• Marketing and sales

How to Break the Internet without Breaking the Bank

Futurpreneur | June 4, 2015

Cory Beatty, Marketing Director at HarperCollins Canada, knows a thing or two about engaging customers through innovative marketing. He leads his team on a daily quest to disrupt the traditional boundaries of book publishing—and they’re winning. HarperCollins has the largest social media following of any Canadian publisher with 128,000 Facebook followers and over 45,000 Twitter followers.

Cory figured out early on that the best way to get people interested in books in the digital age is to provide a seamless connection between the brick-and-mortar bookstore, the customer, and the online experience. For instance, in 2012 his team created an innovative geo-targeting campaign to launch John Catucci’s cookbook You Gotta Eat Here! by surrounding their target audience with a combination of print ads in major publications, online marketing and partnerships with local restaurants.

The team had another win in 2013 when they launched a video on Amazon.ca featuring Canadian celebrities—Sarah McLachlan, Carly Rae Jepson and Elisha Cuthbert to name a few—reading Dennis Lee’s classic children’s poem “Alligator Pie”. For the month of April, one dollar from the sale of each of Lee’s books was donated to the TD Canadian Children’s Book Week.

What’s even better is that HarperCollins’ heavy use of social media in its marketing strategy means that many of the tactics used don’t require a huge budget to execute. We sat down with Cory to get his tips for creative marketing on a smaller budget, and the top books he recommends for new marketers.

A lot of start-ups are working with a leaner marketing budget. What tips do you have for entrepreneurs to engage customers without spending a lot?

Set clear and concise goals. It’s important to have a realistic sense of what you can accomplish and in what timeframe. Make it a habit to re-evaluate your strategies.  At HarperCollins we’re working on dozens, even hundreds, of books at a time and are constantly reviewing even the smallest change in sales numbers to see how we can capitalize on any perceived momentum.

Treat your smallest customer as well as you would your biggest. With the largest social media following of any publisher in Canada, we receive feedback from readers with both small and substantial followings. Whether they have one follower or 10,000, we treat them all with respect and have made it a priority to be not just the biggest, but the most engaged.

Remember that slow and steady wins the race. Look out for that tipping point where your product or service has the potential to go viral, but also understand that developing a brand and building trust with your customers takes time. Books are such a personal product and the number one driver of discoverability for our readers is still a personal recommendation. Both in our B2B (business to business) marketing and our direct-to-consumer marketing we’ve worked hard to let our partners, accounts and readers know there are real book lovers on our team. Maintaining that trust, once built, is vital in our highly competitive market.

Which marketing books would you recommend for small business owners?

The first book I would recommend is The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell. While it’s not specifically a marketing book, it will help you understand what factors lead to something becoming a “phenomenon” (i.e. going viral). It will also show you how just a single person can make an idea or product spread like wildfire.

Another great choice is The Power of Why by Amanda Lang. It’s an inspiring book that profiles great innovators in many industries but—more importantly for a marketer—makes a successful case for curiosity. This book will remind you that comfort is the enemy of innovation and progress. That asking “why” we do things can help “how” we do things.

And finally, I’d recommend picking up The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli. Clear-headed thinking in business is vital and not always easy. This book reminds us that removing emotion, ego and irrationality from our decisions can lead to greater success. Plus, its simple, digestible chapters show that the author practices what he preaches!

To see Cory’s marketing vision in action, follow HarperCollins’ Facebook and Twitter pages. For more information on marketing your business, visit our Sales & Marketing Skills page.

Written By: Kristin Knapp, Futurpreneur Canada Staff Writer with Cory Beatty, Marketing Director at HarperCollins Canada