From big-budget Marvel films to international conventions, it seems like everything comic book related is hotter than ever. But despite the interest, comic shop marketing needs to be more deliberate than ever, in order to be successful.
Promoting Products vs. Promoting The Shop
Similar to any retail business, comic shop marketing frequently centres on the items for sale in the shop – using a new book release or action figure to draw in customers, for example. Of course that’s key, as a shop that doesn’t contain the products its target demographic is after isn’t going to be very successful. However, it’s worth considering marketing your shop as a destination, not just a place to walk in, buy a copy of “Killing Joke” and leave. Separate marketing your products and marketing the shop in your mind, and approach the two distinctly in your overall advertising strategy. A great idea is to use the 80/20 approach – 80% of the time, focus your marketing efforts on the products you’re selling. The other 20% of the time, market your shop as the community locale for like-minded people who want to discover new comic books, discuss their favourite graphic novels, add to their collections and so on.
Making Your Shop A “Destination”
As mentioned previously, it’s worthwhile to market your shop in general as the local spot for comic collectors. But in doing that, it needs to be a place that will draw them in. Of course, there is a fine line between making people who visit and browse feel welcome and not encouraging them to just loiter without ever making a purchase. Also, comics, graphic novels and related merchandise can lose value if they are handled too much, making them less likely to ever sell. But striking a balance can result in a really neat community hub where comic fans feel welcome, encourage each other to add to their collections, and are drawn to visit again and again.
Such a destination needs to be more than just a characterless, run of the mill store. Regardless of the size or physical location of your it or even your budget, minor investments can make a shop feeling welcoming and attractive. Bold paint colours, comic book art, a well thought out layout, bean bag chairs, eye catching displays and even gaming tables or a small snack bar are all ways to bring in more people, and therefore more revenue.
Combining Skills For Success
Regardless of how much people are dressing up as Iron Man for Hallowe’en, still passionate about Buffy and Angel or anticipating the new Star Wars films, owning a successful comic shop takes significant effort. A love of comics and pop culture isn’t enough – solid retail business skills and deliberate, organised marketing techniques are essential for your prosperity. If you have a vast knowledge of the Marvel universe but no idea how to do merchandising, keep your books or create advertising campaigns, you will either struggle and end up hiring others to assist you. Or struggle and close your doors. Improving your general business and retailing knowledge as well as your comic shop marketing techniques will contribute significantly to your success.
Hosting Events To Draw In Crowds
Another comic shop marketing angle is to host in-store events that will attract visitors. Depending on your publisher reps and connections, you may be able to feature author signings, artist Q&A sessions, comic book writing lessons, small fairs or swap events and even games nights. Doing so is a great way to bring crowds on site, familiarising them with your shop in an environment where they don’t feel they’re pressured to buy. At the same time, hearing from comic book writers or checking out featured products will likely entice them to make a purchase – if not during the event, then when they come back later just to find out more.
Another idea is to host a Meetup event in your shop, if you have a small amount of meeting space. There are many comic and “geek” groups that would be well suited to your shop and may not have digs to get together in. Whether you start a group or just offer your facilities to an existing one is up to you, but doing so could increase exposure and entice people to buy from you.
Getting Out In The Community
As well as hosting in-house events, attending others and participating in the community at large are great ways to spread the word about your business. Renting a booth at a comic convention is never a bad idea, but there are more specific, less costly ways too. If your immediate area lacks a comic-con, you could always consider setting one up. But if that’s too daunting, why not speak to a local college or secondary school? Host games nights or comic-related events on campus, connect with students in the art department who design comic book art and feature their work in your shop or sponsor an award or contest. You could even partner with art students to design posters advertising your shop that feature their art, and will be displayed on campus.
Though not universally true, it is common for the type of people who love comic books to also be fairly active on the Internet, making it an excellent and inexpensive place to find your target audience. A well-designed, easy to navigate and information packed website is essential, and promoting your presence on social media is great, too. Three points to remember when using social media for comic shop marketing are:
- Reach out to your target audience in the places they already are, such as social media
- Choose carefully which social media sites you use – it’s better to pick one or two and have a strong, consistent presence on them than to spread yourself too thinly and duplicate posts across the board or abandon networks with outdated profiles.
- Go for quality over quantity, both when engaging followers and crafting posts. It’s better to have a smaller number of followers who really engage with your business on your social networks than to have what looks like a “popularity contest” of followers who are mainly in other countries or who don’t interact with your business. The same goes with posts – quality, original and interesting content posted a couple times a day will always win out over loads of generic, uninformative spam.
Start a Facebook Page, an Instagram page and a Twitter account, as all are fantastic for making connections. If you’re concerned that you might run out of time or inspiration, invite staff members, amateur comic artists or other related people to guest post for you from time to time.
The more you start doing with regard to your comic shop marketing, the more creative ideas you’ll start to have. Analyse what works and what isn’t effective so you can tweak your efforts through the year for optimal success.