Monthly Archives: April 2011

Modern-Day Marketing

Josie Leavitt - April 7, 2011

When we opened fifteen years ago, most of our customers didn’t have email addresses, so marketing was more traditional. We used print ads (does anyone do that anymore?), radio and postal mail, often with success. But with these tools came great expense and a feeling of shooting in the dark. You never really did know what part of the marketing effort was responsible for bringing people into the store.
Boy have times changed. Now that just about every customer has an email address, marketing to them has gotten easier, cheaper and smarter. The email blast has revolutionized how we communicate with our customers. The beauty part is the customer controls it. They have to sign up and decide to share their email address, they can opt out at any time and honestly, they don’t even have to open the email if they’re so moved.
What makes the email blast so effective for our store is, well, after the monthly fee to the company that allows you send email blasts (usually $30-50, depending on the size of your list) they are free. So, take our email list of 1800 people. It costs us .025 cents to reach one person. That’s nothing compared with, say a $500 print ad that winds up costing 27 cents per person, and with a print ad, you have no idea who is actually looking at your ad. At least with an email blast you know 1800 people who expressed interest in your store will get it. And what they get is a full-color, lovely newsletter that promotes the store’s upcoming events, complete with clickable links back to your website so the customer can learn more about books or authors they’re interested in.
The other great thing about email marketing is the ability to see just how many people opened the email, who maybe forwarded it to a friend, who opted out, etc. And the best thing is if you have links in your email blast, you can see what links have been opened, which can give you a sense of what folks are interested in, which can help you figure out how many people might be coming to an event. Also, the blasts always have a coupon, so it’s easy to see the number of people who bring in the coupon.
Oh, and email blasts can be sent right to publicists, authors and the folks who help you get co-op. Nothing says,” I’m marketing an event” better than a well-designed email blast. With email there’s no tear sheet, no invoice from the newspaper. You just send directly to your rep then do a quick follow-up email reminding him or her of your event order and you’re on way to getting co-op for your event. Pretty simple, and pretty effective.

Kids Saying HI!

Josie Leavitt - April 6, 2011

One of the great things about having a large children’s section in my store is the kids. A recent Sunday there were lots and lots of kids in the store, and they all wanted to say hello, in their own unique way.
A boy of three strode up to the counter and said, as he took off his hat, leaving his hair standing on end in a static flurry, “Hey! You got any toys?” Well, as a matter of fact, yes. I said, “They’re in the spinner.” Why I assumed a three-year-old would know what a spinner is beyond me, but I showed him and he kept saying, “Where’s the spinner?” Well, you’re spinning it, his mom and I replied. This question was asked several times and his mom and I just looked at each other and laughed.
The next kid came in, swinging the door with such force it slammed against the wall, causing a breeze in the whole store. He sauntered to the counter and asked, as he always does, “What do you have that’s new?” Wow. That’s a tall order.  No, hi, how are you? He doesn’t mean to be rude, he just cuts right to the chase: books. I love him for that.
A little toddler clearly had just learned to say HI, and consequently was saying to anyone who looked her way. “HI!” She would shout at customers. The family was here for an hour and the store was packed, and I gotta tell you, that’s a lot of “HI!”
A mid-sized redhead shyly approached the counter and said, “Do you remember me?” I had to admit that I didn’t, but could she give me a clue. “I saw you on stage.” Ah, she goes to Charlotte Central School where I emcee the annual variety show. I told her I did remember her. Then she asked if I remembered the song she sang. I was in hot water here and looked at her dad, who gracefully bailed me out. He told me the song she sang with the other kindergartners, which blissfully I did remember. The little girl’s eyes opened wide and she said,”You work here every day and you work at the variety once a year. You have a lot of jobs.”
Yes, some days it feels like I do, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

An Ode to Staff

Josie Leavitt - April 4, 2011

Mine is not a large store. I don’t have 60 full-time equivalents, like some big stores. Instead, I have five part-time staffers who work very hard to keep the store special. Every indie has its own feel, its own guiding principles as it were. From how customers are greeted to how we treat special orders, everything is uniquely Flying Pig. And these poor staffers work for a couple; Elizabeth and I have been together eighteen years and we often don’t need to speak to make suggestions, something our staffers find as irritating as it is sweet.
Among my staff I have a variety of voracious readers, some who like history, mysteries, some who oddly like pirate history books (and you know, there’s been a need for that more than once), great picture books, middle grade novels and young adults. Each staffer recommends books differently and those different styles are wonderful resources to my sometimes over-enthusiastic Tigger approach.  Some love to wrap, thank goodness, others love to return books, bless them, and others care about parts of the store I’ve ceased to see. This is a lovely combination. And, everyone gets along. I often walk in during lunch and see smiling staffers talking about books or their families.
As Elizabeth and I embarked on a week-long vacation, I only wished my house-sitter were as well rounded as my five staffers. There is something truly liberating about going away to a place where we had no cell reception, and I felt just fine about that. I trust my staff to take care of whatever comes their way.
I have made sure that I’ve paid the electric bill. Twice in the past when we’ve been at the airport, we’ve gotten a somewhat frantic call from a staffer stating that there was a man with a wrench about to turn the power off.  It seems in my zeal to go on my last two vacations I had neglected to pay the all-important power bill. Now I have it on auto-pay, so they should be in the light, able to sell books, and books I would never have thought of (that’s the real beauty of staffers: they introduce me to books I don’t know).
So we return with bags full of beach clothes and two paperback we traded for at the hotel (I’m in LOVE with Henning Mankell), no e-reader for me, sunscreen and a journal full of notes about the joy of relaxing and just not stressing about everything. I inhaled deeply every day and hoped that the only crisis I have to deal with is what to have for lunch: conch fritters or a flying fish sandwich. I will  think of my staff, and secretly I’ll do a little happy dance every day that I don’t have to deal with anything, because they’re taking care of everything.
The postcards that I wanted to send really all said the same thing: Thanks!