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Get Techie To Thrive

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Working in and around the technology, publishing and retail world for over 11 years has shown me that most principals that are applied within the individual sectors to grow their business remain the same, but then something always happens that changes the way they work dramatically, forever. This used to happen infrequently in each sector. But now the frequency is increasing. 

For instance, technology was quite happily bumbling along with its massive mainframe computers and along came desktop computing to change the way we thought about computers. Booksellers were happily selling books in their shops and along came Amazon selling books through the web to spoil the chain stores’ party.

But publishing has not really had a major change for years (apart from the Net Book Agreement when price fixing was dropped in 1997). Publishers find, produce and market books. Books might have CD’s attached to them or they might have a companion web site with extra benefits when the book was purchased.

eBooks have been around for ages but they have not been widely popular because they were not very easy to use. But now there is a rush to convert books into eBooks because sales of them have become noticeable  in the accounts. Many booksellers have now started selling direct to their customers rather than through booksellers and online retailers which is quite a change. 

But most publishers have their marketing budgets tied up with the retailers buying the ‘end caps’ of the shelves, placing branded point of sale items onto the floors, or buying space in the windows to promote and sell their titles. A publisher will pay many thousands of pounds on the prime retail space in stores or on an online retailers site for a branded store, for instance. 

And publishers are spending a lot of money and time on converting their books into eBooks in a rush to get them into the eBook stores of the retailers and onto the mobile phones, laptops or eReaders of their customers. For this, the publishers will, no doubt, have to pay for the virtual store space to get their eBooks noticed in the vast eBook libraries of the retailers. Amazon has some 250,000 eBooks already in its store which feels like a lot before the publishers have even got going on converting books into electronic versions. 

Now is the time for publishers to get techie and understand that their moment is here to understand digital technology which can help them identify their niche customers, in ways which an high street retailer can only dream about, to sell not only eBooks but printed books to them. But don’t just advertise your books. Provide your customers with tools and applications which they will find useful to find, read, discuss and question your books.

But don’t just make your books elecronic versions of printed books with no functions or features. And don’t think that eBooks are all going to be read on mobiles or eReaders. Remember that nearly 70% of the population that is online in the UK accesses the internet through a laptop or PC at home or work. Provide them with a desktop tool which you can have built for a fraction of the cost of buying an ‘end cap’ in a store and which will help you connect with your customers not just for a couple of weeks, but for months. 

So, publishers, get techie and be imaginative to thrive because now is the moment when your industry is changing forever. If you don’t have the skills, don’t worry. But do get to know what the technology can do and think of doing things which would have been unthinkable five years ago. And hire some outside help to get it done.

Marketing needs to be meaningful, not just entertaining

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There are certain things in life which are definite. For instance, you can always answer the question “Is the Pope a Catholic?” with a “Yes.” Or “Will the French go on strike this year?” can be answered with a confident “Yes.”

Other certainties used to be that marketers entertained their audiences with spectacular advertisements or beautiful websites.

But we, the audience, have changed. We have greater freedom to express ourselves with our own blogs. We gather information and news from social networks and spread them around our own networks rapidly.

For instance, three days ago on Twitter, I picked up a Tweet fro Stephen Fry about a complaint to Virgin Airlines from a passenger about the food he was given during the flight(http://tinyrul.com/virginfood). It was one of the funniest articles I had read for a long time.

Naturally, I ‘Re-Tweeted’ the article to my network and emailed to some friends and family. Three days later, the breakfast news did a piece about it. It was old hat by the time it came up on the BBC news and Virgin had already made statements to say that Richard Branson had seen the letter and they were taking action.

Furthermore, consumers will soon be able to watch TV programmes when they want to rather than when the broadcaster tells them to watch.

So, marketers can no longer interrupt their audiences to grab their attention, when it is more likely that consumers are already gathering an opinion about their product through their networks which has for more impact than the biased opinion of the marketer.

So, how do you work as a marketer in the new world to grow your business? Marketers have to ensure that they make the experience with their brand a meaningful one so that the perception of it is transformed. You have to go beyond entertainment and move into providing branded applications which give your audience a service which enhances their experience with your brand.

For example, the VW web site is a wonderful piece of work which makes choosing car easy. Rather than having to do cumbersome comparisons as you do on other sites, you can filter down using a simple set of tools on one screen. They provide a set of tools to help you make sense of the wide variety of choices and options in their cars.

As someone said to me the other day, "…when you get in a VW, it feels like they know what they are doing."  I agree. It does not get much better than that in marketing. No flashy videos showing me how the car is good at missing puddles. Just branded applications to provide a meaningful experience.

It was so good I bought a VW.

 

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