Marketing Monday: First Things First

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, 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.

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4 thoughts on “Marketing Monday: First Things First

  1. I look forward to your series. Hopefully someone at the comic book publishers will be paying attention (but I’m not holding my breath).

    I can see already that many of your foundational concepts will be foreign to many in the comic industry, a very provincial and insular realm of the publishing industry.

  2. Thanks, Mark. I’ve harped on the industry’s marketing ineptitude many times before and figured it was high time to add a little sugar to my bitter prescription by adding some constructive criticism to the discussion. Of course, you can lead a horse to water…

  3. As a comic book retailer, it always amazes me as to how, if at all, publishers market their comics. I am definately going to check out this series, and I hope that comic book creators do the same.

  4. Thanks, Lisa. As a retailer — one of the most important markets to reach — I may be turning to you and others in the coming weeks for some “counter intelligence” on your awareness of certain publishers, titles and creators. 😉

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