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11 posts from June 2005

Customer Loyalty

I’ve been reading Michael Treacy’s Double-Digit Growth and recommend it for anyone running a business or having P&L responsibilities. In this book, Treacy outlines what he calls his “5 Disciplines of Growth”:

  1. Keep the Growth You Have Already Earned
  2. Take Business from Your Competitors
  3. Show Up Where Growth Is Going to Happen
  4. Invade Adjacent Markets
  5. Invest in New Lines of Business

I’ve read through the first three and found #1 and #3 the most interesting so far. The first point about keeping the growth that you’ve already earned has really sparked my interest. Treacy talks primarily about customer loyalty and programs to support it…which got me thinking…

How many publishers are really doing a good job building customer loyalty? Quality is “Job One” as Ford used to say (in their pre-Firestone/Explorer days). That phrase certainly applies to all industries though and is generally assumed to be a given. If you don’t offer quality products, how do you expect to build customer loyalty? With cheap prices? Maybe, but is that a long-term solution?

Part of the challenge is that most publishers don’t have a direct relationship with their customers. Most customer loyalty programs have to be conducted through a retailer. Should publishers be more aggressive in establishing a direct relationship with their customers? If so, what sorts of programs make the most sense? How about these:

  • Frequent flyer program – After you buy a certain minimum number of products, you get one free.
  • Premium content program – Access to a premium content site is offered for free or at a discounted price.
  • Bookclub program – Customers who promise to buy a certain minimum number of books over 12 months get a special discount on all of them.

Some publishers already do a good job of tracking and following-up with their existing customers. O’Reilly is a good example. Every O’Reilly book you buy generally has a blown-in registration card. I’ve received catalogs and e-mail blasts from O’Reilly in the past, most likely from a prior reg card submission.

Amazon is clearly a leader in building customer loyalty. They not only experiment with various programs, but they study the data and leverage the results. It’s one thing to launch something like the 3 programs I’ve listed above, but it requires a much larger effort to regularly analyze the data, use it to make improvements to the programs, etc.

I’m looking forward to reading Treacy’s next chapter on how to invade adjacent markets. I’ve always felt there are loads of opportunities with that strategy, especially in the computer book-publishing segment. In the mean time, what are your thoughts on customer loyalty and how publishers can do a better job building it up?

Google AdSense is NonSense

I tried it, “earned” a few bucks, but now I’m dropping the program. When I originally added Google AdSense to my blog I figured it might be a way to at least break even on the annual TypePad hosting fee. After all, how long should it take to earn $50 in click-thru’s? The answer: Too long, at least for the traffic levels this blog generates.

Here are the final results: I launched Google AdSense on March 7th and removed it on June 11th. During that period, there were almost 13,000 page views and 132 clicks. Here’s another tidbit that makes me question the value of AdSense, at least on my blog: quite of few of those clicks resulted in zero earnings. I understand Google tracks IP addresses and apparently doesn’t pay for clicks if they appear to come from someone who’s just trying to run up the click rate. That’s fair, but don’t you wonder if the advertiser still has to pay Google for those clicks? Does anyone know the facts on this?

Regardless of how the AdSense program is supposed to work, it only generated $16.61 in advertising earnings for me over the past 3 months. Google makes it very clear that they pay only on click-thru’s, not impressions. Nevertheless, I feel there’s a significant imbalance between the visibility I’ve been providing advertisers and the income I’ve earned. For the modest traffic levels The Average Joe generates, I think it would be better to use that space for something else. So, over the next couple of weeks I’ll work on adding more cross-references and archive information to the right column of this blog.

In the mean time, I guess I’m forfeiting my $16.61 in AdSense earnings. I’m pretty sure I had to exceed $20 in earnings before a payment would be made. Oh well. I’m hoping that by providing this information, it might help other aspiring bloggers decide whether or not they should try the AdSense program.

Podcasting, DotNetNuke & Photoshop

I finished loading up my new MP3 player with every CD I could find in my house. The darned thing has 3,400+ songs on it and I have almost 30 Gig of storage space left. I’m still going to look into one of those all-you-can-download song rental subscriptions, but in the mean time, I plan to dive back in to the world of podcasting.

I played around a bit with a couple of podcasts with iPodder on my PocketPC. It felt like a clumsy solution though and I quickly lost interest. Our group just published the first book on the topic, Podcasting: Do It Yourself Guide. I’m pleased to see it debut on the Amazon Computers & Internet bestseller list. I plan to start reading the book this weekend and test-drive some podcasts on my Creative MP3 player. By the way, I’m trying to see how long I can go without listening to FM radio. Thanks to the broad assortment of tunes that are now at my fingertips, I haven’t listened to the radio since late May…

Speaking of Amazon bestsellers, I’m also thrilled to see one of our newest WROX books, Professional DotNetNuke ASP.NET Portals on the list as well. As Jim Minatel reported over on his blog, the book has been very popular at TechEd this week.

Finally, now that Sybex is officially part of the Wiley family, it’s great to see Tim Grey’s latest book, Photoshop CS2 Workflow: The Digital Photographer’s Guide doing so well. It’s not only been a regular on Amazon’s list, it was #1 there for a few days there earlier this month. I got to speak with Tim today and welcome him to the Wiley family – he’s a terrific author with a great platform.

E-Book Platform Wish List: Dynamic Split Views

As I’ve noted in at least one prior posting, I’m a big believer in the future of alternative content distribution methods. (See Naba Barkakati’s blog as well for some interesting e-book posts.) The naysayer will tell you that e-books haven’t worked yet and they never will. I choose to believe we just haven’t built the content the right way and there’s no killer device…yet.

While I’d love to have the chance to influence the design of future devices, content is where I tend to focus. With that in mind, I’d like to suggest an element that would help create a winning formula: dynamic split views.

Let’s say you’re reading a book on Java programming. The way a printed book is designed today, you read some of the narrative text, which refers to a listing that may or may not be on the same page. Heck, the listing might not appear for 2 or 3 pages, or it might actually have been first referenced/shown much earlier in the chapter. The reader then has to flip back and forth to compare the code in the listing to the information in the narrative text.

This is a common shortcoming of a printed book, but something that can easily be overcome in an electronic one. Why not encode the e-book and have the reader application be smart enough to know when this situation arises? For example, when you scroll to that 3rd paragraph on page 52 that refers to the Java program, the screen could automatically split into two panes: the top pane still shows the narrative text while the bottom pane shows the listing. Both can be scrolled independent of the other. Better yet, why not have the key piece of code within that listing highlighted somehow (e.g., shade code lines 17-23) when that paragraph first appears on screen? Then as the reader scrolls down further in the narrative text, the listing scrolls too, highlighting the next segment discussed in the pane above.

This solution isn’t limited to programming books only. Why not use the same approach for any other type of book where screen shots, tables, illustrations, etc., are used? Again, just build in the logic so that the reader app knows what to show in the companion frame when each part of the chapter is being read.

Author Tip: Author Advances vs. Marketing Funds

I never really thought to compare these two items until I saw a note about it on the “Mad Max Perkins” BookAngst 101 blog. He cautions, “Beware publishers who boast of their marketing capabilities, and use it as a justification of their meager advances.” Amen.

I’ve worked at three different publishing houses and I’ve never seen a case where author advances and marketing funds were being pulled from the same financial bucket. Adding more to one shouldn’t really affect the other.

As I’ve noted many times before, my experience is with computer book publishing. If you’re faced with this dilemma on a different type of book, you could at least ask your editor/publisher some follow-up questions. For example, if they’re really going to offer you a lower advance to help fund marketing, what specific marketing initiatives are they planning?