Category Archives: Marketing

The Paperight Help Video: version 2.0

When Shaun Swingler joined the team as a video intern, he was tasked to update the help video to include elements that we missed when the first video was made and to improve the overall quality of the end product.

1461816_10151841276613785_103333600_nA script was drawn up to reflect the changes necessary and Dezre was chosen to be the sultry Paperight help voice. With the old video in mind, the team deliberated on what was necessary to make an improved version. These edits included finding music to carry through the entire piece, ensuring there are no gaps in dialogue, slotting in title and end slides featuring the Paperight logo, and particular focus on the overall tone of the video – it needed to be far more jolly to better reflect Paperight’s brand image.

We decided that it would be best to split the help video into four shorter videos to make the information more easily accessible and user friendly.

The videos were released through the newsletter, and uploaded to the Paperight blog and help site. The completed videos were:

 Copy shop registration

Topping up

Printing a book

Account settings

Erotica Campaign

In August 2013, we received a batch of saucy titles to upload from publisher Accent Press in the United Kingdom. To coincide with this new import, we brainstormed ideas to promote the titles and attempted to define which customers would want to purchase them. This campaign was to be a way of reaching out to repeat customers who could carry us through the slow seasons, in between main book buying cycles.

a-pinch-of-spice_alcamia-payne_cover_20130901The idea was to hand out 80 free Paperight copies of Accent Press books on UCT campus and ask students to review them for us as part of a PR stunt. As part of this, I put together a questionnaire to streamline the responses we would be getting, asking students, for example, to rate the book as an Erotic or Romantic title, rate the book on a saucy scale of 1 to 5, flag any offensive material within and more. This information would then be used to categorise the books on the website to assist other customers navigating the long list of available titles. We also wanted to ask students to write a short recommendation if they liked the book. After all, recommendations in book stores are proven to drive sales, as I learned in my 4 years working at the Bay Bookshop.

Nick designed a poster to advertise the handout on campus and the handout was scheduled for the 18th of September 2013 on Jammie Plaza.

To ensure that these books would get to students who would be interested in taking part, I contacted Jessica Tiffin of the English Literature department at UCT who runs an annual course for 3rd Years on Erotic Literature called ‘Sex: From Sappho to Cyber”. Jessica was very interested in sending details to students about how they could take part.

this campaign was shelved due to concerns about damaging our growing reputation as a distributor of educational material.

However, this campaign was shelved due to concerns about damaging our growing reputation as a distributor of educational material. At this early stage in Paperight’s lifespan, it was crucial not to alienate any potential supporters for the sake of a quick, provocative campaign. We needed to focus on building our number of repeat customers and South Africa’s predominantly conservative reading public might have taken issue with this content.

Paperight Young Writers’ Anthology 2013: Launch and Promotion

Before the completion of the compilation, I assisted with reading the entries, selecting pieces for publication, shortlisting for category winners (judged externally) and overall proofreading of the Paperight Young Writer’s Anthology 2013 (hereafter referred to as the PYWA). I entered the project as an intern in April 2013, but took over the marketing elements of the project in July 2013 as part of my promotion to the role of Marketing Manager.

On Youth Day, the 16th of June, the PYWA was released. This fantastic publication necessitated my first batch of press releases sent on behalf of Paperight. I sent press releases to:

  • contributing schools to congratulate them on their students’ success and let them know where they could purchase copies
  • outlets close to these schools advising them to promote the PYWA in store and prepare themselves for students looking for copies
  • media contacts, both national and regional, to tell them about the project and the PYWA’s release. We also encouraged them to get back to us to interview Oscar, the Anthology’s editor, or to request a copy for review.

998756_494574667290081_1936338491_nAlong with these press releases, I wrote a Facebook conversation plan in order to give our Paperight fans a taste of what the compilation entries were like. We selected quotes from longer entries, entire poems and illustrations to make beautiful posts (designed by Nick) for Paperight fans and PYWA contributors to share. We also posted stories of our visits to schools in the Western Cape, to hand out certificates to contributors and prizes to category winners. These stories were posted on the Paperight blog, too.

This conversation plan was Paperight’s first ever predetermined conversation plan. It ran from the 31st of July to the 9th of September 2013 (the Monday after the Open Book Festival Launch, mentioned below). It was supposed to end with a call for submissions for the 2014 edition, however, due to a shortage of resources, the project has been indefinitely postponed.

