300 Seconds

300 Seconds: Update Your Staff Picks

If you promote staff recommendations, favorites, or reading lists on your website, take 300 Seconds to update your site with your latest recommendation today. If you feel daunted because you haven’t made an update since 2012 (you know who you are), just list your 2 or 3 most recent titles. Anyone visiting your site will see the new content and will probably not notice the gap. You can fill in past titles as you think of them.

The reason it’s important to keep your recommendation page somewhat updated is to establish trust between a bookseller and a reader. And if content appears fresh, a user will likely return more often to see what you’ve read lately.

I treat my “What I’m Reading” page like a journal, and I like to look back through the years and remember when and where I read each title. Although I have some updating to do, this really is the most comprehensive reading list I have. If my server were to fail, I’d probably lose it all. (I have not confirmed this fear with Kenton.) So whenever I make an update to my page, I copy and paste the content to a Google Doc housed in the cloud. It’s probably overkill, but if I ever lost this list I’d be a little sad.

300 Seconds: Online Newsletter Promotion

When considering digital tools and content for customer outreach, an email newsletter has greater reach than any other digital or social media tool. Today, take 300 Seconds and make sure there’s a way to sign up to your email newsletter from your website.

The best practice is to embed a sign-up form directly on your home page. Most of you use Constant Contact, and the “Sign-Up Tools” link is just under the “Add Contacts” link on your dashboard’s home tab. Click on the “actions” drop down menu, grab the embed code and paste it into a new block on your home page. All new sign-ups are automatically linked to your mailing list in your Constant Contact account.

If your email marketing program does not provide sign-up tools, you can always create and embed a free form using Google Forms. The downside is that you’ll have to manually enter all of the email addresses from the new sign-ups. But the positive side is that you’ll have fewer missed opportunities to cultivate new customers.

300 Seconds: Share the Store

If you have just 5 minutes to devote to marketing today, use those 300 Seconds to share what’s going on in the store with your followers on social media. This could be as simple as taking a photo of a hand-written recommendation card or, even better, an image of a partially-finished recommendation card with a pen beside it, which could be captioned, “Beth keeps searching for the right words…”

Or maybe you can share an image capturing your receiver surrounded by the flotsam (or is it jetsam?) associated with unpacking today’s shipment of books. Working in a bookstore is a romantic notion shared by many who do not work in bookstores. By providing a glimpse of some behind-the-scenes action, you’re allowing those dreamers to live vicariously through your social media and also continue their “personal” connection with the store. This is especially effective when employees are featured in the photos.

Display images are good for sharing, but you can take that to the next level, too. The next time you put together a window or in-store display, think about taking a few photos of the process beginning with the blank space. Then you can string the images together to make a short GIF or video showing the process. A quick Google search will show many websites available to animate photos into a GIF or video. I tried the top result–gifmaker.me–and it was easy. And social media users love visual posts.

You put a lot of work into your store, which is why your customers love you. They also appreciate being kept in the loop when they’re not there.

301 Seconds: Media Lists

We just received our first leap second in three years. At midnight an extra second was added to the official time set by atomic clocks, so I’m taking full advantage of it.

If you have only 301 Seconds to devote to marketing today, it’s time to update your media lists for publicists, including radio and television stations, and all of the weekly, daily, and specialty newspapers in your area. Give your list a quick glance to see if anyone retired or moved on to a different market. Then take just a few minutes to call those on your list to verify that the contacts you have are still appropriate. If the newspaper is large enough to have a book page and a children/family writer, be sure to include names for these individual specialties. And news directors at radio and television stations tend to change often, so be sure to call them. For each individual listed, include the name, title, e-mail address, phone and fax numbers, and mailing address.

Once you’re finished, add an “Updated 07/01/15″ footnote, then save it as a PDF. Now the list ready to send to any publicist who might be sending an author your way. When you send it to the publicist, remind them that this is to replace the previous list. Otherwise multiple books might be sent to one media outlet.

This is also a good time to look at your own press release email list. Errors can leave a long-lasting digital trail, so look at the reports from the latest releases you’ve sent, especially the bounce report. Some emails bounce because a mailbox might be full, or the recipient’s email service might have some other temporary glitch. But if an email address consistently shows up in the bounced field, the media person has probably moved on or you have a bad address. A quick web search or a phone call will yield the correct address for press releases.

If you haven’t created a press release email list, it’s not difficult to do. Consider the “reach” of your store and determine daily and weekly newspapers that fall in that area. Press associations often provide a list of newspapers with contact information on their websites. Here is a directory of state, regional and national press associations from the Newspaper Associations of America.

300 Seconds: Sidewalk

Since we’re out on the sidewalk, let’s take 300 Seconds and look around from the customer’s perspective.

Is the entrance to your store clearly marked? Would a planter of flowers make it more welcoming? Store hours should be visible and the use of an open/closed sign is always appreciated.

Now make note of any debris that should be disposed of, leaves swept, and windows cleaned. Are the posters on the door outdated and the window display tired?

How does the entrance look at night? Are the lights functioning properly?

Finally, ask yourself if there’s anything you can do to make your store more welcoming. Ideas could be outdoor seating, a bicycle rack, or perhaps a bowl of water for any four-legged customers in the neighborhood.

Impressing potential customers on the sidewalk is the first step to wowing them in the store.