Authors, learn from my marketing mistake. To everyone else who has a sadistic thirst to read about my failures, read away. Yeah, that's right. You heard me. If you're reading on and you're not an author, it must mean that you enjoy my pain. OK, I'm just kidding. Enjoy.
We all know you have to be careful in spending your marketing dollars. As I'm about to show you, there is a fine line between thinking outside the box and not being in the right market. If you get it right, the success could be monumental. If you get it wrong, it can waste a lot of money. But hey, high risk, high reward, right? I wish this was a blog telling you about how I thought outside the box and became an Amazon best seller, but alas this isn't that story. Instead, this might be as far from it as one can get.
I decided to try my luck at advertising, Tamed, in a large local radio market. As I did the research, I got a little excited at the possibilities. Sure, radio listeners and book readers don't appear to have a lot in common on the surface, but maybe they are just an untapped market since book marketing has become so stringent in how publishers can spend their money. At least, that's what I told myself. I listen to the radio and I like new books, so there has to be others out there who do as well. Outside the box, remember? Now, hold on before you ask me if I'm an idiot and say, "Everyone knows radio ads won't work for books." That idea was just the beginning of an evolving process. Please, read on.
We all understand that a potential customer taking the step from listening to the radio in their car, hearing an ad for something they'd like to try, and remembering that product long enough to find it on their computer when they get home and buy it is a pretty big step. So, with that in mind, maybe a radio ad wasn't the ideal place for my book.
My evolving idea turned to the radio station's online music feed. Hear me out for a second. This idea puts the product and how to get it into the same place--a single click away. No need for the buyer to remember the ad until he/she gets to a computer because he/she is already there.
Now, let's look at a few of the other potential obstacles. Would a listener of, say, rock music buy a werewolf book aimed at the late teen/young adult population? I'm not talking Twilight, but old-school, ferocious werewolves. Before you say "no" remember for it to be a successful ad campaign for me it only needs to make my money back and get me some exposure. That's it. That was my entire goal. Make my money back and get my book into readers' hands. Of course, rock stations aren't the same clientele as advertising in a book store, but if the station had enough listeners, even a small percentage of click-throughs would accomplish my goal. Right?
With that idea, I picked out a popular rock station that I myself listen to quite often. The thought behind choosing a rock station was that if my book was a movie, I'm sure the ad would play on this very station because I hear ads for movies like Underworld and currently World War Z on the station all the time. I know there is a big difference between a movie and a book, but again I was thinking outside of the box.
And chewing bubblegum. I'll get to that in a second.
I contacted the marketing department of the station and talked with the salesperson about my idea. Knowing people have to see or hear a product on average of seven times before they actually buy it, I needed to overcome that hurdle with my deal. A single ad just wouldn't cut it. The salesperson agreed. She thought my idea was interesting and worth looking into, though not a common request. Hm. In hindsight, I wonder why. Of course it sounded good to her, she's a salesperson.
I asked her about listenership and was told the online feed had 60,000 unique listeners per month and 120,000-150,000 overall listeners per month (meaning listeners returned.) That sounded very promising. With my low goal in mind, I only needed less than 1% of the listeners to actually be buyers.
Next, I wanted to know how we could make it easy for interested buyers to purchase my book without a bunch of extra steps. We agreed on having a picture of my book with a link on the screen while my ad played. Getting better, right? Think about it. I now have 60,000-150,000 listeners one click away from trying a $2.99 ebook, a $12.00 print copy, or even a $17.00 audio version.
Let's get back to the-hearing-about-a-product-seven-times thing. How do we hit those listeners with the ad more than seven times? Well, we worked out a deal. And because I have no secrets, here it is. For $250, I purchased 100, 30-second commercials that would be created by the radio station and ran over the course of three weeks. Thirty-three times per week. Now, that's what I'm talking about. I did the math. $250, need to sell about that many books to break even and voila, easy peasy. Even my lowest estimates made it worthwhile, if not entirely profitable. Just think of the exposure. Reviews alone on Amazon sell books because of Amazon's algorithms. BTW, if anyone ever wants to help an author, go review their books. It helps more than you could ever imagine. The reviews don't have to be glowing either, just honest. But that's a whole 'nother blog.
I was sold. The ad was created and the start date was set. I asked my publisher to measure any spike in sales which would be easy because my sales had slowed quite a bit as of late.
The ad began running. And running. And running. For three weeks. And you know what? I sold 100,000 books in that 3 weeks. Alright, now that you've gotten up off the floor, let me tell you the truth. I had a zero bump in sales. That's right. Zero. Zilch. Nada. In fact, just to further kick me in the groin, my sales continued going down during those weeks. Can you say, "major failure?"
You can attribute this marketing failure to many things, I'm sure. Did the ad suck? Was it too vague? Does the book's premise itself suck? (Though, I don't buy that one ;) Can radio listeners even read? *grins*
I actually don't think any one of those are the biggest reason for the failure, even if they played a part. The real reason the ad failed, IMO, was because it wasn't the right market. Duh. That's it. I was selling bubblegum in a denture-maker's market. The bubblegum might have been great, but no one hearing the ad cared. As I said at the beginning--there is a fine line between outside the box and not being the right market.
In hindsight, I'd say it kind of sucks outside of this box. And I gotta sell a lot of bubblegum to make up for that loss. When you get knocked down, I guess you gotta get back up and try again. In fact, I'm getting a new idea. I wonder how people in nursing homes would like my bubblegum ads. There are indeed a lot of old people and my sell-through numbers don't have to be a very high percentage. You know, I think it just might work.
Here's the ad for your amusement.