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Jan 25, 2001
Case Study

Princeton University Press Does Guerrilla Web Marketing so Well They Get Customer Fan Mail for It

SUMMARY: No summary available.

The Princeton University Press (PUP) publishes up to a hundred new books a season on a very wide variety of niche topics. It would be cost prohibitive to create a new direct mail or other traditional marketing campaign for each new title. So, back in early 1994 (before Amazon was even a glint in Jeff Bezos' eye), PUP's marketing team started using the Internet to conduct low-cost, guerrilla campaigns. The Press's Marketing Director Adam Fortgang and Text Promotion Manager Julie Haenisch filled us in on the details.


When PUP launched its online bookstore in 1994, it offered free sample chapters almost from the start. So, back in the days when most marketers simply added, "Visit our Web site" to their print marketing materials, PUP's marketers were able to add on the extra enticement of a free offer. Soon all mailings going out to professors included the option for them to try a sample chapter online before buying.

Next the team launched an email service to compliment the site. Fortgang explains, "the email service sends announcements in a number of fields upon publication of new books. We promote it in all of our direct mail pieces, however we have been most successful signing people up at various academic meetings that we attend. We're also adding a tag line at the end of each email, letting customers know that we're offering a Special Sale catalog, along with a link to it."

These announcements were successful enough that by 1998, the marketing team decided to become even more proactive about getting the word out. Haenisch says, "We added a question to our author promotion form asking authors if they participated in any Listservs (R) or email discussion groups related to the subject. We also asked if they knew the moderator." Haenisch supplements this by researching for additional discussion groups on L-Soft's CataList and the online Directory of Scholarly and Professional eConferences.

Haenisch is very careful never to spam a discussion group with unwanted commercial announcements. She says, "I email the moderator saying we have a new title that may be of interest to your members, please feel free to pass it along." Initially she sent quite a long description of the new title but soon found people preferred shorter copy. "I cut it down dramatically. I'll just give a capsule description, and maybe some quotes or a summarized review, and then the end matter (the ISBN and number of pages) and a link to our site."


PUP's Web site averages more than 70,000 visitors per month, with net sales of approximately $75,000.

However, actual sales generated from this guerilla marketing are almost certainly much higher. Fortgang explains, "Since most book buyers prefer to order from their local bookseller or via another online source (we don't offer any discounts on our Web site), resulting sales are difficult (ok, near impossible) to determine."

More than 6,000 academics, librarians and others have signed up for PUP's email announcement service. Fortgang says, "It's been a great source of pride at PUP. Every week we receive testimonial emails from customers all over the globe thanking us for this service. It's always a great morale boost to hear customers thanking you for a promotional service."
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