Saturday, July 16, 2005

Learning from the crowd

At first, it looked like any other Friday night crowd at the shopping center. The attached Starbucks had a full crowd outside, and there appeared to be one family in portable chairs near the door.

Then I went inside.. about 8:00 there were at least double the normal number of people. Scattered throughout the store, reading books, kids saying "Mom will you buy me this?" and a few in costumes.

We see costumes in bookstores... and Friday night crowds.. so what was the big deal.

Once I figured out there wasn't going to be a place to sit, I retreat to the parking lot and noticed the other stores were doing well... I sat on a bench for sometime, taking in the sights, and "people watching"

After a while, I went and found some late dinner, and came back around 11:00 PM.

What a difference!

The other stores were closed.. but the parking lot was full.

Here's a lesson for us all. The managers of the other stores in the area must have known that the book was coming out. Some of them even have it for sale. I would seem to be an easy promotion to alter hours for the evening.. maybe put a few items out of the sidewalk, or even rent a tent and create some related specials.

The sales possibilities were there.. more important, this was a perfect opportunity to BOND with the community. Families there spending the evening, not wanting to take the kids home and risk falling asleep. And likely more would have been there, turned away by the crowd in the store (after all, most of us can survive 12 more hours and pick up the book the next day)

A few minutes before Midnight, a truck pulled up and unloaded a lot more books.

Inside a manager stood on the counter with a bullhorn and made announcements. Most everyone there had already signed up some time before. (lesson, you can make a much large promotion if you organize it to build up over time).

Purchaser got a wrist band and a number. Those who signed up months ago got a lower number. (an added value with no real cost). They were buying into the experience. Barnes & Noble did discount the book, but not as much as Wal*Mart, and no doubt the book was easier to order at

These people were there for the "big launch experience" (so was I)

With just a minute to go.. people arrived out of nowhere and the store must have had several times its' capacity. I snapped a shot as I ducked out the front door, and got mauled by the crowd passing me, pushing inside.

Finally got a comfortable seat at Starbucks and started listing my notes.. lessons one can learn from observing the event unfold.

I'll share them in short form below.. and elaborate in an article I'm working on for later today.

Things to learn from Harry Potter

  • You can sell a lot mere than you do. First run on this book is more than all of the last five books combined.. all of them were considered great successes at the time.

  • People do read. The kids, parents, adults, everyone in the store had a book or magazine in hand... there was more reading than talking for most of the evening.

  • Many people in the store had never read the book or bought a copy. They didn't get up an leave, they asked questions and got into the excitement.

  • Fiction books can sell. Next time I get "will promotion work for my book?" I'll have a different story to tell.

  • You need FANS.. not a customer list.. find the passionate crowd and sell to them.

  • Don't assume you know the market. This is NOT a kiddie book anymore.. and the promotion has been adapted and improved with each volume.

  • Be aware of what's going on around you. Don't close up too early.

  • Break the rules.. to get extraordinary results, you can't be ordinary.

  • Set new rules. Make the cost of "belonging" some real cost. An ad saying "new Harry Potter book out" wouldn't have elicited this amount of excitement, or sales.

  • Use more then one medium. It's not a book, it's an Empire.

  • Get inside the story going on in the reader's head. The first books were mysteries, now the "story" is the Anticipation and the promotion.

  • Make the buying process fun There is more to the experience than just purchasing and reading a book... tap into the emotion.

  • Selling books is not selling words on a page.

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