5 Questions with DBW 2017’s Susan Ruszala

Susan RuszalaSusan Ruszala is an experienced business consultant specializing in go-to-market strategies for new businesses and business lines. As the former president of NetGalley, Susan transformed the business from a failed start-up to a successful, well-established and growing B2B subscription business operating internationally.

Susan is a frequent and well-known speaker within the industry, and is also an expert on influencer marketing, which focuses on inspiring or hiring influencers to get the word out, rather than marketing directly to consumers.

Susan is also a speaker at DBW 2017, where she will discuss how authors and marketers can effectively use influencer marketing to get the word out about their books.

We spoke to Susan about the key shifts in this space and how these shifts will impact book marketers and authors.

What does the next generation of influencer marketing look like?

As with any well-established terrain, the key shifts in influencer marketing center around sophistication and technology. Marketers who are considering influencer campaigns need to be smart buyers in evaluating the many influencer platforms that exist.

Before beginning a campaign, marketers need to consider what results will signify success, both for them and comparatively within the platform. They need to ask specific questions like: How much demographic and behavioral information does the platform capture about influencers? What is the expected reach of the campaign? What actions can I expect from this campaign (engagement rate, reach, uptick in Amazon ranking, direct sales, reviews, etc.)? Will I have access to the influencer information collected by the platform?

I am also seeing a shift in how platforms encourage influencers to recommend a product. Whereas a written review used to be the bread-and-butter result of influencer campaigns (and of course are still important), we’re now seeing many more opportunities for audio, video and visual recommendations across social media like YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat.

How does influencer marketing fit into the overall marketing strategy for a given book?

It’s an important component, but it’s not the whole marketing plan! Authors in particular need to consider their overall marketing plan when evaluating any influencer platform. If, for example, an influencer campaign produces a high number of reviews, but your on-page information on Amazon isn’t effective, sales conversions may be lost. A strong plan will coordinate publicity, traditional marketing and advertising and trade marketing, and carefully sync your messaging between each channel.

What other marketing tactics should authors (both traditionally and self-published) make sure they’re doing?

I would recommend that authors focus on their product’s readiness for sale—and by that I mean how up-to-date is the Amazon product page? Do you come up in relevant keyword searches? Are your Goodreads and Amazon author pages up-to-date and refreshed regularly when new content is available? Do you know how people find your book, and are you focusing your efforts on that channel? If you’re promoting your product on social media, for example, have you traced the experience yourself from search to discovery to purchase?

If your product isn’t optimized for sale, your hard-fought marketing and publicity efforts can easily be thwarted by low conversion to sales numbers. For me, the absolute worst scenario is to achieve intent to purchase from a reader, and then fail to convert. I see this all the time—both as a marketing professional and as a consumer.

Your session at DBW 2017 is on the next generation of influencer marketing. Can you give us a preview of what you’ll be discussing?

The session brings together a fantastic set of speakers who represent different aspects of influencer marketing. Goodreads is the gold standard in this area, based on their sheer volume, reach and access to data.

We’ll hear from Grapevine, a leading YouTube influencer marketing platform with broad expertise outside of books, and from Ullstein (part of Bonnier) about their experience as a publisher that has invested in developing and running its own influencer network.

Our aim will be to focus very practically on how publishers and authors can design, run and scale influencer campaigns successfully, with a particular emphasis on how data is being used to measure the impact of individual influencers. There’s so much good work being done in this area.

You’ve been a speaker at DBW for a few years now. Why do you keep coming back?

DBW has been smart in evolving its programming to match the issues facing our industry. Book marketers are more than comfortable with digital marketing—what they are looking for now is to hone those skills, particularly around using data to analyze and predict.

This year’s agenda reflects that shift and is packed with sessions that will help marketers derive maximum value from diverse platforms and complex tactics. I’m glad to see a balanced representation from within books and outside of books. That’s important, as larger industries have more budget to push the envelope for digital, but books remain a specialized niche.

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