1077233_494957547251793_48523986_oWe used the weekly newsletter to remind outlets to promote the anthology in store by putting up posters and ensuring their staff are prepared to handle queries. In addition, we included links to blog posts on news items about the PYWA to inspire enthusiasm for the title.

This initial push was then followed up in September 2013 with an official book launch at the Open Book Festival in Cape Town. Arthur hosted a panel discussion between Oscar, Nick Mhlongo (author), Hedley Twidle (UCT lecturer) and Sarah Rowan (poet) to discuss the necessity of encouraging writing among South Africa’s young people. Invitations were sent to media contacts asking them to attend the event and offering copies of the Anthology to be reviewed. Copy shop owners and staff in the Western Cape were also encouraged to join the festivities. The event was well attended and led to many sales of the PYWA (perfect bound copies printed by Mega Digital) through the Book Lounge.

1175746_511165408964340_1180260271_n

The Open Book Festival launch was filmed and edited into a punchy, short film by our film intern, Shaun Swingler. The film was then added to our YouTube channel where we have amassed our collection of Paperight related video content. It is definitely worth a watch!

One of the success stories to come out of the PYWA project is the fact that Eden College in Durban, the school with the most selected contributors, chose to use the PYWA as a prescribed English Literature set work for their Grade 10 students.

Project 2: Promotion: closing report

This project was to promote Paperight to outlets and customers as we launch our instant-delivery site.

With this project we wanted to plan and execute a marketing effort to attract new outlets and consumers to use Paperight. Key features of the project plan included:

  • A dedicated outlet-development manager to visit and provide support to outlets;
  • Public advertising of the service (incl. buses, mobile ads, Facebook ads);
  • Mainstream-media coverage (incl. interviews on radio, magazine and newspaper articles, press releases for online reference);
  • Production of an explainer video for our website and others to embed;
  • Production and distribution of a catalogue of Paperight content to 1000 outlets around South Africa, with an emphasis on the Western Cape.

General report-back

We came a very long way under this project, making many twists and turns as we learned by trial and error how best to promote Paperight. It’s a journey that we’re going to be on for some time to come.

Overall, a key learning was that we must help outlets promote themselves as much as, or more than, we promote Paperight itself. And that the only way to reliably make sales in the early days is to create them manually, one by one. You simply can’t dive into advertising till you’ve done the groundwork in person, face to face, hand-holding every sale from start to finish.

We also learned that it’s easy to produce marketing materials that never get used. Under Objectives Achieve below we explain how we fared in each area of the project plan.

Objectives achieved/not achieved

We said: “Paperight’s value is proportional to the number of outlets and customers using it, so promotion is critical as soon as we have a site that can deliver instant PDFs for printing. We need to plan ahead, have the right people in place, and then execute a well-organised marketing campaign.”

For over a year we consistently underestimated how much deliberate, focused planning must go into a marketing plan, and what it would involve. We had a strategy (approach many outlets, and build our profile through PR), but did not build this out into a play-by-play plan. We also thought that we’d run a public advertising campaign, an approach that quickly changed when we realised that we didn’t yet have the outlet footprint or available products required to support that.

As planned, we did bring in a marketing professional, but this wasn’t the right person and we parted ways within a month. We then naively thought we could handle marketing ourselves. It was only when Zoom Advertising did a pro bono marketing-plan workshop with us in June 2013 that we really understood what a marketing plan should be, and hired a dedicated member of the team to create, manage and implement it. This is now in place and doing well.

We said: “We plan to create enough interest that 100 outlets register on Paperight, and 1000 documents are purchased through these outlets over a two-month period.”

It took us just over two months to get to 100 outlets, mostly by visiting them personally. However, 35 of these were duds, not viable as outlets. After three months we had 100 viable outlets registered. Over the first two months we only ‘sold’ (most were free downloads) 100 copies, not 1000. It took us ten months to get to 1000 copies.

We said: “This will also lead to valuable feedback for us, and kickstart the word-of-mouth required for organic outlet and customer growth.”

This was definitely the case, a process that continues today.

