I made this post last week about my belief that the publishing revenue model is in the midst of change and that there are (at least) six tactics that should be employed. I promised follow-up with more detail on each, so here's the first of those, focusing on the need to go beyond your current customer touch points.
First off, a definition... What do I mean by "customer touch points"? This all has to do with the customer's buying (and usage) experience with your product. In my case, most of my customers wind up buying indirectly through a retailer, either brick-and-mortar or online. I don't actually "touch" most of those customers directly. Every publisher has a website and many offer incentives to customers in the hope that they will stop by and begin some level of a direct relationship. Most people just buy their book and don't ever bother with anything further.
There are two areas of opportunity with this: The initial transaction and everything after it. Btw, before anyone starts saying that I'm trying to remove the retailers/resellers, that's not the goal! I'm just trying to see how a publisher can enhance the overall customer experience. For example, when someone buys one of my books today, they close the transaction feeling like they bought a physical product...nothing more, nothing less. I'd like that person to walk out the door (or press "Check-out" online) and feel like they have just done something more than that.
What can I add to the product itself that causes the customer to say, "hey, that's an interesting feature and it's a great enhancement/addition to the print book itself." This might be in the form of access to additional content, a free service, a third-party product, etc., but the key is to make sure that it's front and center in the buying decision.
Various attempts have already been made at this, of course. One that comes to mind was the "Unlimited Edition" that I tested several years ago. You buy the book today and we'll give you access to new chapters as we write them online. Similar solutions using different names have also appeared. By and large, they've all flopped. Why? In my case, we just didn't offer enough of a compelling reason for someone to come to the site. Some would say this proves the idea has no merit and should be abandoned.
I think the idea is still valid and that it just wasn't the right solution. Someone will figure out how to create the right Unlimited Edition-type enhancement and will be quite successful. When they do, they'll establish a better long-term relationship with those customers, enhancing their touch point situation, and they'll do so without hurting the retailer.