Marketing Missteps: A Learning Opportunity

Marketing-FailLate in 2015, we came up with a great idea, let’s run a contest to encourage narrators (both new and established) to record classic audiobooks.

Everyone who heard about the idea, loved it. It looked like it was going to be a smash hit.

So, in January, we posted the rules, recruited judges, and got everything ready to go. Immediately, we were inundated with questions, people were interested.

But, that interest was not reflected in the number of actual entries. So, we started asking people what was the road block? Why weren’t they entering? Many of them said, that there was not enough lead time for them to produce a book of significant length in time for the contest.

With fewer people than expected entering, we got less excited about the contest ourselves. Publicity took a backseat to other priorities.

For a contest to really be a success, promotion should look something like this:

Find Partnerships

Co-sponsoring with other groups that have synergies with your own increase the potential pool of participants. The more people learn about you, and other organizations that you work with, the more likely they are to consider your contest.

List on Contest Sites

Posting on contest sites is a good way to build organic SEO, getting valuable links pointing at your contest from all over the internet. Beyond contest sites, the same strategy can work for affinity sites. For books or audiobooks, that would be sites like GoodReads, LibraryThing, or BookLikes to name just a few.

Email Marketing

Offering people who you’ve done business with before a special perk connected to the contest is never a bad idea (as long as anyone who they forward your email to can use the perk as well. Otherwise, it can feel like “insider dealings”).

Establish a Hashtag

Since other social media sites have jumped on the #hashtag concept, finding a good one for your contest can be helpful far beyond Twitter.

Make Social Media interactions a part of the contest

This can be simple as which entry gets the most likes/retweets/etc or something much more complex. Getting the general public involved with the judging increases investment all the way around.

We did some of these things. Okay, we did the easier ones. The ones that take more actual effort fell by the wayside. So, we refunded the entry fees to the people who had entered. And now, we’re re-examining the best way to move forward.

  • Do we make the contest run the full year (making anything submitted during 2016 eligible)?
  • Do we shorten the minimum entry from 6 hours to 5? or 4? or 3?
  • What about our entry fee? The $10 (plus paypal fees) was to help us offset costs (hosting, bandwidth, ads, etc). Is this a barrier to entry?

Let us know your thoughts. Comment here, contact us via Facebook, Twitter, or email. And let us know your thoughts…

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Hi Steven,
    When I first read the announcement of the contest, I assumed that even though you mentioned that it was for veterans as well as new narrators, that it was a way to attract new people to narrate for Listen2aBook. This was corroborated by the required length of the book as well as the short lead time. Most of us who’ve been doing this a while have projects lined up, making a 6 hour book due at the end of February fairly unrealistic. If a veteran Listen2aBook narrator won, wouldn’t that lead to a cry of “foul” from those who see it as an opportunity to record for your company? So I have to ask, what do you aim to accomplish in running the contest? I would think that if the winner was already listed on the site’s home page, that could present problems.

    1. Steven says:

      Thanks Anne. The new vs veteran question came up when we were talking about this. Originally, it was going to be limited to people who hadn’t recorded for a major publisher. Realizing that anyone who had recorded for Bee Audio had, in effect, recorded for major publishers (albeit as a sub-contractor), we backed off that restriction.

      As for the goal, we were looking for a way to get people to consider recording the classics as a viable way to expand their portfolios.

      So, how to restrict the contest to newer narrators without creating a hard restriction? We never got there.

      Essentially, all entrants would be doing a public domain version of a royalty share (where they keep 40% of the purchase price, not 20%, since there is no author to pay). And they were hoping that if they would have won, they would have been rewarded with a a stipend as well.

      I still think this seems like the best model for the contest. And, I apologize for not posting this sooner.

  2. I did seriously consider making an entry and I still think it’s a great idea, although it’s probably fair to say that the deadline might have been a bit tight for people with a number of projects already in the pipeline. The announcement on January 9th mentioned forthcoming posts about researching PD titles etc., but without that follow-up (unless I missed it!) the idea lost momentum as I simply got caught up in other work. But I’d still be interested if the idea is revived.

    1. Steven says:

      Exactly Nigel! We fell off the promotion train. I have drafts of some of those postings, but they aren’t ready for release. More lead time would have been good for both narrators and us on the promotional end.

  3. Steven,

    I think I am your target audience for the contest. I’ve planned for some time now to apply to Listen2abook and to do some public domain recording. When I heard about the contest, I was even more excited!
    Unfortunately I realized soon after hearing about it that other work commitments and deadlines would have to take precedence and that I wouldn’t necessarily be able to make the contest deadline. I still planned on applying to narrate, but knew I would’t make the deadline.
    So the positive is that your marketing made the impression and the interest is there, at least for me. The bad news: the deadline on the contest itself precluded me for entering. Hope my comment is helpful feedback.

    1. Steven says:

      Bryan, your issue with the timing was not unique. It was really poor planning on our part. In past years, a few of us had a post-holiday-lull in projects. So, the thought was, fill that lull with a contest. Imagine our surprise when almost everyone seemed to be starting the year with a full queue.

  4. Jennifer F says:

    I am selfishly pleased this has been reset. I am one who wanted to participate but did not! Why? Technical skills not up to your standards. By the time I thought I got the tech settings workable, the time left was too short….especially without the list of suggested titles.

    I request that next time, you do 3 things to make it easier for new people.

    1. Set the length as a word length. I can tell fairly easily how many words something is but translating that to time is hard for a new person. Yes, I know some general conversions but what if I thought I was recording a 6 hour book and it came in at 5:45? To avoid that, I would have to choose one well over a 6 hour estimate.

    2. Say clearly what technical standards must be met. If ACX, say that with a link. If certain rms is required, put that in the material upfront.

    3. Have all information about the contest available before entering. For example, if using a project tracker on your site is required, at least have a screen shot of it so people can see how laborious (or not) following the rules will be.


    1. Steven says:

      Thanks for the feedback Jennifer.

  5. Thank you so much for posting this! I also think the contest is a great idea. I really wanted to participate, but the timing is an issue for me too–especially since we have to research and figure out cover art for our submission in addition to selecting the right book, reading it through, doing the narration, doing the technical work, etc. It would be great if you would continue the contest and make the entry deadline in June or July, or something that would give us at least 6 months to prepare our submissions. I think that 6 months for 6 hours is about right for those of us who have other projects and need to work this in. Also, it might be good to have the project length in the form of a range, in case some of us read the same number of words a little faster or slower. I was able to find your google hangout regarding this contest and consequently heard you say that the 6 hour length was not a drop-dead barrier, and that information was really helpful.

    I also appreciate your being so candid about your marketing process. Many of us are budding entrepreneurs, and it is always good to gain insight into other people’s business process. Thank you so much for having the contest, and for making this post!

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