Activities planned vs actual

Planned Actual outcome
Approach media contacts, especially in radio and newspapers (broad and community-based), to ask for interviews and articles. We’ve got better and better at this, and now are very effective at getting good PR. PR campaigns are carefully planned and thoroughly executed. But it took us about a year, including hiring a professional for five months (using SAB Foundation funding) to learn how to do it.
Identify key advertising targets, and purchase space. Current key targets are Facebook, Golden Arrow buses and taxis, posters in train stations in Cape Town, and posters for outlet shop windows. We’ve tried Facebook advertising with limited success. We decided against bus advertising, focusing resources instead on producing small-scale advertising for outlets, with generally poor results.
Outsource design of bus-wrap advertising. Not done.
Recruit outlet-development manager. We hired three people for five months: Zukisani, Zimkita and Yazeed. They hit our outlet registrations targets. Yazeed has stayed on under separate projects as business/outlets development manager, and is a crucial member of the team.
Hire in part-time marketing expertise. Our first part-time hire did not work out — we were not happy with performance or approach. We then used these funds to keep on Nick Mulgrew full-time as in-house designer. This has been a crucial role, helping us create very high quality materials and design and copy.
Commission explainer video from Blinktower. We commissioned Sea Monster instead of Blinktower, and are very happy with our explainer video.
Design, print and distribute catalogue of top content. We did this as a poster. We could not distribute the poster properly though, and it quickly became out of date because of the way we included pricing on the poster. The lesson learned was not to print large quantities of posters, but rather the design custom posters per outlet or chain, and let them print them as needed.
Develop outlet-support protocols, processes and scripts. This is an ongoing process. We developed an outlet user guide, outlet introduction/info pack, and various templated scripts and survey questions.

 

Measures of success

Planned output Planned measure Planned target Actual outcome
Visible adverts and media coverage Claimed visibility numbers (e.g. how many people see a bus?) 1m people It isn’t possible to get a good measure for this. When we planned this measure, it was based on using one major advertising method. We changed our approach to use many targeted methods. We doubt we’ve exposed Paperight to anything close to 1m people.
Explainer video Viewers feel they can use Paperight today; leads people to sign up 8 of 10 viewers we survey say they’d use Paperight in the next month; traffic to the site from video embeds leds to >1min time on site and >2-pages browsing The explainer video is still extremely clear and useful in many contexts, especially pitches to publishers and potential partners. But we have not been able to gather data according to these measures. It’s great that after a year of changed messaging, the explainer is still on message.
User feedback, and outlet-support protocols, processes and scripts Ability to answer queries quickly; common issues converted into improvements and added to dev roadmap Every query solved within 2 minutes of first contact; any query that repeats >10 times converted to roadmap item This has been achieved. Queries that are not instantly resolved only take longer because the customer needs patient handholding. Repeat queries have consistently led to development roadmap items that have been implemented.
Developed list of good media contacts Can we get PR messages out through good channels in future? >20 personal media contacts who’d return our calls We have many more than 20 excellent media contacts now, and get great coverage from press releases.
Top-content catalogue Can outlets use it to entice customers to print? Verified distribution to 800 outlets; positive feedback from 80% of outlets we ask We did not achieve this aim. We have conducted a separate survey (here) of outlet’s use of Paperight posters in general that show low take-up: “Of the 145 surveyed outlets only 28 put up posters.” IMportantly, “of the outlets who put up posters, 70% sold books”.
Better understanding of what works and doesn’t when marketing Paperight What would we do differently next time and why? Clear, ongoing write-up of lessons learned on wiki We are fairly good at this. We have a range of reports and protocol pages on learnings from campaigns. (E.g. the outlet survey mentioned above.)
Expanded user base (customers, publishers, outlet partners) Number of users; frequency of use; revenue per outlet Users: 1000 customers, 100 outlets, 50 rightsholders; frequency: average outlet acquires 1 document/day; total revenue per outlet R500/month. Only after several months did we hit the numbers of 1000 customers, 100 outlets and 50 rightsholders. We have never attained the frequency of 1 doc/day/outlet or R500/month per outlet. However, we have established new, clear revenue targets for the network overall  that have been met for 9 months in a row.

 

We expected to see customers using the site at the measurable levels listed above. We’d have liked to see all these measures exceeded. We’d have loved to see these measures exceeded but also to discover new ways to develop Paperight that we never thought of.

