The woes of MoviePass recently made me reflect on some ideas we’ve been toying with to market and sell even more books. Loyalty programs, subscription models, premium customer tiers, and so on, have all been on our minds in the last few weeks here at CUP. Most of this came around because of our 150th anniversary next year, but when I started reading about MoviePass, it just came into focus even more.
This blog post, and the ongoing series that will follow, is about looking at non-book-world things in business, marketing, sales, pop culture, and anything else really, and seeing how it might tie into the business of marketing and selling scholarly books.
MoviePass, of course, took its business model from other monthly subscription media services like Scribd, that charge a small fee for which the customers get, in return, access to large volumes of media. The model works because many people sign up, pay the monthly fee, but then don’t use the service all that much. It’s like the gym. The most successful startups using the model have mostly focused on visual media (TV, movies, streaming services), but even books have received the treatment, and not just from Amazon. And though I’m not convinced that the “Netflix” model works for books; the latter is an inherently different kind of media, the 700,000 subscribers Scribd has might disagree. But I am intrigued by what possibilities could exist for a subscription model for a unique publisher.
What can I offer my customers, that will entice them to pay a monthly fee, in exchange for becoming a “member” or a premium customer? What incentives would be needed to earn their loyalty over the long term? Does the “insider” content of early ESPN initiatives work? Do they need extra-special (read, bigger) discounts on their purchases? If I offer them a rewards program so that they get a free book after every fifth purchase, will that be enough to make them buy more books? Is free shipping all it takes? Of course, none of these standard marketing and sales concepts are new. So, how can we tweak them so that what we offer is different and powerful and exciting and makes the customer, want to buy and read all our books? Is Cadillac’s exclusive treatment the way to go?! (“This version of our new book is only available in New York!”)
As we build our premium-loyalty-exclusive-subscription-reward model for the 150th Cornell University Press anniversary, the 1869 Club (work it out!) will be a hybrid. Different aspects from the most successful of the existing models will be included. Different tiers might exist. Different options for discerning customers will be featured on the menu. And one model isn’t going to work. We just don’t have the B2C base needed to sustain it. We don’t have enough new content (or existing content on the back list) to hold enough customers. But our PLEaSeR model might just have enough triggers to create and engender long-term commitments from students, scholars, and others to make it work.
The planning is underway, and I literally just came up with PLESR model (I’m pretty pleased so I hope it’s original), but as this new series of Book Marketing from the Real World continues, we’ll reveal more. (I’m not even hiding this behind an “insider” model. Although, I guess that might just change!)
About the author of this blog post: Martyn Beeny is the marketing and sales director at Cornell University Press. Follow him on Twitter @MartynBeeny. His blogs are always Premium content. He appreciates your Loyalty in always coming back for more. His posts are Exclusive to this blog. You can Subscribe if you like. And the Reward for reading all the way to the end of this bio is that it ends.