Writing a Marketing Plan for Your Book and Other Content (Part 1)

The book marketing plan. What is it? What do you do with one? How do you even start? Brian Jud, book marketing consultant and president of Book Marketing Works LLC has the answers, and has agreed to help us with developing marketing plans for our nonfiction writing.

Bobette: Welcome, and thank you for taking the time to explain, Brian. I sat in on your most recent Mine Your Own Business book marketing seminar. You’ve done a remarkable job of translating the marketing planning process into one specifically for authors and self-publishers.

Brian: You are welcome, and thank you! In the seminars and in my book, Beyond the Bookstore, I stress that “marketing plan” is not a document to be put away until next year, but a verb. The document itself is just one part of an entire process. I like to say planning is simple as PIE: planning, implementation, and evaluation.

It all begins with planning, and then you implement your plan year-round. I do realize it’s hard to keep a full-blown planning document with you at all times. That’s why I recommend making a pocket planning guide that summarizes your plan: goals, target customers (including a unique buying proposition for each market), and overviews of strategies and actions related to the four P’s ? product development, distribution channels & tactics (otherwise known as place), pricing programs, and promotional activities.

Bobette: Goals, strategies, and tactics all on a single, 2-sided sheet of paper. Wonderful! Let’s start at the top and talk about goals. We always hear that goals should be specific and measurable, but little about how to go about deciding them.

Brian: Right. The logic behind goals ? and all components of your marketing plan ? should focus on the customer, not yourself or your company. If you support the needs of your distribution channels and readers, profits will follow.

Bobette: So how would one go about putting that philosophy into action?

Brian: One way is to spend some time developing customer-oriented solution statements. In one sentence, you can get to the crux of who your customers are, why they would want the book, and how your book solves that problem: “This book helps (your target audience) who want to (problem they want solved) get (the solution you provide).” Your strategies and action plans should directly support your solution statements.

Bobette: Do you have a specific example where this would come into play?

Brian: Yes. There’s a company-oriented rule of thumb for pricing that says to make a profit you should charge “X” times your costs. Besides raising several questions (like which costs to base it on), that approach is egocentric. It completely ignores the customer. By approaching from another direction ? the readers’ standpoint ? you can better meet their expectations. How much do they want to spend and what are the prices of similar books? This assures your price will meet customer expectations. The other way, you run the risk of turning the customers off by over- or under- charging.

Bobette: Let’s talk a bit about customers. What do you say to someone who targets “all business people” or “everyone in the U.S.” as markets for their book?

Brian: It’s too general. “All” and “everyone” have diverse needs ? more than you can address with one book. It would also be very expensive to promote to “everybody.” Instead, think about what groups of people will be most helped by your content and why. For example, I targeted several markets with one of my early titles, Job Search 101. Graduating college students and Latinos searching for work were two.

Bobette: Many authors become confused at this point. They understand how different markets may benefit from their work, but can’t really figure out how to reach them.

Brian: Here’s where distribution strategies come into play. To figure out how to reach your target customers, shift focus from “who” & “why” to “where” & “how.” Where do they get their information? How, or under what circumstances, do they use it? The answers, which are usually different for each target, will lead you to the distribution methods for your plan.

To continue the above example, we found that college students received job search help in three different ways. This realization led to new distribution channels: school libraries, job-search instructors, and career centers.

Bobette: Can you give us some more ideas for reaching audiences of nonfiction content?

Brian: Sure. I like to say there are suspects, prospects, and customers. You can figure out ways to find more prospects for nonfiction (which lead to more customers) by brainstorming how your content may flow through different commercial channels. You can generate ideas for promotional activities at the same time. Here are some ideas to get you started:

* Figure out which Standardized Industrial Classification (SIC) codes your material supports and target corporations in those SICs. You can find a list on OSHA’s Website: http://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/sic_manual.html.

* Find relevant associations and think about how you can promote through them. (For example, we found the National Association of College Stores, http://nacs.org/, helpful for breaking into the college market). Think of ways you can reach your target customers through trade associations: by exhibiting at conferences, providing an excerpt for newsletters, participating in their online discussion groups, etc. To find groups relevant to your work, look in the Encyclopedia of Associations, which lists all U.S. associations.

* Think about what government agencies your content could support. You can find current government business opportunities at: http://www.fbo.gov

Publisher’s Note: Read part 2 on how to market your written content here.