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ROI in book marketing changes how publishers think

February 13, 2011
Stack of pound coins

ROI - markeitng built of measurable financial returns is easier to manage

When you look at marketing plans sometimes it can be tempting to lose yourself in the overall “strategy” of a particular campaign. In publishing, it is relatively easy to avoid focusing on the deliverables but it is essential that the deliverables are always in sight.

Yet because many publishers still focus on trade sales, they often forget that sales are achieved not by browsing in stores but by prompts, testimonials, PR, social media and other initiatives. Sales don’t “just occur”. The challenge is to have an understanding between what is being spent, what will be delivered, how it will be delivered and how that delivery will be measured.

ROI (return on investment) is one such measure. In my experience of publishing, a target ROI for a subscription product can be equal to, greater than, or even less than 100% if renewal rates are strong. But with books – one off purchases – the ROI has to be so much greater.

However, I once spent some time measuring ROI on management reports and concluded that to deliver a strong ROI designed to cover all costs (including production and editorial costs), you’d need to achieve 700% or more. That’s a tough call. But is it?

Sure, when books cost £20 or less, there is no room for error – especially when direct mail has become increasingly expensive. But today, marketers have access to a wide range of tools previously unheard of. Many of these tools are now fabulously cheap and supremely effective (provided your book range is a good one).  So for book marketers, plans are about reach and tools include:

  1. Focused PR
  2. on-pack promotions
  3. Social media
  4. exhibitions
  5. website interaction
  6. shared advertising
  7. strategic partnerships
  8. Other outlets other than the book trade

But it’s important to remember that these channels should never be seen as a channel for channel’s sake. Each channel has a cost; each cost therefore needs revenue and, if we accept that the target needs to be 700%, 500% or 400% we then need to determine the real financial targets over and above awareness.

To be successful therefore, book marketing needs to generate real sales, not hoped-for sales and marketing needs to be accountable for those sales, measuring effectiveness via transparent ROI.

For many publishers – especially those which persistently fail to publish to niche – making any of this work is almost impossible.

But if you make your niche distinct and target your brand and your initiatives to deliver to that niche then realistic and profitable sales targets can be achieved.

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