An academic approach to sales and marketing in publishing

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In an article based on a presentation at the recent UKSG conference, Lynne Miller talks about sales and marketing functions working together hand-in-hand.

With a richer mixture of communication channels and promotion tools our audiences are exposed to a greater variety of marketing communications, and from a broader array of sources. Messages are delivered by different promotion approaches such as advertising, sales, PR or direct marketing. Conflicting messages from these different sources can result in confused brand positions. One one hand, an email or social media campaign sends one signal, sales literature something altogether different and the website could be out of sync with everything else.

Coordinating the many communication channels and developing an integrated sales and marketing strategy will enable you to deliver a clear, consistent, compelling message about your organisation and its products and services, and achieve greater impact. The challenge is how to bring about the alignment of sales and marketing.  All too often sales teams are focused on the here and now of driving sales, and marketing teams can be focused on tactical activities.

Can you answer the following?

  • Where are our leads coming from and at what cost?
  • How many prospects do we need to generate one lead?
  • On average, how long is our sales cycle?
  • What is the average life time value (LTV) of a purchase?
  • Which campaigns result in the highest LTV?’

Where to start?

A planned, segmented approach is essential. It starts with analysing the total market and dividing it into clear segments. You can create segments from like-minded decision makers, segments can be geographical based, role based, or topic/interest based.  Following on from the creation of segments, it’s then a case of applying an appropriate strategy to each segment, and identifying and prioritising targets within each segment. Some of these segments will require a direct sales approach, some a direct marketing approach and others a combination of both sales and marketing.

Market segmentation helps identify which target markets are likely to yield the greatest return, and what the balance of efforts should be. Understanding what’s achievable in each market also helps you set realistic goals – both for marketing reach and sales targets.

Sales and marketing need to work closely together to undertake different activities depending on where their audience is in the sales process – whether that’s ensuring that those at the earliest stages of the buying process are aware of your products and services, encouraging those who are already aware into taking interest, or a short-term sales promotion to trigger those who’ve decided to take action.

The diagram above illustrates the AIDA model: steps in the sales process

Mapping out the sales process from start to finish, agreeing upon ownership for each stage and ensuring consistent communications is vital, together with establishing ways to measure the impact of activities and showing how they underpin the sales team’s efforts. This approach helps the sales team understand their goals, and know where leads are likely to arise from. By tying the sales process directly into sales and marketing targets, you can identify when and where resources should be focused to ensure those targets are met.

Connecting with your audience based on who they are, what they do and directed towards an outcome is key. In terms of your aligned sales and marketing approach here’s a different take from Tyler Reed (creative strategist) on the traditional 4 ‘P’s of marketing (product, price, promotion, place):

  • Personalisation
  • Participation
  • Peer to Peer
  • Predictive modelling

These 4 ‘P’s could be used in your sales and marketing approach as follows:

Personalisation: most marketers are already personalising their emails in simple ways, using the recipients first name for example, but taking that a step further would be developing communications that really speak to your customers as individuals.  An approach that takes full advantage of the segmentation strategies outlined earlier, where you have identified your audience in the buying journey and their relationship to your organisation. Personalisation can also be taken to tailoring products or services to you’re your customers’ needs. Crowdsourcing new ideas can be a great way of engaging with your community and developing products and services that really help solve their problems.

Participation: developing creative campaigns that involve your audience, build a community and reward their participation, can deliver great results.  TBI Communications ran a particularly successful campaign to launch a new database for a leading medical publisher. It was a fun, medical challenge for students to interact with the content, which also led to winning prizes for their institute.  

Some 2,500 new registered users were generated through the campaign, 85 per cent of UK medical schools participated in the campaign, usage of the product doubled in participating medical schools during the campaign period, and the campaign has since been used in other territories around the globe to accelerate market penetration

Peer to peer: your loyal customers are positioned to become advocates for your brand, helping you to create new business, which is why engaging with customers throughout their lifecycle isn’t just about individual value – it’s also about the value of their networks.  

Predictive modelling: many marketing initiatives focus on direct opt-in activities, such as specific lists a customer signs up to but more targeted, customer-focused marketing and improved customer knowledge is key to future sales and marketing success.

Data mining and analytics techniques will enable you to build customer profiles based upon behaviour. There are numerous points where you interface with customers, such as email response, online registration, print or electronic purchases and conference attendance. By integrating data from all of these touch points and constructing profiles you can then deliver a range of highly targeted sales and marketing initiatives.

You can also assess patterns in the data to statistically predict the behaviour of future customers.  Predictive models can be developed to drive better marketing outcomes.  They can lead to a better understanding of cross-selling programs, the likelihood of your audience purchasing, and sales dynamics.

Working hand-in-hand

Both sales and marketing colleagues need to oversee the customer journey and build a bond with their audience wherever they are – whether that means engaging on social media, presenting a unified experience across devices, or personalising content and communications. Here are my suggested steps to successful collaboration:

  • Hard data is the foundation for your approach.  Plan a strategic approach to the market - segment by segment.
  • Understanding customer behaviours, affinity and context across channels.  
  • Engaging your customers in a highly personalised way, building broader, more meaningful relationships.  Refresh your approach with the 4 new ‘P’s of marketing.
  • Measure and maximise the impact of your sales and marketing investments through data analysis and modelling skills.


Lynne Miller is an associate director at TBI Communications, a strategic marketing consultancy that helps societies, scholarly publishers, libraries and related organisations to increase the relevance, value and usage of their products and services in their target markets.