Planning: The five stages of a digital campaign

We’ve been considering some of the major goals and the ‘big picture’ decisions you’ll need to make. Let’s now take a look at the key phases and tasks that make up a typical digital marketing plan for a single title.


The five stages of a digital book marketing campaign

As you plan your campaign, it’s helpful to think about five, roughly-sequential stages. Here’s an outline of each of these stages and some typical key tasks (click + to expand).

1. Pre-launch

This should start as early as possible. Publishers and authors can start while the work is being written, or even beforehand as they develop ideas.

Key tasks: Build an online network of contacts who will buy, or influence others to buy, your ebook. You can also use it to quietly build advance interest. For an author, this group can also help shape the book’s content and test its key ideas. Publishers should invest heavily in what will be an essential long-term asset, useful well beyond the launch of a single title.

2. Soft launch

A ‘soft’ launch is an advance preview to a small group a few weeks or months prior to the launch, often before the book is finalised. It gives time to fine-tune the product and promotion, attract early fans who will help get the word out, and often build pre-sales. It also provides a way to quietly test the technical aspects.

Key tasks: Gain early endorsements or reviews, test promotions, test technology.

3. Launch
The big bang. And, if you’ve done everything right in 1 and 2, that’s just what it should be.

Key tasks: Drive early sales, build momentum for the long haul.

4. Maintain
Keep your ebook alive. The famous ‘long tail’ of the internet means your ebooks can always be available, so plan to keep stoking the fire so people also buy them. And backlist, series, or related lists are all available online, unlike bricks and mortar stores, so you’ll use them to cross-promote new and existing titles.

Key tasks: Run advertising and promotions, work some niches, cross-promote with other titles.

5. Test, measure, improve, re-run
Everything online is measurable. Use this to sell smarter and longer since your ebook is always available to buy.

Key tasks: Test promotions, measure results, cut losing promotions, fine-tune the winners, run and test again. This process helps you to maximize total lifetime sales and to keep promoting profitably.

We’ll cover how to go about each of these tasks in the remainder of this course.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint

The best time to start promoting your book is three years before it comes out. Three years to build a reputation, build a permission asset, build a blog, build a following, build credibility and build the connections you’ll need later. — Seth Godin

A comprehensive ebook-marketing program should be a marathon, not a sprint. It starts well before a book launches, and it should continue long after. There’s plenty of evidence emerging that the sales lifecycle of ebooks is more likely to be skewed to longer term — a ‘slow burner’ rather than a ‘big bang’. Consider this when you’re allocating your budget.

The quote to the right from author and internet-marketing expert Seth Godin is probably the single best piece of advice online book marketers could receive (emphasis ours).

It’s worth taking a moment to consider the significance of each of the things Godin itemises.

  • Reputation. Reputations help you get noticed. They take time to build. Search engines take notice, too, by looking at the quality of sites and social networks connecting to you and how long you’ve been around.
  • Permission asset. Like an email list — but where every person on it has agreed to be on it. This is gold you’ll mine for years if you create books and services to do repeat business. Essential for publishers.
  • Blog. This is still probably the single best tool for most authors and many publishers to build the rest of these marketing assets.
  • Following. Your best advocates will be the people who want to hear what you’ve got to say next.
  • Credibility. Hard to earn but essential if you want people to act on what you say. It’s easy to squander, too, if you don’t treat people with respect and try to sell blatantly or take more than you give back to the online community.
  • Connections. This is the essential online channel you’ve carefully built up. You’ll need it when you’re ready to launch. It should be full of people who can — and will want to — multiply your message.

So — for publisher or author — an online presence will take time to build. If you’re running late, just start today.


Find out more about this topic on our Digital Publishing 101 useful resources site.


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