When I ran OC Books, one of the biggest issues I used to find with direct marketing, was getting the suppliers to back you up with stock. Because we often advertised books that were a little off the mainstream of Christian publishing, the suppliers shook in their shoes – or so it seemed – at the thought of holding more than a few copies of the titles we wanted to promote. Yet they knew that almost invariably, if I ordered books for our email direct marketing, we would usually do quite well with them.
Who can blame them? And who am I to preach on marketing, direct, indirect or out in left field?
While I was managing the shop I sometimes felt as though I’d read every book on marketing there is to read. I hadn’t, of course, since books on marketing are like weeds: the more you read them, the more there are to read. But I did learn a few things over the years, and put a lot of the things I learnt into practice. The actual approaches worked; it was just having enough money to take the approaches that was the issue.
We tried everything: different signage, giving away things, radio advertising (a real fizzer – for us, anyway – and expensive). Of course we tried direct marketing, which turned into email marketing as time went on, and that was pretty successful overall. We just needed more customers – and getting those was always the biggest issue, since there were several other Christian bookshops similar to ours that were fighting for the same few people.
We got ourselves in the newspapers several times, for free…and I still shudder at some of the pictures the reporters published alongside their articles. It seemed as though we were fated to have awful pictures sitting next to the text. There was one in particular which embarrasses me to this day, of a couple leaning over the counter, she wearing some long pink knitted thing that became the sole source of attention in the photo. The fact that the interior of our shop was in the background was neither here nor there.
I even contemplated tv advertising once, since Channel 9 here in Dunedin was offering it at a reasonable rate. And I do mean reasonable. I’d never considered telly ads before, but this was certainly tempting. But I was rather put off (apart from, as usual, having too little cash to spare) by the awful ad they did for the University Bookshop, which seemed to have nothing to do with books, had a strange sexual component, and must have been aimed at weirdo bookreaders. And anyway, did I really want an ad for OC Books appearing in the ad breaks for Cow TV?