May 8th, 2012 by Peter Turner
In a recent blog post, Mike Shatzkin commented that many publishers have come to understand that they have to develop effective direct-to-consumer strategies. Mike quoted Markus Dohle, CEO of Random House, “We have to change from being a B2B company to B2C over the coming years.”
While I certainly agree that D2C marketing (and I would add, direct sales) is essential for many publishers moving forward, I’m actually not seeing much evidence of a big move in this direction.
Beginning about ten years ago, I worked with the folks at Shambhala Publications–a medium-sized niche trade house–and helped them build that side of the business. The goal was to see what degree of efficiency we could realize in acquiring customers as a hedge against online retailers. I’ll share a bit about what we learned in another post. In the meantime, I’d recommend to any publisher that wants to take the D2C route consider the following:
- Publishers must get in the habit of thinking about the needs of readers and customers. Understandably, most publishers have been more focused on the needs of retailers, reviewers, and authors. When publishers do think of the “end user” it is just in that way, as a consumer at the end of a supply chain, a sale. Direct-to-consumer marketing requires a totally different orientation, a relationship that involves delivering value in exchange for acquiring a customer, ideally a direct customer.
- Please don’t think you can avoid selling direct. I believe that the cost of direct marketing is not scalable (at least not with today’s tools) in a way that is cost-effective if the sale is realized elsewhere. Not only is the margin too small; it’s missing an essential point of direct marketing, I would argue: the customer data. What the customer bought, when, and what drove the sale are all very valuable pieces of data for re-marketing. If you don’t process the sale you can’t measure the conversion rates. You may have an email address and a click through rate but that’s where the relationship ends.
- Don’t think you’re competing with Amazon. You can’t and you shouldn’t try. You can’t compete on price, UX, ease of ordering, or customer service—don’t even think of it. Really. But what’s left. Lots! Look at your list, consider your readers, and build a D2C strategy around delivering unique value. That unique value could be many things. Unique offerings, exclusive premium content, bundles, free content, community, etc.
- “Do or Do Not. There is No Try.” Or so says Yoda. Trying, experimenting, is great but do you know what you’re testing? Do you have a clear strategy? Do you know what success will look like? In order to try, you must have a plan of action, a strategy. If not, don’t bother. The other problem with “trying,” is that it’s often a cover for not wanting to allocate (or better yet, reallocate) the necessary resources to grow your D2C business.
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