Value is the element of a product given as a reward for price and which, to be true, needs to be in excess of the price charged. 

The true driver of sales – books or otherwise – lies in self-evident value provided over and above the economic sacrifice made to obtain it. 

The days of volume publishing for revenue exchange are gone. Today’s publishing world must focus on readership needs or simply be the purveyor of the average. It’s easier said than done but that’s why publishing, like any industry, needs to focus on its niche customers and deliver to their needs.

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