I’ve seen it happen all too often to owners of new bookstores – you have an idea, you try your hardest to get it up and running, and your euphoria at finally opening a bookstore just cant be contained. Brilliant! …. And then what? Customers drudge in and out, and then you realize that the sales aren’t what you expected them to be, your fame as a store is more limited than you realize, and you’re not the next Barnes & Nobel… uh-oh. Where did you go wrong?
It’s actually not too late. Its all a matter of strategic planning and a little bit of extra effort, all of which are within your mental, physical, and financial range. But the secret is in this – rather than charge on with your ideas like a raging bull set free, take your time to ponder on your situation. Even out your options, your complications, your drawbacks and the your advantages – and be both reasonable and honest with yourself, and as much as you’re tempted, don’t sugarcoat your disadvantages.
Ignoring them could cost you far more than you expect.
So – where to begin? A plan! Here is a tentative plan that will help you if you a) are opening a bookstore from scratch, and b) if you’ve already started, but need to revive a business that has lapsed into a slight coma. It’s all brief and too the point, with enough space for you to expand on. Print it out, in huge type, and paste in on your office wall and attack it with your markers. Here we go.
A Sample Promotion Plan
1. Create a new logo or revamp and old one:
a. Short, attractive,and easily spotted.
b. Should be the emblem from now on and placed on all material to follow.
2. Promotional description of the bookstore:
a. What is being offered? Write this down in detail.
b. Book categories – what are they.
c. Main feature: what makes (your bookstore) special / unique? (ie – something you have that others don’t)
d. Items aside from books (CDs, gifts, trinkets, etc) e. Special services (ie – book orders, delivery, audio-books) f. Hours / days youre open. Any exceptions?
3. Target audience:
a. Decide who your customers are, based on what you offer (ie: children?Young adults? Artists? Students?).
b. Research: find out who is in your area (ie – institutes, expatriates, students, tourists, business owners, etc) – this is important so you can cater to the needs of those around you.
c. Base contact with your targets via the material listed in no. 4, 5, & 6
4. Mailing List & Memberships:
a. Offer paid memberships (e.g.: 20% discount on all sales for members) b. Develop a mailing-list database by taking the name/email/number of each customer that walks into the store. Keep a sheet at the counter.
c. Create several mailing lists by gathering emails from embassies, schools, and centers (see the Yellow Pages or the directories in the back of social magazines)
d. Send any piece of news you have to ALL your mailing lists.
5. Print material:
a. Bookmarks with the items stated above (staple-item – must have)
i. This item can be changed on a bi-monthly basis, and can also be used as a flyer/invitation for distribution purposes.
b. Flyers with general information (distribution / at the counter)
c. Flyers for any particular events or discounts (distribution purposes)
d. Newsletter / brochure / catalog:
i. Released on a monthly basis and distributed to bookstore members as well as at other locations including cafés, hotels, embassies, cultural centers and institutes, galleries, libraries, schools, universities, and all places where the expatriate / English-speaking communities are likely to go.
e. Posters (visual promotion in various locations) f. Banners (outside the store / in the neighborhood)
6. Online Material:
a. Make sure you have a working email.
b. Create social network pages (ie: Facebook, Twitter, and/or a blog)
c. Website – periodical changes according new information you have.
d. Online newsletter (this should be the same in visual format as the one in print). Some highlights:
1. The newsletter should include information about new arrivals, book categories that need highlighting, special offers, and forthcoming titles.
2. In appearance, the newsletter template should be slightly more commercial, eye-catching with a prominent logo, targeted for a general audience.
e. Any news you wish you promote (ie – events, discounts, etc) should be sent in the same fashion, to your mailing list.
By following a plan as such you should be able to extend yourself and your bookstore out side a limited realm – especially to a target audience who will undoubtedly frequent your store once the word is out in the right place. But a plan like this should remain your staple – to be updated, altered, and improved on a constant basis, to assure that you don’t fall off the wagon, no matter where you are and what the season is.