Budget

Original budget: R511500

Actual spend: R489372.37

Returned to pool: 22127.63

 

Item Budget Actual Return to pool Comments
Outlet Manager 150000 150000 0 3 outlets managers hired for five months.
Travel 45000 35132.96 9867.04 We managed to save on travel these months
Marketing Consultant 50000 50000 0 Some spent on a consultant, remainder used to give Nick Mulgrew a full position.
Advertising 164500 136998.30 27501.7 We kept our advertising costs low, and spent on many small, targeted efforts and experiments, rather than a few big expenses.
Content Manager 84000 84000 0 Tarryn-Anne Anderson
Computers 18000 10580 7420 We managed to save  by buying cheaper equipment
Unbudgeted 0 22661.11 22661.11 Adobe CS5.5, Additional consultant fees, Bank charges
Total 511500 489372.37 22127.63

 

Outputs and deliverables

Planned Actual outcome
a range of visible adverts and media coverage focused on Cape Town Done! We have developed a large and growing library of ads (posters, flyers, signage etc.) developed by Nick Mulgrew, and keep a running list of extensive media coverage. This project began this work, and we’ve continued it under other projects.
an explainer video we can use indefinitely to show how simple and powerful Paperight is Done. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vW4lwI0C1I0 and in Xhosa: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JoUjSo4KQk
outlet-support protocols, processes and scripts, stored on the Paperight wiki Done and ongoing.
a more developed list of good media contacts Done. We have an extensive list of several hundred media contacts. When we put out a press release, we select appropriate contacts from the list, and mail each one separately. High-value contacts get a phone call too.
a top-content catalogue We did this as a poster. It was not as useful as expected, largely because we chose to include pricing information on the poster that went out of date quickly.
a better understanding of what works and doesn’t when marketing Paperight This project began this learning process, but we believe our best marketing messages took well over a year to crystallise.
an expanded user base (customers, publishers, outlet partners) Indeed.
user feedback (good and bad) on which to base future development. Yes. We actively encourage this, and could always do more. Feedback is incredibly valuable and we make sure to take it on board every time.

Learnings

The most important learning has been that you can’t make marketing up as you go along. Only a year later (under this and separate projects) have we got marketing planning right, after bringing in Zoom Marketing to help. marketing planning requires deliberate focusing on very specific target markets and products. The scary part is choosing what not to do — it always feels like a huge risk to not take every path. But narrowing one’s offering and one’s targets is the only way to be effective

We tried to take too big and wide an approach at the beginning, and it took a long time to realise that narrowing down was important and would take deliberate effort. That narrowing can only be done if you write down and commit to a detailed marketing plan.

Exit/Sustainability/Viability

Further promotional work will be funded by further Foundation-funded projects until we’re self-sustainable in 2015.

Conclusion

This first promotional project taught us a great deal, which was very valuable. We’re confident we can apply these lessons constructively in future promotional work in ways that grow revenue towards our self-sustainability.

Next steps

Pitch for further promotional funds under a new project, based on our new, detailed marketing plan.

 

Monthly Outlet Sales Winner

Between May and August 2013, we offered a monthly reward of R1000 to the best sales person throughout the Paperight network of registered copy shops.

The challenge was announced through the weekly newsletter and on the Paperight blog. Our intentions were to drive sales of Paperight books, encourage copy shop employees to familiarise themselves with paperight.com, and to drive home the need for all employees to have their own individual Paperight accounts, albeit subsidiary ones to their main business account.

Individual staff accountability within copy shops has been an uphill battle and a necessary struggle to secure the safety of the book titles already available through the Paperight network. In order to negotiate with publishers, it is essential that we put all the measures that we can in place to protect their copyright and offer complete reassurance of our efforts to combat book piracy. Knowing who specifically has accessed certain titles can assist Paperight and the copy shops themselves to identify any potential pirates.

Similarly, there has been an unusual trend through copy shop owners to not inform their staff that they are officially offering a new service, namely Paperight. The number of customers that have been turned away simply due to ignorance on the part of the copy shop employee cannot be measured, however we have had feedback from customers to let us know that it has happened to them. We hoped to also remedy this issue with this competition.

The winner was announced for each month in the first week of the following month, once we had double checked everyone’s sales figures.

Our very few ‘fine print’ rules were:

  • Free documents do not count towards sales (e.g. Quirk Emarketing and College Campus guides) – that would make it too easy to cheat!
  • The customer’s first and last names MUST BE INCLUDED on every purchase.
  • The competition is only for South African shops.

The winners were:

  • May 2013: Dean Mostert of Minuteman Press
  • June 2013: Aletta de Witt of Aloe X
  • July 2013: Unice Davies of Revprint Claremont
  • August 2013: Hennie van der Merwe of Minuteman Press Vanderbijlpark

The competition was supposed to run from May to December 2013. However, by August 2013, we came to realise that copy shop managers were not sharing Paperight information and news (shared through the newsletter) with their staff so the competition became effectively meaningless.

