We planned two marketing campaigns to increase sales of our top products. These campaigns were planned in detail on the principle of seven-touches: a person needs to hear about us, on average, seven times before they will act on our message. We wanted to drive customers to our outlets, in the hope they’d become return customers.
This marketing campaign was thoroughly planned and executed, led by our marketing manager Louise. We were helped a lot by pro bono workshop with Zoom Advertising (see Marie’s post here about it). In addition to ongoing day-to-day support of outlets, it included:
- Facebook and Twitter conversation plans (text and images planned in advance and scheduled to go out almost every day)
- The #textbookrevolution campaign, which included work with outlets, posters, handouts on campuses, a petition, video, a dedicated site, live Twitter debates and more (see details here)
- Our cover-design competition (see this post)
- PR around school sponsorships (see this post)
- PR and marketing materials around matric exams (see this post)
- A new printable product catalogue (see this post)
- Attending the SAPA conference (see this post)
- New help screencasts (see this post)
- Launching the Paperight Young Writers Anthology (see Marie’s write up).
We couldn’t have worked harder on it, and I’m extremely proud of what Marie and the team produced. So our poor results in terms of sales (see objectives below) were very disappointing.
Objectives achieved and not achieved
|Increase sales of specific titles through targeted campaigns||We did not increase sales of the products we promoted most.|
|Increase sales overall||Transactions dropped, but profitability increased due to a more profitable product mix. So we made marginally more gross profit in the period during the marketing project. More details below.|
|Improve sales experience in outlets for Paperight customers||While we are happy with improvement in some bright-spot outlets, at some copy shops that we targeted (such as Top Copy and Jetline Stellenbosch) the managers gate-kept fiercely and we could not make an impact.|
|Increase awareness of Paperight (availability/price/convenience)||We certainly increased awareness of Paperight.|
Measures of success
|Have we increased sales of target products?||Achieved at a very low rate. Sales have increased, but very modestly. We were targeting university prescribed books, and have made a few sales in single digits monthly. We have seen greater growth in sales of matric study guides, which we were not promoting as much. This shows that people are finding us for their needs, rather than us reaching them with our favourite offering. This has a lot to do with the fact that our catalogue is still very weak in university texts.|
|Have we improved the experience of purchasing Paperight titles in outlets? (Measured qualitatively from conversation with outlets and customer feedback where available.)||Achieved with modest success. Where outlet managers have been very receptive to us, we have been able to work with them to improve service with fast support and promotional items. The shining example is Saggitarius Print Works in Paietermaritzburg, where owner Shahana Maharaj does a lot of promotional work at local schools. At several other key outlets that we wanted to help grow (such as Top Copy in Claremont and Jetline Stellenbosch), owners/managers have passively or actively blocked our attempts to help or train staff.|
|Do 1 in 3 students at UCT and Stellenbosch know about Paperight, when surveyed around the departments we’re focusing on (e.g. English/Arts)?||We will run these surveys when the universities reopen in late July. We suspect that we did not reach this target.|
|We expect to see:
||Not achieved, at least not in this timeframe. Comparing the previous six months with this project timeframe:
So we sold fewer of more valuable products, a sales-mix issue.
Return customers: We have not been able to create return customers. Returners actually dropped slightly.
Mar–Aug 2013 = 24 return customers
Sep 2013–Feb 2014 = 19 return customers
Mar–Jun 2014 = 6 return customers.
|We would like to see:
||Other outlets did join in, but not in our focus geographical areas around UCT and Stellenbosch. For instance outlets at UJ, Wits, Free State and NMMU requested #textbookrevolution marketing packs. This was very encouraging. It did not lead to many sales, though, since we have very few university textbooks, and the #textbookrevolution campaign was more about awareness than sales.|
|We would love to see:
||We did not meet our sales targets.
We did see sales growing at outlets we hadn’t selected. In fact, there is no meaningful difference between sales at our selected strategic outlets and at other outlets. This does suggest that our marketing has very little impact on buyer behaviour, and that the outlets’ marketing work (e.g. flyers at local schools, posters in store) is the most important factor by far.
Note: This project was divided into parts A and B for funding-pool reasons: part A was funded from my first fellowship year and part B from my second. Operationally, they are the same project.
Original budget: R395683
Actual spend: R395683
Returned to pool: R0 (see notes in table)
|Item||Budget||Actual||Return to pool||Comments|
|Contract extension: Nick Mulgrew||90000||72991.91||17008.09||Nick worked part-time for this period, so we saved.|
|Contract extension: Yazeed Peters||90000||120000||-30000||See note below on overspending during notice periods.|
|Contract extension: Oscar Masinyane||84000||107545.45||-23545.45||See note below on overspending during notice periods.|
|New sales manager position: probation contract||30000||25417.50||4582.5||We did not hire a new sales manager . We took on two interns Andi Donald and Shawn Swingler. We also used this money to pay Philippa and Marie on a freelance basis in May and June for #textbookrevolution textbook database research..|
|New sales manager position: salary increase||42000||42000||We did not hire a sales manager. We did interview several people but could not find a suitable person.|
|Monthly marketing expenses||30000||47358.86||-17358.86||Over Parts A and B were ultimately over budget by R3837.34. We underestimated how much marketing material we’d need for this project.|
|Marketing travel and sales expenses||29683||22369.28||7313.72||All local travel expenses|
|TOTAL||R395683||395683||0||For Part A of the project budget, we have balanced overspending with underspending. Further costs move into Part B.|
Original budget: R191010
Actual spend: R116094.05
Returned to pool: R74915.95
|Item||Budget||Actual||Return to pool||Comments|
|Contract extension: Marie-Louise Rouget||60000||80000||-20000||See note below on overspending during notice periods.|
|Monthly marketing expenses||30000||16478.48||13521.52||Over Parts A and B were ultimately over budget by R3837.34. We underestimated how much marketing material we’d need for this project.|
|Marketing travel and sales expenses||101010||19615.57||81394.43||International travel was less than expected (only London Book Fair).|
Contract extensions during notice periods
We overspent on salaries in this project by up to two months (case by case). Towards the end of the project period, I knew we’d be letting most of our team go, even though their contracts were in place for several months to come. Rather than creating a new, separate project to cover their notice periods, we used our underspending in other areas to offset the overspending here.
Outputs and deliverables
|Marketing materials including catalogue, posters, flyers, coasters, social media conversations||Various paperight team members||Paperight|
|Video||Shaun Swingler for Paperight||Paperight|
|Website at http://textbookrevolution.co.za||Arthur Attwell||Paperight|
It’s impossible to know for sure what we could have done differently, and we realise that we had to try all this to find out that this kind of marketing doesn’t work for a startup still trying to get its product working on a local scale: a good copy shop with the right books with the right customers.
We suspect that we tried to run before we could walk, and that local, hand-held, in-person sales might have been more effective. However, had we done that instead, we would have felt that we were not aiming high enough and were missing opportunities.
Concretely, we learned a lot about creating and executing marketing plans. In short: there cannot be too much detail or forethought.
This project did not have the impact on our sales and sustainability that we hoped for. As a result, we let go most team members and are revisiting our core business model.
The outcomes of this project were disappointing, considering that we executed it pretty much exactly as we hoped we could. The silver linings are that we learned a lot about how to run a marketing campaign, and that for a startup like ours, a more humble, less sexy approach to telling people about your service may be more effective. We’ll try that in future.
We’re revisiting our business model, focusing on photocopy licensing. Our marketing approach there will be very different: much more focused on local, in-person interactions with institutional partners.