Do You Have a Budget for Marketing Experimentation?

Marketers who want to be successful selling books at scale in the future might need to act more like scientists than promoters.

With the proliferation of digital marketing channels and an increasingly fractured audience, experimenting with small marketing efforts and adjusting may be more effective from a return-on-investment standpoint than big, planned marketing campaigns.

“It almost doesn’t make sense to try to get it perfect when you can launch 100 iterations in the wild,” said Jim Hanas, HarperCollins audience development director, speaking at the Digital Book World Marketing + Publishing Services Conference & Expo on a panel about redefining modern book market strategy. He added, “I don’t personally have an R&D [research and development] budget. Everything’s an experiment.”


The problem with this approach, of course, is doing it across a catalog of multiple titles. Small marketing experiments to build a larger campaign is complex and publishers may not yet have the right tools to do so.

“On a single book, you could have half-a-dozen target audiences and half-a-dozen keywords,” said Mike Shatzkin, book publishing consultant and the conference’s program director who was moderating the panel. “That’s 36 A-B tests. And that’s just on one book. You have thousands of books. How can you manage that?”

Today, such tools for marketers may not exist. But they may be needed soon.

“Do we have software where we can test a matrix of 64-by-64 subject lines?” asked Hanas. “No. Do we need that software at some point? Yes.”

Once the tools do exist, however, it might not end up being as complicated as a matrix with 4,096 possible options might imply (that’s 64 multiplied by 64, for those of you who have been paying attention.

“All of our experiments have three outcomes,” said Rick Joyce, chief marketing officer at Perseus, who was also speaking on the panel. “We did it and that didn’t work; we did it and it has promise; we did it and it killed. It’s like being a stand-up comic trying out new material.”


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