05 March 2007

Marketing Monday: No-Brainer Marketing Efforts, Pt. II

Marketing MondayWrapping up the subject of Marketing No-Brainers from two weeks ago, the final no-brainer is the PowerPoint presentation -- a portable, printable document offering an overview of all relevant information on the publisher and/or product based on the intended audience. This presentation should bring together all of the other elements of the no-brainer puzzle into one informative, visually stimulating picture, and has a number of uses.

1) It should be flexible enough to double as the basis for an actual in-person presentation as well as an informational leave-behind or promotional mailing piece.

2) It should include your "elevator pitch", a short mission/vision statement, and strong preview art.

3) An overview of where your product(s) fit(s) in the marketplace, including any advance reviews or press coverage, and bios for notable creators and/or editorial staff.

4) An overview of the marketing plan, including scheduled convention appearances, planned retailer incentives and reader engagement initiatives.

5) Full contact, release schedules and ordering information.

6) Finally, it should be no longer than 16 slides/pages.
The distributor/library version will be slightly different from the retailer version, which will be slightly different from the target reader version, with the former serving as the base template for all variations as well as related marketing efforts. The physical format will also vary depending on the target audience and budget, with choices ranging from presentation folders with photocopied presentations inside, to full-color brochures or pamphlets, to PDFs, HTML or Flash on a USB drive.

NOTE: The presentation should neither be seen as the equivalent of, nor a substitute for, an annual catalog. While there will be similarities, depending on the size of your upcoming schedule and backlist, your catalog will be much bigger and more detailed. See Archaia Studio Press' 2007 catalog for a good example of an annual catalog. (Right click and "Save Target/Link As..." to download 12MB PDF.)

Simple Marketing Fact #5: YOU are your best spokesperson.

In almost every industry, trade shows (aka conferences, conventions, seminars, etc.) are considered the most effective marketing tool for converting prospects to sales because it offers the opportunity for face-to-face interaction with a targeted, qualified audience and no one is going to sell your product(s) better than you can. Myriad research studies have shown people tend to look to such events as their primary source of information when they're ready to make a purchase, and when targeting potential distributors, retailers, libraries and influential taste-makers, such events offer the best opportunity to market to them directly.

Having a free, informational giveaway in lieu of simply giving away sample copies (which you will want to have budgeted and available for major distributors, librarians and retailers, as well as influential reviewers) will be important for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is respecting an individual's ability to carry around a limited amount of material, and in the case of potential readers, those on limited budgets. It's always better to have someone walk away with something to remember your product by, and a targeted promotional presentation is ideal for this purpose.

No display ad, banner ad, high-profile review, postcard, message board, or YouTube teaser video offers a better opportunity to generate a sale than a face-to-face presentation.

While trade shows are a vital component of your marketing mix, they can be prohibitively expensive, so choosing which ones to exhibit at, and what sort of presence you should have at any particular one, will depend specifically on your product, its target audience and, of course, your budget. At the 2006 New York Comic Con -- an ideal (but expensive) show for targeting distributors, librarians and fans -- First Second and Jason Rodriguez chose to work the convention floor instead of having booths, the former wearing promotional T-shirts, the latter armed with a full-color pamphlet promoting his proposed anthology's concept, both speaking with as many people as they could.

First Second, whose books hadn't arrived from the printer in time for the Con, later launched to critical acclaim and had several high-profile hits in 2006, including American Born Chinese; Rodriguez was able to assemble an impressive roster of creators and will see his anthology published this summer by Villard Books. I missed this year's NYCC so I can't report on any specifics, but First Second had a booth this time around and Rodriguez' Postcards swag was reportedly on prominent display at Random House's booth (Villard's parent company).

Of course, these two successes can't be directly attributed to any one weekend spent working a trade show, but they are both perfect examples of how trade shows can be effective components of a successful marketing plan. Neither made the significant investment an exhibitor's booth (or Artist's Alley table) calls for, opting instead for a more creative approach, and both are instructive for start-up publishers and up-and-coming creators alike who don't [yet] have the backing of a major publisher to support their efforts.


Having covered the basics of developing a marketing plan and the no-brainer efforts every publisher and/or creator should be willing and able to implement before soliciting their first (or next) publication, it's time to delve a little deeper into the specifics of the Simple Marketing Plan. Whether initiated by a publisher (ideally) or a creator (sadly, the norm in comics), every single title needs a marketing plan of its own in order to be profitable. Amazon.com is littered with books no one's ever heard of because they lacked an effective marketing plan, and there are numerous examples of Diamond rejecting certain titles because of a legitimate or perceived lack of saleability.

Over the next several weeks, I'll be fleshing out a marketing plan for a hypothetical new comic book series featuring unknown creators and targeting a specific niche (all TBD!), but I'd also like to open the floor to any creators or publishers who have specific questions they'd like answered, and separately, offer to develop a marketing plan for one specific publication.

For either option, simply drop me an email at glecharles (at) gmail (dot) com, with plan candidates needing to include their elevator pitch and current status of their project. Questions can remain anonymous, if desired, while, for obvious reasons, the chosen candidate for the marketing plan will need to be willing to be identified and comfortable with aspects of their concept and business plan being analyzed and criticized publicly.

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