More often than not, copy shop managers expressed an unwillingness to share the Paperight account details with all of their staff in order to prevent abuse of the system. This was an unexpected insight as it showed us just how serious these managers are about avoiding copyright infringement in store- which is great reassurance in our negotiations with publishers about distributing their content through Paperight.

Marketing steps up, and we do some backroom plumbing

In the last three months we’ve worked on a range of strategic initiatives:

  • paperight-sponsors-guide_2013111324 Jun 2013: We formally created a model for bulk sales as our ‘Sponsor-a-school campaign/programme’.
  • 27 June 2013: We workshopped a marketing plan with Zoom Advertising (who gave us most of a day of their top execs’ time pro bono), and fleshed it out over July and August into a marketing plan that forms the foundation of our efforts for the next 12 months.
  • 1 Aug 2013: We created and implemented a Facebook conversation plan for Paperight Young Writers’ Anthology. This meant creating several posts for every week, including beautiful graphics, scheduled to publish for the next six weeks on Facebook, all promoting the anthology. You can see the posts on our Facebook page.
  • 5 Aug 2013: We revised our rightsholder agreement, which was received with no negative feedback, and even a nice endorsement from top tech journalist Adam Oxford.
  • 8 Aug 2013: We officially finished Software Development Phase 3. This was a big update that included support for VAT-compliant invoices and statements. (See Dezre’s post on VAT.) It’s not glamorous, but massively useful and important for us, and it was really hard work.
  • 20 Aug 2013: We revised our privacy policy, spurred by some concerned feedback from Pearson who said it needed work. It really did: it was originally drafted by Nick, still an intern at the time, while bleary-eyed on an international flight. Sometimes you just have to get it done even if it’s not perfect!
  • 30 Aug 2013: We created a simple tillpoint checklist for stores. It was hard to do. The simplest things can be the trickiest to make.

outlet-cheat-sheet_20130829

Spreading the word

We’ve been getting around:

  • 28 June 2013: I spoke at the Education Week conference in Joburg, arguing that open-license publishing has more in common with commercial publishing than most think.
  • 6 Aug 2013: I went to Gauteng to present at the Accenture Innovation Index Awards (and got through to the finals on 10 Oct!)
  • 4 Jun 2013: In a blog post, I argued that it’s a myth that reading is dying among young people.
  • 26 June 2013: I spoke at Khayelitsha Chamber of Commerce meeting on the need for technology entrepreneurs to focus on simple solutions that solve today’s problems (not tomorrow’s).

RISO on board

Teacher-Paperight-Riso

We’ve entered into an exciting collaboration with copier manufacturer RISO, where they bundle a funded Paperight account with every colour printer sold to a South African school.

This gives us a powerful mechanism to engage with large schools and colleges, a simple message for the media, and a great tool for getting certain key publishers on board.

Loads of media coverage

(Special highlights in bold)

Our roadmap for the next 3 months

  • Our revenue targets are getting serious, so the focus is on bringing in bulk sales, mostly through getting sponsorships. We’re recruiting a salesperson, but meanwhile (and perhaps beyond), I’m going to focus more of my time on this, and delegating other responsibilities to the team.
  • We have a few more software updates to do: most minor but important tweaks, and one major addition: a much better, fully integrated outlets-finding maps, integrated in the UI with product pages.
  • Get our video production stream up and running with new full-time video intern.

Adopt-a-copy-shop/Adopt-a-school Project

To increase Paperight study-material sales (and better understand our copy-shop partners), we decided as a team to individually adopt a registered Paperight copy shop and try to partner them with a local school. The aim was to test various methods of promotion (specifically to parents of high school students) and to simultaneously build close relationships with a small batch of copy shops that would ultimately become Paperight Premium Outlets in future. For more on that, read Yazeed’s entries.

Despite our best intentions, this project did not come together according to plan.

One of our major in-house hurdles has been finding the time to get out of the office, to spend time in our adopted copy shops, as well as visiting local schools on their behalf. We managed to find time to do so, but not easily and certainly not as often as we should have done.

Once we had identified schools to visit, we submitted briefs to Nick for personalised promotional materials. Specifically, we took posters and flyers to the schools highlighting educational materials (past exam papers, study guides and textbooks) available through their local Paperight registered copy shops, emphasising the copy shops’ competitively low pricing. The materials themselves were succinct enough to avoid confusion about how the Paperight/copy shop partnership works and the flyers doubled as ordering forms to cut down on the necessary steps to make a sale.

