How conversion architectures can benefit book publishers

How do conversion architectures work, how do they apply to current and future book content models, and what can publishers be doing now to market and sell content in different ways? Brian O’Leary, founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting and Tech Forum presenter, explains.

How conversion architectures work

Experienced marketers are familiar with the work required to attract, retain, and monetize an audience. These activities are often shown stacked on a funnel, with the widest part reserved for “prospecting” or “attracting” potential customers. The narrowest part represents the subset that becomes paying customers.

On the web, attracting an audience of potential buyers is done through search (and search optimization), social media, referral traffic, and promotion using offline formats that can include print and ebooks. The cost of acquiring a potential customer can be quite low.

Once a potential buyer is aware, many web retailers have successfully used vehicles like email newsletters, content updates, and promotional offers to retain a portion of the initial audience. The key here: obtaining a valid email address.

Although many retailers focus on selling products, an audience can also provide value through sponsorships, subscriptions, and live events. A relationship with an audience also provides cost-effective opportunities to sell related products.

How conversion architectures apply to book publishing

The growth of subscription services like 24symbols, Scribd, and Oyster, as well as series-specific sites like Pottermore, illustrate ways in which conversion architectures are starting to affect how publishers approach their businesses. Still, this is a significant shift in the way most publishers think about the business.

The current focus results primarily in the sale of physical or digital objects. We don’t really think about audiences, or about using content to attract readers before establishing ongoing, direct relationships.

As we move to the web and work to organize communities, at least some of our content will be used to attract audiences to a given digital destination. If we want to compete effectively against platforms that already hold a significant scale advantage, we have to offer potential readers a reason to visit and still more reasons to stay.

As examples of direct-response opportunities, think about using subscription models as a way to test demand for various types of content. As well, consider them as an option to measure persistence, i.e., how long a reader stays with a book. Having built an audience, a publisher might offer membership benefits to loyal or highly engaged readers.

This direct-response approach won’t work for every type of book, nor will it work for every type of reader. But it does give the publishers who try it the opportunity to interact directly with readers in ways that can refine both the content they create and the forms they use to deliver it.

What publishers can be doing now

Even if you don’t think you’ll need to use conversion architectures, it won’t hurt to learn about them. Along the way, you’ll pick up some other useful skills. Here are four straightforward steps you can take now:

  1. Grow your understanding of how search, social, and referral marketing works. Ideally, make this more than an IT or web assignment – put a senior member of the team on the hook to report back to everyone on best practices here.
  2. Inventory your content to see what might work in a newsletter format. Maybe everything you have in-house is written for a trade or supplier relationship. If so, that’s important to know early, especially if you decide to cultivate more direct relationships.
  3. Blog about something you think readers care about. Cultivating an audience starts with a voice and takes practice. Authors know this, giving most a head start on their publishing colleagues. To attract and retain an audience, think about ways to connect what you do with people who might value it.
  4. Host a live event. Okay, maybe this isn’t as straightforward as the other three ideas, but it can be instructive. The success of BookExpo’s BookCon in attracting an audience (and some industry notoriety) illustrates the opportunity in reaching out to readers.

At Tech Forum in March, I’ll provide more detail about how conversion architectures work, how they apply to current and future book content models, and what publishers can be doing now to market and sell content in different ways. But if these ideas resonate, don’t wait until then to try them out!

Want to continue the discussion with Brian at Tech Forum on March 12? Check out the full schedule here and make sure to register by Feb. 25.