Among the myriad challenges comics publishers of all sizes face, one of the biggest — and most frustrating, personally — is marketing. Way too many publishers believe that marketing is little more than sending out badly written press releases and snagging previews, reviews and interviews from Wizard, Newsarama, Comic Book Resources, et al. While some recognize industry trade shows and fan conventions as being a necessary part of any marketing plan, few understand what it takes to maximize their presence at such events. Perhaps most astoundingly, many publishers don’t even have the sense to invest in a solid web site that gives potential fans and retailers a place to get more information about their publication(s).
“Marketing Monday” is going to be a weekly series of columns wherein I focus on marketing fundamentals, strategies and best practices for comics publishers and creators. I’ll be drawing on 14 years of publishing experience, as well as numerous examples of the good and bad I see happening in the comics industry today. Where possible, I’ll interview publishers and creators who have found success both in common sense practices as well as out-of-the-box efforts.
To start, though, I want to establish a baseline definition for marketing, and for that, I turn to Investopedia, which offers a succinct, comprehensive definition:
Many people believe that marketing is just about advertising or sales. However, marketing is everything a company does to acquire customers and maintain a relationship with them. Even the small tasks like writing thank-you letters, playing golf with a prospective client, returning calls promptly and meeting with a past client for coffee can be thought of as marketing. The ultimate goal of marketing is to match a company’s products and services to the people who need and want them, thereby ensure [sic] profitability.
That final word, “profitability”, is important, because anybody can publish comics at a loss, and if “profitability” at some point in the future isn’t part of a publisher’s overall plan, then they’re playing in a ballpark that’s irrelevant to this particular discussion. The goal of any legitimate marketing plan, especially these days when “Return on Investment” (ROI) is a codified corporate mantra, has to ultimately be about achieving profitability.
Kevin Stirtz, writing for AllBusiness.com, put forth his “Smart Marketing System” as a simple, 5-step blueprint for building and implementing a successful marketing plan, and is a good starting point for comics publishers (and creators) to work from:
1. The GOALS or objectives you want to accomplish
2. The MARKET you want to reach
3. The MESSAGE you want to deliver to your market
4. The MONEY you are willing to spend to deliver your message
5. The MEDIA you will use to deliver your message
Next week, I’ll start to examine each of these steps specifically in reference to marketing comics.