Saturday, May 21, 2011

Competitions don't help sell your products

We often receive requests from websites for some of our books to give away to their visitors. If the target audience is right and the site big enough, we often agree - after all, they can be a good branding exercise and great publicity for the book. However we seldom hold competitions on for our own books. Why? Because they stop people from buying.

I first came to this conclusion almost ten years ago as a naive young graduate fresh out of Uni. I was working for Wrox Press and had organised a competition on its website to give away a new book written by one of our more higher-profile authors. My goals were to lift visits into the site and sales of the book. I surpassed expectations with the first but failed miserably with the second. From memory, we sold one copy of that book during the course of the promotion.

The results were marked down as great publicity if anything else, but I couldn't stop thinking about why this didn't convert. After discussions with a colleague (thank you Linda Taylor!) we came to the conclusion that competitions stop people from buying.

If you think you're going to win something, why would you buy it?

Pretty simple really, but wouldn't the losers from the competition come back and buy the book once the results have been announced? Like a dog chasing its tail, I've run separate competitions over a number of years to continue testing this theory and on each occasion I got the same result. Sales go down and the when the competitions end, sales don't surge with losers buying a copy. We had lost that initial impulse to buy.

I even tested sending the losers a consolation email including discounts to go on and buy the book that they didn't win. This didn't turn around sales either. The consolation prize only exaggerated the disappointment of losing.

This is why, on Packt's website, we rarely give away our own books as prizes. We've given away Kindles, iPads, iPods, cameras and most commonly, discount codes, but we'll never go back to using our books.