Once the posters and flyers were printed, we liaised with school secretaries for permission to bring them onto school campus. The posters were placed in obvious places, such as in the secretaries’ offices, in entrance lobbies, near school shops and near matric classrooms. Similarly, the flyers were given to matric class teachers to hand out to students in registration class.

more often than not the copy shop managers were either unwilling to do so or too busy to do so

Each team member managed to make the beginning steps to build the relationships, but we all found that we needed our chosen copy shops to really step up to sustain the partnership. However, more often than not the copy shop managers were either unwilling to do so or too busy to do so.

Apart from this, we found that our promotional materials led to only small spikes of sales. I believe this is directly related to the materials being present on the schools’ campuses and not visible enough to the students’ parents. I’m also quite sure that students made paper airplanes out of the flyers rather than giving them to their parents. The kinds of students who ultimately ended up in store buying past papers and study guides were typically the kind that did not need a flyer or poster to discover Paperight because they’re particularly proactive with regards to their studies. This failing on our part informed our marketing efforts that became the Matric Exam Campaign.

This project did not intend to change the schools’ official book purchasing protocols, but instead aimed to turn parents over to using Paperight . Ultimately, parents are the ones who have the most invested in their child’s success and it was on this personal interest that we hoped to ignite support for the Paperight project.

If I could pick out one overarching lesson learned from all this, I would say that the principal of any school sets the benchmark and with their support of a new initiative or supplier, the rest of school will fall into line. This has been proven by Yazeed’s wonderful work with Pelikan Park High School. Despite the difficulty of building a strong relationship like this, the rewards are manifold and certainly worth the work put it. More relationships like this could carry Paperight well into self-sustainability.

Lessons learned from distributed in-store advertising

We discovered soon after we began to create outlet- and product-specific posters and send them out via our newsletter that they made a difference to sales. In fact, a survey done by Yazeed at one point showed that outlets that advertised with posters had more success than others. (This, in retrospect, is incredibly obvious, but we thought people might have been driven to stores or to buy products by being encouraged to do so by… well, I’m not sure, actually.)

When Marie arrived in April 2013, it freed me up to do more material design work. Marie set about calling outlets to find out more about them and to make sure they were on board with our system. We made sure that, when she called an outlet, she asked if they wanted any materials made for them for the upcoming matric exam season. As part of our offering, we would design posters and flyers. These materials included price lists on them for up to 50 of our matric products, which we could change for every outlet that wanted them. There was sound reasoning behind this, initially: we assumed that, if we did the heavy lifting for outlets and gave them something specific to them and ready-made for them, they would take to using materials with more enthusiasm, and would get some outlets that didn’t have design capabilities to be able to engage with and to advertise Paperight better.

This was a pretty disastrous idea, for a number of reasons:

  1. The amount of requests for materials that we got was overwhelming, and we only had one designer: me, who had many other responsibilities to take care of.
  2. Outlets sometimes weren’t even too sure of their own pricing structures, or would arbitrarily change things, and so would ask us to make multiple revisions to the same materials because they couldn’t be bothered to tell us what their prices were and, even if they did, tended not to stick to them.
  3. Manually changing 50 or so prices for every flyer and poster, and copy-pasting logos and contact details, was mindnumbing and uncreative work. I felt like I missed a month of my life around July, as every day was the same task, in a sense.
  4. Outlets didn’t buy into the materials as much as we hoped. Some never printed them, effectively making the work a waste of time.

These problems piled the misery on me, with the result that I entered into quite a deep slump for a few weeks. I began to resent my work and what I was doing and, even worse, the people I was supplying materials for. The work was repetitive and seemed to have little effect on sales and/or engagement with products with outlet owners. I realised that something drastic had to change.

Writing the Paperight 2013–2014 Marketing Plan

My first task as Marketing Manager was to draw up a 2013–2014 marketing plan. This plan was to be split into various campaigns that would coincide with the various book buying cycles throughout the year. Having never put together a long term marketing plan before, finding the correct format to house this information was the first task. Initially, I worked with a spreadsheet format that could be sorted by various column titles, such as month, year, campaign, team member, action etc. This worked for a while before the spreadsheet needed to be shared with the team. Then I chose to keep the spreadsheet for my own use and produce quarterly/campaign specific summary documents of what would need to be done (by when) and by whom. These worked far better because they avoided confusion and made great points of reference for weekly meetings.

