Marketing Monday: A Simple Plan, Part I

Before I go any further with this, I want to establish the three basic principles that will represent the foundation for the Marketing Monday series of columns:

1) Publishing comics is a business, not a hobby;
2) Proftability within 3-5 years, if not sooner, is the goal.
3) The ultimate goal of marketing is to match a company’s products and services to the people who need and want them, thereby [ensuring] profitability. (Investopedia)

Last week, I referenced Kevin Stirtz’ “Smart Marketing System”, a simple, 5-step blueprint for building and implementing a successful marketing plan, and posited it as 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

This week, I want to break down the first three components of his system as it specifically relates to comics.

1. The GOALS or objectives you want to accomplish

In developing a marketing plan, a publisher (or creator) needs to define 3-5 very specific objectives and establish the metrics by which their plan’s success or failure will be measured. Will you be focusing on branding on direct action? On a specific publication, creator or the entire line? Are you looking for short-term results or long-term growth?

Sample goals and objectives might include:

1) Build brand awareness among the retail community, direct and mass market, with emphasis on the publisher’s brand and the quality of its titles and creators.

2) Achieve 2% Actual Dollar Market Share in the North American direct market by Fiscal Year 2009.

3) Build electronic marketing databases for retailers, media and audience with full contact information, demographics and psychographics.

2. The MARKET you want to reach

Who is your target audience, specifically?

Every small publisher, even imprints of the larger publishing houses, needs to define their target audience as closely as possible. Targeting “teenage girls”, or “white males aged 18-34”, or “discerning comics fans” isn’t enough unless you have a relatively mainstream product and a healthy budget to promote it — quite frankly, if you’re publishing comics, you don’t.

No, stop; you really don’t.

You have to dig deeper and find your niche, ideally one that’s underserved, but not one that’s so narrow it can’t realistically sustain you. It’s a common trap many fans fall into, believing that if only publishers put out the stuff they think is great, they’d be rolling in dough. A single laser-targeted title can be a good place to establish your brand, but unless you want to be a one-hit wonder, your focus needs to be a little bit broader. The Guardian Line and Charlie Foxtrot Entertainment are two recent examples of targeting specific audiences that are broad enough to have a realistic shot at being successful and allow for a pretty wide range of products, assuming of course that they’re properly capitalized. (The key difference between a legitimate business and a hobby.)

Another thing to consider is the difference between demographics (who is your audience?) and psychographics (why do they buy what they buy?), which I’ll get into in a later column. Greg Burgas got some great feedback last week to a post that asked “How do we choose the comics we read?”; while not exactly scientific evidence, it serves as an excellent anecdote that people buy comic books for very different reasons and the market cannot be approached as some monolothic entity like “teenage girls” or “the black vote”.

3. The MESSAGE you want to deliver to your market

One of the key aspects of marketing that often gets lost is that it’s not really about you or your product; it’s about your audience and how they connect with you and your product. There are a ton of books of all kinds published every year, but the ones that typically stand out do so not simply because they’re good — in fact, many times they’re not — but because they make a connection of some kind with their intended audience, usually an emotional one.

There’s a saying in sales that people “shop with logic but buy on emotion,” and as stereotypes go, it’s pretty accurate. Look at almost everything from real estate to consumer electronics to comic books, and the things people buy often defy logic — whether it’s the house they can’t afford but the kitchen is absolutely perfect for dinner parties; the 52-inch projection TV that takes up half the living room but makes the Super Bowl much more exciting; or the multi-title spanning crossover that’s going to change everything in a universe where nothing really ever changes for long.

Most human beings are slaves to their emotions and if you can tap into that in some way with your marketing efforts, you’ll be a step ahead of your competition.

These first three components of your marketing plan are effectively the engine, and over the life of this column, we’ll return to them frequently. Next week, though, we’ll take our first look at the fuel needed to make that engine run smoothly: the MONEY and the MEDIA.

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2 thoughts on “Marketing Monday: A Simple Plan, Part I

  1. Thanks, Kevin! If you’re checking in, please do feel free to chime in with any input you might have.

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