Lessons learned from Now What?

now-what_together-we-pass-paperight_cover_low-res_20130228One of our better-sounding early marketing ideas was to break into the Unisa market – and thus get Unisa’s attention – by creating a book that would appeal to students struggling with Unisa’s bureaucracy and merciless stinginess. In early 2013, we teamed up with Together We Pass, a Unisa-specific study-aid service, to produce the book.

I wasn’t directly involved with the commissioning process of content, etc., but I did design the book and headed the marketing for it. Although the experience of designing the book was something I really needed to further my skills, and appreciated it as such, the editing and layout phases were both quite frustrating. This was chiefly because the content I had to work with was changed at inopportune times. The result was a product that, although I thought was useful and could potentially sell very well, I didn’t completely feel great about. In the end it didn’t sell fantastically, for a number of reasons:

  1. Together We Pass gave away the book for free to all of their subscribers, in other words, the few thousand people most likely to buy the book. Even though we thought we might potentially get exposure from this move, it was not a beneficial decision for Paperight in the slightest, especially as we took the bulk of production costs. A lesson we learned could be, in other words: never try to sell something that someone else is giving away for free.
  2. The cover and the messaging for the book weren’t as strong as they could have been, probably because we were trying to be nice to Unisa, in the hope that they would more readily partner with us. It probably should have been more provocative – in retrospect we did a lot of things with kid gloves when we really should have tried to grab people’s attention by any means necessary.

All in all, Now What? was an interesting experiment and an amazing learning experience, but a very frustrating selling experience. The book ate up way too much of my time that I should have been spending on marketing Paperight books to university students.

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