Initially, I set out to schedule a 12 month plan, but the tricky, unpredictable nature of a start up made this almost impossible.

The Paperight official marketing plan was scheduled to run from about August 2013 to March 2014 (8 months). Initially, I set out to schedule a 12 month plan, but the tricky, unpredictable nature of a start up made this almost impossible. Imagine changing the habits of a nation of individuals who have inherited a very distinct set of habits from their parents, and imagine trying to do this with minimal resources? Well, that has been Paperight’s mountain to climb. At any point we would have to respond to changes in the market and problems that we would identify in our own strategies simply due to the untested nature of the business model.

To begin, I worked with the known book buying cycles for schools and universities in order to determine what campaigns would be appropriate for when. Then we brainstormed about alternative target markets to reach out to that would generate sales in between the regular buying cycles. The major campaigns (consisting of many action points and mini, related campaigns) became the:

Overall, the Paperight marketing plan has been an indispensable tool to help along Paperight’s growing reputation and fan base. It has allowed us to focus our efforts to ensure we make the most from newsworthy events, partnerships and awards, as well as turn our good PR into sales. With focusing our efforts, it became clearer what ideas and actions were essential to the success of the campaigns and our team work became more streamlined.

The cumulative effect of the last year’s work can be seen clearly now (March 2014) as sales are flowing in organically, even from the most unlikely places.

*For more on the Reading Clubs project, read Oscar’s post.

Facebook advertising push

We used our Facebook and Twitter feeds in a rather precise, but extremely underutilised fashion until midway through 2013. Until then, we had usually usually only made posts to accompany posts made on the blog, or to spread the word about prizes or nice media mentions that we had received. As such, we didn’t particularly place much importance on Facebook and Twitter as media in themselves, perhaps due to a belief that the bulk of the customers who we thought would be most interested in and would use Paperight weren’t super active on social media.

This, of course, was a mistake that we realised a bit too late – to survive, Paperight obviously had to appeal to social media users, too.

I had dabbled with creating conversation plans before Marie, our marketing manager, arrived at Paperight, but the ones I made either were too clunky, unimaginative, or just simply didn’t come together well because I was too busy creating designs for physical materials. There was too much for me to do otherwise, in other words. Press releases, for example, were perceived to be a much more important way for us to gain visibility, although we had no definite sales metrics to support the assumption that press releases created sustained consumer interest in Paperight.

We began to run Facebook conversation plans in July 2013, around the time of the launch of the Paperight Young Writers’ Anthology. We paired excerpts from published work with related advertisements or visual accompaniments, and tagging the contributors who were featured in the images in the posts themselves. This resulted in more shares from the contributors and their parents and friends. We also started spending modest sums of money on advertising on Facebook, targeting potential readers of the Anthology. The combination of advertising and a conversation plan, in which engaging content was scheduled every weekday, increased our Facebook Likes at a much quicker rate than we had achieved before.

The added engagement on our Page opened us up to the potential of advertising on Facebook – with the caveat that, although our imagined customers weren’t all on Facebook, it didn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to engage with those of them that were. It also meant a slight change in messaging: although we had mostly pushed the accessibility angle in our press releases, we began to push the price and convenience angle, especially with regard to matric exam packs and study guides, which were much cheaper from most Paperight outlets than they were from bookstores.

This greatly informed our approach to our campaigns for the rest of the year, which focused on the comparative cheapness of Paperight materials compared to their bookstore equivalents. We pushed this aspect hard with the products we featured for the rest of the year – which were mostly exam study guides for the matric season, and cheap fiction and self-help titles to augment and diversify the product mix. Advertising around this time focused on parents of matrics and matrics themselves, with messaging focused on helping learners to get fully prepared for their exams with our exam packs and other materials. These campaigns had a good reaction, but we also found that they were fully season-dependent. After the first couple of weeks of exams had finished, engagement took a sharp turn down.

We found, overall, that without advertising, Facebook posting was very unlikely to engage with many, never mind most, of our fans. Even with advertising, I can say anecdotally that it was mostly the same group of people who liked multiple posts, giving us the illusion of engaging a lot with our fan base, but, in reality, it wasn’t really the case. Facebook is an incredibly nuanced tool; easy to dabble in, difficult to master.